If there is one thing I learnt during this trip, it is that a camera can never ever equal the human eyes. From the moment we started ascending the hills to Dharamshala, until the moment we left Amritsar to go back home, we tried to drink in the images before our eyes to the best of our ability. My paltry 8MP camera phone did no justice to the magnificent view at those heights, the brilliant colours and shades of sheet-white snow contrasting with that of brown mountains, which smoothly gave way to green pine cones.
Well, that first statement may not be entirely true – one of my relatives had brought his DSLR, and he managed to capture those very views beautifully. Sample this:
However, although a picture speaks a 1000 words, my job is to write. So I’m going to take the “1000 words” route and describe our vacation to the best of my ability! 🙂 So, as I was saying, our vacation started at Dharamshala, which is famous for being the centre of the Tibetan exile world in India. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. His presence and the Tibetan population has made Dharamshala a popular destination for both Indian and foreign tourists.
We reached the foot of Dharamshala and started climbing the hill around 7:00 PM; so it had already darkened by then, and we could see very little of the view. However, as our car adroitly handled the hairpin bends and we went higher up in the hills, we came upon two magnificent views – The first was a multitude of brilliantly sparkling stars across the night sky; I swear I’ve never seen so many stars at a single point in time. The second was another set of brilliantly sparkling jewels in the deep valley below us; the lights were on in most houses and other places at that time, and in the darkness that shrouded us, the valley literally appeared to be a huge bowl sprinkled with sparkling jewels! 🙂
We reached our hotel only around 11:00 PM at night, and were greeted with shivers and chills; the temperature there was probably around 10 degrees Celsius. Now, anyone who has lived in Chennai all their life (like yours truly) will tell you that it is impossible to live in a place with a temperature less than 25 degrees. That is because we are so used to living in temperatures between 25 and 45. 10 degrees is something most of us had never experienced before, and we were violently shivering until we finally found warm rooms with warm heaters. By that point, we were all dead on our feet, and stowed away the enjoyment for a later fresher time.
However, the next morning was truly magical! It wasn’t until we were all well-rested and fresh, that we are started looking around; needless to say, we were shell-shocked and awed by the sheer beauty of the place in front of us. One look at the view, and you could tell that this place has been untouched by humankind. It was nature in its truest form. This change of scenery (from the polluted atmosphere, the crowded roads, and surrounding skyrises that make you positively claustrophobic) was exactly what we needed to become energized! 😀
We followed it up with breakfast and a photo session (obviously!). We couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking views in every direction. On one hand, steep mountains rose magnificently in front of us, snow-clad in such a way that it looked liked icing sugar had been sprinkled on them. On the other hand, we had the whole valley in front of us, covered by a sheen of mist and fog. We couldn’t wait to go sightseeing and explore the place further! 😀
We primarily covered three places in Dharamshala (I’m told there are more; but this was all we could fit into our schedule). The first one was Bhagsu waterfalls; this one involved walking up a long trek of stairs for about half an hour to get close to the waterfall. However, the view on the way was magnificent, and the trek did us a lot of good with plenty of photo opportunities. The waterfall itself was relatively thin, but it ended in a cool pool that was refreshing to us tired trekkers. 🙂
Next, we crossed the Dal lake, and went to a place called Naddi, to see snow! This was my very first time seeing snow directly, and I must admit, I fell crazily in love with it. Naddi is definitely a scenic viewpoint, but all we did there was play with the snow there! 🙂
Lastly, but most importantly, we went to the Namgyal Tibetan monastery. Visiting this monastery was an entirely new experience for us, as it gave us an opportunity to explore the traditions of a different religion – Buddhism. We were surprised at every turn of the huge monastery – the old women who were praying on a mat in the huge verandah, the huge Buddha idol, the numerous bowls filled with oil (or some other liquid?) and placed in front of the idols etc were a visual treat and taught us a lot about the religion.
However, what I loved most about the monastery was its set of prayer wheels that you can spin; spinning these cylinders supposedly emanates positive energy, allowing the practitioner to accumulate wisdom and merit.
Apart from all these, we were staying at Mcleodganj, and did a bit of shopping at the market there, and also binged on yummy Tibetan momos! 🙂 I know that these words are probably nowhere near enough to describe the amount of beauty we saw and enjoyed every moment; and I know that even pictures sometime don’t do enough justice to real-life experiences. However, this visit to Dharamshala really was a wonderful experience for us.
However, if we thought that we had seen the best by this point, then we couldn’t have been more wrong! Our vacation continued on, to even better places. Watch this space for the next part! 🙂
To be continued…