First Solo Trip to Dharamshala

Experiences by solo trippers shared via articles have always infused energy into my travel-kheeda… And after years of just pondering, my travel-kheeda finally pushed me to plan a solo trip to Dharamshala, a city in Himachal Pradesh… Having read a lot about the said place and its serene & untouched beauty, it became my first destination for the solo trip…

I preferred to be in a homestay rather than a hotel as I wanted to explore the place rather than chilling indoors… And ‘Himalayan Homestay’, located in the quiet village – Naddi near McLeodganj made my stay perfect with not only offering me a beautiful view of the entire city but also being a perfect blend of calm, super clean and comfortable place… And a cooperative & helpful owner was an icing on the cake!!!

Being a Mumbaiite, my body can’t bear cold climate for a longer period of time and that’s the precise reason to plan Dharamshala trip in the second week of March as that marks the end of winters and beginning of summers making it a nice pleasant weather to visit…

I spent 5 nights in Dharamshala and last day went to Amritsar…

Day 1 started with road journey from Gaggal Airport to the homestay… The road journey gave an insight to the untouched beauty of Dharamshala…. After resting for few hours at the homestay, I stepped out… Being aware about the temperature decreasing with the day, I had properly insulated myself with thermals layered with a woollen jacket, gloves, socks, shoes etc…

Naddi harbours a Sunset point and to witness the view, I planned to reach the point well before time… Waiting for the Sun to set, I binged upon yummy veg. momos along with a cup of nice, soothing ginger tea at a nearby tea stall… It gave me a chance to indulge in ‘me-time’ for which I hardly find time in the hustle-bustle life of Mumbai… Sunset point made a picturesque view of the Sun sinking and spreading its yellow – orangish colour all over the sky… Felt as if somebody had painted it!!! I was fortunate enough to capture that moment which viewed till date makes me nostalgic!!!

View from the Sunset Point

Unlike Mumbai, darkness spreads too early in the mountain areas and people call it a day around 8ish… Not feeling much hungry, I chose to have just a bowl of Manchow soup at a nearby restaurant – ‘City Heart’, located barely at 5-10 minutes walking distance from the homestay… A nice, cozy place that served delicious soup apart from amazing delicacies which were my meal on the other days… Walked back to the homestay in the cold freezing night and called it a day…

Woke up little late than Sun the other day and after freshening-up went outside the room in the balcony, to have a look at the city… Entire city was glowing with the Sunrays… And there came Rajinder, the owner of the homestay to check if I needed something… I immediately asked him if he could inform me about major tourist attractions and also guide me about the transport system… He immediately called up one of his friends and asked if he could show me around sight-seeing places… And there we were waiting for his friend to come and in the meantime we started chatting… He started talking about his life, his family, his home behind the homestay where he stays with his joint family, etc… Being an employee in a bank, he did not feel worth working and he always wanted to do something of his own and that’s when he along with his wife started the homestay – Himalayan Homestay… He shared about his plans to add another floor to the already existing one-storey homestay and also attach a canteen so that his homestay would gain more popularity… Learnt from him that younger lot of the population in the city are prompted to move out of the city to pursue higher education, graduation, post-graduation courses etc as there are no such arrangements for the same in the city… And majority of the income of the city comes from tourism… Conversations were getting more deeper when it was disrupted by continuous honking of the car… It was none other than his friend – Sunil, the cab owner signalling me to come downstairs, to move ahead for sight-seeing… And there we were on our way for sight-seeing…

Since the time I had read about ‘St. John’s Church in the Wilderness’, I was too eager to visit it and so it topped my list for sight-seeing… Churches have always attracted me, mainly because of its architectural work and the inner peace & a sense of happiness it fills me with… Located amidst dense deodar forest, the Church gave a perfect scenic view… It is an ancient Church with amazing architecture and beautiful glass windows… Sitting behind the Church, amidst tall deodar trees and feeling fresh, unpolluted breeze against my cheeks & through my hair refreshed me… The day had started on a very good note…

St. John’s Church in the Wilderness

For breakfast, I had yummy Maggi with a cup of hot tea at a small food stall located exactly outside the Church… Maggi never tasted so delicious!!! More than the Maggi and the tea, the conversation with the stall owner is still very vivid… His employee was on leave and so he was managing his tea stall all by himself… Interesting thing I got to know during conversation is that apart from owning several tea stalls across Dharamshala, he also conducts trekking… Couldn’t believe myself when he handed me his business card and asked to contact / refer him if trekking needs to be arranged, in future… And then he started talking about his family, his kids etc… Our talks were interrupted by hairy friend of his – the cute, golden-haired dog who jumped onto me, wagging his tail… I was unable to hold myself from playing with him for a while…

Cute, golden-haired friend

Apart from the breakfast being yummylicious, genuineness and warmth of the tea owner made it more interesting… What I liked more about Dharamshala was the localites, be it the owner of the homestay, the cab owner, tea vendors etc are very warm & genuine which makes one feel homely and doesn’t make one feel like a tourist at all… In fact, such conversations make a trip more cherishable… The same was the case with Sunil who himself had driven me to the tourist places as he was a close friend of Rajinder and wanted to personally accompany me to the tourist attractions and provide information about the places… Had he not accompanied me, I wouldn’t have gained knowledge about Dharamshala, its culture, its people and its places…

After having breakfast, I went upto ‘Tushita Meditation Centre’ to meditate but found it to be closed due to the day being a Sunday… Got disappointed but I waited behind the centre amongst the pine trees for sometime to unwind and feel the breeze… Quite refreshing it was!!!

I am not a cricket lover but seeing few kids playing cricket nearby made me join them… The child within me played few balls and thoroughly enjoyed running for a score… I was all energized to chalk out the next place on my list – ‘Dalai Lama Temple’, one of the main tourist attractions of Dharamshala… A divine place and very well architectured temple… Hugely known for its beauty and magnificent statues of Buddha & other idols… Temple is surrounded by prayer wheels, the ritual which I always wanted to do after watching it in a Bollywood movie… They are cylindrical wheels inscribed with Tibetan mantras and one has to push it (it is quite heavy to rotate) while taking a walk around the temple to complete the ritual… Apart from offering prayers, meditating and visiting Dalai Lama’s religious teachings (during his visit to the temple), the temple also harbours a Museum and a Library wherein ancient religious books can be found…

Prayer wheelsPrayer wheels, Dalai Lama Temple

From the temple, I directly went to the cricket stadium – HPCA… It is known to be the India’s highest cricket stadium surrounded by snow-clad Himalayan mountains… Though the place wasn’t on my list but I visited it only upon the insistence of Sunil… And I was in complete awe of the beautiful view the stadium offered… It was almost late afternoon and I had to tick off more two places of the sight-seeing list… Second last being ‘Norbulingka Institute’ and last being ‘Dal Lake’…

HPCA Stadium

Have had read a lot about ‘Norbulingka Institute’, I couldn’t contain myself when I was physically present there… It depicts Tibetan culture wherein one can find a temple, workshops, museums, shops etc displaying Tibetan art and culture… Its allows one to have a look into beautiful, artistic Tibetan world… I fell in love with the place instantly… Encounter of inner peace while meditating in the temple was worth the wait for my visit to Norbulingka… But yes, one need to take out good amount of time from their schedule to explore the entire institute and it’s a must visit place in Dharamshala…

Since it was late afternoon, I moved swiftly to the last destination for the day – ‘Dal Lake’… Before moving towards the lake, I went to a cafe to grab a cup of Cafe Latte and Pizza… Which I enjoyed while reading my book – ‘Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy’

Dal Lake is one of my favorite place at Dharamshala for which I can anytime plan one more trip… Sitting on the bench placed alongside the lake, I started reading the book – ‘Inner Engineering’… It’s all about Sadhguru’s insights and teachings… Basically a spiritual, self-help book wherein one can learn to align his mind & body with energies within & outside to create new possibilities and be powerful… Engrossed into Sadhguru, I did not even realize when the Sun had set… Sunil had to literally shout out my name from the other side of the lake to inform me that it’s too late to stay outside considering the cold temperature and the darkness… Sitting alongside a beach or a lake with a good book is what I enjoy the most!!! On my way back to the homestay, I relished over some good food at City Heart restaurant…

Dal Lake

Early morning the other day, I headed towards ‘Bir Billing’, the Paragliding Hub of India… Inspite of being a fattu and afraid of heights, I have always pushed myself beyond my limits & comfort zone to experience something new and also to level-up myself… And I attribute this trait of mine to my sun sign Leo…

Billing is the take-off place located at a height of 2400 metres whereas Bir is the landing site… One can opt for Solo paragliding or Tandem paragliding… I had opted for Tandem ride wherein a trained pilot accompanies you which allows you to enjoy the thrilling experience of flying whereas they manage the paraglider… The ride is usually for 30-40 minutes… Mere a thought of jumping-off from such a height had almost killed me but still I challenged myself to give it a try before quitting… When we took-off from Billing, strong wind flowing against the flight pushed us backward… And unable to hold myself, I fell hurting my knees… I decided to quit but my pilot lifted my spirit… He asked me to trust him and give another try… And we tried taking-off again and within few seconds we were flying in the air… I felt like a bird!!! It was a thrilling adventure which I have ever had experienced… Up above in the air, holding GoPro in one hand to click pictures of myself and simultaneously looking over the tiny houses, tiny people from above the sky was overwhelming… Paragliding consumes an entire day as its two hours drive from Dharamshala but it’s worth an experience… I went back to the homestay with bruised knees and new thrilled myself… I immediately retired on the bed as had to check out early morning to leave for trekking…

I had already booked for ‘Triund Trek’ before flying to Dharamshala… And one of my friends had joined me for the trekking… It was trekking plus camping in the night… We were a group of 8 members formed by the trek organizer, mix of people from Mumbai, Delhi and Pune…  Triund trek is an easy trek and good one for a beginner… But it proved difficult for me to trek owing to my increased weight… Trekking is approximately 7-8 km long trek which usually takes 3 hours but we took good 5-6 hrs thanks to my weight!!! We were taking halt after almost 15-20 minutes for restoring energy before resume trekking… There were two other persons in the group, basically from Delhi, who were giving us company during this halt… We all bonded well by the time trekking got completed…

While trekking, one can have a spectacular view of the Kangra valley and forest areas… Upon reaching Triund, one can visualize a scenic view of huge spread of Dhaulandhar ranges which is simply mesmerizing… I was gazing at it in awe until it was pitch dark as I couldn’t take my eyes off the snow-clad mountain ranges… It was freezing cold while camping in the night…

Dhaulandhar ranges at camping site, Triund

And when the Sun rose up in the sky, we decided to trek up from the Triund base camp to be on snow-clad mountains… It was tiring but we somehow made it to the place… It was simply WOW!!! I had for the first time in life been on a snow-clad place… Though it was freezing cold and I was shivering from head to toe, I played in the snow, with the snow, over the snow like a 5-year-old kid!!! Then to warm myself, I had a hot cup of tea over a bowl of Maggi… Whoa, flashback of memories!!! Want to re-live those moments again…

Me (shivering) striking a pose with snow 🙂

We came back to our tents to pack and descend but I did not feel like leaving the place mainly because of two reasons – firstly due to the new-found friends and secondly due to the spectacular view my eyes were witnessing… While descending, one can also pass through Bhagsu waterfall… Triund trek is an exciting as well as fun-filled trek & a camping gateway…

At the end of the trek, had to board the bus to Amritsar but did not wish to leave the company of the new-found friends… Was in dilemma – to stay back & cherish the new-found friendship or to move ahead & fulfill the wish to visit ‘Golden Temple’… And I had chosen the first one and allowed myself to miss my bus!!! Stayed-up the whole night around campfire, singing, eating and chatting… What an amazing night it was!!!! Currently while jotting down about this episode of the trip is making me recollect those beautiful moments…. Nostalgic!!!

It was the last day of my trip… Boarded an early morning bus to Amritsar and reached Golden temple… But it was my bad that I couldn’t enter the shrine as it was overcrowded and it would have taken atleast few hours to complete the temple visit owing to the big queue and I had a return flight to Mumbai in the afternoon… With a promise to visit Golden temple soon in the future, I left the holy place with a heavy heart…

Golden Temple

And that’s how my trip came to an end!!!

Apart from the destination, nothing else was planned… The itinerary wasn’t ready before flying or before planing the trip… Itinerary for each day was planned a day prior as I feel it not only leaves room for improvisation of the itinerary but also gives you a breathing space to relax as per your mood and timings…

Travelling opens ways to explore yourself apart from providing you an opportunity to know more about the places you visit, their culture, their people, etc… It is actually a practical platform to learn things which you cannot learn in any syllabus or at workplace… And travelling solo has helped me find a new myself who is free to experience new adventures, free to explore… I am a free bird!!!

So guys out there – plan a trip, put on your shoes, pack your trekking bag and set yourself free to explore places, its beauty, try new adventures and allow yourself to completely immerse into it, to experience a different side of yourself and most importantly to relax & unwind as that is of utmost need in this ever-growing, competent world!!! All the best!!!

Published by bathulagirl

Pooja Bathula is born and bred in Mumbai... Works as an International Business Manager in a Pharmaceutical company which keeps her on her toes always but that doesn’t deter her from following her passion for reading, writing, traveling & shopping... Her friends describe her as an engaging story-teller!!!

8 thoughts on “First Solo Trip to Dharamshala

  1. As usual great narrative. Beautifully written & I could actually imagine everything happening right in front of me. Keep it up & keep blogging 😘😘😘

    Like

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