August 2008
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Trip to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj (Part I)

My visits to places are normally more comfortable journeys, maybe I am getting old and don’t feel like roughing it out any more :-). So, I planned a 3 day trip to Dharamshala, and the first thing I looked for was how to get there. Not a bus, not a train, but a flight. I found only one airline that served this route, and that was Air Deccan. Booking a month in advance, I got 2 return tickets for Rs. 9000, out of which more than Rs. 5000 was the tax component. In this case, if you are going to Dalhousie or Pathankot or Dharamshala and want to go by air, then book in advance since the ticket price shoots up drastically as you reach the desired journey date (in my case, when I enquired around 15 days before the flight about re-scheduling, I was told that the ticket had gone up to Rs. 29000).
So, any plans of changing the journey date were abandoned, and I got a bit busy in asking people about the place and places to see, and about the weather, and so on (this mind you, after I had already been there in college on a visit with friends). Once I learned some information (none of which I used to any great degree), it was time to head to Delhi Airport. The flight was late by 30 minutes, par for the course. And then the bus took around 20 of us to … we can’t be going in that small plane !!! .. it was, for the first time in my life, I would be traveling in a turbo-prop plane, and seeing the propellers rotating instead of the pleasure of a normal jet. The feeling wasn’t entirely too pleasant, but the flight was decent. Another thing I never cared to find out was whether this was a direct flight; it wasn’t. It first headed to Pathankot, and after a 15 minute stop, headed off to the Gaggal airport. This was a very small airport, and I think the flight I landed on was the only flight that comes there, and there were a lot of security over there waving big automatic weapons, so I did not try taking a photo of the airport :-).

Map to Dharamshala

We negotiated with the taxis, but there is apparently a union, and for a journey of around 30 minutes to the Club Mahindra Resort of Kangra Valley, none of them was willing to take less than Rs. 300. Eventually we gave in, and took a taxi. The journey was as we expected, on narrow roads resplendent with lush greenery on either side (due to it being the rainy season), and we finally reached Club Mahindra around 1:30 in the afternoon. After a quick lunch and a short break, we took a taxi from the Resort with a pre-planned package for the First day.

Club Mahindra Kangra Valley

The package was to cover the destinations of Dal Lake, some high point, St. John’s Church, the Dalai Lama Temple, Mcleodganj market, Bhagsunath temple and waterfalls, the War memorial, another Devi temple in Dharamshala (in the valley) and that was about it, for a princely sum of Rs. 800. We did not try much negotiating because we were told that these were standard rates.
And off we headed. First we went to Dal Lake; not so good. It was all muddy and we decided to head on, climbing up in the hills till we came to a point called Neddi’s point. It was all mist and clouds over there, and the air felt nice.

Neddi Point Dharamshala

We walked around a bit, and then headed off to Mcleodganj. First off we reached this ancient Church called Church of St. John’s in the Wilderness, established in a Gothic style in 1852, and in need of repairs. The settings within its set of trees was incredible, and the whole area around it was oh-so-green. We stayed for some time, put some money in the box for donations for repairs, and then headed on.

St. John Church Mcleodganj

We reached Bhagsunath temple next, and it was a nice temple, with a plaque bearing the fact that it was the ceremonial temple for the First Gorkha Rifles until they moved out of Dharamshala.
Then we had a choice; it was getting around 5 PM and we could either head off to the falls or to the Dalai Temple (closes at 6 PM). I took the command decision of where to go with the approval of my spouse :-), and off we went to the Temple. It was so serene and beautiful, and we could see normally boisterous children also piping down a bit. There were a set of monks meditating, and a dog sleeping right next to them. The conservationist in me was thrilled to see the solar water heating apparatus in the temple. We did not get a chance to see the Dalai Lama since he was not in the location at that point of time.

Prayer Wheels in Dalai Lama Temple

After spending time over there, we headed in a steep path downhill (thanks to the knowledge of our taxi driver), and visited a Devi’s temple in the valley below (and there was almost nobody there except for a couple of locals); we rounded off the first day by visiting the war memorial, setup to honor the armed forces.
And then we were pretty tired, so had some nice grub and then zzz land.

More Photos (Link to many more photos of Dharamshala, Kangra, and McLeodganj)

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