My gasps of astonishment would have startled anybody, but there was not a soul to be found other than my trusted guide. I was so engrossed in the view that I did not keep a track of time and soon the sun was about to set.
I was jumping around like a kid and wanted to tell everybody how Mother Nature was playing tricks. But, I controlled my excitement for that was just the trailer. The actual film began when the clouds started playing hide and seek on the mountain slopes, while the sun was setting. It was dreamy.
I was in Dalhousie.
It was an impromptu plan to get some respite from the Delhi heat. Hoping that the rain God would not play havoc to it, I took an overnight train from New Delhi to Pathankot. Not knowing how the weather would change in the mountains, I disembarked at Pathankot and took a 03 hr ride in a local bus, which landed me in Dalhousie. I had booked a room in Zostel Dalhousie for my stay. Since the Zostel was newly set up, it was relatively empty.
While in Dalhousie, I took a local taxi to take me to Zostel. Google Maps showed the path towards Kalatop/Khajjiar. Due to patchy network in the mountains, I was unable to contact the reception in Zostel. I reached the entrance of Kalatop Sanctuary ( ~ 8kms from Dalhousie) only to find out that it’s closed during rainy season. That seemed strange because Google Maps was indicating that Zostel was inside the sanctuary. I took a gamble and returned back to somewhere I would get some network. Once in range, I called up Zostel only to find out that I was way off from the actual location. So, I came back all the way to where I boarded the cab (embarrassing!) and once realized that I was on the correct path, I let go off the cab and started walking.
While walking towards Zostel, I realized that Dalhousie is not like other hill-stations which are always crowded. It has a laid back feel to it. Since the trip was unplanned, I was just going with whatever came along the way. I was going to stick to visiting local places in and around Dalhousie, subject to weather permitting and not to visit Khajjiar (~ 22kms from Dalhousie), since it would take up the whole day.
I inquired with Ashim, the manager at Zostel, who suggested a 3km hike up to Dainkund peak and enjoy the sunset from there. I quickly sorted my stuff while he arranged for a guide cum driver who would drop me off to the nearest motorable path.The views from Dainkund peak were inexplicable and cannot be put in words. One has to experience it to understand the vividness Mother Nature has to offer.
I feel travel makes us humbling to say the least. It creates a sense of hypnotic calm within a restless soul when we go on a journey. We think we would learn more about the place, the culture but we take back nothing from that place except self discovery. Travelling is always about feeling and understanding oneself.
When we see the locals, when we eat their food, it is not to boast that “I have visited that certain place”. If we channelize our energies to understand how much effort might have gone in preparing that food we just ate, what difficulties are being faced by the local people, our own problems vanish in thin air.
We become happy if we are sad, and content if we are yearning for more.
Travel does that to you.
On the next day, I woke up early morning to explore the town of Dalhousie, on foot. Once i reached the GPO chowk, there was a hoarding indicating Panchpulla waterfalls – 2kms. And I thought, that seems easy and doable.
After what seemed like 100 kms of never ending twists and turns, I reached the site of Panchpulla waterfalls (so much for doable!!). There were a lot of tourists who were experiencing zip-line (not recommended, very small ride) and many who were buying local handicrafts. I bypassed them and headed towards the falls. The climb was marred by rocks strewn everywhere and water flowing through them. Near the top of the falls was Shiva Cafe. The seating of the cafe being a unique experience.
I decided to treat myself to hot coffee, steaming maggi and crispy pyaaz pakodas while i sat in the waterfall. The chilly water making it impossible to sit near (forget in it) the waterfall for more than a couple of minutes at a stretch, but still I braved on.
I was given quite a few stares and many people followed me with their snacks to eat it near the flowing water but the water was just too cold. I finished my snacks and started my walk back. It was a pleasant experience and a unique one too. The Shiva Cafe is highly recommended.
Once back at Zostel, I thanked the manager for suggesting such a beautiful hike up Dainkund and started my walk back to the bus-stand which is around 5 kms from Zostel.
I bought some apples for my way back and boarded the bus. Buses ply every half an hr from Dalhousie to Pathankot. Since I had my return train in the evening from Pathankot, I had my lunch at Dalhousie bus stand in Lall’s Food Junction and took the 4 pm bus so as to reach Pathankot just in time for dinner.(Takes around 3 hrs by bus)
It was hot and humid in Pathankot which was contrasting but I was undeterred as I was in a world of my own re-living the last two days of my trip. I had a huge grin on my face when I was back home. I joined back on Monday and continued as if nothing had happened during the weekend.
Places to visit : Dainkund Trek, Panchpulla Waterfalls, local Churches, Khajjiar, Kalatop Sanctuary (Closes in rainy season)
High Point of the Trip : Dainkund Trek and sunset.
How to reach : Train from Delhi to Pathankot. Local buses plying from Pathankot to Dalhousie.
Location of Zostel : On the road from GPO Dalhousie leading towards Subhash Baoli, walk another 10 mins past baoli to see Zostel. (Take a local taxi, if you wish)
Things to carry : A water bottle to keep you hydrated, a camera or phone with a good camera. And an open view towards walking, a lot.