Hi everybody! Hope you all enjoyed reading my previous two posts:
My Travel Diary– Mumbai to New Delhi
My Travel Diary – New Delhi to Chandigarh and Amritsar
Here’s the third part…
It was raining when I reached the Amritsar ISBT at around 9:30am. I thought I had missed the 9:10 direct bus to Dalhousie but to my relief, the bus was waiting at the gate.
It was a long journey of eight hours as the bus stopped at many places on the way. After the sweltering heat in Delhi and Amritsar, it felt good to experience pleasant weather when the bus entered the state of Himachal Pradesh. The beautiful hilly landscape was a treat for the eyes.
I hadn’t expected cold weather in Dalhousie in June when everywhere else in the country a strong heat wave was prevailing. It got colder as the bus climbed higher and higher. I started feeling suffocated as the number of standing passengers increased. The bus was stopping at each and every village on the way even though there was no space to stand inside. The doorway was packed with school children.
I was getting crushed in the corner of the 3-passenger seat in the first row to the right… the guy next to me was thin but the one in the window seat wasn’t … the window, the only source of fresh air was closed…giggling school girls were leaning over my seat! AlI of a sudden, I was overcome by a strange numb feeling in my body and I had difficulty breathing. I started feeling dizzy and lightheaded. I immediately told the guy next to me to move ahead in the seat and the other guy to open the window. Seeing my discomfort, the girls had moved away. I took several deep breaths. The fresh air, although cold, soon made me feel better.
It was 5:30pm when the bus reached Dalhousie bus stand. It was a small place overrun with tourists. To make matters worse, it was a weekend! I had thought of staying at the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) hotel but there were no rooms available there. Ditto, at three other hotels where I stopped to enquire. The place was swarming with hotels, big and small, but they didn’t have any rooms available. Finally, I got a room at Hotel Dalhousie Heights. It wasn’t worth the expensive tariff which was most definitely inflated due to the acute shortage of hotel rooms everywhere. The bed linen and the towels didn’t smell fresh and there was no English music channel on television! Thankfully, I had carried a towel with me. I immediately set out to find another hotel room. I didn’t like the bus stand area and followed the road uphill that led to Subhash Chowk.
Subhash Chowk offered a great view of the mountains. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast so I stopped for chicken soup at one of the small restaurants nearby. After the meal, I started my search for a room in the nearby hotels. I was disappointed as one after another I got the same negative reply. And then, when I was walking away from one hotel, one guy called out to me saying there was a room in his hotel. He was the hotel owner. The room looked very nice and comfortable and the tariff offered to me was almost half the price of the one where I was staying. So I decided to check into the hotel the next morning.
I was planning to spend one night at Khajjar which was just 23 km away so I discussed my travel plans with the hotel manager. He told me that the probability of my getting a room in any of the hotels there was very low. I didn’t doubt his words. Seeing the massive number of tourists in Dalhousie, I could imagine the situation in Khajjar, often called the “mini-Switzerland of India.’ Earlier, when I had made enquiries about taxi services to Khajjar at the Taxi Operators Union office in the bus stand area, I was told that the journey back and forth (of 30 minutes each) would cost 870 rupees for four hours and any extra time spent in traffic would not be chargeable. That had got me thinking…maybe I could make a day trip to Khajjar because there wasn’t much to see there except admire the beauty of the place. Moreover, my next destination stop was to be McLeodganj and buses departed for that place from Dalhousie.
The hotel owner had ordered coffee for me. After a few sips, I felt something solid in my mouth. My tongue rolled over what felt like a seed. I removed it from my mouth and my eyes widened….it was one of the creepy crawlies abounding the region! I had seen them in my room too. In my life, I had accidentally eaten around hundred live ants, kissed a live cockroach, had water from a pot with more than two dozen live earthworms, their larvae and what not inside and…still survived! So I didn’t give the creepy crawly much thought. Another cup of coffee was brought in, this time with a paper napkin covering it.
It was 8:30pm when I climbed down the road back to the bus stand area. There wasn’t much to see around but I found a cybercafe and spend more than an hour there. I wasn’t aware that all the shops had already downed their shutters till I asked the young cafe owner about the closing time. He just smiled and said it was okay and that I could sit till my work was completed.
It had rained for the last two days so I was relieved to know it hadn’t rained that day and hoped it wouldn’t the next day too.
I checked into Hotel New Palace. Here’s the view of the mountains on the way up to the hotel reception…
I got a better room than the one shown to me the earlier day. It was on the third floor and had a balcony to enjoy the outside view. The guy who brought in my bag told me it was the best room in the hotel. I had to keep the balcony door closed though because there were plenty of monkeys around and of course… creepy crawlies! The latter were moving around freely in the room and there were some more in the bathroom.
The St. Francis church at Subhash Chowk
I walked up the Mall Road to Gandhi Chowk, the main centre of Dalhousie. There were plenty of hotels on the way. I was told that there was a special event at one of the boarding schools so the place was packed with visiting parents from Pathankot, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, etc. With cars everywhere, there were plenty of traffic jams.
From the Mall Road, I got a lovely view of the snow-capped Pir Panjal mountain range surrounded by thick forests of pine and deodar trees.
Later, I took a taxi from the Taxi Operators Union office in the bus stand area as the one in Subhash Chowk was charging around 300 rupees more.
The 30-minute journey to Khajjar offered beautiful views of the mountainous landscape and dense pine forests. I had expected heavy traffic on the way but fortunately, the road was clear.
A green valley with a spring in the middle, Khajjar is known as ‘mini-Switzerland of India’ for its meadow look. It looked a little bit like Gulmarg, a beautiful destination in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
There were vendors everywhere selling foodstuff, candyfloss, balloons, etc. I spent an hour or so at the place. I had bhel and didn’t like it…had kulfi…didn’t like it either!
On the way back, I felt a bit unwell so I stopped at a roadside café for some hot pakoras and tea. There were more than 20 pakoras in the plate but I could barely eat a few of them. Neither could I finish off the tea.
On reaching my hotel, I asked for a glass of warm water to be sent to my room after every hour. Nothing seemed to taste good but I had to eat something for dinner. I had slight fever and was feeling very weak. So I had chicken soup.
I didn’t know whether I could endure the next day’s 6-1/2 hour long bus journey to Dharamshala.
Coming up next: My Travel Diary – Dalhousie to McLeodganj