Lazy weekend in Delhi?
Pack up and leave for Dharamshala/ McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh. Just about 500 kilometers from Delhi, a seven hour drive (superb roads until you need to navigate through the steepy slopes), Dharamsala is a quaint little town up in the mountains. Also famous as exile of the Dalai Lama, and the breathtakingly beautiful Namgyal monastery, this is one weekend trip you wouldn’t want to do on a weekend. You would want to extend it through the week and when completely gripped by the essence of this tiny little hill town, you might never want to come back. But that’s okay, you can’t really blame a place to be this charming now, can you? Just 15 kilometers from there is the (happening) town of Mcleodganj. Why ‘happening’ will be evident to you as soon as you set foot there.
Apart from that, the weekdays are the days you can stand at the balcony of your hotel room and gaze down at the little monks running down the streets eating ice creams, riders wearing cool biker jackets roaring up the slopes in their muscular looking Enflields, and not to forget European backpackers sprawled out lazily in the chairs of the hundreds of coffee shops lined on the main street.
Well, it is also on Weekdays that Learning and Ideas for Tibet (LIT) organises its movie and dinner nights, to be exact on Mondays and Thursdays. The movie screening is free and you get a scrumptious dinner for a hundred and fifty rupees. The non-profit organisation screens movies and documentaries about the Dalai Lama and the struggles of his homeland, and serves authentic Tibetan cuisine including ‘thenthuk’ (hand-pulled noodles) soup, momos and even Tibetan pizza during the screening. If you have a spare afternoon, you can choose to go down to their office and volunteer to teach English to the kids there and also learn to cook the awesome Tibetan delicacies.
Also on weekdays you can clamber up the Kangra Fort for sweeping views without the presence of over enthusiastic bustling visitors. This fort was known for being impregnable, with Banganga River on one side and a cliff on the other. Maharaja Sansar Chandra had its massive rock face smoothened by having soldiers suspended on ropes to complete the task, so that enemies wouldn’t gain a foothold. This fort is massive with seven gates and with an audio guide in hand, get past the gates and the rain-drenched walls and walk through the beautiful edifice that there is. There is also the Royal Kangra Museum dedicated to Maharaja Sansar Chandra.
Though this may sound a bit grim, do pay a visit to the St. Johns cemetery. And church. Known as “Church of St John in the Wilderness”, the architecture of the Church is beautiful with splendid stain glass paintings. The cemetery is spread across the slope of a hill with beautiful wild flowers making their way through where the mortals rest. There is something very tranquil about taking a walk there, almost like a reminder of the transience of human life and also that maybe death isn’t all that cold. Robert Frost’s poetry comes to one’s mind “the woods are lovely, dark and deep; but I have miles to go before I sleep”.
The other good thing about being in the hills is splendid outdoors. You can head to a pretty village called Naddi which happens to be just 4kms away and is also the starting point for many treks in the region. Its a beautiful, easy hike , going through wheat fields and Himachali-slate roofed houses, passing apple cheeked children playing confidently. And all of this is framed by Dhauladhar range that peeks through the clouds every now and then ending at the spectacular Bhagsu waterfall.
Deep in the forest, where you hadn’t expected it, there is a tiny Buddhist village with a stupa surrounded by modest huts. It is so quiet here that you’d think the village is deserted. But the monks are inside meditating all day. It is a very pretty and beautiful spot with prayer flags strung from trees and the sweet smell of pine cones which are burnt to purify the air fill up the place with even more calm and peace.
Love food? Love nature trails? Love peace? This is one trip you really should make if you just want to ‘be’ and enjoy doing what you love doing. J