Saturday, July 28, 2018

Getaway: Khajjiar and Dalhousie

The last few months have been busy. 

Len and I had been caught up in a web of tasks that were unrelenting, and often frustrating. Looking back, I know it has been a steep learning curve, and we did manage to accomplish a number of things along the way. Not just the kind of things you tick off to-do-lists, but also the other kind, that ultimately shape the people we are. 

But, let me not get too philosophical :)

Rolling meadows

Amidst the madness, we sneaked in a quick getaway to the hills, and were greeted by a beautiful little plateau surrounded by low, undulating hills, and dark green cedar trees. Yep, I am talking about Khajjiar. One of the guys at the hostel we stayed at in Dalhousie shrugged it off saying, "yeah, just a piece of green meadow." But, to us, from the urban jungle, it was a bliss. The weather was perfect. Clear, sunny days and cold nights. Yes, there were tourists, but then so were we, so I must not complain. As the afternoon set in, the crowd dissipated and we almost had the entire meadow to ourselves. We bought hot, sweet, milky tea from the little shops and gorged on buttery aloo paranthas fresh from the pan. Night time was equally mesmerizing, and we regretted not having a tripod with us to shoot the night sky. Needless to say, the starlit skies were worth million shots and more!

Blue skies and green grass make up most of Khajjiar

Getting there

The easiest way to reach Khajjiar from Delhi is by bus. There are a number of operators, most of them starting from Majnu ka Tila - or as it is commonly called MKT - in north Delhi. We would recommend buses operated by Swagatam or Indo-Canadian. We opted for a semi-sleeper AC bus, and it was clean and comfortable. I met Len at the metro station on a Friday evening, and we headed for a delicious meal at Tee Dees at MKT, before catching our bus to Dalhousie. The place has been revamped considerably since we last visited. A must-visit if you are looking for an inexpensive but delicious meal near Delhi University. 

The closest metro station to MKT is Vidhan Sabha. You can hire a rikshaw from the metro station and ask him to take you to Majnu ka Tila. Once inside, ask anyone, and they would direct you to Tee Dees.

Hungry souls waiting for dinner

Momos and a dip

Some kind of noodles

We boarded our bus shortly after. The seats were comfortable, and cooling from the AC was perfect. Even the pee stop en route was surprisingly good. The loos were way cleaner and odour-free!) as one would expect on the highway. 

The pee spot

I managed a good forty winks, and we reached Dalhousie at 11:30am, only to realise that we had just missed the bus to Khajjiar. It seems there are only two buses that ply between Dalhousie and Khajjiar. One at around 10:30am and the second around 3:00pm. We contemplated hanging around in Dalhousie for a couple of hours, but eventually took a cab that dropped us to our hotel at Khajjiar. Buses are cheap, and it is just a 1.5 hour journey, but if you miss them, there is only one way to reach - a cab. A small cab for the two of us costed us 850 bucks, and the booking room is right in front of the bus station. The car dropped us off at the hotel, where we dumped our backpacks, freshened, and changed, before heading out.

Abode for the night: Hotel Devdar, Khajjiar

While waiting at the restaurant as we got the
keys to our room

Hotel Devdar is the governnment-run (HPTDC) hotel at Khajjiar, and in my opinion the best place to stay at if visiting Khajjiar. It overlooks the meadow and is good establishment, with clean rooms and a decent restaurant. During peak season, a room cost us 2500 bucks or so, I think. We spent a day at Khajjiar, walking around, making friends with the dogs, and filling our lungs with the fresh mountain air. After dinner, we spent a couple of hours at the meadow, walking around in pitch dark, and shooting the night sky with our Canon 3200. The results were average because we didn't have a tripod and the ground was uneven. It was hard to find a spot to balance the camera where it would not be affected by the light from the guesthouse in the meadow. The light was strong, and was messing up our shots at low shutter speed. It was fun, nonetheless.

Morning, before the crowds pour in

Amidst the cedar trees

When there is food, a friend won't be far :)

A night at Dalhousie

Next morning after breakfast and a long chat with the hotel manager who had joined us at our table, we checked out and took the bus to Dalhousie. The return trip to Dalhousie by bus cost us just 70 bucks for the two of us!

Dalhousie is a quintessential hill town, bustling with people. There were tons of souvenir shops and little cafes, and a few beautiful old churches and buildings. Our hostel was about 3 km from Gandhi Chowk and a lovely walk through the hills. We met a bunch of nice people, and I lost every game of carrom I played with Len in the common room! There are a few trekking trails that are popular from Dalhousie, but we opted to spend our day walking around the town. We walked all day along the hilly roads, some dotted with shops and others with a view of the distant snow peaks. 

Dinner at Zostel, Dalhousie

St John's Church, estd 1863

Dalhousie Public Library. I loved how old-school
this place looked. It reminded me of the neighbourhood
library I used to frequent as a child 

Sun in our faces

You would never want to not-walk if roads looked like this

The white peaks were far from where we were,
but luckily we got a glimpse as we strolled along
the road from Gandhi Chowk towards Subhash Chowk

In the evening, we finally walked to the bus station, and parked our tired butts at a small Tibetian eating joint. The lady set us up a table and chair at an elevated spot, and we spend two hours,  I  think, drinking hot beef thupka and tea. 

Steaming hot thupka

That was that, and our little getaway was over. We caught a bus back to Delhi late at night, and reached home the next morning, tired but rejuvenated. 

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