Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Day 2: Trip to Mcleod

Day 2: Mcleodganj

1) Breakfast at Shangrila
2) Dalai Lama
3) Shopping at Mcleod (with special mention to Vijayan's never ending shopping spree)
3) Trip up to the Bhagsunag waterfall.
4) Lunch at Asoka International restaurant.
5) Trip to "The Sacred Dal Lake".
6) Trip back to Delhi
7) Dinner at a Dhaba
8) Puncture, Puncture and Puncture all the way to Delhi.
9) Jokes, jokes and lots of PJ's.
10) Bowling, throwing and a violent game of hitting the National Highway notice boards.
11) Counting minutes and seconds at an abandoned wearhouse in the middle of the night. (Special effects from Saumya). - Sherlock Holmes
12) Antakshari - Indian Style.
13) Knee cracking, back breaking, head hitting and hard banging ride to Delhi. (Courtesy Kalu Radhesham).

Day 2 was the most eventful, scariest and the most adventurous day we spent. We all woke up at around 9 AM, but as usual Saumya's feverish enthusiasm woke us all up at around at 8 AM but nothing could get us out of our beds till 9 AM. We then quickly freshened up and headed to HOTEL SHANGRILA again and had our break fast of bread, omlettes, Tibetan Herbal Tea and Tibetan bread, this time the service was better than yesterday with a nice lady picking our orders. Tibetan bread was hard stuff to eat, Tibetan Herbal Tea was very refreshing.

Previously on Day 1, we got the info of Dalai Lama's presence in Mcleod, we learnt that Dalai Lama will be available from 10:30 AM till noon today. We all headed to get a glimpse of one of the well known holy leaders of our time.

We started our walk to the monastery, the monastery was at the eastern end of the first street at Mcleod. While we came close to the temple, we heard someone doing the Tibetan Bardo (rrrrrrrrrrr mmmmmmmmmmmm) and that kind of spiritual stuff, it was very nice to hear.
Lucky for us, it was not like Tirupathi, no ques or overwhelming crowd, it was easy to get in and get out. Camera's and mobiles were not allowed inside, so we went in groups of 4 to safeguard our goods. Me, Vijayan, Rajesh and Saumya went first, we were let in after a brief security check.

We walked past room 1, Dalai Lama was giving his speech via video-conferencing there, we walked around room 2, we could not get into room 2 as there were too much crowd sitting and listening to Dalai Lama. We got a good view of him and we decided to leave. We came out and let the next team pass in, we were all out of the temple complex at around 11:30 AM. The view of the TRIUND peak from the monastery was breath taking and we took some snaps. We went out for shopping after that.

Shopping near the monastery consisted mostly of antiques, beads and some craft work made of Yak horn. We all went to each shop to find if something suits our interest, after a brief walk up, we found a man selling small jewel boxes, suitable for keeping rings and small jewelery. The craft was very good. Me, Vijayan and Rajesh altogether bought 5 of it and managed to pay 45 for each, where the initial quote was 70.

Somehow Vijayan managed to find something for his little daughter, I was very relieved before him coz I was the one who accompanied him an all his shopping expeditions, God saved the day :). We tried our luck at finding something more interesting, but nothing suited us. On our way Me and Rajesh stumbled upon a mask which resembled the mask in the Hollywood flick Mask, it was really spooky, don't know if it had magical powers, I should have put it on Rajesh immediately, bad luck I get to remember this when I am writing the blog :). We finished our shopping with this.

We then started our journey to Bhagsunag waterfalls. We went to the Bhagsunag temple on the way, it was temple that was built by our Soldiers, there were many inscriptions of the donations of many battalions all over the place. We went around the temple and we found our guys doing some research with the camera and coolers, the research was to get a snap of what is being seen when the coolers are on someone's eyes as usual this research was headed by the ever enthusiastic Saumya.

We then quickly started off to the waterfalls. We had to walk to the waterfalls from the temple, the journey was again easy. The views of the mountains on the way to the waterfall was very beautiful. We took some pictures of monks trying to meditate in the small hut like enclosures in the side walls, actually the monk we took the picture of was more enthusiastic posing for the photos than meditating, may be that's all the fun you get for being a monk.

We reached the waterfall finally after so many tiny photo sessions. The waterfall a moderate stream, the water in it was ice cold as hell and there was a small pond like dent formed out of the ever flowing water. We all had photo sessions there and we also had a tiny competition on who stands the longest in the waterfall. Initially me, Saumya and Rajesh stood there, Me and Rajesh managed it for 25 seconds, then came Saumya he was very eager to break our record and upped the record by 20 more seconds. Vijayan came in rushing and shouting "learn from me" and did not last for more than 20 seconds :). Srikanth and Kapil stood for another 20 seconds each. Then I and Swami went in and upped the record to a whopping 1 min 25 seconds. We by that time had got used to that, we could have stayed there a little longer, but we thought enough is enough and came out of it.

There were some guys and girls from Pathankot, they kept playing in the water for very long and they were oblivious of the coldness in the water, but Saumya was so happy about these people from Pathankot, he ended up playing in the cold water as long as they did :). Saumya finally broke all records and no one had counted the time, I guess he spent more than an hour there. In the meanwhile Vijayan went for a Himachal massage and ended up cramping himself more than the cramps he had before the massage.

There were two ways to go back to the Bhagsunag temple, one climbing down to the valley and climbing up back again to the temple and the other was the route we came in. Me and Vijayan took the same route back and others took the what so looked like a dangerous path initially.
We learnt that Swami, Srikanth, Kapil, Srinu, Saumya and Rajesh had a better time taking that route, they had fantastic photo sessions with the kids, monks, small shrines and leisure photos of them sleeping around the shades of rocks, the photos were superb and scenic.

Me and Vijayan had some photo sessions in the normal route and we both tried to get tatooed. These tatoos were stamp like things of scorpions, lions, butteflies etc; the vendor told that it will last for 15 days, don't believe her, if you want the tatoos for 15 days, forget bathing for 15 days, it won't last a day or even a bath. It costed Rs. 20 for each tatoo, it was daylight robbery and as we were adventurous we never minded that.

Then we all gathered at the Bhagsunag temple again. This time I thought of buying the binoculars and Vijayan too somewhat had that in mind, he wanted it for his daughter and I wanted it for bird watching. The binoculars in the first shop we saw cost 450, we did not take that, the second shop it costed 300, we brought him down to 250, but he had only one piece, we went back to the first shop and this time around the father of the guy whom we met previously was selling the stuff, within the few minutes we had left the shop, the price from the father's mouth was 700, we said that we had bought the same piece for 250 from the other shop, but he did not budge, his final price was 500, we dropped the plans of buying it from him, we found the same binoculars from another shop and it costed 250 straightaway and we got it immediately.

We meddled with the binoculars until we finished our meal in Asoka international hotel. It was an Indian hotel, we all ate some rotis and pulaos and Vijayan took a noisy vegetable steak. There were lots of birds and breath taking views to watch via the binoculars and I would say binoculars were wonderful instruments for entertainment. We finished our meal and headed to the Sacred Dal Lake.

On the way I bought a flute, there were plenty of flute types made of bamboo, teak wood, rose wood etc., the wooden one's were costlier at around Rs.600 to Rs.800. I was just an amateur and I just brought the cheaper one for 70 bucks. The guy who sold the flute had a way with the flutes, he was a very nice guy and also tried to teach me and Vijayan, we somehow managed to blow some noises out of the flute, I guess that was enough to get started. I later learnt from Vijayan that the bamboo stick I bought was Murali and not a flute. One can play murali holding it like a saxophone, but flute can only be played holding it horizontally.

We reached the sacred Dal lake and I used my binoculars wherever I can. The Dal lake was a very small lake or a big size pond that we find in many villages. It was sacred though, but I don't know why? The fishes in the pond could swallow us alive, they were very big considering the courtesy of travellers who kept feeding them all day long with rice flakes.

There was nothing else to visit in Mcleod, by now it was already 5:00 PM, we decided to leave immediately so that Kaalu can cross the Ghat section before dark.

The trip back to Delhi was the most adventurous one, we had a pretty steady ride down hill from Dharamshala, then started the toughest journey we ever went through. We stopped in a Dhaba for a tea first at around 7:00 PM. After this we started our usual Antakshari, but this time I was too bored of listening to the same songs again and again. I tried starting off in Tamil and the team agreed to sing songs in all languages possible, it was great fun we had songs from Bhojpuri, Hindi, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu. Then Kapil came with the brilliant idea of forming two groups. Kapil, Srinu, Saumya and me were a team, Srikanth, Vijayan, Rajesh and Swami were another team, the teams can sing in any language convenient to the individual participants, this to me was an antakshari in Indian style, which I have never seen before or heard of before, this is a great testimony to the ways the group bonded with each other. I was quieter than others as I really don't listen to songs and even if I manage to listen, I have a special filter in my ears to filter out the music and let the lyrics at bay. I just manage to sing 6 songs and out of it I was wrong 4 times and I never knew beyond two lines in any of the songs, I knew only "Tanha Dil" which I memorised long back and sang only that. Point to be noted here is that Srinu, Swami, Kapil and Srikanth were movie buffs, they were able to sing in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, I guess from the way they sang those songs they knew the lyrics of every song too well.

We had a light dinner in a small Dhaba, the food was ok, we managed to eat it. Always clean the plates in a Dhaba with a tissue paper, swipe the paper once over the plate and you will know for yourself on what to do next. Punctures begin now :)

We had a puncture near Pathankot, it was at the cross roads of two highways, we had some street lights, pebbles, roads and signboards. It was later proved that these were ideal ingredients to have fun. Vijayan suddenly started bowling by taking some of the pebbles he found, his aim was to hit one of the National Highway turret sticks. We were amused by Vijayan's enthusiasm, Vijayan hit that turret three times in a row and after that he kept trying and he kept missing the turret by yards :). We all started throwing stones at one of the National Highway signboards, our aim was not to hit the board, but to hit the pole, everyone were having a great time like kids, we never left half-a-chance to have fun. Kaalu managed to repair the puncture by getting the spare tyre.

We had one more puncture and again we never missed a chance to have fun, I started off by saying some PJ's and everyone joined in, there were too many jokes of all genre, we woke up the people in what seemed like a remote village with our loud laughter and we were given special instructions by the locals, but we just reduced the volume.

We started our journey again and beyond this point, the journey got too dangerous and rocky. The roads were bad and full of fog, we could hardly see anything. Kaalu shamelessly went through it in full speed, often getting the vehicle into deep pits, we had such a nightmare of a journey. Me, Vijayan and Saumya were in the back seat and got the blunt of the shock when the shock absorbers in the backside were particularly very bad. Vijayan was bouncing like a ball from the ground to the ceiling of the car as he had nothing to hold him to the ground. I heard his bones cracking all the way long.

We had another puncture near Chandigarh and this time it was too serious, we were in the middle of nowhere, no people, no lights and just an abandoned warehouse. We spent two hours in the warehouse between 12:00 AM to 2:00 AM. We were hardly able to see anything beyond 50 metres. The weather was too cold, everyone did whatever they could to cover themselves up fully. We had a scary time with Saumya bringing shivers within everybody by saying dracula and vampire stories plus some of his own Karma stories which always raised the question of "why we stopped exactly near this warehouse? why not fifty metres away from this place?" ahn! what a scary night? I myself had stupid thoughts of Kaalu being some kind of dacoit luring us to this warehouse to loot our money, I thought Kaalu might have gone to bring in more reinforcements.

All these were turned wrong when he came back with the tyre and the back breaking journey continued till Delhi and nothing else, I was holding my fists to hit Kaalu, I thought of to at least burn his effigy to vent out my anger, but when things went calm, I just held back saying "chalta hai".

For the trekkers:

Make sure your driver is good and the tyres + shock absorbers are good before you start a long journey and also make sure the luggages at the top of your trucky may sway or untie based on the shock it gets, always keep an eye on the luggage.

Count your luggage at every stop possible.

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