Long awaited family trip to Himalaya: Dharamshala, Vaidyanath, Pathankot

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“हेल्लो … आपका एक बैग गिर गया है..”
“कहाँ?”
“काफी पीछे..”

एक घंटे की मशक्कत के बाद “छोडो यार अब गया तो गया… जेवर वाला तो नहीं गया न..”
”पर उसमे सारे नए कपडे थे .. सारियां और बच्चो के Sad smile

This was the start of the trip….

“भैया .. मेरे रूम की टीवी में स्पार्क हो रहा है और शायद लाइट भी चली गयी है”

“वो शायद लाइट fluctuate हो रही थी उसी से कुछ हुआ होगा ”

“Damn!!! लैपटॉप का चार्जर और मोबाइल चार्जर गया..”

This was the second day of stay at Dharamshala…

The above two conversations are a hint that what had gone wrong during the last short trip of ours but was that enough to dampen our spirit on the long awaited family holidaying?????

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Background of the trip

The trip was on card since 4-5 months once the marriage date of a relative from wife side was finalized in Pathankot. In-laws been coming for the trip and so are sister-in-law family along with two kids to give company to my kiddo. The schedule was really tight considering the fact that I haven’t been to that part of Himalaya and wanted to cover as much possible. Earlier the plan was spanning from 9th March to 13th March and we were supposed to leave by 8th evening, but later on, Pankaj (Husband of sister-in-law) was finding it hard to manage the leave on 9th March, so the trip was cut short by one day.

This particular trip was much exciting for wife and kiddo as it was a group journey with sister-in-law after almost 5 years (last one was Nainital trip in August 2011) and bonus was chemistry between their daughter and mine and also first hill drive with wife’s parents.

Earlier plan was to cover Dharamshala, McLeodGanj, Vaidyanath, Khajjiar, Dalhousie and then Pathankot, Amritsar and Vagha Border but once the trip was cut short then Khajjiar, Dalhousie part was stripped out while Amritsar, Vagha remained on cliff depending on how the schedule pans out.

But I was to learn the basic rule of a group trip that things don’t move your way when others are involved, specially kids and elders….


Day one: Faridabad to Chandigarh

As group size was larger, first choice was to keep two cars but later Pankaj insisted for keeping it one big SuV so that all may be together. Pankaj brought XuV 500 of his friend in the morning, I drove it for two three mins to get a handle of it and then Pankaj took it with him to his place in Gurgaon for attending office work and also to get carrier fitted on the top for luggage.

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We started the drive by 1830 hrs with THE blunder. We placed the luggage on top, placed a polythene wrap over it and then used rope to tie all. Blunder was not to tie each luggage individually, which later ended up in what I had written in start of the post. We lost a big bag having saris and cloths of kids just on the border of Delhi.

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We might have taken two three rounds of the above area but no avail. Despite of searching for the same for more than one and half hour, we couldn’t find it and had to give up. Same time, we rearranged the luggage and tightened the grip and restarted the journey, which was already delayed.

We been targeting to stay at Mansa Devi Shrine Board guest house at Panchkula, Chandigarh and current schedule was putting us there not before 0130 hrs at least. Rest of the journey remained uneventful except the fact that we been almost challaned for high beam in Panchkula area when we tried to stop for asking route from a policeman.

Alas, we reached to the Lakshmi Dharamshala by 0130 hrs to find the gates closed, which on close inspection found to be without lock, so we entered into the premises finally. Didn’t faced any hassles in booking even that hour of night and three rooms were booked. Dinner was taken inside the vehicle only sometimes back and now the target was to wake up by 0430 hrs for the next drive.


Day two: Chandigarh to Dharamshala via Jwala ji

Group journey means, you don’t stay on your schedule and after settling in by 0200-0230 hrs, it was overkill to even think about starting again by 0500 hrs in morning and then we had three kids with us too.

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Still we might have started our drive before 0800 hrs, which was an achievement sort of considering all of us taken bath as well since we were heading towards Jwala Ji. Jwala ji is considered to be a very auspicious site which is as old as Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. Its part of 51 Shaktipeeths and this one specifically called to be one where tongue of Mata Sati fallen or the place where the burning cloths might have been fallen.

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We took first stop around 0930 hrs at highway for an orange shop, which also had a sugarcane processing unit by side. Getting the fresh ones always a delight.

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We were supposed to keep on NH503 but somehow Google deviated us from the path and we ended up taking a state highway kind of road. Not to complain much as road was okish, just not NH503 type which was sure awesome. The above photo was taken around 1312 hrs and we reached to Jwala Ji place by 1430 hrs.

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Darshan etc took a while and then we were back on drive and might have reached to Dharamshala by 1640 hrs, which took another hour in just searching the stadium as in preparation of upcoming T20 match between India Pakistan (which got shifted to Kolkata), they had made multiple entry points and diversions.

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After reaching to main gate of stadium, we were told that due to security reasons, visitors entry is not allowed any more till April. We were disappointed but as we knew that it’s a hill area so there should be a higher point from where the entire stadium might be visible. We asked around and some schoolgirls nearby directed us to a school adjacent to the stadium from whose ground the stadium was in closest visibility.

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360 degree Panorama of HCPA Stadium, Dharamshala as seen by nearby College

We stayed at the place till 1845 hrs at least and then headed for a nearby restaurant for lunch-cum-dinner whatever you call as had no full meal in entire day. Yeah I know that’s not a good thing.

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As told by Restaurant owner and nearby shop, we were somewhat lucky that the T20 Match was cancelled otherwise it would have been impossible to get any room in nearby areas in any hotel but as it was cancelled and this was sort of off season as well, we managed to find a hotel named Hotel Dhauladhar View @700₹ per room per night (roughly three hotels offered us the same rates). Nearby SBI complex was working as vehicle parking so it wasn’t a bad deal.


Day Three: Dharamshala and around

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There was no view from the room itself but from rooftop, we were able to see snow peaks all over in the morning and it would be sure amazing sight when there were not this much clouds. After photos on rooftop and then heavy breakfast in a nearby shop, we might have left for McLeod Ganj by around 0930hrs.

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It was a short drive as we already had stayed little up from main Dharamshala (near State Museum), so the distance was cut short to mere few kms. Still we reached to the temple by around 1045 hrs after parking etc hassles. The place should be sure tough to drive and park when its season.

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The above cylinders been engraved with Mantras and circling it once was meant to be equivalent of chanting the same ones. One had to circle all of them. It was fun for kids.

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There was a room full of diyas as well. I couldn’t get the notion and purpose of the same as entry was restricted.

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Though snow peaks weren’t visible from the place, but fortunately the parking was placed at a very exotic location from where entire valley was visible. I believe this must be a busy spot during peak season for people to take their pictures. We would have stayed to the place till 1210 hrs around before heading to Bhagsunag temple and waterfall.

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The temple wasn’t much far from the Dalai Lama Complex The legend related to the temple is shown above in pictures while I noticed the fact that the place is supported by mostly army as seen multiple stones carved with army names and a staying place in front of temple as well. There was a unnamed Samadhi as well which is believed to be taken by some Saint while being alive as been tradition then.

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It had started raining when we headed towards Bhagsunag waterfall which was roughly less than 1km trek. During seasons, it looks like Kempty fall a little but right now, it had only handful of water. Giving a Googled image to give an idea that how it should look like during seasons.

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Not all of us preferred trekking, elders and wife stayed back while all the kids along with sister-in-law, Pankaj and me headed towards up.

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360 degree panorama of Bhagsunag Waterfall as it was in March 2016

We would have stayed up till 1400hrs and then came down. Lunch dominated by Aaloo Paranthas was taken in a Punjabi restaurant while the rain had started pouring by then. Shopping and Lunch etc stretched till 1600 hrs at least least and then we headed towards War Memorial Dharamshala.

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After giving around 15 mins to the place, we headed for coffee/ tea in the nearby shop and then back hotel by 1800 hrs.

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A walk on the roads for arranging dinner etc greeted us with another pleasant surprise. Somehow the floodlights of the Dharamshala Stadium were on for tonight and hence the magnificent view from our hotel rooftop. The rest of the day was spent lazy and tomorrow was the final day when we were to head for Pathankot, the essential part of the journey, to attend the wedding.

Oh Wait!!! Did I forgot to tell that this was the night when that short circuit etc happened in the night taking away expensive laptop/ mobile charger etc and in morning I probably missed my Data card in the hotel as well?


Day Four: Drive to Pathankot, the best day of the trip

Schedule for the last day wasn’t yet decided till the last minute. I was in favor of covering Vaidyanath, while considering the possibility of delay and less time available to rest in the hotel @Pathankot, elders were hesitating. In the end, when we got the news that even groom side is late to hotel as train delayed by few hours, we decided to head towards Vaidyanath Temple as it wasn’t sure that when entire group could visit the place ever.

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Weather was showering light rains over us so we had to put extra efforts in checking out from hotel and tie up all the luggage properly along with polythene cover which we had kept to handle that kind of situation only. Still we might have left the place by 0815 hrs as we all had to take bath etc considering the fact that we been heading to auspicious placDSCN7174

We might have taken two photo breaks in between while entire route was scenic. It reminded me of Naggar route in last trip. Neither narrow, nor highway like roads, less rush considering morning hours and scenic views across.

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We reached the temple by 0930 hrs around and by then clouds had started taking over all the snow peaks. The temple had a nice stone structure. The below words from the Wiki page describe it better

The Baijnath temple has been continuously under worship ever since its construction in 1204 A.D. by two local merchants named Ahuka and Manyuka. The two long inscriptions in the porch of the temple indicate that a temple of Siva existed on the spot even before the present one was constructed. The present temple is a beautiful example of the early medieval north Indian temple architecture known as Nagara style of temples. The Svayambhu form of Sivalinga is enshrined in the sanctum of the temple that has five projections on each side and is surmounted with a tall curvilinear Shikhara. The entrance to sanctum is through a vestibule that has a large square Mandapa in front with two massive balconies one each in north and south. There is a small porch in front of the mandapa hall that rests on four pillars in the front preceded by an idol of Nandi, the bull, in a small pillared shrine. The whole temple is enclosed by a high wall with entrances in the south and north. The outer walls of the temple have several niches with images of gods and goddesses. Numerous images are also fixed or carved in the walls. The outer doorway in the porch as also the inner doorway leading to the sanctum of the temple are also studded with a large number of images of great beauty and iconographic importance. Some of them are very rare to be found elsewhere.

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360 degree Panorama of the Baijnath Temple as it was in March 2016

As much I heard, the place looks equally magical during Night Aartis as well and there are other places around to visit but then we had very little time in our hands, so had to leave for Pathankot. This was the place where I lost my iPhone cables as well rendering that useless for rest of the trip. We had left the place by 1000hrs without having any idea that what awaits us …..

Words would be least to describe the place which greeted us just 12 kms before Palampur, so I would be putting a number of photos of the place.

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The place sure had placed a spell on us and it was decided that I would be returning back to the place in next winters for sure just for this place.

360 degree Panorama of the place as it was in March 2016

Trust me, even these pictures aren’t doing any justice to the kind of place it was. We stayed here till 1215 hrs at least before heading to Pathankot. Roads weren’t perfect but weren’t bad either for hills. Enough wide even if not like highway NH503 was but that’s a high bar anyway.

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Pankaj kept the driving seat throughout the journey and those who drive can understand that how empty it feels like being in a trip but not driving self. Its not that I wasn’t enjoy but the traveller inside me would keep on waiting for the chance when I would be driving on those hills again all by myself.

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We took a small juice break before entering into Pathankot. Snow peaks were with us even till then and I managed to see some of them even from Pathankot later on if cloud gods allowed me. We might have reached to Hotel Venice, Pathankot by 1530 hrs around thanks to diversions in the way and then the usual marriage drill.

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Day five: Last leg of the journey, back to Faridabad

The half of the group was to break from there as elders and sister-in-law along with her daughters had to go reception at Lucknow, while me, family and Pankaj were to return back to Faridabad. Pankaj decided to continue driving and as it was a straight drive on one of best highway of India, it was kind of eventless drive back to home. Thanks to some air and noise issues, we were delayed in between by 1-2 hours but we managed to reach home by some 1930 hrs around.

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Author: Nitish Kumar

I love to write and raising voice, sharing thought and heated debate is a kind of passion for me. Jobwise I am just another Computer professional handling Infra and designing solutions for a big Indian Media house but I love to write, sketch, photography and a lot more.

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