October 2014: It was time. I boarded the flight to New Delhi from where I would begin my journey to McLeodganj with new friends. I was very excited and had started packing weeks ago. Once, twice, thrice…I lost count of the number of times I packed and unpacked my luggage. Tried on my clothes several times and kept replacing one apparel for another. I could hardly make up my mind.
Once I landed in Delhi, I met up briefly with my brother and his fiancé (now wife) who were on their way to Kolkata. Though I was happy to see them, I could not wait to meet up with my friends. I took the metro to Chandi Chowk from where I walked to the Old Delhi Railway Station. My friends asked me to wait at the McDonalds outlet inside the station area. While I waited, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach struggling to get out. I was so excited that I began to feel dizzy. Who doesn’t, when you get to see your boyfriend after three months? I waited impatiently for them to arrive, calling him up every three minutes until he threatened to switch off his cell phone. They soon arrived and greetings were exchanged. I was introduced to a colleague of which who is more than family to us now. Initially we all did take some time to warm up to each other but later it was one crazy family.
We took an overnight train to Pathankot from where we took the toy train. Very soon we realized it was not what it seemed. The train was crowded and we could only manage to get into the guard’s coach. The guard soon asked us to get into a passenger coach. But it was impossible for us. The guard then suggested we get down at Nurpur and take a cab to McLeodganj. That was the best decision ever. We booked a cab, loaded all our luggage and finally began the ascent to McLeodganj. Soon we left the plains and were driving along the mountainous roads. The scenery changed. The houses became fewer and far in-between. With green mountains on either side and the river flowing through them, it was a relaxing sight for the eyes. The peace and quiet of my surroundings calmed my agitated soul and soothed my ears.
The drive to McLeodganj took around two hours. Once we reached the McLeodganj crossroads, the cacophony of the town brought me back to my senses. A precarious flight of stairs led us to our hotel. The hotel looked no different from other hotels in hill stations but the view from the balcony was breath-taking. As far as the eye could see, there were only clouds, green mountains and in the distance, mountains with snowy peaks. We quickly freshened up and ordered lunch. After a big lunch, I was in no position to move. We were all tired and decided to give our bodies some time to recover. The evening descended quickly and we realized there was no way we could go out then. I dreaded the thought of having to take the steep flight of stairs again. Even though, it was our sole mode that connected us to the outside world. The weather was pleasant and we were wearing light woollens to keep us warm. An early dinner and we retired quickly as we planned to start early the following day.
Early morning sun shone through our window and filled the room with light. I opened the door that led to the balcony and saw the sun rise over the Dhauladhar range. A heavy breakfast of Tibetan cuisine and we were ready to take on the world. We walked aimlessly along the roads of the small town. We visited the Namgyal Monastery which also houses the official residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama as he left his residence. At the temple complex, lunch was being served to visitors and we decided to take the opportunity. Post lunch, we visited the Tibetan Museum locate within the temple complex. The museum has a collection of Tibetan art, pottery, handicrafts, and art. It also had the history of Tibet documented in the form of pictures.
The next day we set out early to visit the Bhagsu Falls. Located at 2 kms from McLeodganj amidst dreamy scenery and lush green mountains, the waterfall was breathtakingly beautiful. We also visited the Bhagsunath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, built by King Bhagsu, is at a height of 1770 m above sea level.
After returning from the temple, we decided to visit the church of St John in the Wilderness. A beautiful quaint church in the forest. It was such a picturesque vision. The peace and quiet around the church transported me to another world. The moss-covered graves, tall pine trees, and the fog flowing in and out created an eerie atmosphere but it was not hostile at all. It was something where one could completely lose oneself, lose track of time and be lost in some 19th century countryside. The church left a deep impact on my mind and I want to go back there again and again.
Soon it was time to go back to the grind. As all good things must, so did our wonderful trip. come to an end. We met as strangers and left as family. Till we meet again, memories will keep us going.