Turning 30 is a milestone. You just cannot let it pass by without celebrating in whatever way catches your fancy. At least that has been the explanation for my numerous travel plans in 2017, as it is the year for most of my friends, including me, hitting the 30s. Like the wise say, travel is the only thing that makes you richer, and so for a new beginning, it was only apt that we chose a destination from our wishlist and planned a holiday. So one such ‘turning 30’ option was Dharamsala, probably in the pursuit of some inner peace.
Dharamsala, the exile town of the Dalai Lama, is a popular tourist destination for various reasons. Be it to soak in the Tibetan culture, spend time at the monastery, indulge in Himalayan food with the likes of Momos and Thukpas, trek up to gorgeous spots to catch a glimpse of The Himalayas or just laze around tuning into the gentle swaying of the Deodar Cedar trees, it’s a hill station for all kinds of travellers. Bustling with modern cafes and interesting restaurants, food lovers have much to explore too besides the local fare – Italian, European, Asian, Indian, Israeli and more!
Our agenda for the trip was clear right from the start and it was to stay away from the town and the hustle bustle. Therefore, we decided to spend less time in Dharamsala and Mcleodganj, and instead made our way further up towards a little village called Dharamkot, also known as the Israeli hub. Dharamkot is about six kilometers uphill of Mcleodganj, and offers plenty of stay options for budget travellers. Once you are there, you don’t really feel the need to venture out. You can make your way to one of the many laidback cafes, pick a quiet spot in their floor seating (with mattresses!) and completely relax and not be bothered at all. Then there are flavour-packed Israeli dishes like Shakshuka, Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma and others to keep you company.
The No Name Waterfall
While we spent most of our time perfecting the art of doing nothing, on the day of the friend’s birthday, we geared up for a little trek to see a waterfall known as the No Name Waterfall. The question in all our minds was how were we to ever find the waterfall which had no name! In case we were lost and wanted to ask direction, what were we to ask passersby or locals? Only piece of information we did have was to make our way to a village called Gallu, and then follow a narrow path that would lead us to the waterfall. We were to find out soon that it was actually as simple as that.
Gallu is further uphill of Dharamkot, about a 30 minutes trek. From Gallu to reach the waterfall, it takes another 40-45 minutes. We made our way through lower Dharamkot, following the narrow path, which led to an outdoor stairway of sort. Smitten by the picturesque view of the Kangra valley, the uphill climb wasn’t a strenuous task but a welcome change to breathe in the fresh mountain air. The meandering stairway finally led us to Gallu temple with the backdrop of breathtaking snow-capped mountains, which was the halfway mark.
The villagers then pointed us towards the waterfall. After about 10 minutes of walking, just as we were beginning to wonder if we were heading in the right direction, we came across a scribbled message on a stone assuring us that the waterfall was not too far away. This was followed by many more quirky messages guiding us through the ‘not-so-easy’ trek, motivating us to not give up yet and also cautioning us for shaky stones we should avoid stepping on. A thoughtful guide indeed!
The view of the waterfall made it all worth the trek. It was a beautiful spot, almost hidden by stone boulders and the curves of the hills. Unlike Bhagsu Waterfall closer to Mcleodganj, which is more popularly known, this hardly had any visitors. We plunked ourselves near the waterfall dipping our feet in the ice cold water and absorbing nature’s beauty. Not too far away, two yogis made their way further uphill to find their spot to perform asanas, and someone was strumming a guitar at a distance, adding to the good vibes of the place.
The Sunset Cafe
After what seemed like hours at the lap of nature, we started our trek downhill to the Sunset Cafe to grab a bite. The Sunset Cafe is a little hole-in-the-wall place closer to Gallu village, with the best view of the sunset. You can laze around on the floor mats, soak some sun and treat yourself to fresh fruit juices, piping hot noodles and Indian meals.
We picked the best seat in the house for the view of the sunset post the tiring trek. While we waited for our food to arrive, there were two German Shepherds and a mischievous cat to keep us company. And when the time finally came, we watched the sunset and couldn’t help but feel immensely satisfied for a beautiful day spent amidst all the greenery.
Birthdays earlier meant hitting a bar and toasting to multiple rounds of cocktails and shots. While we can’t really give up on our sundowners with Margaritas and Sangrias, sipping on Masala Chai for a change somewhere in the middle of nowhere was definitely a great way to start the 30s. Here’s to more inner peace!
How to Get There: From Delhi, Dharamsala or Mcleodganj is an overnight journey by bus. You can also take a flight to Dharamsala to save up on time. You can then hire a cab to Dharamkot, which should cost you INR 200 from Mcleodganj. Local cabs are readily available.
Where to Stay: There are plenty of budget stays in Dharamkot, ranging from INR 1,200 to 1,500 per night. A popular choice is Trek and Dine in upper Dharamkot. For luxury stay, you can book Hotel Eagle’s Nest (INR 12,000 per night) run by an English couple.