After Parvati Valley, we spent some time at our house in Naggar before heading out in a new direction. The plan was to cover Bir-Palampur-Mcleodganj-Dharamshala-Dalhousie and go up to Sach Pass if possible. We were skeptical of Sach pass as the rains had been at its peak by this time and I had my doubts about doing that route in our small car.
We packed our bags and headed towards Bir – The first destination for our next leg of the journey. The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Bir is Paragliding but this was off season and paragliding was stopped till mid-Sep. It was raining on and off and there were hardly any tourists in the town. We stayed at Zostel Bir (My first experience with them) and it was a nice clean and cozy room at a decent price. The next three days were spent monastery-hopping and we got to see the Buddhist way of life much more closely. Some of the monasteries we visited were Nyingma, Chokling, Sherabling and Tsering Dzong Monastery. Café hoping is a must if you are in any Himachal town but Bir disappoints when it comes to food. Maybe it was of the off-season, but ironically, the best food we had in Bir was at this newly opened South Indian Café. A dosa in the mountains!
Our next stop was Palampur, also known as tea capital of northwest India. It was just a short drive from Bir and the view of Dhauladhar mountains was mesmerizing. We stayed at Jyoti Niwas, a villa that used to be the residence of a royal family in early 20th century and now serves as a homestay. But nevertheless you will feel like a royalty at this place and the vibes are just great. This is an amazing place to come and do nothing. While in Palampur, we rode around the tea estates, sampling the local tea and having the time of our lives among the lush view. This was surreal.
After Palampur we head out to Dharamshala and decided to stay at Mcleodganj, Dharamkot to be specific for first two days. It was weekdays and we managed to get a good deal at Oyo. Mcleodganj has some amazing cafes and the food scene is great, ranging from Tibetan Momos to pizza, and whatever you feel like eating is available. We did not go for any trek while in Mcleodganj as it has been raining on and off the whole time and we decided to shift to a new place near Dal Lake. By this time, the rain god started to pour more and more and it became so foggy that we drove 4-5 time over Dal Lake but were not able to sight the water. The visibility hampered our plans and we spent two days inside our homestay room, catching up on work.
We headed back to Naggar via Mandi but found that the road has been closed due to landslides, forcing us to take de-tour and this is when we come across the most surreal views of the misty mountains. The small one lane road was muddy, broken but totally worth it.
Once back in Naggar, we knew our time in Himachal was coming to an end as a few clients wanted to meet and some other business priorities came up that couldn’t be avoided. Our dream of Ladakh and Spiti was still a dream but instead of doing it in a hurry, we decided to skip it for now. Someday we would be back just to spend weeks in those areas.
Before going back, we had just enough time to cover one more place and we choose The Beautiful Tirthan Valley. It was close to Naggar but the road conditions were unpredictable. It took us more than 4 hours to cover some 90km. We had been to the Jalori pass two times during this trip and stayed for quite some time at Jibhi earlier, so instead of going towards that side, we turned from Banjar into the heart of the valley. We were staying at the Sunshine Himalayan Cottage, run by Panki Sood and his wife. The lively couple has put a lot of thoughts into the property and I can bet you wouldn’t find anyone more interesting to talk about almost anything in this part of Himachal. The property was impressive and the food was even better. Panki and his wife stay at the property itself and overlook day-to-day activities. The trout fish at the Tirthan valley is something that shouldn’t be missed.
Once back in Naggar, we had little time to anything. I had shipped the Bike back to Mumbai via Gati before leaving for Tirthan and we booked our flight from Chandigarh on 18th August. We left for Chandigarh and the journey took us almost 8 hours. We had booked an Oyo just outside the airport and boarded the flight back to Mumbai with the dreams of coming back again for even longer period.