Friday, July 01, 2011

Trip to Himachal 3: Dalhousie, Day 1

Dear Reader,

Hello. If you can, please go to the first post in the blog, and you will see that we had, on our itinerary, three nights to spend at Dalhousie. The reason for this is that the party which arranged our package has its own hotel at this place. His name was Rajat Mahajan, and I began the day of our arrival at Jallandhar with earnest conversations with him, as his car had not arrived at Jallandhar railway station to pick us up and take us to Dalhousie. He was asleep, but three calls between us over the next ten minutes had him jumping about, calling up his driver, and when the said driver was unreachable, calling me back to say that he was trying his best to arrange the whole thing. Well, in the interim, Nishrin continued to remain miserable, had no tea or any snacks, and I went around to see if I could arrange a private taxiwallah to take us to Dalhousie by road.

After what seemed to have taken an eternity, the driver designated by the Mahajan guy turned up with his Tata Indigo. According to his sob story, he was caught somewhere on the way by the highway police, and as his car did not have the requisite papers, he had to give the cops his new mobile as well as some money. In retrospect, his story seems unbelievable. Also, when I raised the matter with the Mahajans after a few days, I was told a completely different version of the story. Anyways, we stuffed our bags in the boot and took off for Dalhousie. Covering a distance of 184 km (give or take 10) took us over 5 hours; on the way, we stopped for breakfast at a roadside joint that was elevated nearly 15 feet above the road level. All of us had omelettes with bread, except Nishrin, who continued to remain without food and resting inside the car. The irony if this is that while we had the eggs, some of their progenitors kept us company! (see photo)

Upon reaching Dalhousie, we were off-loaded at the Gandhi market chowk, and had to walk about 300 metres down the market and past the stalls to the place where Hotel Monal was located. To reach the hotel, we had to also climb down a steep slope and some steps.

 Trouble awaited us there: we were allotted a single room with a double bed and not a family suite that I was promised by email when I had booked the package. This guy had quietly changed the descriptons from "Family Suite, 4-bedded" to "Double bedded room with 2 extra beds" for each of the three locations that we would be staying in hotels at during the correspondence. When I objected strongly, his father, who also stays there on the ground floor, conceded the point and took us to another floor where they gave us two interconnected rooms that both opened on to the verandah and had separate toilets. Problem solved for now, I thought to myself, as we all settled in, and Nishrin took to bed and slept for the next 4-5 hours.

In the evening, we all went to the market to look around, and also had tea/coffee and momos. Here are some photos of these events. Refreshed by the cups of tea or coffee that we drank, we decided to walk a little further, so we moved on, and explored more of the lovely hill-station we were at. There are tourists, but by evening, there is a quiet that pervades the roads. Fewer cars, and even fewer tourists grace the walks. We made good time as we descended down unorthodox pathways to reach the bus station. Visiting a food shop there, we ate, for the first time in our blessed lives, vegetable momos, steamed to perfection by a local who did not seem Tibetan at all. The momos were done nicely, and served at Rs. 40 for six, which, I think, was a very good bargain. They were served with an accompaniment of a red tangy sauce.

During the return trip, we paused to do some window shopping, but we did not buy anything much. We returned to the hotel early, and after a room-served dinner, we retired for the night. 

Okay, so what were the pluses and minuses for today? Apart from the fact that the package arrangement left a lot to be desired, there were the following pluses: (a) Dalhousie is cool! It is a lovely hill station, and the road to it was marvellously tortuous and full of scenic beauty. (b) The cook at Hotel Monal was good, and the food served by him, though vegetarian for the most part, though he did serve us eggs for breakfast, was above average for all the seven or eight meals that we had there. (c) Our rooms were not classy, but they were comfortable, and the view from the outside verandah was breath-taking. Let me share some of these views with you ... and, finally, (d) Being a small hotel, its staff was very down to earth and hard working, with none of the airs that you might see in starred properties.
 This is a snap of one of the large hotel like properties visible on the left of the Monal Hotel.
 This vista appears to the right of the hotel, and keeps going into the distance without any discernible end.
This is the Hotel Spring, one of the better hotels in Dalhousie.
A view out in front of Monal. And that's all in this post, for today.