We spent a little over 36 hours in Mcleodganj (our longest stop since we left Delhi) but because there was so much to be done, time had gone by very quickly.
The first night was spent washing out gear and catching up on some much-needed sleep. A good part of the next day slipped away while I was caught up trying to find a new battery for my bike (which I eventually found in a town nearly 30 kilometres away).
Washing the bikes (to get them to look like decent ladies again) was an additional distraction. I made the most of the little time left over to stroll around the town, catch a lovely sunset and grab one last bowl of steaming hot Thukpa. The next morning, we also managed to squeeze in a climb up to the Bhagsunag waterfall before we loaded up and left.
As we were leaving Mcleodganj I remember feeling like we should have stayed on for at least a day more. But the promise of going to Dalhousie (a place that I had heard a lot about, but never seen before) lured me to keep going anyway. In hindsight, I should have trusted the gut feeling, because the rest of the day turned out to be quite forgettable.
The ride from Mcleodganj to Dalhousie wasn’t particularly spectacular. The bike was doing better now (with it’s new battery and all), which was nice, but the route itself wasn’t exciting. We were munching miles in a very methodical manner, hoping against hope that the eventual destination would make the ride day seem worthwhile (yes, there are some days on the road, when I just want the riding to get over already).
After 5 particularly tiring hours (I don’t know why it took us so long), we finally made it to Banikhet, the town from where the ascent to Dalhousie begins. There was a lot of traffic on the way up, and it got progressively worse as we got closer to Dalhousie. At one point, we were stuck in a traffic jam for over 15 minutes. It was then that it dawned on me that like absolute geniuses, we had landed up here on a Saturday evening. We had lost track of the days as we were going along, and now we had made the very basic and disastrous mistake of landing up in a small touristy town, in peak season, on the weekend. Complete goofballs!
I had been extremely excited about spending some time in Dalhousie, but running smack into the madness immediately upon arrival was a major put-off. It was crowded, noisy and dirty (signs of civilisation?). Things just felt too busy, chaotic and, to a certain extent, even confusing. Our attempts to find a budget home for the night were entirely futile. We ended up riding in circles around the town at least three times, hopping on and off the bikes constantly and spent at least an hour (in aggregate) haggling with hotel owners. Eventually, the only sub-1000 rupee room we could find was a tiny space above a cow shed (not a shed that used to be home to cows, but a thriving and fully active one). The room was cramped, smelt foul, looked dirty and met all other criteria for being a full and complete rip-off. Given that we were both really exhausted and haggard from all the haggling we nearly gave-in and decided to spend the night here with our eyes and noses covered. But, thankfully, one last burst of energy hit at just the right time and caused better sense to prevail.
We decided to give up on Dalhousie and head back down to Banikhet, with the hope of finding better accommodation there. Banikhet didn’t prove to be particularly better. The Youth Hostel was fully booked out, and the hotel tariffs were apalling. We were told that when Dalhousie is packed, the crowd overflows into Banikhet, and so the hotels here use the opportunity to also make a killing. I was past 8 pm and we didn’t have the energy to ride another 20 or 30 kilometres to the next town. So we eventually gave-in and settled in for the night at our most-expensive and least value-for-money room yet. 1000 Indian Rupees for a room that was just about good enough to sleep in (but definitely much better than the abode above the cowshed).
It had turned out to be a tough day filled with disappointment. I couldn’t help but wish that we had just stayed another day in our lovely and comfortable room in Mcleodganj. But well, we would have had to do this part of the ride at some point eventually, so I guess it was inevitable. Bad days happen. At least now we had a place to shower and a bed to sleep in. All we needed to now do was to end the day quickly, start the next one early, and then go do something phenomenal in order to turn things around.
- Do not ever go to Dalhousie on a weekend, unless you have a beautiful home to hide away in.
- The ride from McleodGanj to Dalhousie is fairly effortless and can be enjoyable (though it wasn’t for me). It is the kind of route that anybody can ride.
- It’s only a short distance, so there is no reason to rush your ride. It’s not always that one has the luxury of riding minimum distance in maximum time.
- If you find out what is so nice about Dalhousie, please tell me. I haven’t yet given up on the place (because it was my fault for being there when I was) and hence the curiousity remains.