I woke up late that morning. As I crinkled my eyes open, I found Nidhi’s room filled with sunlight. The view was spectacular–there lay the beautiful Himalayas right outside the window smiling slyly and asking me to get the f up. As I sat outside in the verandah looking at the mountains, while slowly exhaling the smoke out of my nose, I wondered how different this morning was from my usual Mumbai mornings.
After getting dressed, we went for breakfast at this really small tapri like place (a short walk from Cafe Illiterati) for piping hot aloo paranthas. And let me tell you, those were one of the best aloo paranthas I have EVER HAD. They served it with some amazing secret recipe chutney and we gulped it all down in minutes! And there’s something about this mountain climate or water, I tell you, because a person like me who generally has an appetite of a 10-year-old, has been gobbling down food like a pig since the first day.
I had to shift from Nidhi’s house to Ladies Venture today, so after breakfast we went there to dump my luggage. The one who takes care in running this guesthouse is a Belgian woman named Claire who’s married to an Indian Kashmiri, and she speaks better Hindi than I do, and I am saying this while hanging my head in shame. After finishing all the formalities, we went to the main McLeon Ganj circle to have lunch, at this place called Tara Cafe. I had thukpa for the first time–an authentic, yummy and extremely filling Tibetan noodle soup filled with vegetables.
After lunch, I decided to roam aimlessly around the market to do some random shopping, and as far as I remember, I picked up a pair of harem pants, a kurta and a neck piece (all of these are apparently handmade) and a few postcards (you will know what I did with these later, on my last day of the trip).
Then we went to this pretty place called Cafe Kunga–it is popular partly because it has free wifi, but mostly because it serves amazing food and has a breathtaking view to boast. Tip: PLEASE do have the cafe mousse at cafe Kunga, trust me you don’t wanna miss this.
When I said bye to everyone and started walking back towards my guesthouse to call it a day, I stopped by this cafe that read ‘Moonpeak Cafe’ at Temple Road. It looked interesting from outside, so I just walked in, ordered a mug of lemon ginger honey tea and spent the next one hour sitting alone, sipping tea, having cakes, reading a book and enjoying THIS view (look below). Yep, go on, be jelky.
By the way, no place in McLeod has the concept of a ceiling fan, and while it was around 43 degree celsius in Delhi, I had to cover myself with a blanket to sleep that night.
My guesthouse was filled with people from almost every country, speaking various languages. The room was really small with just the basic necessities, but it was cozy and in any case, I wasn’t staying in much anyway. Also, I must mention this one thing here. When I asked Claire the password for the guesthouse WiFi, she started, ‘B..’, and I interrupted and asked, ‘B as in Bombay?’ and she was like, ‘yeah, B as in Bombay, A as in Azaad.’ I was stumped. She could have said A for anything in the world, but a Belgian woman preferred to say A for Azaad instead. A little lesson for all us Indians here, can we be a little more proud of our beautiful country everyday (applies for me too) and criticize it a little less? 🙂
The next morning, I got ready and walked all the way till Temple road, stopping on my way to smile at random strangers and click pictures. I went back to Moonpeak Cafe and ordered myself lunch and tea. Tip: The double egg cheese omelette is to die for.
After lunch, I started to make my way towards LHA Charitable Trust. Few days before coming to Mcleod, I had filled up a form about my specific skills and my wish to volunteer for them in order to help the Tibetan community. The answer had come in the affirmative and I was assigned to take English conversation classes for one hour every evening. I was excited at the prospect and was looking forward to the first evening.
But as luck would have it, I lost my way, and trust me it is not easy when you lose your way in the mountains, because walking downhill is easy but coming back uphill? PHEW you don’t wanna know! Nidhi had told me LHA is in Temple Road so I kept running around in circles (even Google map couldn’t help), so I gave it up and thought of checking out the nearby Dalai Lama Temple instead. Quick note: LHA is not in Temple Road, it is pretty near to where I was staying and FML for crossing it that very morning but not noticing the tiny building.
Inside Dalami Lama Temple, even though the place was pretty full with tourists and monks, it felt very peaceful. I went inside and checked out the Buddha idol and the big prayer wheels. I even managed to chill with a few monks lol. Here’s proof below.
Once I came out of the temple and started walking towards the main market, I bumped into Jamyang. She was standing at a street side stall and eating something that looked like flat noodles in gravy. Before I could even ask her what it was, she hugged me tight and asked the lady selling it to give me one more bowl. It was called ‘laping’ and it costs only 20 bucks. It was a bowl full of flat noodles soaked in tangy gravy and it tasted DELICIOUS! This was wet laping, there’s dry laping too, which I had few days later and hated it by the way. Shiwa had later joked and told me, ‘What panipuri is to you Indian girls, laping is to Tibetan girls.’
After eating, Jamyang pulled me by the hand and offered to walk with me till Cafe Illiterati, albeit, via a shortcut through the forest. She lead me on and I jumped, stumbled, giggled, got scared and made my way through that mountainous forest, trying my best to keep pace with her. After few minutes of trek, I had to jump off from a height on the main road, and there it was–Cafe Illiterati! Holy cow, how did I reach here? If I had taken the main road, I would have had to walk a lot more and that too uphill. Seriously, only the locals know these shortcuts through the mountains and forests and I’m lucky I am friends with them, I thought to myself.
I chilled at Cafe Illiterati for sometime, read books, ate and basically gaped like a starstruck kid outside, till it was dark. That night when I walked back alone towards the guesthouse, something inside told me that the adventure had only begun.
(Stay tuned. To be continued…!)
In case you missed reading the first part, read it here.