The next leg of our adventure would see us driving in a westward direction to Palampur, but we had to first drive backward on the same road we drove two days earlier till the town of Mandi. Once again, in order to avoid the anticipated heavy traffic after a long weekend (Indian Independence Day), we left Manali at 7am. Our hotel (HighlandPark Manali) manager was kind enough to pack us some breakfast as we were in a rush that morning. Though Google Maps estimated our journey to be 5 hours and 30 minutes, we knew from previous experiences that it would actually take another extra 2 hours. We also planned to stop at various places of interest along the way.
Driving toward Mandi in the opposite direction, the Beas River granted us a completely different spectacle which wasn’t at all lacking in magnificence. The temperature was still in the low teens due to the downpour a few hours earlier. A layer of mist was still visibly hovering above the Beas. It was interesting to observe how the locals traverse the raging waters of the Beas using various man-pedalled cable cars.
As soon as we arrived at Mandi, we turned into National Highway (NH154) and headed northwest. By then, we had already completed slightly more than half the journey to Palampur. There were a couple of minor landslides along that mountainous route, but they didn’t hold up the traffic. In fact, our drive was pretty smooth sailing, partly also because there weren’t many vehicles plying this route.
It was almost 10am when Sanjay indicated he wanted to grab a bite at a roadside cafe – Vaishno Dhaba. We had our packed breakfast at the cafe, while hubby tried its hot coffee – superb was his remark (I’m not much of a coffee drinker). This was the first time we stopped at such a cafe. Of course, we were overly wary of the food hygiene. That was why none of us dared to eat its food, except for the coffee hubby had. Call us paranoid but better be safe than sorry, right?
Shortly before arriving at Joginder Nagar, disaster struck! While taking a sharp turn, a loud thud followed by a hiss was audible from the left rear. Instantly, we knew we had a punctured tyre and had no choice but to pull over at the road shoulder to fix the problem. It must have been cause by some sharp rocks on the road. Fortunately, the spare tyre was in good shape. We played a small role assisting Sanjay in changing the punctured tyre, which took us almost 45 minutes. The rest of the journey through the hills and valleys was winding but without anymore untoward incidents.
Joginder Nagar is a quaint, small town located next to a stream – Gugli Khad. What caught my attention was the scenic sight of the railway track running over it as we passed through the town. Absolutely surreal!
It wasn’t long before we arrived at the town of Baijnath, where our first place of interest was located – Baijnath Shiva. It is a 13th-century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which exhibits early medieval north Indian temple architecture known as Nagara style.
Up next on the itinerary would be Tashi Jong Buddhist Monastery, approximately 15 minutes drive from Baijnath. It is located in Tashi Jong village, which is a small rural hill situated between Paprola and Taragarh. Most of its community are of Tibetan descent, due to their relocation to India after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. The entire complex houses the main temple, Khampagar young lamas school, stupa of Khamtrul Rinpoche and Yamantak Retreat Center.
Driving westward for another half an hour, we finally arrived at Palampur. We then proceeded to the next place of interest, which is what makes Palampur famous – Tea Gardens. Darjeeling and Assam tea may be among India’s most famous teas, but Kangra chai (Palampur is within Kangra valley) is not to be sniffed at either. To be honest, I’d never heard of it until my visit to Himachal Pradesh. Lush carpets of tea trees appeared on both sides of the road as we drove through the plantation, spanning vast hectares of land. In my opinion, the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia look more impressive comparatively. Ironically, we didn’t even buy a single bit of the famous Kangra tea (we thought about it though).
We only managed to see Saurabh Van Vihar, a nature park situated 4km from Palampur, from afar. According to Sanjay, it wasn’t that breathtaking a park, if at all maybe only during winter. It was almost 3pm when we left Palampur and our stomachs were already growling by then. We ended up having lunch at Mrigini Restaurant, just across the road from Gopalpur Zoo. We actually chanced upon this zoo en route to our resort, as it wasn’t part of our itinerary. Nope, we didn’t pay to go into the zoo.
Our accommodation at The Citadel Resorts was about 40 minutes west toward Dharamshala, where Kangra valley merges with the Dhauladhar range. A day earlier in Manali, we stayed by the river and this time hubby wanted to stay on a hillslope. This resort is perched on a hill which overlooks the Kangra valley. It wasn’t difficult at all to locate with the help of Google Maps. To our surprise, we were the only guests at the resort that day. I suppose everyone had left after the long weekend.
We got our rooms from Cleartrip for ₹4065 (RM254) per room inclusive of taxes, after deducting a ₹150 (RM9.40) discount (code: CTRELAX). Call it serendipity, we didn’t even realize that the imposing snow-covered Dhauladhar range was in the backdrop of our resort, until hubby stepped out to snap a couple of pictures. He then rushed back in to wake the rest of us up from our nap, just so we didn’t miss such a spectacular scenery. Dhauladhar, which literally means The White Range is the southern branch of the main outer Himalayan chain of mountains.
It wasn’t long before the mountains were shrouded in dark clouds and it started drizzling. That evening, we had another course of Indian dinner at the resort. As there weren’t any other guests, the chef and waiters could serve us with undivided attention. We had arguably the spiciest Indian meal throughout the entire trip.
The temperature plunged to the low teens as the rain continued all through the night. The next morning, we had a pretty sumptuous breakfast before hitting the road. Up next on the itinerary was Khajjiar followed by Dalhousie. The journey on this leg would be slightly shorter, thus there was no need to leave early.
All photos and information on Daphne’s Escapades are copyright protected. Please do not use any of the images or content without any prior permission. Should you wish to share this post, please direct this post to its original source.