Om Mani Padme Hum; my backache from the tedious bus journey disappeared with the sound of truth, echoing within the luscious green valleys and snow covered peaks. Having lived in an urban illusion of comfort, I had by now lost the essence of life until I stepped into this place. I was at McLeod Ganj ; an oasis free from the veil of maya.
Home to His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile; this “Little Lhasa” is the starting point for some exhilarating treks into the wilderness of the Himalayas. But it is not only the religion that the refugees brought with them; as they fled to India after the failed uprising in 1959, they brought with them their unique cuisine and culture as well. Precisely what my search was for – food.
After a walk through the narrow lanes of the town and a dip in the waters of the Bhagsu Nag waterfalls; it was time for pleasing the gastronomical deities. While this wonder town provided me with multiple choices of air conditioned and WiFi equipped cafes, mainstream is not the ‘marg’ that I follow. My choice – Dhondup Ling momo’s restaurant.
Chances are , you will miss the sight of it at the first instance but the extra effort to locate the place is worth it. Just a few hundred meters of walk on your way to the Bhagsu nag falls and on your left you will find this tiny gem. The restaurant offers a small and concise menu that includes momos , thukpa , thenthuk and a hot cup of black tea. Wait what?! Never heard of thukpa and thenthuk ?!
A cold chilling weather and a hot bowl of thukpa is my idea of bliss. For those who don’t know, thukpa is basically a noodle soup with vegetables , meat and ofcourse lots of pak choi. Depending on the type of noodle, this Tibetan delicacy has wide variations; Thenthuk consists of hand pulled flat noodles while Gyathuk consists of the Chinese noodles. It’s a meal in itself and definitely recommended when you are around in this part of the world.
And the cook responsible for the wonderful food… ( ignore my funny face on the right)
O wait ! Before I tell you about the awesome place I went to eat next day, let me tell you about the surprise ( read heart attack ) nature had stored in for us. Thunderstorm , complemented with a shower of hailstone in the middle of an ambitious trek to Triund !
The trek started on a sunny pleasant note from the Galu temple but little did we have any idea about the trill that was awaiting. Walking up the narrow stony trail with deodar – rhododendron forest on one side and the deep valley below. It was a walk into the metaphor of life and rejuvenation ; with freshness residing at the heart of it.
“Behold your emotions traveler !” – roared the thunder; while the wind gently whispered the prophecy of what awaits us in the path. But like a brave legionary we marched our way up the trail. Soon it started to drizzle and while we tried to hide under a rock, the rain took the form of a hailstorm; turning scarier every next minute. Though we stood hidden under the partial cover of a rock,it didn’t take us much of a time to realize that it was not the safest place to be. We decided to keep moving. Slippery mud , wet rocky path, rock solid hailstones and lightning. One wrong step and Alas! Such a thriller !
After about a kilometer of struggle, we reached a shack. It was a tea shop claiming to have the best view.Indeed it was. Felt as if a beautiful poetry had just materialized infront of my eyes. Yet any attempt to describe it with words would just be an understatement infront of the sight through the lenses of the human eyes.
By now we had accepted out defeat infront of the challenge of destiny. And soon the realization hit us that it was about to get dark. We had to head back and so we did. Slowly the rain stopped as the eye of the storm approached but we knew well that this wasn’t the end of the storm. But before we face what awaits, we decided to have a quick snack in the solitude of the mountains. I opened my bag of wonders to grab a pack of bread, butter and jam. Bite of a sandwich with a view of the Dhauladhar range – check ! What followed next was another few hours of fight with the storm. Drenched in rain and shivering in cold we finally manage to reach the base at Galu temple. And that’s when we realized that we don’t have a place to stay for the night!
It was a new day, the storm was gone and the sun was shining bright. Where did we stay the night before? That’s another story altogether.
After a breakfast from my wonder bag of food, we spent the day trekking through the deodar – rhododendron forests , feeding fishes and searching for spirituality at the Dalai Lama monastery. Though not sure about the spiritual enlightenment part but we did find some wonderful potato momos on the streets of the town. Within the cacophony of busy streets,vendors and tourists, we found this calm little place called Tibetan yak restaurant for lunch.
The place is run by a Tibetan couple and with a homely ambiance. In fact the food is cooked by the wife herself. Though the wait for the food was long, we spent it merrily playing with the youngest child of the couple. What did we order? Ofcourse thukpa and momos. And trust me on this, the place serves one of the best thukpa. You definitely won’t like to miss it.
This was it, the end of the story that I had lived within these few days. All ready to board the bus back to the cobweb of Dukkha and Trishna, I was capturing within my mind the last images of the place. It is then when I felt this light pat on my back. I turned back. A guy in his late twenties.
“Yes?” I inquired.
“Will you mind if I ask you something? ” He asked.
“Nope ! ” I replied
He softly whispered ” Bro , Got some stuff ? “
The “stuff ” this fine gentlemen was referring to is in itself a whole different culture mushrooming in this town but we shall discuss it later and certainly not here. *wink wink *