Both husband and myself, we aren’t very enthusiastic about travelling to the hills. We’d rather prefer the bliss of and serenity of a beach. Simply because travelling to a beach is not a bit taxing when compared to the twisty and turny journey to a hill station. Yet, when it came to planning a holiday post my stint at my parents this March, we had to pin down on a hill station. Why? Because I was at my parents’ in Chandigarh and AJ (husband) wanted to spare some time to travel to a not seen before destination. I was personally not very enthusiastic about traveling to the hills with two kids both of who are prone to motion sickness. But then, given that we were planning a vacation in the first week of April, we had to consider the fact that most of the plains were engulfed in the heat wave. We sat with the map and figured that the nearest hill station was 6 hours from Chandigarh. The good thing was that this hill station was on my list of places to visit for long and I was ready to take the leap of faith while traveling with my boys. So yes Mcleodganj and Dharamshala it was!
I was excited and nervous both at the same time thinking about how the kids would manage the travel by road for such a long distance. So I made certain preparations to make sure that the travel was smooth and discomfort free. Here’s how I planned the travel –
- We book our cab for early morning 5 am. The reason was that the kids would be asleep then and we would only have to transmute them into the cab while they would sleep for a good 2-3 hours before waking up. This ensured that we could have a head start towards our destination.
- I kept handy the medication for reflux while traveling. As soon as the kids woke up, I gave them a dose of anti-reflux medicine empty stomach and then fed them anything. This kept them going the entire duration of the journey without any fear of throwing up.
- We made sure that we did not give too much liquid to the kids, while we were on the road. To much liquid increases the chances of reflux. Given that my younger one can’t resist the sight of water, we kept our water reserve under wraps in the boot box and a water bottle for extreme emergency in my hand bag. Whenever we stopped at various places during the road journey I would put some water in a glass and then give it to the kids, ensuring that they did not have too much of it.
- Like water, I also tried that we feed the kids only that much, which will ensure that they are comfortably full. That meant that we had to keep all snacks and finger foods at bay. And they ate only when we stopped somewhere, to ensure that the food had settled down well before we resumed our travel.
We stopped at Anandpur Sahab Gurdwara around 2 hours after we had begun our onward journey and the kids had woken up. Another 2 hours after we resumed our drive, and we were at Chintpoorni Temple. Another hour and we were trekking up our way to the Jwalamukhi Temple. I was awed at the sight of flames emanating from random crevices of the walls. There are believed to be 9 flames at any given point of time and no one can actually explain the source of these flames which are believed to be there for over a century.
One thing that AJ is very particular about is the hotel that we put up. Every time we have travelled, he insists on booking a more than comfortable place. And this time around with the kids along, he ensured that the hotel have a spacious room and a positive review about their food. You see it may not always be possible to have the leisure of sitting at a restaurant with two kids under five. In such a case, the hotel kitchen should be capable of coming to your rescue.
We checked into the hotel by 5 in the evening and were already feeling the evening chills. It had rained a couple of hours before we arrived and led to an unexpected dip in the temperatures from an expected 20 degrees to a fresh forecast of 15 degrees Celsius in the morning and evening. Though I was carrying a sweat each for all four of us, I figured that the Nik’s clothes were incapable of dealing with the cold outside. This wasn’t such a bad thing, because now I had a legit reason to go and check out the local market right away!
Evening 1 was spent roaming the market street of Bagsunath (that’s where our hotel was located). We proceed to have dinner at a roadside dhaba and checked out some more shops before heading back to the hotel. The kids were really tired and we weren’t very enthusiastic about roaming around with kids lagging behind us. So the hotel it was.
We woke up at leisure to reach the breakfast buffet just in time. And then headed straight to the Indrunag hill top for paragliding. The winds that were not very kind and AJ had a paragliding stint of just 4 minutes, while for me it lasted 7.30 mins (the increases time the guides said was due to my weight and some turn of winds).
After paragliding we headed to the Zip-line and had a mind-blowing experience. I realized that I was not that scared of heights as much as I thought I was. Yes! I was capable of handling more than what I imagined.
The only thing that limited our fun was that we took a little longer for both our rides. Reason? We were with kids and while AJ went for the rides first I accompanied the kids until he returned to the started point to be with the kids. And then I went. It definitely took us more time, but we weren’t complaining. Atleast we were having fun, even if at a slow pace. But by now Nik was really pissed. But I would say that he was very reasonable in pointing out that we elders were having all the fun. There were no rides for kids and he had not had any fun since morning. I kow for sure that he had watched us in awe as we went about paragliding and zip-lining, but he needed to experience some thrill himself. So we made some enquiries and headed to WonderLand around 10 km down Dharamshala. This is where the family had a blast of a time.
The return from WonderLand was marked with visits to the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium and the Memorial Park. Nik was tired by now, but I enticed him into the stadium saying that this is where Virat Kohli plays cricket. Once inside, he asked me innocently why Virat Kohli wasn’t playing today. I told him that he may not feeling well and that’s why he is not playing (so much lies for keeping the kid from crying).
By the time we were out of the Memorial Park, it was 5 and the kids had exhausted their batteries. We headed back to the hotel and gave the kids some resting time. While they took their evening naps, we – the couple took our places at a coffee table in the balcony and enjoyed the view with a drink or two. We were alone with no company after almost a fortnight and took this opportunity to catch up on what was happening on the work front, at home and about life in general. It was an amazing hour of unwinding, before we were back to being parents. The dinner happened at a Pizza Hut outlet in the main circle of Mcleodganj.
After a late breakfast again, our first destination of the day was the Bagsunath Waterfalls. To AJ disappointment and my relief, we received a feedback in the first leg of a km long trek to the falls that there really were no falls currently at the top. The lake at the bottom of the falls had also gone dry. We figured that it really wasn’t worth our effort to trek that distance with the kids. And thus we enjoyed an ice-cream at one of the outlets and headed for the Dalai Lama’s Monastry. I have been to various monasteries while on a trip to Sikkim, but never seen a more vibrant one than the one we were currently visiting.
By the time we were out of the monastery, the skies were engulfed in dark clouds. We attended to our growling stomachs at a road side café with some shakes and magi and were contemplating our next destination to Dal Lake, when it began to rain cats and dogs. It took us 5 minutes to realize that we would have to cancel our visit to the lake and we went back to the hotel. The kids dozed off for an afternoon nap and we spent some more time in lone company. It was still raining when the kids woke up 2 hours later, but then suddenly I saw something white falling from the skies. No it wasn’t snow! It wa a hail storm. For me who has witnessed many hailstorms in Chandigarh, it was not that exiting, but I got infected by my husband my the kids who were thrilled no end by what they were witnessing.
In the evening we took a stroll down the market lanes of Mcleodganj and brought some souvenirs. This was followed by dinner at a local restaurant that was full of people from foreign lands.
Once back in the hotel room, I packed up for the return journey next morning while AJ kept the kids engaged.
The return journey was quite pleasant with just one glitch. Nik needed to poop and we couldn’t find a reasonable clean toilet on a long stretch, while he could no longer control. I know from my past experiences that he is not comfortable pooping in the Indian toilets, but now he did not have an option. AJ pulled out all his clothes on the lower and armed with the water, soap and towel got the mission accomplished at a roadside dhaba. The kid was thrilled nevertheless and also spent a few minutes running around in the adjoining fields.
We realized that we missed out on a few sights, but it was an exhilarating experience nevertheless. It was a huge boost to my morale, which had been down since Lucky’s birth, as I thought that we could not be travelling for atleast another 5 years. But this was soon and really nice. To many more such trips in the future. Life is Beautiful.