Foothills and Hill Stations

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November 4th 2011
Published: November 7th 2011
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The past couple of weeks has taken us up North away from the crowds and pollution of Delhi and into the foothills of the Himalayas. It's been very laid back and relaxing; certainly a very different India than what one sees on the typical Golden Triangle route.

Our first stop was Shimla, the former summer capital of the British Raj. We travelled along the Kalka-Shimla railway on what's known as the 'toy train'. It took us about 6 hours to cover the 96km distance and brought new meaning to the term 'scenic route'. Remarkably, the train climbs from a starting elevation of about 650 meters at Kalka all the way to nearly 2100 meters at Shimla with no less than 864 bridges and 103 tunnels along the way. We spent the next day in Shimla soaking up the atmosphere and wandering along the mall street. That evening we were serenaded by the tune of hundreds of firecrackers signalling the official start of the Diwali festival.

On our way to Dharamsala we had a quick stop-over in Mandi where we spent the night at the Raj Mahal Palace Hotel and had dinner with the former King. We then spent 3 nights in Dharamsala (more specifically McLeod Ganj) which is famous for being the home of the exiled Dalai Lama. Needless to say it's quite popular with tourists and has a large Tibetan influence. The highlight for us here was learning how to make momos (Tibetan-style dumplings).

From there we made our way by taxi to Dalhousie where we spent two days trekking to Chamba via Khajjiar. While nothing compared to the rigors of our Annapurna trek, the trail was steep in places and we covered a good stretch of territory. It was very scenic and relaxing. At Chamba we spent 3 nights at a home-stay/guesthouse and continued with the R&R.

Next up, the Golden Temple of Amritsar and the Wagah border ceremony!

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