The Year of Happiness – Travel Roundup 2014

Finally, 2014 is coming to an end. It was a long year full of surprises, undiscovered locations in my backyard, and failed expeditions.

2014 was the year when I learned to manage my time and set my travel priorities right.

First things first, I have been asked by readers of this blog on numerous occasions about my nature of job, if at all I have one, and also about travel expenditure.  Not many people know this, but I too have a job. I have been working in a tight 9-5 schedule for the past 1.5 years.

It’s great fun teaching young minds.

With a 9-5 job, it was difficult to move out to far-off locations like Zanskar or Pakistan (I had plans of visiting Balochistan in 2014) but that forced helped me explore the unheard locations in Himachal Pradesh. Like the Monastery Tour of Himachal that took me to beautiful gompas of Kangra and Mandi. To make matters more interesting, I came across the beautiful but forgotten wooden temples of Mandi and Kullu, some of them constructed way back in the 14th Century.

Let me give you month wise breakup of my journeys in 2014.

January – Delhi’s Forgotten Step-Wells

Vipin, a friend from Delhi told me about these incredible water-harvesting structures of Delhi. Although, I wanted to explore more, I could visit only one, probably the most popular among the step-wells of Delhi.  I have been told there are more than 200 baoris in Delhi alone. You may contact Vipin if you want to see this side of Delhi.

Ugrasen Ki Baori
Ugrasen Ki Baori

February – Snow Walk in the Dhauladhars

2014 saw it snowing as late as March. This was the month when we went hiking our way up in the Dhauladhar snow. If the snow walk to Pandoh from Parashar Lake was tiring, the trek to Himani Chamunda Temple was a huge disappointment because the temple caught fire and unfortunately there were ruins only, atop the mountain.

The White Mountain looks beautiful and when you are up close, it looks just out of this world.

Sample this!

Dhauladhar_View_Himani_Chamunda
Winter Trek to Himani Chamunda

April and May- Monastery Tour of Himachal

Himachal is the second home of Tibetans. And for those who were born after 1980s, the state of Himachal has become their first home in literal sense. These monasteries are no more restricted to Dharmshala but they have mushroomed all across the state. From Kangra to Baijnath to Jogindernagar. As I live just 60-70 km from these monasteries that have come up at the border of Mandi – Kangra, I had the good fortune of not only visiting these monasteries but getting to know about the lives of little monks from across the globe. Among these, the monasteries of Chauntra, and Norbulingka are a must visit.

Tashi Jong Monastery Palampur

Chokling Monastery Deerpark Bhattu Monastery

June – Visiting the Great Himalayan National Park

Before even I start, let me tell you that I smell controversy whenever global funds are involved, especially in the tribal lands of Himalaya. The GHNP is now a World Heritage Site and that means construction of roads in these far flung regions would be even more difficult.

But that doesn’t take away anything from this beautiful land of ours. Located right in the heart of GHNP, the Shangchul Grasslands are nothing less than a magic trick, which only the Mother Nature is capable of performing.

June being the time of end-semester exams, I could only travel twice. The other trip was made to the highest point of Mandi District, the roofless shrine of Shikari Devi.

Shangchul_Mahadev_Sainj_Valley_Shanghar

July – Atop the Holiest Mountain of Lahaul

If I have to describe the Drilbu Ri Mountain in one sentence, I would term it as Lahauli equivalent of Kailash Mansarovar. Lahauli’s, Ladakhi’s, and even the pilgrims from far-off lands of Tibet make this journey every year. And if you are lucky enough, you will catch a glimpse of the Ghepan Peak, the King Mountain of Lahaul Valley.

The second trip of July had us bathing in the pristine blue waters of Dashaur Lake. Thereafter, the search of elusive Brahma Temples of Himachal started.

Kardang_Gompa_Rangcha_Gali_Pass (2)

August – Chamba Homecoming!

Chamba is the land of love, music, and infinite possibilities for a traveller. I will take the liberty of saying that one life is not enough to soak in the beauty that Chamba beholds in its rivers and mountains.

While August was also the month of failed expeditions, it didn’t lessen the joy of visiting Chamba. Infact, that gives another reason to visit this beautiful land.

Also the crazy incident of High Altitude Mountain Sickness also happened in August, atop the Bhrigu Lake when I almost had one of my friends killed because of my negligence and his stubbornness.

Aayush Meditating at the Banks of Lake Bhrigu
Aayush Meditating at the Banks of Lake Bhrigu

September – Revisiting GHNP

The search of wooden temples, particularly the Brahma Temples of Himachal, that started in June continued in September as well. Many ancient wooden wonders of Himachal Pradesh were found. A rock cut wonder carved out by the NHPC was also found that almost looked like the road entrance to Kinnaur near Taranda Dhank.

Rock Cut Wonders at Sainj, Kullu Valley
Rock Cut Wonders at Sainj, Kullu Valley

October – The Great Tower of Chehni Kothi

This tower temple of Chaini is the tallest standing structure of its kind in the entire Western Himalayas. Currently, the Great Tower of Kothi is 45 meters (approx.) tall. This tower survived the devastating 1905 Kangra earthquake, although it ended up two upper storeys short because of the earthquake shocks.

November – In Search of Tower Temples

If July, August, and September were spent in search of wooden temples, October and November were dedicated in search of Tower Temples. Earlier, I had this belief that tower temples were only restricted to Kullu and Kinnaur district but these temples can be seen right upto the border of Mandi and Shimla.

We found out two amazingly beautiful tower temples in Karsog Valley. And the search is still on.

Shankar Kothi, Jhungi Chindi Tower Temple
Shankar Kothi, Jhungi Chindi Tower Temple

December – The Lost Temples of Pong Dam

Located right in the middle of the Pong Dam, these temples go underwater and stay underwater for more than six months.

Come winters, and these temples emerge out of the frozen waters of the lake, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

And also, 2014 was the year I got married. Its been 3 months already!

With a happy heart, I say goodbye to 2014. 🙂

P.S. A Travel Calendar in collaboration with Trigarth Studio is up for sale. Click InstaMojo for a quick buy! Off 25%

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