16th Nov, 2012, Friday…..Day (1) Ludhiana-Gurdaspur-Chamunda Devi 292 km
I had few business meetings at Gurdaspur, Palampur and Baijnath Paprola, so drove all the way solo from Ludhiana to Gurdaspur and then to Palampur. After hectic drive and meetings drove down to Chamunda and stayed for the night at a nice, simple hotel.
17th Nov, 2012, Saturday……Day (2) Chamunda Devi-Palampur-Bir 50 km
Got up to a beautiful morning with the ringing of prayer bells emanating from the famous Chamunda Mata temple. Sipping morning tea while sitting on the easy chair in the balcony of the hotel and watching the first rays of Sun fall on the mighty snow clad Dhauladhars was heavenly.
Sky was changing colour with the each and every passing moment. It was such a wonderful atmosphere all around, I was kind of lost in the moment and forgot to even take the pictures.
The stretch of Dhauladhars from Dharamsala to Jogindernagar has always been fancy of my dreams. I have dreamt about it day and night. Although I have been on this stretch a number of times, but never had enough of it. The more I come to the area, the more I long for it. I seem to belong to this place.
After heavenly cup of tea, went for a little walk all along the road, washed the car, got ready and drove to Palampur for yet another business meeting. Had breakfast of puri chana from Palampur bazaar and then drove to Baijnath Paprola.
A friend took me to a marriage function where kangri dham (traditional meal), comprising rice, dal, sabzi, kadhi, khatta, salad and chapati were served on a dry leaf, to the people sitting in a file on a mat in a queue. It was such an amazing feeling.
The series of meetings finished by 8pm giving me ample time to head for Bir.
The drive to Bir all along the mighty dhauladhars on NH-20 and in the fading sunlight was an absolute delight. After driving for about 10 kilometers I reached at a place called Bir Road, a 4 kilometer road to the left through tea plantation took me to the place called Bir, Upper Bir or Bir proper.
All the shops were closed. There was no one to ask for directions. I continued driving and in a little while found myself climbing up on a steep road. The road became lonely and deserted.
Suddenly I realised I was half way up on the World famous paragliding site, Billing. Bir was left behind and I had to turn back. The road was so narrow that taking U-turn very difficult. Had to drive few kilometers more before I could turn the car back.
A little while later I reached a square. Everything was closed. Nobody was there to show me the way. There was a turn to the right where I could see some lights. Drove in the direction of light and reached a village where I saw some people. Asked one of them for availability of accommodation.
The man signalled towards a big building. Pretty soon I was standing outside a beautiful house. Rang the bell. A nice looking gentleman opened the door. I asked for the availability of a room, the gentleman nodded in affirmative and asked me come in.
The place, I came to know later, was Bhawani Guest House and the gentleman who opened the door was Dr Manan Soni. I was lead through stairs to a very nice room on the first floor. I asked whether I could have something for dinner, to which, Dr Manan nodded in affirmation again.
I was feeling lucky to have found the place. The guest house was like a big villa with 5-6 rooms at the upper floor and same number of rooms at the ground floor. I was told that guests from all over the world come to the place for religious studies or for paragliding.
Dr Manan told me that the whole guest house was full with foreign nationals and I was the only Indian staying at the place that night. Pretty soon Dr Manan brought me home cooked dinner comprising dal, sabzi made from local herbs, chapati and salad.
Enjoyed the food, enjoyed the stay, surfed the net and went deep into the world of dreams, my first night in Bir…………..!!!