When my happy place was turning into the kind of city i lived in and where the beautiful narrow Old Manali streets were filled with people all over the country and outside the country and I could hear six different languages in a two minute stroll of my favorite Old Manali uphill.
This could also be a good experience but I came to Old Manali for the sixth time for the solitude and peace that this place always gave me and this time it was not as same as past five times.
I was sad,
I was sad because I used to connect with the peace and serenity of this place and that is how it became my happy place but the spotlight and commercialization changed the vibes of this place too.
And I set my path past Rohtang pass and on the way i discovered a “Gem”.
A gem looking over confluence of River Chandra and River Bhaga meeting to become ChanraBhaga River and being looked over by beautiful snow-capped mountains of Pir Panjal Range.
ChandraBhaga Camps is situated in Leh-Manali Highway in the beautiful Tandi village of Lahoul district. 651 Kms away from Delhi and 109 Kms away from Manali, Tandi can be reached by taking a government roadways bus from Manali bus stop. The bus goes to Keylong, which is 7Kms from Tandi village and you will have to get off on Tandi Bridge to get to ChangraBhaga Camps managed by Rising dust adventures.
The Bonfire Night
It was already dark when i reached the campsite. I was already feeling at peace and away from the crowded streets,longest traffic jams and heavily lighted Manali.
When I stepped out of the car the first thing I saw was the bonfire with the most beautiful sparks coming out of the flames. Following the sparks coming out the flame I faced the sky and a billion stars were staring right at me, This was the most beautifully lighted sky I ever saw.
Tents were only visible because of the lamps hung inside,The camp kitchen was humming with joyous local language chit-chats.
When i was going through this beautiful slideshow of a peaceful life. I realized these movie like slideshow was backed up by a beautiful soothing background music, When I tried to put focus on the background music it was the chandraBhaga river flowing right below our camps and the breeze coming right out of the apple orchids passing all the divine prayer flags hit my cheeks.
I realized I was standing right next to the car holding my backpack lost in all these thoughts when Vikram (Camp Owner) suddenly tapped at my back breaking my stare at the bonfire and says “Lets see the tents Ha.?”
After settling down in our nicely setup and neat camps the night went on with bonfire, soulful music, Local stories told by Vikram and delicious Himalayan food.
Hike to Oldest Monastery in Lahoul.
The bonfire last night lasted longer than it should have. As we couldn’t get enough of Vikram’s stories and that lead us to waking up late in the morning.
And we started our hike to the monastery at 12:00 Noon.
After having sea buckthorn tea which is known to have uncountable health benefits we were all charged up for the Hike.
Hiking besides the chandraBhaga river and looking at the confluence of both the rivers, the riders shooting speed on Tandi bridge in Leh-Manali highway were usual blissful scenes on our hike.
We took our first stop in Tupcheling Gompa where Tenzin “the monk” was busy with his daily rituals.
Tupcheling Gompa is a substitude for Guru Ghantal Monastery because the monastery is at the top of hill in steep uphill climb and for the people who cannot reach to the monastery this Gompa servers as a substitude for thier prayers to be answered.
Young Tenzin took care of the Gompa by himself and wore a maroon robe and his face and his posture felt at utmost peace to me.
After refiling our water bottles we resumed our hike to the monastery.
After a beautiful and little challenging uphill climb passing through a small flowery grassland and people working on their potato field, we finally reached Guru Ghantal Monastery .
Guru Ghantal Monastery is the oldest monastery in Lahoul situated on a hillock of dilbury slope.This monastery holds ancient history of Buddhism and the wooden idols of 15th century is a proof for the same and the monastery has clay idols of Japtung who is head of Lho-Dug sect of Bhutan.
Locals say that this monastery had jewel statues in ancient times which has been stolen over the time.
It took us around 2 hours to reach the monastery because it was a bright sunny day and the steep uphill climb was even more blissful when we sat below the fiercely waving prayer flags, the wind took all the pain way in no time.
We had taken the monastery keys from Tenzin at Tupcheling Gompa, Vikram showed us the right rituals of Buddhist prayers.
The aura was so peaceful that the freezing cold stone floor of the monastery was least of our concern.
Vikram took us to the meditation room from a secret overhead door where only a local could take you.The tiny meditation room had a small window from where snow-capped peaks of Pir Panjal range were glittering their way in with the soothing sun-rays.
The wooden floor had a mat which was covered/overlay by a comfortable cushion and in-front of the sitting setup there was a small low table which gave the feeling of a Tibetan home-stay.
The tiny room had only one painting of a ancient monk who learnt black magic and he realized the black magic taking over him and he could not let the evil take over him.
So he decided to heal his soul and started looking for a teacher, A knowledgeable monk who would free him from the spell. After a long struggle he found a teacher and he had him meditate for a very long time and finally the evil vanished and the monk was free from the evil powers.
This ancient story clearly tells us that it’s never too late to take the right path.
After sitting in the meditation room for a while we began to feel hungry as we left for the hike without having lunch and it was past lunch time.There was a nice small table kitchen outside the meditation room which had all the necessary ingredients except some ready to eat food as someone used the kitchen long time back, Out of our discoveries in oldest kitchen in Lahoul we managed to make four cups of black tea and it was more than a starbuck’s caramel cappuccino for me at the moment .
Where else you get to make your tea in a ancient monastery, Only in Lahoul.
In the evening Vikram took us for a ride to the village and we tried “Shoma” in a local resturant and it was the best sausage i ever had in my life. It was made up of stuffed sheep intestine fried for an adequate time till it was all nice and crunchy.
Along with the food vikram’s love story was the story to remember from the evening.
The Organic Field -Agriculture in Tandi
You do it better than Vikram said Vikram’s Mother when I plowed the field with a human operated plow which was supposed to be pulled by a person and the other person would aim the right path holding a handle and plow the field.
In the mountains where there are no agricultural machines or where there are no agricultural machines or where the fields are too narrow and small to run a tractor on it the locals use the ancient inventions of farming like a Man/Animal rowed plow.
The morning hour was not just about pea farming but vikram’s mother told us ancient stories about buddhism and stories about Tandi and we kept ourselves on the farm behind the camps for a while.
Pasang (The camp caretaker) would flee within seconds when he saw any amount of work asked by Vikram’s mother and She would catch him everytime and finally he would end up teaming up for the job.
We had our breakfast and today we had our wifi fixed and it was a mountain office day for us.
Ravi, Surbhi and I were on our work now, Surbhi started working on her website’s layout and I had my corner witch my music and I started running ink on my diary and in no time it was 1:30 PM and we sat for lunch.
Post lunch we head out to explore more of Tandi Bridge area.
The horses at the river bank which headed to Darcha from Kullu and the shepherd taking their 500 sheeps up north as it was too hot for them in Kullu now and the bikers throttling their way to Leh was the day-to-day routine in leh-Manali highway.
The picture perfect stone built houses near Tandi bridge and the best ever dimsums in a restaurant adjacent to the bridge will surely bring me back to Tandi someday.
ChandraBhaga river pulled me with the roar and the cold water under my feet killed the restlessness and I sat there for a while.
Tandi Beach and its Serenity
This evening was to explore Tandi village.
Tandi village now seemed an educated and developed one where people had nice houses with green houses for vegetables, sanitation properly taken care of and good roads. As locals say it was not the same few years back.
The narrow streets and green fields and friendly smiling people makes you feel at your imaginary Himalayan home in Tandi Village.
The way for Tandi beach went straight from Tandi village which included a small downhill walk through the flowery grassland.
Chandrabhaga river beautifully parted in two creating a small beautiful beach island in the middle which is the best place to be in the evenings or early morning when you are in Tandi.
To experience this dynamic village and feel every aspect of a Himalayan lifestyle you should go to chandrabhaga caps and meet Vikram and plan atleast two-three days of stay. You might forget that your cell has no reception all this time when you were having your fill of Himalayan life.
Please bring me Sea Buckthorn tea if you go to chandrabhaga camps :p .