A 30-minute drive from Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, takes you to McLeod Ganj. If you know your way around, then you can beat the weekend crowd and be in one of the few secluded, non-commercial and absolutely beautiful places in Himalayas. Otherwise you could land up sipping tea in any one of the cafés in the frenzied main market.
Here amid the misty mountains, you will find endlessly varied cafés, sublime snapshots of nature, sudden rains, wafts of music, cups of hot chai, laid-back ease, full moon raves, monks and hashish.
This is a very pocket friendly town for backpackers. You could get home stays for as little as `250 a night with a nice view to boot.
Local families are quite warm and friendly. But then as I mentioned, you have to find your way through the thick forests and hills for these small colonies of local home stays, otherwise mainly inhabited by Israelis. So much so that some cafés keep Israeli menus and not just dishes. Cafés invariably come with resident dogs who can be as lazy as you.
While winters can be really extreme, its best to go in the monsoons. Yes, you could end up getting caught in rains every now and then, but what-the-heck. Nature is at it best during rains in such forested and hilly places.
Here are a few pics that tell a story better than any words can.
— Richa Gupta blogs at http://www.travelsandstories.com