Dharamsala and Chonor House

The Cooks and UsFood is one of the great joys of travel. Through the Himalayas we had eaten delicious meals prepared by a team of cooks that were part of our small convoy. They had done an incredible job;  on some occasions even taking requests.

Dinnertime would be shrouded in delight when a meal would arrive at the table that someone had quietly craved the night before. Generally over a beer the topic of what was most missed from home would arise. Undoubtedly someone would mention a food they could “Just About Die For”.  The following night the cooks would do their best to make sure this meal was no longer craved.

In days with a lot of heartbreak a dish of spaghetti and meatballs was a moving experience.

Up until Dharamsala, eating out at restaurants had not been part of the routine. There was not a single occasion prior to Dharamsala where we ate out. However here amid the snow and the peaks this would change. 

We stayed at the Hotel Bhagsu which sat atop a hill in the middle of town. In its backyard grew trees and shrubs which eventually turned into a thick deep forest spreading out, up and over the mountains.

A steep descending pathway gave you entry into this forest and at its base was a restaurant named the Chonor House.

To us it was like finding the lost ark and even though we were not the only ones there, it became special to us for many subtle reasons. The food was good but more-so the atmosphere was warm and inviting.

You could sit and imagine Tibetan monks eating with you. It was almost a spiritual restaurant with views that were gorgeous and décor that brought a smile to your face. It described itself as follows;

Chonor House is centrally located between Thekchen Choling temple and McLeod Ganj quietly set amongst tall pines and a lovely garden. Its eleven well appointed rooms depict Tibetan themes created by Norbulinga artists in a unique Tibetan style with wall paintings, teak and rosewood furniture, and hand knotted carpets. Facilities include a large living room, a spacious restaurant opening onto an idyllic garden, which serves traditional Tibetan Cuisine and delicious cakes and desserts.

It was here at Chonor House we would escape the growing tension of the group. After the massive snowfall the lane became much more of a track; navigating it more an ordeal.

The route down was tricky because it was steep and slippery, yet the reward of a meal in the woods, in warmth, and feeling free of burden was adequate motivation. The Chonor House was like something out of a fairy tale, or more accurately, something you would anticipate stumbling upon in the Himalayan Mountains…as if a community of Tibetans was not enough.

The walk back, on this one occasion, turned into a drama created by yours truly.

We had descended the snow buried track in the evening hours and arrived in time to get seated and have a beautiful dinner. Two thirds of the way through however, I began to convulse; I have epilepsy so I knew what was happening. Really tiny tremors, in clusters; the effect of which was a little alarming to the others.

Not in a bad way; more a friendly concern.

I excused myself and went to the front entrance. There was a seat so I was comfortable and waited the self-imposed twenty minutes till my body calmed down. In these situations I would normally take a little white pill which shuts the problem down rapidly. Returning me to full functionality without further issue.

Bad news; I had left this white magic in my room and only carried with me a canister of regular supplies. I took a dose and slowly my body calmed.

Unfortunately the calming continued and, unlike a cruise ship that brakes two miles before entering port so it won’t crash into the dock; I forgot to brake.

To anyone, I must have appeared drunk. My mind knew what was going on but my body had its own agenda and getting the two to communicate efficiently was not going to happen.

The walk back up the snowy trail was now looking a bit more ominous.

As Cathy, Christine, Sarah, Tracy, and Amanda finished up with dinner and came to check on me it dawned on them that the homeward trek would be a team effort. “It takes a village” kind of mentality sunk in.

I remember vividly opening the door of the restaurant and seeing snow whipping around in small tornado like formations. The first step out the door placed us on a wooden patio slick with ice. Beyond that lay the track up which we must stagger.

It wasn’t a flat track, it was steep.

It wasn’t a smooth track, it was undulating. It wasn’t an evenly stepped track, it was rugged and slippery and could easily make the walker take one step forward and reward him with two steps back.

At first we all found our footing; well not me because I barely knew what I was doing. Then each one took a turn in supporting my efforts to walk up the slope. I can’t imagine I didn’t slip and fall a few times but my recollection mimicked the weather; foggy.

What I do remember is that the bitter cold was motivation for all of us.

As the two step slide forced the girls backwards they dug in harder and prevented it from happening as bad the next time. Helping each other they got me up the trail in the slippery snow and freezing cold. Everyone had a bit to drink so that kept the mood somewhat jovial and eventually the last part of the trail was ahead. A steeper part than previously but at this point they had become such experts in my transportation that it seemed barely an obstacle for them.

Back at the Bhagsu Hotel I was whisked off to my room where one of two things could have happened. The first one is the most likely but the second is also a possibility; I can’t remember.

Upon being deposited on my bed I crashed and slept like a baby until the extra dose wore off and I awoke a little embarrassed but not too bad off for the experience; maybe a bruise here and there. Or secondly, upon being deposited back at the hotel it was then that my cruise ship braked and I slowly returned to normal and wondered what all the fuss was about.

The five that pushed, shoved, and encouraged me up the trail in those conditions are an incredible group of women and I owe them a debt of thanks. I am sure I thanked them profusely, even if sheepishly, at the time but this record of the event is my way of thanking them forever and letting them know that their efforts are greatly appreciated.

To find out how this all came about; click Beckoned Skyward by an Earthquake.

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25 thoughts on “Dharamsala and Chonor House

  1. Times of need can really show you how wonderful other people can be. I’m glad that your friends were able to help you, and that must have been quite an experience. I’m also sure that you gave to them at other times, which probably made them more than happy to be there for you in your time of need.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh! What an experience! But as usual, you showed us the positive side. How wonderful that you were able to depend on the kindness of others to help you through. And I thought it was scary being very ill in New OIrleans! The only similarity is that was also about a comfort food experience:)

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  3. hi tim; so glad to hear that your evening ended well. i know what you mean about food being a comfort. some of the best meals i’ve ever had were simple foods found during or after coming through some hard times. and i couldn’t help but notice that all your sherpas were female. and to think I’m still trying to find one woman to go on a crazy adventure like yours with me. take care out there my friend, max

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  4. Now it’s a good story but it must have seemed an awful long walk from the restaurant to your hotel. Seems as though it reinforced the camaraderie within the group. What was no doubt a tough experience seems to now be something of a positive memory because of the people you were with.

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  5. This certainly adds another dimension to your brave journeys into exotic places. Having supportive friends is always good during travels but weren’t you happy to have them by your side or behind and pushing this time!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have a lot of courage to travel to remote parts of the world knowing that you might become ill with no one to help. It’s wonderful when you experience the kindness of other people and I’m glad all turned out well for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeannette. From a very young age I made a pact with myself that this would not prevent me from doing the things I wanted to do; travel the world was one of those. But you are right, along the way I have met many kind people who have assisted when I needed it.

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  7. What an experience Tim but I’m so glad you were with people who helped you through it. I had a similar experience when I went to Pompeii. The night before we had a lovely meal in a little out of the way cafe … by midnight I was sick as a dog and it was obvious I was experiencing my first case of Montezuma’s Revenge. But I’d dreamed of visiting the ruins of Pompeii since I was a kid so nothing was going to stop me! For the 4 hour drive from our hotel to the ruins I laid on the bench at the back of the bus and whenever there was anything interesting to see someone would yell back at me to sit up – and so it went throughout the day. As bad as I felt the way everyone extended themselves to make sure I was able to fulfill my dream made the trip all that much more special.

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  8. Tim, the first part of the post had me envious, thinking about the good food and the spirit of comaraderie.
    The second part of the post had me holding my breath as you all made your way up the steep path. I know about epilepsy, several of my nieces have it, and I know how scary it can be for all concerned. Thank goodness you have some fantastic level-headed friends.

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  9. So glad there was a happy ending and that you shared this experience. It’s not often travel writers lift the veil about what they may have to deal with physically. You’ve also made it easier for others who have epilepsy to know that no matter where they may go – the strength and kindness of strangers is present.

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  10. Met The Dalai Lama in London a long time ago. Fantastic man. When I was in Nepal in the 90s I contemplated going to Tibet but it was so difficult getting a visa I decided not to go. My interest in Tibet is from a cultural point of view. Unfortunately the Chinese are ruining their culture.

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  11. Wow, sounds like an adventure. On the bright side of things you are ok, and even though you had to go through all of that it made for a great post. Your writing had me slipping with you and your group all the way down and back up to the hotel… great post. Jay

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  12. Hi Tim; its something that they were able to get you back up the hill in those conditions. and I’m glad you didn’t suffer any long term ill effects. Take care out there, Max

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  13. Sorry to hear about your experience but good can be taken away as well, that team work really works. Things happen to us but at the end of the day you did make it and you must have remembered some of it or you would not be able to write about it.

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