Food 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.