Brandon Sousa is a Travel Writer based in Toronto, Canada. He writes for Metroland Media Toronto under the blog 'Hashtag AirBuds'. To date, he's travelled 21 countries and well-over 50 cities around the globe. This is his first time in India, visiting MHE as their blogger-in-residence in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @brandon_sousa.
Do you ever feel like your head is just up in the clouds? When you’re at MHE Himalayan Camp at Chamba, it literally is. Sitting on the Darbar Organic Farm 5,250 feet up in the Himalayas, it has become my new mental "happy place". The clouds struggled across the mountain peaks that surrounded me 270 degrees. The sight itself left me gasping that cold, mountain air in astonishment.
This is a top choice summer retreat, but for me, I unknowingly decided to travel on the off-season. Wearing 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 t-shirts, a jacket, and a cup of coffee in hand, I was ready to embrace all that Chamba had to offer.
My 24-year old guide, Debu, grew up in Chamba and knew the surrounding area inside-out. A trained mountaineer and competitive athlete (Debu was on the National Volleyball team and State Cricket team), he suggested we visit one of the tallest dams in the world: Tehri Dam.
This man-made marvel began it's inception in 1961 and was finally completed in 2006. It stands 855 ft tall and is 1,886 ft in length. If you're curious, it's what USD$1 billion can buy you!
Enroute back to camp, Debu insisted I try the famous local tea. With the boiled milk of a wild cow, it really warmed me up in Chamba's chilly weather.
That evening, the team at MHE Himalayan Camp hosted an amazing bonfire. Danu, or so his nickname goes, taught me a few local dances of Chamba. I thought I had the hang of it after a while, but their laughter may have indicated otherwise. We sat close to the fire's warmth to fend of the evening's chill. It was an unforgettable evening where six guys could enjoy the solace of living in the Himalayan mountains without a care in the world.
Early the next morning, Debu, Danu, Rabi, and our driver headed out to Surkanda Devi Temple. At an altitude of 9,976 ft, its a 2.5 km hike worth taking. Or if you're looking for a unique experience, take a pony up to the top; nothing will make you feel more like a cowboy in India than that.
The top holds some of the most spectacular views of Dhanaulti, a small resort hamlet in the Tehri District. But the true spectacle is witnessing the devout Hindu people giving alms to Surkhanda Devi. Debu walked me through the practice of offering a gift to the god and tying a prayer flag to the pole. He said if your prayer is fulfilled, you come back to the temple to remove the flag.
Back down the hill, we walked through the Dhanaulti market as cows roamed the streets with us. I got to really know Debu, Danu and Rabi as we talked more about their lives. Danu and Rabi shared stories of getting married at 17, and raising 2 kids at only 28. Thinking back, if I had married my ex-girlfriend at 17, I'd probably have to run away to Chamba from Canada!
Debu made my experience extra special by taking me up the mountain to meet his family. In a modest home and small farm, Debu's parents raised three children. His eldest sister has three kids of her own, making Debu the "cool uncle". Debu's nephews Nanu and Tingu are 2 and 2 1/2 respectively; full of energy and excitement. It was a nice reminder that children, no matter where in the world, just love to play and meet new people. This was by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my trip.
MHE's Himalayan Camp without a doubt is my favourite property in the MHE family. The staff, the location, and the experience is so far from normal that you'll never want to leave. It's the one spot that writer's block rarely exists; where inspiration is merely a glance away; and where it feels like home even if you're 12,000 km away!
@brandon_sousa, everyone here at MHE wishes you a very, very happy Diwali . It was a pleasure to have you staying with us. Enjoy the rest of India and we hope to see you soon! - Team MHE
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