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Back to the Mountains: McLeod Ganj

USA | Sunday, 8 March 2009 | Views [679]

  

The next destination point for me was Dharamsala, or even more specific McLeod Ganj, home of the Dalai Llama. I took a night bus out of Pushkar to Delhi, tried to make friends with Delhi again, and then got on another night bus up to McLeod Ganj, AKA little Lhasa. After a dazing day in Delhi I was happy to see this guy Joe from the US whom I met in Pushkar at the secluded bus stand. He was getting on the same bus I was with his friend Jake. For a while I wasn’t quite sure where I was or where these people I bought a bus ticket from (for too much money of course) at 5 in the am were taking me to get on a bus. The purchasing of the bus ticket is a whole other adventure that involves scamming a weary traveler starring a rickshaw driver and an American girl. Several hours involved a lot of back and forth, unnecessary rickshaw rides and many Indian men!

Joe and his friend Jake have just come from a wedding and were heading in the same direction – perhaps I inspired Joe to come in Pushkar. As we waited for the bus in a vacant parking lot in the woods we were frequently approached by boys selling water bottles and chips…and my new personal favorite a man who provides ear cleaning with what looked like a long sewing needle with a cotton swab on the tip. The man was convinced that Joe needed his ear cleaned but Joe assured him that he was quite content with his own Johnson and Johnson Q-tips. Joe, Jake and I instantly became friends as we chatted about the US, music, traveling, and carried similar personalities and good old US humor! The bus ride (Delux = old school bus) was long, bumpy and cold, and poor Jake was sick.

The next morning we arrived in McLeod and found our way eventually to a guesthouse. Tired and weary but not wanting to waste the day we found a home, had some breakfast, and roamed about. The view was magnificent as you could see that the Himalayans were watching over the town that sat on a mountain side, and the place was hassle free and filled with the gentleness of the Tibetan spirit. McLeod Ganj is the home of MANY MANY MANY Tibetan refugees and dominates its culture and environment. We arrived during the time of the Tibetan New Year (known as Losar) but this year the Tibetans have chosen to not celebrate and have a black year due to all the killings that happened last March.

My time in McLeod lasted much longer than anticipated, as it is one of those places that is easy to get stuck in. Joe and Jake only had 2 days left to travel before returning to Malaysia (med students studying/working) and so I spent those next few days with them going on walks in the mountains, staying in the small village of Bhagsu, enjoying the Mountains and embracing the company of guys whom I probably have met in a past life or at a concert (most likely Phish!) I knew I met these guys for a reason…to surface the excitement and reality of returning back to the United States. One day we were sitting in a Tibetan Restaurant and there on the book shelf was an old coffee table book of photos from the Rocky Mountains…..I grabbed it and proudly told everybody that was were I was from and where I was going soon. The three of us looked through the book and were quickly reminded of what a beautiful place America is. After our meal we wondered our way to the Monastery where the Dalai Llama lives and found out that unfortunately he was out of town so there was no opportunity for meeting with him…which perhaps may have been a relief as Joe and I picked and picked at our brains as we wondered what we would ask the Dalai Llama. Our second day we packed our bags and went to this small village we heard about above McLeod. The village was obviously a backpacker’s hot spot but b/c ot was off-season it was a ghost town. We found a lodge that was deserted, with magnificent views, very cheap and comes equipped with a pack of dogs! We soon realized that the whole village had dogs that covered their own areas. The hike up to the village/lodge was challenging (after filling my bag in Pushkar) but worth the pain and sweet.

We spent the day on a hike finding our way across Dharamkot and to a ridge. Along the way we found ourselves a dog whom we named spirit who guided us for the afternoon. SO you may be wondering what inspired us to call the dog spirit, well after a half-hour or so of hiking the same 2 dogs were following us. One black (shadow) and one orange (spirit). At a turning point on the so-called trail we stopped to take a breath, some photos, and a moment. The orange dog came running up to all of us, said hi, then came over to me circled by my legs and peed on my foot!!!!!!! So we decided that this dog and I had a special relationship and when in doubt we followed him. Spirit lead us to a small Hindu temple on the side of the mountain and then all the way up to a ridge where we had a lunch at a café with one of the most spectacular views EVER!!!!!! The funny thing is that the moment I tried to claim spirit or make an action to make him my own – such as buying him food or planning a night of snuggling – spirit disappeared. Good life lesson:)

We found our way down and back to our lodge. Jake took a rest and Joe and I wondered into the Ghost town. On the way we came across a temple that sounded like it was having a dance party. I peeked in and it was one of the brightest, cleanest, unique temples I have ever seen. Some Hindu temples are absolutely BIZARRE and in someway resemble a McDonalds Playland. This temple was like a living animated children’s show starring gods and goddesses that you discover as you craw into the mouth of a lion/dragon creature, climb up in to caves around corners (watch your head) and out on to the rooftop…. and for more adventure finding your way back down. It was a plastic colorful Barney meets telitubbies – India style – wonderland. Later we found ourselves crossing paths with some folks we met in a tiny cliff-side tea shack in McLeod and had some tea. Joe and I found an internet place and sent a few emails out. Not too soon after I noticed the key to my room was missing…..many deep breaths and calmness help me to retrace my steps and LUCKILY find the key sitting and waiting for me on a deserted stone wall. Whew that could have been a tough situation! The evening was finished with a bag of boiled vegetables, some chapatis, a bounty bar, and a wide-open sky filled with stars sparkling and falling and sharing stories of their own. It was a nice relaxing few hours of chatting with a new – or old – friend under a mesmerizing sky in the peaceful silence at the foothills of the Himalayans!

The next day we sat and had some breakfast while I chatted with an Aryurveda Herbalist/Med Student and decided to get some herbs. My interests in healing and herbs and ancient wisdom and traditions and energy and spirit continues to grow and be fed and the desire to learn Ayurveda has been sparked in India. I was like a child in a candy store learning and purchasing all the herbs that grow in the mountains and villages of India and what they heal and how to prepare them. We continued our morning with a walk to a waterfall and more time sitting around, enjoy the mountain views and each others company and drinking tea and taking photos. On the way back we had chai with the herbalist, finished our purchase order (the western med students bought some things too!) and took a rickshaw back to McLeod Gangj. Finished off our day together with a walk down a different path, a meal, a little shopping, and hugs goodbye, and some green string of course! At this time I thought I would only be staying in McLeod for another day….but the gentleness and warmth of the Tibetan Community and all the available learning kept me snuggled in the mountains for another 7 days.

Next: SOOO much Learning in McLeod.

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