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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 12: Trekking and pub brawls

INDIA | Saturday, 17 November 2007 | Views [742]

Dharamsala through Tibetan prayer flags

Dharamsala through Tibetan prayer flags

Saturday 17th November

I felt like doing something a bit more active after lazing about town for the previous few days. As my plan was to head to Amritsar on Monday morning, I didn't have the time to head off for an extended trek, so decided that a more gentle stroll over an afternoon might be the next best thing.

The recommended route for a one-day trek in this area is to a place called Triund, and I had heard that this would take about 5 or 6 hours as a round trip. Once again relying on the basic, 'not to scale' map in the guide book, I set off in search of the grand-sounding Mountaineering Institute, anticipating a rather slick operation that would provide me with appropriate maps and advice on how to approach the walk. I forgot, then, that this is India - and not Austria - and that the reality is almost always different from the picture I have in my mind.

When I eventually found 'the Institute' - down a shaded dirt track with the sound of pesky monkeys snooping about in the undergrowth - I found the place to be closed. It seemed like it hadn't been open for about 10 years. So, once more, I was left to try and figure it all out for myself.

The lack of any real sign-posting is one of the major irritations in India. Basic indicators such as street signs or road directions are scarce or simply do not exist. They are usually never about when you really need them. Often when you do see them, they take the form of paintings on the side of flaking walls, with the effect that the signs are incomplete and therefore useless.

I find that asking for directions usually has mixed results: often people do not speak English (fair enough), or they don't understand what I am saying (also understandable!). So, much of the time it comes down to luck as to whether you're going in the right direction or not.

Making sure to ask enough people to be happy that I was on the right track, I took a path that had some great views of McLeod Ganj nestled on the hilltop in the distance. It was also nice to enjoy the silence as, although it is quite a small town, the hustle and bustle of McLeod - and the hassle you get from traders and beggars - is considerable. After walking for about 40 minutes, I caught up with an Aussie guy called Wes and a girl from Quebec called Lilly. They were nice people and I decided to follow them on a diversion to a waterfall at the end of a rocky path. It was a cool place to chill out, with rock pools gathering at several plateaus, as the waterfall made it's way down the hill.

I was pretty tired after this excursion and had a brief snooze when I got back to the hotel, before heading out again to see a movie in the town's small cinema. The film was a fictional story called 'Dreaming Lhasa' about a group of Tibetan exiles living in Dharamsala. It was OK, the plot was fairly thin and some of the acting was dodgy, the best bits being the shots of Dharamsala that were familiar to us from our stay here. This included a panning shot past a small food stall where I had eaten some samosas a few days previously, with the owner being recorded for posterity just doing what he always does: cooking samosas.

After having some really good curry, a few of us went for a couple of drinks in a bar that was full of young Tibetans. It was a reasonably fun place but with a mostly male clientele (women really don't seem to get out much, which is always a pity). The funniest part of the night came when a fight broke out between two blokes, over what we weren't sure. As they went for each other, about 7 or 8 guys on either side tried to hold them back and break it all up.

The was a lot of shouting and pushing and shoving, and the melee made it's way over to our table in the corner of the room, prompting our group to get up and keep a sensible distance. One of the protagonists ended up leaning over our table and - as it looked to me, without any real malicious intent - went to grab something with which to attack or defend himself from his opponent. So, he ended up grabbing a plastic squeezy bottle of ketchup - talk about bring a knife to a gunfight! A more bizarre sight in all of this was a pristine white, pink-nosed mouse sitting on the hand of one of the guys who was trying to break up the fight - totally random!

After a few less serious scuffles, things died down and the place emptied, the action perhaps taken to a nearby field or barn. The night fizzled out, with most places shutting down by midnight. Not that I was expecting it to be a real party-town. I don't think anyone would want to hear that the Dalai Lama had been on the phone to the council in the middle of the night complaining about excessive noise!

Tags: The Great Outdoors


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