We were pretty excited about our next stop being Mcleod Ganj in the foothills of the Himalayas. We were both looking forward to some mountain scenery, cooler temperatures, hiking and hopefully no dust. It’s also home to the exiled Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama after he fled Tibet in the 50’s fearing Chinese persecution.
So needless to say we had high expectations of the place. We hired a taxi from Amritsar as we just didn’t fancy busing it up the hills, I think we are scarred for life after some of our South American bus trips in the mountains. The trip didn’t start too well due to usual taxi arguments and us telling him to slow down but we were soon winding our way up some pretty impressive mountains.
Now what we had both envisioned for this place was a village nestled in the mountains that had a very relaxed vibe and spiritual feel. What we got when we first arrived was a traffic jam. The roads in and around the town are wide enough for one car so there is kind of a one way street system that is not really followed by the Indians. All these streets converge onto what could be a round about but is more a free for all so you can imagine the chaos and horn beeping. Our accommodation we had booked promised uninterrupted views of the valley which turned out to be a view of the roof of the building in front and if you lent over the balcony then you had a view. So as you can imagine our first impressions of the place were not that favorable. Then the mother of all storms set in while we were trying to find some lunch. We ended up back at our hotel eating and feeling a little sorry for ourselves.
But then the hotel realised they had put us in the wrong room and our new room had views to the other side of the valley and the sun started to shine. We headed out for a walk along the streets and although a lot busier than we expected there were cute little shops selling Tibetan arts and crafts, coffee shops and restaurants. There were a lot of Tibetan women in the streets in traditional dress along with Buddhist monks in their maroon and orange robes and shaved heads. Since the Dalai Lama came here in exile thousands of Tibetan refugees have also made the perilous journey over the Himalayas and settled here. The food choices here were also fantastic and we gorged ourselves on Tibetan momos.
Due to the Dalai Lama’s busy schedule the chances of you actually seeing him here are slim to none but I thought I would try our luck and low and behold he was speaking at the temple in two days time. We decided to first thing tomorrow find out how to get tickets. Although the first day in McLeod Ganj wasn’t exactly what we expected it definelty was growing on us.
The next day the sun was shining and the mountains looked beautiful. We got up and headed to the security office for the temple and were thinking all tickets would be sold out but found out we didn’t need a ticket at all it was open for everyone!
We thought we would continue the hot streak and try and organize a 3-4 day trek in the mountains and find out about some of the day hikes we could do. We came away pretty damn frustrated with one company telling us the hike we wanted to do was possible but then another two told us the pass we would be crossing is still closed. We also didn’t find out much about the day hikes either as they all wanted us to hire a guide to take us so their information was vague.
We gave up on that and thought we would go and check out the Tsuglagkang temple before the massive amounts of crowds were going to hit it tomorrow. On the way we came across people lining the streets and found out the Dalai Lama was on his way! So we waited around for about 5 mins and sure enough a car came whizzing by with him in the front seat. He is such a distinctive figure and the people reaction to him was quite moving. So far McLeod Ganj has been a whirlwind of highs and lows.
The temple itself was very functional rather than pretty and the place was being set up for the Dalai Lamas speech tomorrow. Inside the temple there was also a Tibetan museum documenting all the hardships Tibetans have had to face since Chinese occupation along with photos from the Dalai Lamas journey to India and details of Pachin Lama’s (the next Dalai Lama) kidnapping by the Chinese. He was kidnapped at age 6 and to this day the Tibetans do not know where he is, he would be in his late twenties now. Who knows what is going to happen when the Dalai Lama passes and the Pachin Lama is supposed to take his place.
We were supposed to go for a nice afternoon hike in the afternoon but that was cancelled due to another huge storm blowing in from the mountains but it was wonderful sitting on our balcony and watching it roll in. S
Views from the roof of our hotel. Unfortunately our view wasn’t as good.
So lovely to be in the mountains with some greenery. View from our second balcony.
You can see what we mean by the traffic jam.
The Dalai Lama!……. If you squint you can totally tell it is him.
The main temple ready for the talk tomorrow.
Another street of McLeod Ganj with a lull in the traffic.
More street shots.