Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Friday 16th – Thursday 22nd March: Dharamsala

with 3 comments

We had a very cunning plan that involved an early flight from Bombay to Delhi, meeting Tamsin from her international flight (from London via Doha) and then taking a connecting flight to Dharamsala. Sadly it was not to be as our connecting flight was with the ailing Kingfisher airlines (yes THAT Kingfisher). Around 45 minutes before take-off the flight was cancelled so we booked ourselves into a car at the airport pre-paid taxi booth for the supposedly 10 hour journey. This turned into a 13-hour marathon that included a blown tyre, changing the wheel in the dark (by the light of our various head torches!), a short detour to the driver’s village to pick up a new spare, arguments with state border officials about ‘taxes’, a stop at a roadside dhaba where our driver ate dinner and Tamsin threatened (from afar, thankfully) the cook with tearing off his hat and ‘throwing it in the wee patch’ if he gave our driver another chapati, with a final exhausted arrival in Mcleod Ganj after midnight. We’d been in phone contact with the hostel though so they kindly sent people to carry our bags down the steep set of steps (in the dark) to The Pink House. In the morning we got to see it:

Indeed, tis VERY pink!

REALLY pink.

Heath Robinson plumbing, everywhere in Dharamsala.

We liked this sign.

After a full day of recovery on Friday we walked to Bhagsu Falls on Saturday. Bhagsu was a tiny hamlet with a temple 16 years ago, but now is full of hotels and Indian tourists with attendant psycho taxi drivers and appalling litter problem. McLeod Ganj itself was much bigger and more built up than we remembered; there were very few buildings over one story 16 years ago, and now everything is built up. The little lawn and garden next to our old guest house now has a huge hotel built on it.

View across the valley. You can just about see our very pink guest house.

The bottom of the Bhagsu falls where 16 years ago we saw monks sunbathing in their pants. No monks in pants this time although they *were* drying their robes.

 The short hike up to Bhagsu falls is now a wide footpath with railings and a tea stall every few metres, but the walk and the views are still so pretty. Once again it was a shame about the tourists dropping rubbish where they stood; even the tea shop owners were getting mad about it.

The falls – tea shops abound

View up to the falls

Presumably unintentionally humorous sign.

Beers on the roof terrace of the McLlo

Tamsin and I decided to learn how to make momos – at this point Randall was very grateful of Tamsin’s presence as it meant he was let off a cooking class.

Rather pleasingly all the boring bits (chopping and such) had been done for us. A bit like on Blue Peter:

Our cooking teacher was Llamo, and he was VERY strict!:

Tamsin’s mixing skills were up to scratch

Kneading the dough was also performed suitably.

Once the dough was ready we had to practice making the momo casings without filling, and this is where the whip was truly cracked, as our first few offerings were deemed unworthy and were brutally scrunched back into dough-balls.

Finally we got proficient enough to be allowed to use fillings in our momos with the following results:

After 15 minutes of steaming we happily ate the results although we did save a few for Randall.

This was the view from the steps to our hostel when we returned from the class:

The next day we took a walk to the Dal Lake a few km out of town. The supposedly ‘holy’ lake was surrounded by concrete walls and the inevitable rubbish, but that said the view wasn’t bad:

We spent another couple of days mooching, eating and doing some gentle walking, and found Tushita, the monastery and meditation centre where Charlie, Tamsin and I took an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism course back in 1996. It was a long time ago, so the things we remembered most about it were the VERY steep walk up the hill each morning to get there, gentle farting in the meditation sessions, and teasing the westerners who were there on ‘silent retreat’. Very spiritual, us.

On our last full day we did the ‘big hike’ to Triund, 9km in distance and 1km in height away from McLeod Ganj:

The first hour, a gentle climb through pine forests

Some time into the second hour we came across the first patch of snow.

Hour 3 – time for a tea and chocolate stop:

The last hour of the hike was a steep climb up through the snow:

It was at this point that we met a party of young Koreans, many of whom were hiking in Crocs or flip flops, and one of whom was carrying a guitar.

The incredible views from the top:

The Koreans got there first and were having a sing song when we arrived.

We made it! Four and a half hours up!

Stretching at the top

Drinks and noodles in the inevitable tea stall.

Back through the snow on the way down

The long and winding road

Tea stop on the way down (another 4 hours of walking)

The yellow bag behind me in this photo is significant – a local action group Mountain Cleaners (started by a Brit) give them out so that hikers and the stall owners can collect the plastic rubbish that gets generated. The Mountain Cleaners then collect them and send the sorted contents for recycling. All kudos to Jodie ‘Garbage Girl’ Underhill for setting this up.

Randall on the terrace of Kunga Guest House where Charlie, Tamsin and I stayed in 1996 for a few days. It now has a second block and a huge outdoor terrace (Nick’s Italian Kitchen).

The other hostel we stayed in during our 1996 is no longer a hostel, and the little garden that surrounded it is now built up with bigger hotels. We popped in on the off chance though, and found Champa, one of the couple who ran the place back then. We had printed some photos of him, his wife and their little boy from 1996. Unfortunately we missed the latter two, but Champa was so pleased with the photos, and he gave us a loaf of his fabulous sourdough bread in return.

Tamsin and Champa 2012

Champa 1996 – making Tibetan bread.

The rest of the photos are here.

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Written by helenbcn

March 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm

3 Responses

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  1. marvelous , thank you. next best to being there. Love the contender . Love Tamsin’s concentration whilst mixing. Wish i could be there in body, looking forward to successful skypage today/ tomorrow hopefully. xxx

    Charlie

    March 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

  2. You are all looking healthy and fit.

    Helen's Dad

    March 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm

  3. Looks great – tho I don’t expect to find the Round and About walk quite as easy.
    Love from Blighty XX

    michaelcallanan

    April 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm


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