woensdag 16 oktober 2013

Dharamsala / McCloud Ganj

They know how to spell tourist in McLeod Ganj, especially when the Dalai Lama is in residence, as is the case now. Though not as overflowing as cities like Agra and Varanasi, there is a very noticeable change in the Indian/Foreigner ratio compared to Amritsar. The upside is you can meet people you can actually understand and exchange experiences with, and it's even possible to have a conversation with the taxi/rickshaw driver! No more shady interpreters!

With the Dalai Lama in residence, I couldn't just let the chance go by to attend one of his teachings. To be quite honest, while some others where there listening very intently and taking lots of notes on all the meaningful things he said, I was there just to see the Dalai Lama in person. His teachings are too complicated for a - not even remotely enlightened - spiritual barbarian like me. Did I mention I saw the Dalai Lama though?

Never wander uphill unprepared in McLeod. Not everyone will be lucky enough to come across a person with umbrella just before a monsoon-like rain hits the mountain. Even less likely, is finding a cab five minutes that is willing to take you back down for a reasonable rate. 

So you want to get shaved, but you also want to visit the Shiva temple in Kangra (city not far from McLeod). No problem here. Just sit down, sit still and pray to Lord Shiva that your barber isn't as bloodthirsty as the goddess Kali. 

When asking for directions in India, never trust what one person says, no matter how trustworthy they may look. Made that mistake on my trip to Kangra fort. 'Down this road, cross the old bridge and then the new bridge and you'll find a bus stop', as the kind elderly lady at the fort explained when I asked for the best way to get back to the city, was not as straightforward as may seem. One, there was no busstop. Two, there were no busses. Three, there was nobody around to ask where the hell I was going. Four, I was walking on the side on a semi-highway in India, which is something you normally only do when you have a serious deathwish. It took an hour and a half to find people standing on the side of the road, some 'Kangra? Kangra? Kangra?' and a 20 minute trip in an overcrowded bus to get me back to the city. Best five rupee I ever spend. 

Crazy Indian taxi drivers. On the way to the bus station in Dharamsala (10k downhill) I had a driver who was proudly telling me he had been to Dalhousie yesterday, only returning to McLeod somewhere in the night. 'You see sir I have very red eyes, not enough sleep, just few hours'. Luckily we were not on a steep decent on a hazardous road in terrible condition, which is not filled with similar you-shouldn't-be-driving chauffeurs (yeah, that's sarcasm).

If, after a break at a bus station, your bus is suddenly driving away with your stuff, don't worry. You don't have to heroically jump into the moving vehicle (mine was pretty good, including the almost slipping away part). There's a good chance the driver has just saw a parking spot and is moving the bus there. However, if it's not stopping: run like Forest!

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