Monday, December 3, 2007

Dharamshala, part one

Back to the land of the communicative! First off, Lin and I went to McLeodganj, near Dharamshala, the residence-in-exile of the Dalai Lama and home to a large population of Tibetans who have fled the Chinese occupation. McLeodganj is also seeking-traveller central, with yoga, chakra, tarot, crystal, pot-head, massage, and countless other types of paraphernalia and classes - the type of place people stay for months. But the off season meant things were quieter.

The grand plan was to traverse part of the mountain ridge above town, but my stove didn't like the local kerosene much, so a shortened version involved trekking to Kareri Village and cooking with sticks, both equally adventurous. A daytrip to Kareri Lake started off in the wrong direction thanks to guidebook ambiguity, emphatically proving advice it gave elsewhere for getting around India: "The system is confusing; to find the right bus, ask anyone and everyone, repeatedly." This actually works surprisingly well!

We spent some time talking with a young teacher in the high village of Kareri - he had gone to teacher school for two years and applied for the 5-year government post, a good job here. The inevitable too-small 2-room building without heat was populated with perhaps 80 kids 4 to 16 years old, outside today because it was warm. Asked about whether this 10-year-old school would cause the village to die when they all left for the better life of the schooled, he said the eldest son in the family stays to run the farm. Hopefully the village will continue to exist.

We had heard the drums and horns of a wedding party on our way through the town of Ghera the first day, and on our way back met them walking back home to the village at which we had just stayed! They volunteered to pose for us, asking not for money but for a print of the photo to be mailed. It seems the end of tourist season signals the start of wedding season here.

Before Lin headed back to Delhi, we went to the nearby Norbulingka Institute, where traditional Tibetan arts are being taught and kept alive, since they may soon be gone in Tibet thanks to the Chinese. A beautiful, peaceful place.

That ends this chapter - Lin went back to Delhi to prep for our next adventure, and I stayed to do my own hiking in the mountains...

(Please note: All pictures are courtesy of Lin - thanks Lin!!!)

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