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  • Day55

    Himachal Pradesh

    January 28, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    We contracted with the driver who took us to the Wagah Border Closing to also drive us up into the foothills of the Himalayas. It was t hour trip from Amritsar to Dharamshala. McLeod Gang is a town just above where the Dalai Lama resides. The whole area is filled with Tibetan monks, nuns, and refugees from the Chinese religious purges. I picked the area because I wanted to get a glimpse of the Himalayas. I'd also heard there were some good walks and some seasonal birding.

    Our first day in the area we walked through McLeod Gang and visited the central temple. Signs along the entrance road depict those lost in the Chinese purges. One of those disappeared is described as the world's youngest political prisoner. In the early 1990s the Dalai Lama chose a successor in a young Tibetan boy. Within days the Chinese government had swept him off along with his whole family. Only the Chinese government knows of his whereabouts. The Chinese also chose a puppet Lama to take his place. The temple itself is a pretty simple place. A central temple with dormitories and buildings set on a knob at the end of a ridgeline. They are concrete structures without a lot of charm. There are bulletin boards with details about the Dalai Lama's next set of teachings. Bring water and warm clothes because the teachings last a while and it is pretty cold up there in the mornings.

    We stayed at a pension run by the Norbulinka Institute which is based on a local Tibetan temple grounds. It is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture and offers workshops in Tibetan art forms. Nancy spent two full days of embroidery working one on one with a nun from a monastery in the neighborhood. I took trips into town and spent a couple of days walking and birding. I also visited a Royal Enfield dealership where I was given hot chai and told about the latest models. The smaller 350cc bikes cost around $2k with a 500cc models going for around 3. We also spent day riding a small old British train up the Kangra valley. The views of the snowy mountains were great.

    The relaxed Tibetan culture represented a nice break from the nonstop business and intensity of India. Everyone up there is pretty chill. The food was a nice break too. We found Mothuk, their vegetable dumpling soup, to be the perfect way to warm ourselves up in the chilly climes.

    On one of my outings I met a driver named Hari. As soon as I got into his cab he handed me a postcard and said the he'd been in a Netflix movie filmed by a couple of Swedish documentarians. 'When Hari got Married' is a really good film about traditional culture shifts. We watched it the night before he drove us some six hours down out of the mountains. It felt like we knew him before we got in the car.
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