Yesterday we left Amritsar for Dharamsala, this involved three separate local buses and one rickshaw! The local buses are a lot of fun but quite painful, the total journey time was around 10 hours, and we’re now at an elevation of 1770 meters, which means there’s snow and it’s really cold!!!
We’re staying in McLeod Ganj which is 10km further up the mountain from Dharamsala, and the views down into the valley are amazing and the views up to the mountains are even better, it’s a nice taste of the Himalayas before we head to Nepal soon.
Dharamsala is the residence of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government in exile, and as with all of the holy places we’ve visited in India, it has a special atmosphere. The atmosphere is very different to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, there the atmosphere was one of intense devotion and worship, where as here it’s one of complete peacefulness and tranquility, both very special, but for different reasons.
We arrived in the dark last night and looked for a hotel, we found one quite quickly called the Hotel Om, which is run by a really sweet old Tibetan couple, in fact most of the people up here are Tibetan, and it’s really like a little slice of Tibet, but probably in some ways more Tibetan than Tibet, due to the Chinese occupation.
We’re going to stay here for a few days because it’s so unlike the rest of India, this could quite easily be a different country than India, it makes heading down to busy Varanasi seem quite daunting! We’ve been looking for meditation courses here but there’s not that much, due to it being low season here. We may head down to Rishikesh, to continue our spiritual trail, then after that into Varanasi and then towards Nepal.
India is without doubt the craziest country with the widest facets of contrast maybe in the world. It’s mind blowing that you can travel a few hours by bus and feel like you’re in a new country with different people/religions/temperatures/landscape. My mind is constantly reeling at the speed of change!
Did i mention it’s freezing up here, first purchase this morning was a woolly hat from a Tibetan lady.