Catching up on the last 2 weeks of my Indian journey now, I have fallen behind on my blogging due to a mad eager rush to get to Nepal for some trekking. So here goes my best re-accounts of Rishikesh and Dharamsala…
I spent a total of 3 weeks amongst the spiritual vibes of Rishikesh taking a step back from the hustle and bustle of Rajasthan. In the time I didn’t really do a whole lot, but boy did I meet a bunch of wild people. It seems to be a place which attracts those who have come to ‘find themselves’, those who think they have ‘found themselves’ and those who think they are ‘god’. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to have someone come up to you in the street and attempt to explain to you which direction in life you should head and what color pants you should wear to ward off the bad spirits. I took all this in my stride and therefore found the touristy street of Laxman Jhula one of the most entertaining places of my trip.
Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world and year round attracts world famous guru’s, yoga instructors and back in the 60’s, The Beatles. The clan travelled to Rishikesh in 1968 to attend a transcendental meditation course at the now abandoned Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh. The Ashram has since been known as The Beatles Ashram and although there are no remnants of the Beatles left here it has become an overgrown jungle of run down buildings and amazing street art. It was probably one of the coolest places to visit in Rishikesh and really unique.
After my 3 weeks zenning out in Rishikesh I headed further North with my new travelling companion Kelly. The weather across India is heating up so the small town of Dharamkot nestled in the Himalayan foothills was calling us. We had heard a lot of good things about this region, mainly referred to as Dharamsala. We caught an overnight bus to Mcleod Ganj, a Tibetan settlement and home of the Dalai Lama and just around the valley sits Dharamkot. There are no streets in Dharamkot so it was a change to be withdrawn from all the traffic noise associated with most places in India. We arrived early in the morning and wandered around until we found a guesthouse to stay in. After dropping our bags we headed to get some breakfast and from this point on things started to seem quite strange in this small town. Upon leaving Dharamkot 3 days later I was still trying to work out what the town was all about.
As we wandered along the paths, through the fields and over the mounds of dirt everyone we engaged conversation with for directions or help barely seemed to know anything. We were sent all over the place trying to navigate the town going over and under fences, across creeks, up hills. We ran into a child who kept repeating ‘The Force” in a trans state, a man who fed us fruit and tried to convince us to ‘touch’ other people because its really important and participated in a yoga class where the teacher called us different names and laughed the whole time. It felt as if we had fallen down the rabbit hole into wonderland where everything is slightly off kilter, or as if there was some kind of conspiracy behind the town. Following this bizarre day, Kelly and I felt the need to down two bottles of wine and laugh off all the strange happenings of our first day in Dharamkot.
Over the next few days we took a hike up to a view point called Triund overlooking the Himalayas, ate some amazing fruit salad, street food
and wandered the rocky path between Dharamkot and Bagsu, a village lower in the valley.
On our final day in the Dharamsala area we visited Mcleod Ganj, the locals mainly speak Tibetan here and there are museums, galleries and temples which give an insight into the history of Tibet. People are able to meet the Dalai Lama here at certain times of the year where he addresses public audiences. It was heartbreaking to learn about the history of Tibet and the unknown whereabouts of a lot of relatives to the Tibetan people who fled. After our day exploring Mcleod Ganj we took an overnight bus back to Delhi. Awakening in Delhi, it was 4am, we were not at a bus station but had been dropped off in the middle of a highway. Not knowing where we were, surrounded by 10 taxi drives begging to take us for a ride and hundreds of mosquitos it was a horrid way to wake from a peaceful bus ride. Having to trust one of the drivers to get us to our hostel we jumped in and gave him directions. Of course, he got lost and had to continuously ask pedestrians on the street where we needed to go. After all this we made it to our hostel, let ourselves in the front door and passed out for a few hours on the lobby couches. What a journey.
So here I am in Dehli, tomorrow I depart ways with my travel buddy and take a flight to Kathmandu to do some trekking in the Himalayas. Yippee!