Have you missed a few? The tale of the tall hills began here ...
Our second full day in Sidhabari/Kangra district we spent out and about again, but this time with assistance of a tourist car, named "Hill Queen" - a peanut on four wheels with big aspirations.
When sitting enjoying our pop at the local chai shop the previous afternoon, we had met up with the villaqge tour-car operator and he offered an excellent deal on a day hire with driver who spoke reasonable English. Emm had previously been quoted a ridiculous price through one of the kitchen staff, so we knew instantly that this was a good and genuine deal.
At 6:50am the very first blush of sunlight on the peaks caught my eye and I made some attempts at capturing the feel of the mountain morning. It was extremely hazy and this gave a blue caste to all the early photos. That one on the right is McLeodganj (with camera on 10x zoom from our verandah). Am 85% certain the main building you see centre is the Dalai Lama's place.
Our driver, Vipin, was prompt and ready for us at 9am on the Thursday morning. The day was again overcast and threatening rain but we didn't mind. As we drove through all the different villages and towns, they seemed almost to be connected and it was a little difficult to keep track of which was which. It mattered not. Vipin was a careful and thoughtful driver (unlike our airport lift!) so we were able to enjoy the views to the fullest.
As we wound our way up and round to McLeodganj, we passed the Church of St John in the Wilderness, built 1852 and which houses the memorial of Lord Elgin, British Viceroy of India, who died there in 1863.
These pictures are from Mcleodganj itself - the home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan Community.
The place was bristling with folk (and transport of all kinds) as His Holiness was 'at home' and giving talks to monks and nuns from all Eastern countries. Vipin dropped us off up the hill a bit as There was the all-essential market stall and shop trawling to be done… not by myself or Go-go so much. Emm's the shopper. I did find a gift for her as it happened though. Also some simple and pretty earrings for myself.
The plan was to go into the enclosure and perhaps seek a glimpse of the great man - however, I experienced something interesting. As we walked through the entry street up to the bag check office and past stalls selling hot momos (dumplings) and nuns seeking donation for translation services, as well as a goodly number of disabled folk begging, signals were going off inside me that I was not to enter.
I won't explore this here. Suffice to say it was a strong and surprisingly urgent 'internal order' so with no hesitation I told the 'girls' to go on without me and that I would wait in one of the tea shops close by.
Partly, I suppose, there was the certainty that there would be many stairs invloved. Anathema to the poorly-hipped. It was more than that though.
Never mind. I sauntered over to the One Two Café, even as the cloud descended and deep, damp and penetrating cold surrounded the buildings. The café was warm, inviting and amazingly 'European'. A comfy seat was found, masala tea ordered and people-watching ensued. YAMarazzi was happeez.
Emm and Go-go were about 30-35 minutes and were quite excited when they came out. Yes, they had traipsed up many stairs and the place had been packed to the gunnels (perhaps another reason for my not venturing further) - but they had persuaded security that they were locals and then got to peek into the hall where the DL was talking! I do believe I received blessings and energetic benefit simply by proximity and have no regrets at all for missing this. I treated them and Vipin to a cup of the excellent chai before we moved off again.
There was a shower as we partly hopped, partly skidded our way down a very sharp, very narrow and very bendy hill road to where the car was parked. Next on our itinerary was a viewing of local tea plantation and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association IPL stadium.
Twenty-twenty cricket is big ticket stuff in India and the local team, we were proudly informed by our driver-turned-photographer-turned-tour guide, was number one Hills team.
Wonder how many other teams there are?...
Anyway, it was a super impressive place and of course this cricket tragic had a grin from ear to ear.
By now we were thinking of lunch. We were going to have that at Norbulingka Institute back at Sidhabari, but first Vipin really wanted us to visit a local temple which was mainly the manifestations of Lord Siva, but also housed other murtis. He was anxious, as he could see the rain was coming and it is an open-air temple.
There was a little agitation from a passenger or two as hunger was taking control a bit, however, his patience and determination took us to the Shankar Sunderam Mandir and we immediately understood his enthusiasm. What really caught my (and the others') attention was the enclosure honouring the Guru Parampara - the lineage of teacher to taught. Starting with Siv-ji himself through Vishvamitra, Veda Vyasa, Guadapadacharya up to Sri Adi Sankaracharya...the acknowledged master of Advaita Vedanta. There was a smouldering log producing vibhooti (holy ash) and we were told that the fire had been kept continuously alive for over 500 years!!
The rain did come right then of course. However, it was an amazing, heavy shower, straight down with no wind and had a thoroughly cleansing, refreshing and calming effect, despite the getting soaked. I would sum up our 15 minutes there as soothing.
No pictures, as temples in India do not permit cameras and neither do I wish to take when I am myself attending as devotee.
Tomorrow, the regular Menorise with another amazing photo from the Himalayan collection and on Sunday, the afternoon of our trip will be revealed.