After Amritsar, Ulco decided he wanted to see some mountains and so we headed to McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama. There were no trains and only one bus available from Amritsar to Dharamsala, which is just a few kilometers from McLeod Ganj. The journey was just over six hours on a bus that we were told was direct and would be making no stops, but in reality we stopped to pick up and drop off people all the time and one stop had us sitting at a station for about thirty minutes while peddlers flooded the bus with everything from coconuts to mango juice to plastic table clothes in a variety of colors and floral patterns. Our trip took just under seven hours and after getting the bus from Dharamsala to McLeod Ganj, we checked into the “only deluxe hotel” in the area.
Yesterday morning we walked to Bhagsu, just two or so kilometers away, to a waterfall Manuel and I had visited in April. Then it was barely more than a trickle, hardly worth the effort. Now, it is absolutely gushing and the path we walked over and the area we sat in then are now under the numbingly cold water. We took a path up to the top of the falls and just sat there taking in the view and the peace and the sound of the water while mountain goats watched us with suspicious eyes.
We made our way back down and headed into town, stopping along the river here and there for a drink or just to take in the view and nature. It was only cut short by the looming threat of the ever darkening clouds and the distant claps of thunder. We made it to Tsuglagkhang, the residence of the Dalai Lama, before it started to rain for a few minutes, then it took a break, long enough for us to walk back to the hotel and then it came pouring down.
With McLeod Ganj being the head of the Tibetan Government in exile, the place is filled with refugees and obviously there are political messages everywhere about the state of affairs in Tibet. The first night here, Ulco and I met a twenty-four year old refugee at a restaurant who moved here when he was nine, separated from his family to live with an Uncle. He has seen them a few times since then, but cannot return to his country or he will be put in jail or worse. He dreams of going to the US or Canada to work in the mines. His entire life uncertain and so far from what I can imagine.
This was the perfect place to come after the Golden Temple and the entire trip has been completely relaxing, with the heavy rains even forcing us to slow down and just unwind. Tomorrow evening we head to Delhi, but until then there are books to read and cups of tea to drink.