Thursday, 28 May 2009

A Few Hours in Dharamsala

Jane in Dalai Lama's Throne Room

After returning from the trek we had a few hours to spend in Dharamsala (or technically it's twin town of McLeodganj). This Himalayan town's claim to fame is that it is the home of Dalai Lama's Tibetan Exile Government. The few hours we had was not enough to fully see the town, but it did give us a chance to get a hot shower, a good meal and then still sea a few Buddhist complexes.

First we saw the complex where Dalai Lama lives (his living quarters are obviously closed to the public) including the Tsuglagkhang Cathedral. After that we took a taxi ride to something called the Norbulingka Institute, which is a centre for Buddhist culture and especially production of arts and handicraft.

Colourful writing on stone slabs on a wall in Dharamsala

Beautiful metal figure

Jane rolling the prayer wheels at Dalai Lama's temple

Monk performing some simple ceremony

Offerings for the god. In old times it would have been fruits and such, but today cholocate and bisquits are often preferred.

Visitor leave money offerings

Scary but well made wooden figure
Tank and pavillion at Norbulingka

The main temple at Norbulingka

One of the old metalworks masters teaching all the young students at Norbulingka

I don't know if this is a lion or dragon, but it looks nice

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Trekking Day 3 (Kakeri Village to Dharamsala)

Old lady and a small Shrine in Kakeri Village

On the second day of trekking we had reached Kakeri Village, which as far as i could tell must have had a few hundred inhabitants. It was a nicer place to stop over than the temple of the previous night and there even was a tiny store where I could get a sugar fix. To my regret we only had a short time to explore the village before it got dark, but we managed to take a small walk around early in the next morning as well.

After breakfast we set off on the last day of trekking. Since Kakeri Village is on a (slightly downwards sloping) plateau fairly high up the mountainside we had a fairly steep walk down to the river from where we could catch a local bus to Dharamshala. By now I was generally pretty tired and my right knee in particular was causing me a lot of trouble, making me realise I am no longer as tough I used to be/though I was. It did not make things better to realise that this path I was in such great difficulty following is the same path the local kids take to school every single day apart from Sunday.

Even so, it was still a good walk through varied landscapes. I was surprised to walk through an area, which looked more like Califpornia than the Himalayas with red clayish ground and fir trees. All in all we had a great trek even though certain particulars could have been a bit better organised. We caught the bus back to Dharamshal, from where I'll show a few pictures in my next post.

Jane enjoys a rest in the high part of Kakeri with a view to the snow topped mountains.

View downhill from the higher part of Kakeri to the lower part. In between there is a nice meadowish grassy patch which is used for grazing

In the village we saw this plant, which is quite unlike anything I've seen before. The seeds look almost like little chicken eggs

Houses of lower Kakeri Village

Some plant lying out to dry. Possibly corn but I'm not sure anymore

A cow peeking out from it's stable, which is just the lower floor of the family house

Young boy on the outskirts of Kakeri

Another Kakeri child

Starting our descent from Kakeri. I don't know if you can see it in this picture, but it is quite steep.

Rocky landscape near the bottom of the descent
School children crossing the river on their way to school

A small girl greets us Indian style

A landscape and vegetation which to me is more reminiscent of California than Himalayas
These flowers were everywhere on the last part of the walk

Close to the main road where we got on the bus, people crossing the river over makeshift bridges and big rocks

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Himalayan Day 2 (Guna Devi to Kakeri Village)

Jane walks across a Himalayan meadow

After very cold night near the temple of Guna Devi we got up early for a full day of Trekking over to Kakeri Village. On this day we had the best views of the trip and generally felt a bit further away from civilization. However, we still encountered plenty of locals going aboit their daily life.

It was also by far the toughest day as the walk was extremely tough and reminded me that I'm no longer a teenager. 6-7 years ago this would not have been a big problem, but this day I had to take quite a few small breaks along the way. Distance wise it wasn't too bad - probably 10 or 12 kilometres, but for hardly the entire distance we either walked steeply uphill or downhill. We started by climbing all the way down to an almost dried up river bed, only to climb up the next hillside.

This post will show pictures from the trek of the day with pictures from Kakeri Village following next time.

Colourful red and yellow birds were raising quite a rucus as we watched the sunrise over the hills. I didn't have a decent zoom lens on this trip, but if you enlarge the pic you should be able to see them

Our destination of the day: Kakeri Village as seen (enlarged) from Guna Devi

First part of the day's trek was through thick forest like this one


Forest plant. Awesome colours it has.

Out of the forest to more open landscape yet still plentiful vegetation

A wonderful low-lying area where we had our lunch. A grassy meadow on a small ridge surrounded by a small creek and a couple of tiny crop fields on one side and a dried out river bed on the other

Fields are ploughed the old-fashioned way here. Here are two work-cows

Jane crosses a bridge over the river to a small temple. This was the lowest point we passed and from here it was a pretty tough climb up

A view down to a small village and - on the left side of the picture (click to enlarge) - the temple bridge we had just passed half an hour earlier in the previous picture

On our way back up we passed another foresty area. Here Jane makes her way through via the narrow path

A village on our way. Basically just one small street - if that's what you call what you can see here - with 6 or 7 houses on it

I find that hill people tend to be a bit more reserved than the very curious people you find in the Indian flatlands but we did attract our share of looks. Notice the girl sitting down: She is forming little balls of cow dung with her hands. A completely common activity here

The same village as in the previous two pictures - seen from across the next ridge as we were approaching Kakeri Village, the destination of the day

And another well know location seen from afar. The tiny white patch exactly in the middle of the picture is Guna Devi, the temple from where we started our walk 8-9 hours earlier. Not too shabby of a walk, if I may say so myself

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Himalaya Trekking (Dharamsala to Guna Devi)

Himalayan landscape

Life in Delhi certainly has it's benefits, but lots of space and fresh air is not amongst them. So I find it essential to once in a while get out to places where there is more room and better air to breathe. Luckily Delhi lies not too far from the greatest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. So I planned a small trekking trip around the town of Dharamsala in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Nitoli couldn't join me so instead she suggested I should go with two of the interns at the embassy. One got sick, but the other one was up for it. We took a train on Friday night so that we could start our trek fairly early on Saturday.

Below I'm showing pictures from day one where we walked from Dharamsala to the Guna Devi Temple, which turned to be less picturesque than I hoped. Nevertheless it was a good walk with some nice walks, but also going through several tiny villages giving us a glimpse of local life in the Himalayan foothills. We arrived at the temple in good time to setup before sunset so we could enjoy the view for a bit. Usually Himalayan sunset are accompanied by huge clouds suddenly appearing out of nowhere to cover the mountains in a thick mist.

Jane enjoying a view of the Himalayas

Houses of a small Himachali village

Local village girls in colourful sweaters

Heardsman getting wool from his sheep

Look at how clean that water is. Hard to believe when you live next to the super-polluted Yamuna river

Our guide and porters setting up camp for the night

Clouds rolling in over the hills

Jane and a dog on top of the Guna Devi temple after the mist had set in

Trees of the next ridge barely visible in the mist

Bold red/yellow flower standing in sharp contrast to the cool, misty light of the dusk