The Happy Hippy Haven

We’ve found our cool weather again – it’s raining heavily in Dharamsala, unsurprisingly as we’re at the foot of the Himalayas.  We took a little longer to get here than we planned as the truck got turned around at a bridge that wouldn’t take our weight so we had to spend the night in a delightfully bedbug ridden scumhole in the middle of nowhere (the majority of us decided against the rooms and camped out in the dining room on our rollmats instead). We eventually got up here after a 3 hour drive which ended up taking 6 on the winding mountain roads. Refreshingly even the Indians seem cautious about these roads so we keep passing signs like ‘dashing means danger’, ‘drive fast, join the scenery’ and bizarrely ‘divorce your speed, not your wife’

Dharamsala, or more specifically McLeod Ganj which is the upper part of town, is the home of the Dalai Lama (or as my autocorrect assumes, the Salary Landmass) so there’s a big Tibetan community here. There’s also a lot of white tourists here which is suddenly shocking to us after all the time we’ve spent in countries which sane people don’t visit. I keep wandering along thinking ‘ooh, more of my people!… oh no wait…’ Then you start noticing the disproportionate number of dreadlocks and scraggly beards and unwashed clothes and the lingering scent of joss sticks. No, definitely not my people. I promise that however long I’m backpacking, I will not come back with dreadlocks.

Cameras aren’t allowed in the main Buddhist complex so I have no photos of the Dalai Lama’s pad, but we did find this colourful temple in the middle of town, while we were busy indulging in consumerism (everything else was closed on Mondays, all we could do was shop and eat, such hardship)

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As we were walking around we got approached by a guy with leaflets advertising a ‘traditional dance show’ in the evening. It was cheap so we figured we might as well. Turned out it was just him, spinning around a school hall to his CD player while a bemused crowd of white people looked on thinking ‘this is traditional? Really?’ At one point, after about 5 minutes of spinning he started stripping mid-dance. Fairly sure that wasn’t supposed to be part of it. Because he wasn’t looking he managed to throw his jacket right in the face of someone in the front row, then he somehow threw his shirt straight out of the small high window. I would have been pretty impressed if that was intentional – as it was I was just wondering how long it would take him to figure out where it had gone. After he’d done his solo dancing he decided that want enough so he started forcibly plucking volunteers from the audience to pick up and throw around. Since he nearly dropped a German girl on her head I was pretty glad I want one of the volunteers. So, I might not have experienced traditional Tibetan dancing, but at least if he wins Dharamsala’s Got Talent I can say I saw him first.

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Set off for a 16 hour drive to Delhi the next morning – a couple of our group have stayed behind to catch an audience with His Holiness, I have not so all I’ve caught is a cold. Damn.

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