21 May 2013 Back here again, after only 23 years. It is a much busier place than I remember, the central square (the size of a small roundabout) clogged with four or five cars and trucks everyone leaning on their horn. Shops with bright lights all around the ‘square.’ Not a great first impression. But I walked down a road away from the noise and almost immediately saw the Hotel Kailash, where I had stayed in 1990. I took their last room, ate well and had a couple of beers in their restaurant, and wove off to bed.
Nostalgia satisfied, and with the time to search, I checked out a couple of other hotels that might be a bit quieter. And have a toilet that flushes. And enough water pressure for a shower. Picky, I know… I am now settled in the Green Hotel, nice bathroom (amazing how important that becomes), no fan but comfortable at night nonetheless. The Green has a nice restaurant, with comfortable chairs and wifi. I may be here for a while :) Wandered up the hill to Dharamkhot a couple of kilometres away on the way towards Triund (a hike I want to repeat, nostalgia again), through trees. It was pleasant walking in the cool shade of the trees, but very steep going. The locals have strong legs. I think I have an idea where the trail goes; I’ll find out in a day or two. I did see a very pale (maybe albino?) monkey.
22 May 2013 The Green Hotel Restaurant is busy this morning, nowhere to sit, so I moved up the road a little to the Kulga Guesthouse. Their latté’s are not quite as good but life goes on. A venerable-looking sadhu (Hindu holy man) comes through the door of the restaurant and raises a conch-shell to his lips. “No…” exclaims one of the (Tibetan) staff and dives for the till, gives a coin to the sadhu. The sadhu looks at the coin in his hand unimpressed, then back up at the waiter. Waiter, equally unimpressed, stares back. Sadhu leaves.
Had a nice afternoon today, walking the short distance to Bhagsu and up to a waterfall. Below the waterfall, groups of monks were doing their laundry in the creek.
The busker at the side of the trail up to the waterfall was Rajasthani, I think. At least, I remember similar dress and performances in Rajasthan.
The waterfall, as is common in Asia, was oversold. Living in Canada, where we do waterfalls rather well, I am spoilt by the trickles that seem to excite those who live in hot climates.
A few minutes further up the trail was the stone-built Shiva Café, outside which locals and a not-so-old but well-worn-looking hippie were getting stoned. Or, more likely, maintaining their high. Strange to realise that I don’t even know whether dope’s legal here; at this stage in my life, it doesn’t seem too relevant – I’m not sure it would add anything to the fun I’m already having. I did spend a pleasant couple of hours at the Shiva, relaxing over a salted lassi, reading, enjoying the sunshine and surrounding landscape, catching the occasional whiff of sweet secondhand smoke. When I left, quite a crowd had gathered inside the café, Indians and backpackers, some rolling up. There was a nice collection of rock paintings:
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a striking woman descending a steep path on the other side of the water. I reached for my camera but was too late. Then she sat down not far from me, with her male companion, so I got my picture anyway:
I stopped for a cuppa on the way back at a little roadside shack, watching an ‘Indians versus Tibetans’ match of what looked like a cross between shove-ha’penny and snooker. Fun, welcoming, friendly vibe. Now, I’m sitting on the veranda outside my room, under a soon to be full moon; it feels about 20°, very comfortable. 11:00 pm but I’m not quite ready for bed yet.
I walked up to Triund and decided spontaneously to spend a night there, but that is the subject of another post: dmorg.org/triund.
Macleodganj is the home of the Dalai Lama, when he is not travelling the world and promoting the Tibetan cause, and that explains the number of backpackers/yogis/western Buddhists who seem to congregate there. There certainly was a higher proportion of ‘travellers’ than I’d seen elsewhere in my Indian travels.
I finally had to drag myself away from Macleod, to the amazement of one of my fellow guests in the Hotel Green: “You’re not waiting for His Holiness? He’ll be here in a couple of days.” No wonder the hotels were full.