India expedition

Trip Start Jan 08, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, January 21, 2006

"An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi


In Dec / Jan I took an Antipodeans group to India. The group of girls was from a Catholic school in Sydney and were from 15 to 18 years old. The aim of their trip was to see some of India, do some community work in a village and also to trek in the Himalaya. Two teachers, Emma and Belinda also came.

We had a day stop over in Bangkok while waiting for a connecting flight to Delhi. During the day we looked along the Chao Phaya river and visited Wat Arun and at night Kanchana, her mum and kids came to dinner with us. YAY!! That was very good.

Delhi at first is pretty fascinating. There are lots of new sights to see, it is often very colourful and there is so much going on. It also seems to be full of contrasts. Many women wear bright coloured and well presented saris while the streets are filthy with rubbish. There are beggars and homeless people. We drove past and visited some beautiful temples and it starts to become obvious how many religions and wise philosophies have come from India, but amongst all that are the business people, the rushing, the Bollywood style ads, greed, chaotic traffic and a lot of noise especially from car horns.

We got the train to Pathankote and a bus to Bhagsu Nath (in Dharamshala, about 20 minutes up hill from McLeod Ganj). Bhagsu Nath immediately had a good, calm feeling compared to Delhi. We found the people there really nice, lots of good food and good scenery, the weather a bit cold but not too bad. While there we walked into McLeod Ganj most days to wander in the markets and streets. McLeod Ganj is also a nice town and although it is obviously used to tourists it doesn't seem too spoilt. There are lots of smiling Tibetans including many Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.

Emma discovered that His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama was in residence in McLeod Ganj and was conducting teachings so we went to what is known as Dalai Lama temple to see if we could see him. We went through the security check and then waited in the courtyard of the temple with many other people, mainly Tibetans. Most were wearing traditional Tibetan clothing. His Holiness was in the temple welcoming a large crowd of newly arrived Tibetan refugees and we waited for a couple of hours with the Tibetan crowd downstairs of the main temple area for a glimpse of the Tibetan God - King. The Tibetans are very patient and happy people and I ended up playing with some of the kids and talking in broken English to a monk and some women that were waiting near us. There were a few false alarms that His Holiness would soon be coming out and the crowd got excited, but nothing happened. The security guards asked us where we were from and said that the Dalai Lama would walk over to this part of the crowd and greet us. Eventually though, when he had finished with the refugees he had no time and we just saw him coming down the stairs of the temple into a waiting car and away.

Anyway McLeod Ganj was really nice and I'd like to go back one day. From our hotel in Bhagsu Nath we moved into Tseckoling Monastery for a night. Tsecholing has been re-established in India after some of the statues and manuscripts from the original monastery in Tibet were saved from the Chinese Army and smuggled to India. We met some of the monks and lay people that live at the monastery and 3 of them spoke to the group about their experiences escaping from Tibet when they were small children. Most of them have never seen their parents since the border crossing and during the walk one had witnessed his grandfather die. All mentioned how difficult the new food and climate was for them when they first arrived.

A couple of things stuck out in McLeod Ganj. 1. Tibetan monks have a much less strict lifestyle than Thai monks. 2. Tibetans, both monks and others, spend an enormous amount of time and energy wishing and praying for world peace and happiness for all living creatures. The second point is quite sad, because currently the Tibetan culture and religion is being destroyed by the Chinese government with the support of other nations. I say with the support of nations, because almost no other government is doing anything to help the Tibetans and certainly big businesses from USA, Britain, Australia and others are actually making money from the Chinese occupation. With the current state of the world, this seems a shame, that one of the most peaceful compassionate societies is being destroyed and very little is being done to help.

From the monastery we drove to the start of our trek via the Norbilinka Institute, in Dharamshala, which tries to sustain Tibetan culture. That was a very nice place also and it was interesting to visit the nunnery there. In the afternoon we arrived in Boh and played with some cricket obsessed Indian kids while the trekking company set up our tents for us.

We were trekking and doing a community project on the way with a company called Himalayan Adventures. They looked after us very well, gave us great food and conversation and were basically fantastic during the whole journey and I would highly recommend them to others. They are based in Manali and run school camps, walking, mountaineering and other things all around the Himachal Pradesh area.

Himalayan Adventures
The Mall, next to the UCO Bank
Does rafting and trekking. Recommended. (252750; fax: 252182: Web Site: http://www.himalayanadventurersindia.com

More later.
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