Click Pic for The Snowline Gallery

Click Pic for Dharamsala – Dalai Lama Residence Gallery

Click Pic for Dharamsala – McLeod Ganj Gallery

Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj
(from now on refered to as Dharamsala).

It’s funny how you sometimes imagine a place to be and then you go there and good old reality kicks in.
The beauty is, when the place manages (after some time) to be that place that you imagined it to be all along. Dharamsala is such a place. Only better.

Shocking at first on arrival, sobering really, immediately crushing all rosy pictures we might have had in our heads.
Anticipation drowned, energy levels to sub zero. Immediately.

Because the last thing I expected this place to be was a Rishikesh two-point-oh. But this is exactly what it is.
The Yoga schools, the massage temples, the healing stuff, the cashing in – Same.
The cafes, the German bakeries, the souvenir shops, the clouds of weed – Same
(The weed seemed to be of better quality, but what do I know).

The foreign people there are also roughly the same, with the same happiness levels, the same friendliness and the same joy to be alive.
Hotels next to hotels, next to hotels, next to hotels. Everywhere.
Either already built or in the process of being built.

Do you know at what point a place like Dharamsala, after all, home to his holiness the Dalai Lama, home to a good-sized community of Tibetan monks, home to one of the most gorgeous scenery and landscapes I’ve seen so far in India, loses a bit of it’s magic?
It’s when you walk down to the centre in the very morning for breakfast and “Hotel California” is blasting out of some Dolby Shitty Sound system from some Cafe place at 9.30am. That is when something in your head just breaks.
And while you do your best to deal with this mentally, street hecklers are trying to sell you leather bags, sarees, wristbands, Trekking tours, Che Guevara shirts and all you want is a coffee.
Some magic is just lost somewhere.

But that is just in the very center and just a tiny bit of McLeod, which is a suburb of Dharamsala. We switched hotel after 3 days, moved way up a hill. From the center it’s a 45-minute trek/climb/walk and we found peace, quietness, a perfect view, perfect air, perfect Indian homemade food, perfect locals and some friendly foreigners one can easily ignore.
And before you say it, let me spell it out:
Yes, I turned old and No, I don’t know when this happened.

Triund and The Snowline

The scenery is just too beautiful. Eva and I did a Trek to a waterfall that was nice and a couple of days later a 3.5hr Trek to “Triund”, a mountain that on one side offers a beautiful view over Dharamsala and far, far beyond and then you turn around and you see the Himalaya, when the clouds are not in your way.

You can stay at Triund, rent a tent and sleeping bags and many people do. Too many for our taste. There were about 30 or 40 tents and maybe 80 people when we were there. Way too many.

Fortunately most people are weak and after the 3.5hr climb to Triund, the most daring climbers add another 1.5hr climb to “The Snowline”.
It’s the place closest to the Himalaya in Dharamsala. Any closer and you start climbing it. And of course we went to The Snowline because we are really not that old and not that weak and there are no more clouds in the way because at The Snowline you are above the clouds and the Himalaya just reveals itself in the most dramatic fashion.

We arrived there close to sunset, the light was just beautiful and the clouds underneath us. At The Snowline is also a base camp, just like in Triund, but apart from Eva and myself, there were only 4 other people there.
We spent the night there, cold but happy underneath a sky full of stars that looked like from some Makoto Shinkai movie. The 42C Delhi heat seemed to belong to another world.

We set our alarms at 5am to catch the sunrise. We woke up. A dog barked near our tent, I convinced Eva it is a wolf. Eva suggested we might as well see the sunrise from inside the tent. Haha.. so cute. With one eye on the sunrise and the other on the “wolf”. Sunrise wasn’t as good as we thought it would be. The Himalaya was in the way. By the time the sun managed to peek over, it was daylight all around us.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and his residency in Dharamsala

Back in Dharamsala we were also lucky because the Dalai Lama was in his exile home, rather than travelling the world, making China angry. He was at home and holding public speeches over a 3 day period.

Eva and I went to one of his speeches, amongst hundreds of Buddhist monks in their yellow/orange uniforms, Buddhists from other countries and some foreigners.

A seating plan for the Dalai Lama's next day speech in his residency in Dharamsala
The seating plan for the Dalai Lama’s next day speech. Eva and I sneaked out of the “Foreigner” section where we would have seen the Dalai Lama only on TV and into the “Thai” section, where we had a direct line of sight to his holiness.

It was an incredible experience but unfortunately, no cameras and mobile phones allowed. But people complain anyway that I upload too many pictures on this blog. Sadly for you guys, Eva and I also went to the Dalai Lama’s residency the day before his speech and I took and now uploaded pics of the speech preparation, unfortunately without the Dalai Lama.

Dharamsala is perfect if you feel active, perfect if you just want to chill, perfect for food, perfect for scenery and unlike me, if you are young at heart you can mingle with people from all over the world and party all night long, or discuss the secrets of each others mind, the secret of life or various Yoga terms and gurus. It’s a perfect place.

Take me back to locations in India