Sunday 20th and Monday 21st March
Still here in McLeod Gang. Sorry if that a bit boring but its been really nice to chill out here without rushing off somewhere else all the time.
Sunday was Holi, not quite as crazy as I thought it may be, but it was really good to see everyone enjoying themselves. The food at Nicks Italian, the restaurant in the guest house where I am staying, is most excellent, so I have been eating there or the Green Hotel next door and haven’t had a bad meal yet. What’s even better is that all the food is pure vegetarian, based on Tibetan cooking but with loads of other dishes too, many of which have home made pasta as the base, and everything is really natural and fresh. A detox diet without having to make any effort at all, but I have done without alcohol, fizzy soft drinks, added salt, added sugar, coffee – all without really trying.
Last night’s meal was the most lovely cream of pumpkin soup, a spinach and cheese lasagne with home made cheese, cinnamon carrot cake and ginger tea, washed down with mineral water and change from 3 pounds.
Home made cakes are the order of the day – Nicks also make lemon cheesecake which is out of this world. Most luxuries of the west are available here so in common with most travellers bases, although alcohol isn’t widely served except in two or three bars and of course from the little kiosks on most street corners. These have been serving industrial quantities for Holi, and today the evidence of empty whisky bottles lies on most road sides and paths.
Sadly this is true even on the steep path from nearby Bhagsu beteen the temple and waterfall which was absolutely mobbed with it being Sunday and Holi too. Families and huge groups all with one thing in common – passing time on a really nice sunny day after Saturday night’s thunderstorm cleared the air.
The road past my guest house is far too narrow for two way traffic, but today it was verging on the ridiculous as hundreds of cars, bikes, taxis and rickshaws squeezed single file along its length. All of them on their way to Bhagsu of course, so I decided it would make a good afternoon out too, but walked. Not a very energetic walk, but more than I am normally accustomed to, as I finished the climb up the waterfall path by following the signs to the Shiva café, up a very steep rocky path right to the top of the waterfalls and left most of the crowds behind. So if I had any guilt about the number of cakes on the menu, then this was a good way to burn the calories off.
The views from the top were tremendous. I think the well known trek to Triund ends up more or less above us, but starts around the valley in the other neighbourng village, Dharamkot. The wild rhodedenron bushes are everywhere, many in flower although I think this is still a bit early to see them at their best.
Monday was similar to Sunday except I slept in till 11:30, so quickly caught up with a lovely breakfast out on the terrace as usual. Today was even hotter and sunnier – the snow covered peaks had no cloud cover at all today.
So encouraged by yesterdays walk I took the other road up to Dharamkot. This is much more strenuous as it climbs above McLeod Ganj rather than following the contours around to the next valley. Passing monkeys galore in the trees, I was pleased to find refreshments in the Himalaya Tearoom, at the point where all roads to Dharamkot join. This seems a really laid back place, unlike the rather brash Bhagsu which is geared up for day trippers to the temple and the waterfall. Tea stop over, I followed the high road as it climbed around the valley side, higher and higher, ending up probably 1000 feet above the town and in another world.
Gone were the tourists – in were the local farmers, tending their steep stepped plots, with cattle and goats housed in almost every home. It could have been five hundred years ago, except that these houses now all have electricity thanks to the ugly and horrendously unsafe looking overhead lines everywhere. I guess I’d have to climb a bit higher to reach true isolation then.
Rather than walking back to find the road, I walked more or less directly down the hill, following a path which sometimes looked like it was a main thoroughfare and other times almost went through peoples houses, and before long I had arrived in Bhagsu, completing the circle, from where its an easy mile or so back to McLeod Ganj.
I was quite pleased with myself with todays walk – certainly much more energetic even than yesterdays, and only a step away from starting a proper trek. However it was clear that my exertions would mean nothing to the locals, who of course have to do this walk every time they leave their homes.
Nevertheless I was pleased enough to celebrate with a ginger, honey and lemon tea and a slice of carrot cake. Yumm!
Showered and cleaned, ready for dinner, I am now sitting in Jimmys Italian having a delicious pepperoni pizza – first meat of the trip – and very good it is too! And as everywhere starts to close at 9pm, that’s the end of another day.