Dharamsala [location] is about as close to being in Tibet you can get and still be in India. Strictly speaking, we visited McLeod Ganj, sometimes known as upper Dharamsala. This quaint little town clings to the hillside, with narrow streets and buildings packed closely together. It is a major tourist destination, because it is the home of the Tibetan government in exile, and a beautiful place with friendly people. Read on and check out the photos.
We met our friends David and Kathy there on December 31. After our all-night ordeal to get to Dharamsala, we had a quiet day. The main event was a visit to the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) Lower School, where Kathy and David know one of the teachers, “K.P.” David and Kathy spent several months teaching at a TCV in Ladakh (far northern India), where they first met K.P. He gave us a tour of the school and treated us to a wonderful dinner in his home: home-made momos (lamb and noodle dumplings)!
On New Year’s Day we woke at the crack of dawn, literally, and headed out on an all-day hike to Triund, a mountain pass at 9,300’. It was a spectacular day and a wonderful hike (read story and see photos).
On January 2nd we walked through town, doing a bit of shopping (and eating more momos!) and went to visit the Dalai Lama. Well, really, we visited Tsuglagkhang, a complex that includes a temple, a monastery, and his residence. As we were leaving, a large crowd was gathering near the entrance. A half-hour wait was worth it – His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove by, in a motorcade of a dozen cars and heavy security.
After a wonderful walk around the spiritual trail that encircles Tsuglagkhang, we had another wonderful Tibetan dinner. This time we were joined by Chofel, another TCV friend of David and Kathy. Chofel was once a Fulbright scholar, attending graduate school in Indianapolis, earning a degree in counseling. TCV children, many of whom are young refugees sent alone by their parents over the Himalayan hills in hopes that that they will survive and be taken in by the Tibetan community, often need his help. Chofel remembered his own childhood, hauling bricks to help build the first TCV in Dharamsala, while his parents worked to build the railroad.
All in all, a fascinating and friendly place to visit. See photos.
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