People from the Gurdwara
The people from the temple woke us up at 7:30 for breakfast. They were really nice and told us if we had any problem to contact them. We went to the main hall to prey and at they exit they gave us delicious halva.
Our next stop is a forest situated in a protected area. We really, really need to lose ourselves somewhere in the calmness of nature. We have 30 kilometers to reach edge of the forest. We wave to a guy and he stops and offers us to visit him at his home to treat us to biscuits and tea. We didn’t expect people here to be so nice and hospitable. Up to now nobody had lied to us about the prices of things, even in Amritsar – we bought everything at local prices (we say this because when we were in Morocco the situation was quiet different. It seems that in this country all the merchants are united by a common goal – to lie the foreigners. One English lady told us that her stay in Morocco was more expensive than this in Paris).
Slowly we enter deeper in the rural areas. At noon we reach a temple of the goddess Kamahi Devi. The people there send us right away to the langar (kitchen) to eat. These days we eat mainly at the temples. We also eat lots of mango since the season is now and the fruits are enormous and very juicy and sweet – I just love mango. But we still don’t have much appetite and most of the time we have to force ourselves to eat.
We continue hitchhiking and we stop in a village where we thought was the entrance to the forest we want to go. But at the end we follow a road that leads to a semiruined Hindu temple. Inside it there was a very strange man who had a bulge on his head where the third eye is – it looked like his very skull was protruding. He tells us something about Krishna blesses us by touching our heads and gives us Prasad (sacred food) – this time it was sugar crystals.
Semiruined Hindu temple
After this we return to the main road. We meet an old guy who thinks we originate from Kashmir and then another who invites us to drink tea at his home. Then we start hitchhiking and a truck stops and drives us 10 km. further south to a village. We are sure that we can enter the forest here. There are many trees and bushes – it looks like jungle. We want to find a bigger path but we can’t.
After two kilometers walking we somehow reach the main entrance. It was closed but we manage to slip through the fence. We hide our rucksacks in some bushes inside and we go back to the village to buy food and water. But at the local shop there are only biscuits – good that we bought samosas earlier today. Anyway we eat so little that this doesn’t bother us at all.
Sacred tree we encountered on our way to the jungle
When we go back there are several monkeys around our rucksacks – thanks God we came on time. We start walking on the path and half an hour later we reach a well. We calculated that the path goes along the natural park’s border and we had returned to the previous village. We find another path but it is getting dark so we decide to pitch our tent near the well. Life is teeming around us – there are thousands of monkeys, parrots and peacocks. We even see deer trails.
Bivouac in the jungle
During the night the temperatures fell significantly and when we got out of the tent in the morning all is very damp. We hear hundreds of birds singing and chirping it is a real cacophony – or better said an incredible concert.
We wash ourselves with water from the well and we leave. On the path we see herdsmen who take their cows to the forest – and this is strictly forbidden.
We start exploring the forest at around 10:00 and this is quite late if you want to see wild animals. We walked aimlessly for a few hours until to our surprise we reach a camping spot. It results we just made a very big circle and came back to where we started. These are the disadvantages of not having GPS or a compass which we lost somewhere. But still there are more advantages to my opinion. Like this you find yourself at place that amaze you and you would have never go to if you had a GPS for example.
We took the other road at the fork and after some time the path finishes. We start crawling in some thick bushes until we see a hill and some houses on it. One woman sees us and invites us to drink water and tea. Then her husband drives us with his motor bike to the next village. There was a lake marked on the map but at this time of the year all lakes and rivers are dry.
Paths near the beds of dried rivers
In the next village there is a local shop and we sit there to drink mango juice. The sun is strong and we fall asleep. Nearby there is a crazy guy who dances under a tree and beside him several old man smoke marijuana. After we rest we start walking.
In the village we had noticed a wider path that went inside the forest. The local people told us there are leopards in the forest. We saw many wild animals but the forest was quite small, one could cross it for mere two hours – I don’t know if a leopard can live on such a small area. Anyway we hope we will be granted the opportunity to see one.
We go back to our bivouac and take a “bucket” (as there is no shower) from the well.
Taking a bucket-shower
In the evening we decide to walk around and we see many macaques, peacocks and colorful birds. We couldn’t see pangolin, mongoose or stags as we hoped. But when we returned to the tent right beside us passed a big beautiful stag. We went to bed really happy.
The jungle in the dusk
We put all of our luggage in the rucksacks and start walking. After 20-30 min. we reach the main road and we see a pangolin. We start running after it but it hides somewhere.
The road is very remote and there are almost no cars passing by. The first car that wasn’t full of people stopped and took us to Hoshiarpur – our last stop in Punjab. When we reach the town we sit to eat at a road restaurant and being low on calories the last few days we eat three meals with chapatas (bread) and airan (mixed yoghurt with water and salt) and all this for the mere 2.5 euro.
It is well known that in Hoshiarpur there is a book called Bhrigu Samhita. In it is written the past, present and future of every living being on Earth. Since ancient times people come here to study astrology. We do not want to learn our future so we continue to the next town.
20 km. east of Hoshiarpur is situated the state Himachal Pradesh and the Himalayas begin.Hitchhiking is great and after a while we find ourselves travelling in a hilly area. In fact all of Himachal is hilly and there are some big mountains in the north. After a while I start feeling sick because there are many bends and we “order” (wish) for a truck to stop us. And it does : ) The good thing is one can lay in the trucker’s bed and sleep there. We travel 20 km. for an hour. The last car leaves us in Dharamsala.
For dinner we eat Tibetan pasta called Thukpa and start looking for a place to pitch our tent.
All the morning we go around Dharamsala to look for maps of the region. At noon we took a bus to go to Mcleod Ganj – the part where Dalai Lama and his government reside. There are many monasteries here and the place is a home to one of the biggest Tibetan communities in the world that live outside of Tibet.
It impressed us that the young Tibetans are dressed with jeans and have tablets and smartphones but the old ones are wearing authentic clothes. To our distaste the place is full of tourists – both Indians and Westerners. There are also thousands of restaurants, hostels, hotels and souvenir shops – and everything is very expensive.
We just got out of the bus and we hear someone speaking Bulgarian (that’s our native language). We turn around and see two girls. We talk to them and ask them to leave our rucksacks at their place so we can walk around freely. Their hotel is located in Bhagsu where it turned out all the hippies stay – we called it the “hippies’ paradise”. Everywhere you can see digeridoos and guitars playing, there are millions of announcements for festivals, courses for yoga, Hindi, Indian cuisine, massages, guitar lessons, and here and there a mega freak note for magical gatherings, illusory worlds and all kinds of trippy ideas. Half of the signs are written in Hebrew – obviously this is the most favorite place of the Hebrew hippies.
Typical annoncement in Bhagsu
We leave our luggage at the girls’ place and we go back to Mcleod Ganj. We find momos (dumplings filled with vegetables) that cost 20 rupees (around 30 eurocents) and we are happy – this was our favorite food when we were in Nepal.
The place is packed with Tanka shops – Tibetan religious paintings usually displaying mandalas, the wheel of life or bodhisattva. I love to watch the thousand miniature details so we spend a lot of time in these shops.
The town has three streets and we finished sightseeing pretty fast. In the evening we went to see the temple Tsuglagkhans. And this was our only authentic experience in this place already engulfed by mass tourism (it is hippie but to us it is still mass).
Back to Budhism
First we see a large group of monks who has its traditional debate that is accompanied by slapping one’s hands and some strange gestures. Then we meet a group that was singing mantras. Other people are praying by making prostrations on some special wooden platforms – they made tens bows without a break. The atmosphere in the temple was very nice.
In the evening we went to take our luggage and say good-bye to our new Bulgarian friends and we started climbing the hills till we reached a Shiva temple where we pitched our tent.
Naked Sikhs in the pool
When people take off their clothes they become almost identical. If they take off their skin and muscles they’ll become totally identical… how funny are all the contradictions in this world?!