We walked around the streets all day long until we saw everything we wanted to see. In the morning we had breakfast near the swimming pool at the Bhagsu temple. The pool was full of tourists mainly coming from Punjab. In the morning we visited the museum of the monastery which was not so pleasant because it showed what the Chinese did to Tibet and its culture. There are 160 000 refugees at Dharamsala who try to keep their culture alive but the situation is not looking good – if you are interested you can find more information in Internet.
In the afternoon we were resting at a glade and we were eating bread loafs with butter when a macaque came to us suddenly and tried to take from our food. Mr. Shushtari tried to chase him away with his sandal but this just made the animal angrier and we threw some bread right away. This calmed down the macaque significantly. In the evening we went back to our place near the temple of Shiva. There were some guys who walked around our tent and produced funny noises all night long so we couldn’t sleep well.
10.06 – 11.06
In the morning we have an unexpected awakening. Several white western girls with strange appearance come to use while we are still sleeping and tell us that this is a private (!!!) temple and we cannot sleep here because they need to do their rituals. This is very strange to us because the Sadhu people, to whom the temple actually belongs come every morning here, light candles and never tell us anything – on the contrary they seem to enjoy our presence. But obviously the western ego-centrism is limitless and this girls decided that the temple is theirs.
Western tourists perform rituals
Anyway we have to get up and we start packaging. Meanwhile we watch “the ritual” which goes like this: the girls put some blue veil on their heads and light a candle in front of their faces. Then they start throwing rice in a fire they had lighted beforehand. In the meantime two Indian Sadhus came and glanced perplexed at the girls then they smiled at us, lighted some candles and left silently. We also left the place and went to a glade in the forest, just outside of town where we had our breakfast.
Two kilometers out of town is situated maybe the oldest church in India. It is called St. John in the Wilderness and is surrounded by a cedar forest with very thick trees and you have to take off your shoes when you enter.
Church St. John in the Wilderness
There is a road passing nearby and we catch a minibus to the lower part of Dharamsala. Then we catch another one to go out of the town. The ticket costs 5 rupees (8 eurocents).
Finally we go out of this commercial touristic place. There are no crowds here, the place is calm and there are only local people. I think Dharamsala lost its magic because of this multitude of tourists. In our opinion it’s not worth to stay there more than a day.
Our next goal is to reach the most northern part of Kashmir – Ladakh. The place is close to the border with China, there are many Tibetan people, authentic culture, high mountain passes and raw scenery. We want to take the Manali-Leh highway which will be opened in a few days when the ice and snow melt. While we are waiting we will explore the area around Manali and Dharamsala.
Today we plan to go hitchhiking to Baijnath which is 60 km. away from Dharamsala. We heard there is a stone Shivaya temple that dates back to 13-th century. Lucky for us that all the tourists coming from Dharamsala go directly to Parvati valley. The hitchhiking was great and two cars later we arrive at Baijnath. We also noticed that there are many military bases around Dharamsala.
Baijnath Temple from another angle
The temple turns out to be really fascinating. Inside it there is a special kind of lingam (phallic representation of Shiva) that can only be seen here and in two more temples in India. Nandi (the bull watcher) whose statue is put always in front of the Shivaya temples can also be seen here. The people who visit the temple come and whisper something in the statue’s ear but we don’t have idea what they might say.
Telling one’s wish to Nandi
Suddenly outside starts raining cats and dogs and we hide ourselves under a Bodhi tree (as you know this is sacred fig tree that people usually plant near a Buddhist temple or monastery). It keeps raining till the evening and the wind is quite strong so we have nowhere to go. We pitched our tent under a nearby shelter but when the evening puja (prayer) finishes the keeper of the temple goes out and tells us to leave. He says we can’t sleep on the temple’s territory. We start preparing to leave a little discouraged because now we have to look for a new place to sleep and it is already dark and it keeps raining. Suddenly the rain stops – like by magic. We start going down some stairs that lead to a river flowing under the hill we are on. We find a pretty flat spot where we can sleep – we are saved for the night : )
Early in the morning many people start passing by our tent and we have to get up early. When we get up we find out that below us right at the river bank there is a spring and bathrooms. We approach this wonderful and unexpected opportunity to take a bath and wash our clothes. Then we start hitchhiking again. All day long only trucks take us and this is good because we can see the scenery around us and otherwise I would be sick all the time because there are many bends.
After we pass the town of Mandy we enter the road that leads from Shimla – the capital of the state Himachal Pradesh to Manali. We are flabbergasted by the hundreds of cars and buses full of tourists, manly Indians that are going to Parvati Valley and Manali. It is good that we decided not to go there because it would have been a real nightmare. We plan to pass by Manali and not stop in it at all. No matter how beautiful it could be we won’t be able to enjoy it because there are so many people.
The text continues as a guest blog post: click here