Myles Harrington

Posts Tagged ‘McLeod Ganj’

The Big Trek to Triund and Some Milky Goodness

In India on April 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Yesterday we decided to go for a two day trek up to the top of the mountain we had been looking at for the last five days where a light shone like the star of Bethlehem calling us to the top. At the top of this mountain is a small hamlet called Triund where we’d heard it was possible to go and rent tents or small rooms and stay over. It sounded like the perfect excursion for five hungover people, as long as the 9km trek was as easy as the tour guides had promised us it was. The local travel agents were trying to charge us 1000 Rs each per day (£15) so we decided to go it alone and were bloody glad we did as it would have been highly embarrassing to turn up with a guide as the route was pretty easy to follow with a few ask and point help outs from the locals along the way. The first 6km went by relatively quickly with a stop at a shop en route but the last 3km was a slightly steeper and more treacherous challenge, through jungle like territory mixed with Dartmoor style rockery.

Honey, I've reached the top

In a bizarre scene that would only happen along that kind of route, Filip and I, who had walked on from the rest of the group who were suffering from last night’s local liquor  a little more, started chatting to a shop owner named Pardeep. At the end of our short conversation he offered us a room to stay in at the top of the mountain, gave us a key and a small note written in Hindi that we had to give to Sanjay in the shop at the top of the hill. All went to plan and we were in our stable like residency fours hours after setting off up the rocky path and we managed to catch the last of the sun with stunning views of the Dhauladhar range.Like baby Jesus we followed the stars and slept in a manger

After dinner, Filip, Minja and I who were sharing the shack decided to go down and speak to the two goat herders who had set up camp just down from our room. A 16 year old boy and his father were extremely hospitable to the three strangers that stumbled down their hill through their herd of bakri. We just sat and chatted with them for about an hour in broken English. We bought delicious fresh goats milk which tasted like Milkybar, smoked the father’s strong tobacco water-pipe, held the baby goat Hassasia and shared a bidie. It was the most memorable hour of my trip so far and made the arduous trek well worth it.

The goat herder gang of Triund

In the morning we had our second expensive thali in Tiund (expensive because they have to trek everything up by donkey) and this time Victor and I set off before the rest of the troupe. We decided to go the other way back, that we’d been told was possible by both the travel agents in McLeod Ganj and shop owners in Triund. They gave a wave of a hand in a general direction and we set off. The path was rough and extremely disjointed and as we were trekking down we realised at several moments we were passing McLeod Ganj on the wrong mountain ridge and in the wrong direction. This is where the expensive guide would have earned his rupees. We passed through peoples’ courtyards, steep farming pastures, tiny villages and down to a river bed. On our way we stopped off at a woman’s house and in our desperation for refreshment cheekily asked for a chai, she happily obliged and in a trade for me grinding some grain we got some sweet milky goodness.

Nothing like some hard labour in return for a free chai

After we returned only three hours after setting off (it seemed like 12) it was time for me to return to the laziest and most ignorant tailors in India to collect my hand-stitched granddad shirt that had taken four visits to perfect. It cost less than a pound per visit so I suppose I shouldn’t moan too much. A well deserved Kingfisher on the rooftop was in order and the day was finished of with a delicious Japanese feast.

Modeling the fine stitch work of India's laziest tailor

His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Me

In India on April 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

It’s been a packed couple of days for me in McLeod Ganj. Yesterday I was woken early by the deep inhalations of the Canadian sleeping next to me so I decided to get up and have a wonder around the town at 6am. I stopped off at the main square and had a roll of delicious Tibetan steamed bread which is very similar to an English muffin and then wondered down towards the Dalai Lama’s temple and residence at the bottom of the hill.

The temple near the main square in McLeod Ganj

The temple in the main square in McLeod Ganj

There was a buzz in the air because the Dalia lama was making an appearance to pray for the Tibetans who have died in the recent earthquake there. I sat and had a chai and an egg roll from a street stand and watched as monks, locals and tourists gathered to see the man himself. We didn’t come back to the temple untill about 8am and by then the queue to enter was about 200 metres long and we thought we’d never manage it. Luckily they decided to open up the monk only entrance to the rest of the rabble and we managed to sneak in and get the best seats in the house! We were incredibly lucky as the buddhists didn’t have the heart to tell us we were blocking their view. I can’t describe the tense yet enjoyable feeling in the air as he walked past. It was hard not to get caught up in the moment as everyone bowed down in the prayer position following his every step as he entered the temple from his residence a short walk away.

Yesterday evening it was time for something a little more light hearted so we stocked up on Hide and Seeks and went to the illegal cinema next door for a screening of Scorsese’s Shutter Island. The film was, according to the bloke who took the extortionate entrance fee (just over two pounds) “DVD quality”, it was in fact a Russian download with bad syncing and it stopped twice during pivotal moments. I tried to get my chai for free because of the inconvenience but he wasn’t having any of it, he said we could go back for another film for free if we liked. I might take him up on the offer, as long as the film really is DVD quality.

Send me DVD copy so I can screen in basement cinema in India

Today we attended a fantastic cookery course where we learnt to make some delicious Tibetan specialties; momos. They are dumplings that can be filled with various fillings such as vegetables, mutton or even chocolate. We made the most traditional varieties of mixed veg, potato and sweet (brown sugar and sesame seeds). The lesson cost double the price of the cinema but the profits were all going to a local Tibetan charity so we didn’t mind paying a little more.

The gang chow down on some home-made momos

The gang chow down on hand-mad momos

My favourite was probably the mixed veg one and our efforts were much tastier than the street stall versions that I’ve eaten everyday since being in McLeod Ganj. I now appreciate the technical skill required to make them and can’t understand how the ladies in the street can afford to only sell them for 15p for four pieces! The teacher told us they can make about one or two hundred an hour and get up at 3am to prepare them for the day’s trading. No wonder their seasoning is slightly off.

Momo magic