The Dalai lama has left the building

After a great time up in the mountains it was time to part company. Our tour guide Zaour, helped up find our bus at the local bus station. It was a challenge to get past all the people sat in the way of the bus stands and even a bigger one to get past the persistent beggars. Finally we made it onto our bus.

Thankfully the drive on the bus to Dharamsala was at night. The great thing about this ride was we were in a deluxe coach…….. however, no matter what it says on the outside you will still be woken up ever time you nod off by sudden breaking and sharp steering to avoid the cows and rickshaws. Ten hours later we arrived……..

The only people still left on the bus

We woke up and vacated the bus to the sound of the drivers feet behind us in anticipation to close the doors. In a cloud of dust it was off down the road……….

Wait!!!! My sleeping bag!!!!!! Rachel shouts. I knew it was time to rub the crusty sleep from my eyes. I shot off down the road after it, trying to avoid the pack of dogs still roaming around. Luckily the bus driver heard me and stopped.

Sleeping bag back in our possession we go a taxi cab at 5 in the morning to take us up the hill to McLeod Ganj.

This was the first time we’d arrived before the hotels open so found ourselves walking arround looking for somewhere to stay. We manage to find a lovely place called Ladies Venture which we were very grateful for as all the other places were full. The best we could do was a dormitory, but it was cheap.

McLeod Ganj was a really nice place. Very peaceful and had a large number of Buddist monks walking around. The shops seemed to sell high quality goods and also didn’t pressure sell. It was bliss. The food also was good and there was a load of restaurants with alternative foods to curry.

Andy in McLeod Ganj

We did a little sight seeing, a lake up the hill but wasn’t impressed as it had no water in it. Unusual as it rained pretty hard that night. The next day we got up early to go and see the teachings from the Dalai Lama at his residence.

The security was a little high as we couldn’t take bags, cameras, of even knives……. Rachel has to return the Swiss Army back to the store room. We were hopeful that he might walk through to his preaching box (Inside) but he’d already gone through before we arrived. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see him but just being there felt special. He reminds me of a cuddly Mr Meagee.

After, we went to see a beautiful waterfall with our new friends Louisa and El who were from London and full of good advice which we used later. In the Evening we had a bit of drinking (Apple wine) and a few card games.

Haha... waterfall photo shoot with Indian Honeymoon couple

The next day we started it extremely well with a simultaneous full body massage for the sum of 450 rupees each (7 pounds). It was obvious that after 3 weeks of carrying a bag full of Rachel’s toiletries had taken its toll on my shoulders. We did a nice bit of browsing in the shops but didn’t buy anything due to the weight we’d be carrying although the stuff looked very nice. Then we went to see a film about the Tibet/China issue. I think we must have been quite naive before we went in. It was a very hard hitting film and a real emotional pull on the heart strings.

To help give ourselves a good send off from Mcleod Ganj, (Probably our favourite town so far) we called into a bar to have a few drinks with El. There was a Tibetan Open mike night on too. Bonus, some interesting music to help wash the beer down………put it this way, it was entertaining. Not sure what was going on when two guys got up, one guy danced like he had a knife stuck in his back and was trying to get it out and the other was singing into a mobile phone. I ended up having a play on one of the guitars and seemed to go down well. It took some tuning up first though…

Dharamsala to Amritsar was a nice journey. Up at 3.30am to get our taxi to the bus station. Even at this time the place has people milling around. No deluxe bus this time, just a shit one with no porter to put the bags on the roof…… Well, I ended up doing it. I made sure that the locks were on in case of severe road bumping or monkey stealing was going to take place.

Our arrival in Amritsar was a rude awakening… much hotter and smellier than we have become used to! The touts swarmed on us when we arrived but we made it to our hotel ok. Headed off with new found friends to the border closing ceremony with Pakistan! Now nothing can prepare you for this weird spectacle! The players on each side face off and try to out shout and our silly walk each other – to the tune of massive crowds! The warm up was various indian songs plus Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire, whilst loads of kids danced around…. it was totally weird but very funny!

The border closing cermony

Next day we headed to the famous golden temple of Amritsar… a beautiful place that is free to enter… in the spirit of Sikhism… as it was the Guru’s birthday, the place was packed! The sounds of the Sikh priests singing were very soothing… but the place was boiling hot as it is made of marble…. so we ducked into the back streets for some shade and found some tasty grub in a grubby looking place…. they always have the best food… cost us about 15 rupees each… that’s less than 30 pence!

The Golden Temple at Amritsar

There were some other sights to see in Amritsar but we were running out of time so just headed to our overnight train. First ever sleeper (or pauper class) train was eventful…. about 2 hours into the journey a Eunuch got on and demanded 40 rupees from Andy…. that went down like a lead balloon…. and Eunuchs are really scary!

So we arrived in Jaipur… the Pink City…. very pink I tell you! It was painted pink to welcome Prince Albert in the 1800’s and he liked it so much that the whole place went pink. Jaipur is a BIG city and has the usual traffic and smell problems, but seemed to be a bit more easy to be in. It was SERIOUSLY hot though so sightseeing nearly killed us. We saw the observatory (which my Dad recommended and was ace) and the Palace of the Wind, which was built for the royal ladies to spy on the city! We then took a night tour of the city which was supposed to be in an air conditions bus… but in true India style, was actually a jeep! good food though on the night tour!

Our second and last night in Jaipur, we had delicious lassi’s and snacks and then went to the Raj Mandir cinema… the most famous cinema in India. The building looks like a cake… but the movie was terrible… very modern and supposed to be based in Australia, but full of bad american actors!

The Raj Mandir Cinema

So off we head now on a 10 day tour of Rajasthan… the desert state… it is hot and sandy and fabulous…. so we decided to go in style… in an air conditioned taxi!…. well we can’t rough it all the time!

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