Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dharamsala home of the Dalai Lama

I'm glad we made the time to visit Dharamsala because along with Varanasi and Rishikesh, it was on my list of must see places in India. When tourists talk about Dharamsala they are usually talking about McCleod Gang, a small town up hill from Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives in exile along with thousands of Tibetans who have fled from their China-invaded homeland. We arrive a few days after the Dalai Lama's 76th birthday (it was on the 6th July) and although I am crossing my fingers we might get to see him speak as July is one of the more likely times to catch a glimpse, it turns out he is touring the USA.

Mcleod Ganj reminds me of Nepal, with green mountains surrounding colourful rooftops and prayer flags flapping gently in the breeze. According to the Dalai Lama it is also not unlike Tibet. It is probably safe to say that there are just as many Tibetans in Mcleod Ganj as there are Indians and that means the town is full of Tibetan foods, trinkets and Buddhist temples.

We spend our first morning searching out a good Yoga studio (there are plenty to choose from) and interestingly we find the same yoga teacher whose class I attended in Goa. Vijay, the Indian owner, is a world renowned  yoga instructor who also gives yoga teacher training. When he is not touring the West he divids his time between Goa and Mcleod Ganj. I am excited to be in his class again, for the sessions in Goa were incredible. I am not suprised when I arrive at my first class to find the room filled to the brim with eager yoga students. I am suprised though when Vijay gets up and leaves the room to make way for one of his sidekicks to take the lesson. Unfortunately, this man doesn't seem to have the same knack as Vijay and unlike our gentle teacher in Rishikesh he stalks the room, roughly and abruptly slapping people in areas that need correcting. The poor man next to me who has never set foot in a yoga class and struggles to sit cross-legged cops many slaps to the back and has his shoulders are pulled back repeatedly. Despite this we soon fall into a routine of attending twice daily and spend the time in between browsing the streets, reading and hunting for the best places to eat.

Due to the large expat community in this town there are excellent coffee houses. I haven't had a 'real' coffee since leaving Australia so I was a tad excited when I was served my first delicious latte. Stupidly, I ordered a second and was so caffine sensitive I thought I was going to drop dead of a heart attack and had to go and lie down for a few hours. I think all this yoga and lack of processed food and coffee has left me detoxed!

Tomorrow we will visit the home of the Dalai Lama, even though he won't be home (I'm pretty sure you can't go in anyway!).

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