Watching the watchmender; Mystical, mysterious, mystifying, - mainly misty - Mcleodganj

Dharamshala Travel Blog

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The watchmender

29 Aug - A beautiful sunny day in Manali to do some business. The ATM was again very efficient, the internet rather faster than Leh, and some shopping quite painless. We found out that the taxi drive to Dharamsala where we go on Friday will be around 4000rps. Then to the watchmender. Mike's watch needed a new battery. We found the mender in a little kiosk, more a hutch, in the bazaar. He oiled, twisted, and eventually prized off the back with both delicate watchmakers' tools and a monkeywrench. He oiled the winder, cleaned the inside and put in the new battery. We watched him for about 30 mins, during which time a temple procession passed with much drumming and trumpet playing.

Old Manali
He charged the equivalent of one pound.

30 Aug. A wander up to pretty Old Manali, and a return through the forest nature reserve. The lower exit gate was locked.A clamber over a wire fence, under barbed wire and through an electricity sub station, brought us to the town centre, where we booked the Dharamsala taxi. In the evening we had a fine dinner of trout and chocolate and lemon dessert, in the garden restaurant of Jimmy Johnson's Lodge, founded 1920. It wouldn't have disgraced a flash Brighton restaurant. We wandered back to the Shingar, past the Jupiter Hotel "For Comfort and Delicacy." There are now 4 other rooms occupied.

31 August. 7 hour taxi journey down the Kullu Valley with its high wooded slopes, and then along the wider lush Kangra Valley to Dharamsala. That's a workaday town. The real Tibetan and traveller action is 500m higher up, but 10km by road, in an old hill station - McCleod ganj. We booked in at the Kareri Lodge, with astonishing views from our bedroom down the valley, until the low cloud blocked them out!!

 

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Misty Mcleodganj

1 Sept. A heavy storm overnight brought a clear morning, with the views from the bedroom visible again. We breakfasted on the terrace of Nick's Italian Cafe, with a couple of eagles soaring overhead, but soon lost touch with them as the cloud moved in again. A monkey clambered over the terrace. We wandered to the Dalai Lama's Temple complex. It is a utilitarian building, but with some artefacts rescued from Tibet, and with local Tibetans prostrating themselves to pray. Monks were having a public lesson in debate, in groups. Two or three sat fairly placidly, while another, standing, made his points to them volubly, stamping and clapping. The Tibetan Museum illustrated the sad history of Tibet over the last 50 years.

The town is curious and attractive. Probably 90% of the locals are Tibetan, with many woman in trad clothes, and a lot of monks.

Mcleodganj
A couple of young female monks (nuns??) had loud American accents - what would mum in Minnesota think? Many monks had prayer beads - quite a few had mobiles. As for the Travellers - well they encompass every sort imaginable. Men with long grey hair, earrings and purple baggy trousers, young backpackers with huge rucksacks, Australians in shorts. Us. We all. locals and tourists, wander through the very narrow streets, mainly in mist, with the cows, dogs, mules, beggars, autorickshaws, motorbikes and taxis. The bazaar has dozens of internet cafs, ordinary cafs, hotels, trek agencies, money changers, small groceries and wine shops. In the side alleys, they sell fresh veg weighed on old fashioned balances. It all makes for great people watching.

 

Sun 2nd Sep.

Debate
Throngs of Tibetans are heading towards the Temple complex. We follow. It's a Sunday special cultural/ variety performance, being televised. Hundreds of Tibetans, with 2 schools given prize view, sit on the ground. The blue trousers/ blue V neck school one side, and the grey trousers/ green V necks the other. The great and good, presided over by a stern-faced headmastery Lama, looked on from seats. First the trad dancing. Then a Morecombe and Wise double act, which had them doubled up. Finally the masked dancers, with rhythmic singing, then most oddly joined by a man dressed in trad female dress, and a monkey-masked man, whose exchanges again had the audience in stitches. Fascinating. Very few western or Indian faces around. At the end the senior lama gave a press conference, and the prefects cleared up after the schoolkids.
Sunday entertainment

The heavens then opened for an hour, and we sat it out in a cafe. Skies cleared, so we walked the 4 km to Bhangsu waterfall, a popular spot with Indians up in the hills for the day. Many paddled in the icy waters. Down below a group of monks had stripped off, and were washing each other in a big pool. Another group were video-ing each other. On the way back we met up with a young English girl doing volunteer work after graduating. It made for interesting conversation over lemon-ginger tea.

The place is busier today, partly because it's Sunday, but also because the Dalai Lama is here for 3 days to give public teaching. We noticed in the Temple that lots had taped down cardboard "seats" with their names on already - a touch of the towel on the sunlounger??...

Norbulingka Institute
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3 Sept. A trip to the Norbulingka Institue, where trad Tibetan crafts are nurtured. Some beautiful work. In the cafe, an English matron was on her mobile to someone in England. She asked this person, obviously soon due in India, to bring out Waitrose baguettes, as a monk friend was very partial to them!!!She then spoke in Tibetan to the waiter.

Back at the hotel, we could hear the Dalai Lama's teaching session carried on an excellent sound system.

Off to Dalhousie tomorrow - the taxi booked for a early start. It used to be the hill station for Lahore. Will we be getting Raj style luxury at the Aroma n' Claire hotel?

 

martinskelton says:
It continues to sound wonderful and to read beautifully. Hope the birthday was suitably intercultural, too. Here's to two more months of thrilling travel.

Martin S
Posted on: Sep 08, 2007
maliya9 says:
Hi Hilary, Sounds like you are having a wonderful time! My 3wks in Zambia seem a bit pale now! Back at work now :-( Look fwd to seeing you on yoru retrun and hearing all about it! Take care Bob x
Posted on: Sep 08, 2007
The watchmender
The watchmender
Old Manali
Old Manali
Misty Mcleodganj
Misty Mcleodganj
Mcleodganj
Mcleodganj
Debate
Debate
Sunday entertainment
Sunday entertainment
Norbulingka Institute
Norbulingka Institute
Dharamshala
photo by: jeaniejeanie