Let’s start with the title. Have been meaning to write a bit about Mcleod for a while, but with non stop working weekends I just didn’t have the patience to sit in front of a computer anymore, even if it was something for myself.
So when I finally got down to it and opened this page, I was wondering what to put as the title to this blog post. So, I asked my best friend, who was my summer travel buddy this year and was with me in Mcleod.
This is what she suggested – ‘Exploring McLeod with Miss Super-Grumpy-in-the-mornings’
To which I had a counter suggestion – ‘Exploring Mcleod with She Who Must Not Be Woken Before Noon’
The story behind it? As our not so creative titles above suggest, my dear friend was a scary person to drag out of bed in the mornings. Hence, I decided (co-decided) to leave the beautiful Dalhousie on the day of my birthday even if it meant spending the whole day in a old local bus, so I reach Mcleod in time for Budh Purnima.
My wish was to be in Dharamshala and visit the Dalai Lama palace on 30th April (a day after my birthday) , on Budh Purnima, but there were 2 buses from Dalhousie to Mcleod. One early morning and one in the afternoon.
So of course we took the afternoon bus, since my best friend wasn’t a morning person. 😛
The title suggestion made me realise how this trip wasn’t just about Mcleod, but also about my first trip ever with my best friend. ❤
After that long bus trip, once in Mcleod we realised our hostel was not exactly what we pictured or what Hostelworld’s website pictured. The Backpacker’s inn in the photographs and reviews had shut down and re-opened in a nearby building. Not the same.
So long story shot. My 25th birthday was – interesting.
Which meant the next few days in Mcleod had to be good. And I feel…. despite everything, the spider on my bed, the water scarcity in the hostel – the couple of days were good.
30th morning come, my plan was to find a good breakfast spot and I just to drag both of us to the famous Illiterati cafe
Now, I knew my dear friend was vegetarian that day and I just assumed (of course) that the cafe would have veg options that could tempt her. But I was wrong.
So the guilty me, just quietly sipped on a cup of delicious coffee and gorged on beautiful crepes with chocolate orange glaze….
Yes, I was feeling terrible that my friend was hungry. But the beautiful breakfast in front of me was a good distraction. 😛
Next stop of course was the Dalai Lama palace.
Now I’ve been to monasteries, and at the Dalai Lama’s residence I was expecting grandeur but I was pleasantly surprised to see a community. The two of us just strolled the campus a bit to hear monks chanting. The voices combined echoed through the halls and it felt like something powerful moved inside us. Moments like this, make me believe that a soul truly can be independent of my physical being.
No, we didn’t get to see the Dalai. Yes, I did go to the office and inquire (and yes, I had tweeted, emailed and Facebook dm’d His Holiness’ office)
But apparently the office lists down requests of people who want to meet him, and once they have a big enough group they host a teaching session. Well, hope there is a next time for me.
After this, my attention went to my hungry friend again. We found a local restaurant within the temple campus itself and for once I didn’t care if it was from my list or not. I just needed some vegetarian food to feed my friend. And we got it.
The noodle bowl was nothing special, but it was delicious, and wholesome and everything a hungry person needs.
They say our personality, mood and everything around it changes when we are fed. I witnessed the smile that spread across my friend’s face the minute she tasted her food. Minutes later the large bowl in front of me was licked clean. She even photographed the empty bowl to show her mother. Proof ^
Of course now that the food was in both our systems. The next few hours flowed in quite well. We walked along the hill station. Commotion, cars, bikes, tourists and monks. All around us. A stark difference to what we saw in Dalhousie but Mcleod Ganj had it’s own charm.
We walked towards the St. John in the Wildnerness church and I admit the reason I wanted to visit the church was the name. It was so aptly named. In the middle of the Deodar trees, an old cemetery and the 166 year old church that survived the 1905 earthquake was like one out of a story book. And with it’s own story, the bell that was destroyed in the earthquake was replaced by one specially bought in from England. The Governor general who loved the church and Dharamshala so much is buried next to it, his wife who loved him took back Deodar trees back to Scotland as a souvenir….
So many stories. The tombstones didn’t have epitaphs that struck me, but I’m sure that they had stories of their own… I wonder if the few minutes I spent there counted as a story of my own?
Sure… Didn’t the two Goan girls find fellow tourists who sang Christmas carols (with the wrong words) inside the church thinking it’s a ‘Christian Prayer’ – (Yes people like this exist)
Didn’t the two Goan girls, best friends walk around the churchyard taking photos and wondering what to do next? A small story, a travel memory, but a story still.
Next stop was coffee of course. Don’t even remember what the coffee shop was called. Just remember that I managed to get a photo I like… Do you?
The next day, we stopped by for more pancake and coffee for breakfast.
This time the Crepe and Pancake Hut.
This time I wasn’t the only one feasting on delicious looking crepe’s and coffee.
After that breakfast, we set out to explore a couple of places around Mcleod that called out to me when I was planning our trip.
One was the Gyuto Monastery It had an interesting structure and on a sunny day promised a snow capped mountain background view, it was a nice stop over but the highlight for me that day was the second thing on my list.
Norbulingka is a Tibetan cultural centre, to preserve and protect the rich Tibetan art and culture. It’s a beautiful place and deserves a couple of dedicated hours. The place has restaurants and cafe and a beautiful monastery inside.
The temple itself was peaceful and a nice place to just sit down and close your eyes.
But what gripped me were the workshops. The guides from the institute show you the different workshops that Norbulingka hosts, including wood carving, painting, metallurgy and weaving. Watching these artists hard at work, with such focus and precision is inspiring even to a lazy, talent less soul like me. All I could afford to purchase were postcards and incense sticks for my mother. Maybe one day I will go back with a little more money to spend and purchase something even more beautiful.
This already feels like a long enough blog post, I don’t even know if more than 2 people will read this. But it will stay with me. As a small travel memoir, of my first visit to Mcleod Ganj. One I would read and reignite memories of the monasteries, coffee shops, the old church and of course my cranky but my lovable best friend.