Just to assure any concerned readers right away, my mood is significantly better than when I last posted! 🙂 I’ve managed to get some perspective since then and could chill out and enjoy the rest of the time in Delhi (and the food – have I mentioned the food?? 🙂 ). I’ve also had the wonderfully exciting news that I’ve become an aunt! My sister had her first child, my nephew and godchild Martin (who is a large part of the inspiration for this whole trip), on the 30th! 😀
The last full day in the city was relatively quiet. We’d had it in mind to go see a couple of tourist spots around the old town, but when we went to the local market to run a few errands, our guy at the kiosk told us to be careful – a controversial court decision was coming out that day about a disputed holy site in Ayodhya in India that both Hindus and Muslims lay claim to (for more info: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11435240 and for some pictures: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11444353 ). We’d seen lots of security preparations in place all over Delhi for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, but this was nothing compared to the police and army force that was on duty that day. As a precaution we decided to keep it local, but even in our quiet neighborhood, we had our bags searched when we went inside a McDonalds to buy some water, and there were military personal ready with machine guns in front of any larger commercial and public locations. Thankfully, things remained calm and there was no violence.
The next day we left early (by our standards 😉 ) for the airport – it was time to head back north! We flew in to Dharamsala and hired a cab to take us up to Mcleod Ganj. Right away it felt great to be there. I just love this landscape so much. The sun was beating down at the airport in the valley. We had the windows rolled down for the twisting cab ride up the narrow mountain roads – you could feel the seasons start change during the assent. The weather remained sunny and bright, but the quality of the heat changed – somehow the power had been knocked out of it and now it was the residual warmth of early autumn – and every once in a while there would be a gust of fresh cool air as we would turn a corner. The light is different too, taking on that metalic quality that I love, melting from gold into silver as the summer passes and winter approaches. Knowing that it is full on fall back home (my favorite season!), it’s feeling great to experience at least a bit of autumnal weather. 😀
It’s great to be back in Mcleod Ganj as well, although it’s somewhat different from the last time I was here. The town is not as quiet and peaceful. There is a significant increase in traffic – we’ve had occasional problems walking around because of numerous traffic jams. While the honking in the street isn’t up to Varanasi levels, it’s much louder and more frequent and less benign (everywhere else I’ve been, the non-stop honking isn’t due to aggression; as far as I can tell it is just a means of communication with your fellow driver. Here, drivers seem exasperated and pushy) and when the traffic isn’t too thick, the drivers are barrelling down the narrow roads at recklessly high speeds. There is an increase in the number of tourists too (Western and Asian), and although we got lucky with a place to stay on the first night, it took a whole afternoon of getting turned away from hotel after hotel until we found a free room for the rest of the week: The Dalai Lama is coming. In fact, if rumor is correct, he is due to arrive today. He’ll be giving a series of talks over the next three days. I have to imagine that getting in to the talks at this point will be next to impossible, but we’ll still try our luck at the Tibetan Welfare Office if and when it ever opens (closed yesterday due to Gandhi’s birthday, and I heard it was closed today too). 🙂 So, I am keeping my expectations low, but do keep your fingers crossed for us! 😉
On another note, I keep trying to post more photos from the group trip, but so far it’s been a pretty slow and frustrating process doing so on WordPress with the sort of internet access we’ve had. I will make it happen eventually though (I hope!).