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Forever Young

Here is a cover of Bob Dylan sent to me by my friend Jon, I think its pretty impressive.  Now I’m not going to say the L word here, I don’t want to embarrass anyone but I’m pretty lucky to have him in my life and I miss him. Cheers mate.

Photo by Maria Sirotkina, Moscow 2009.

Dharamshala (Mcleod Ganj)

If tourists say they are going to Dharamshala to see the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government what they really mean is that they are going to Mcleod Ganj, a hill settlement that sits above Dharamshala.  Unless of course they have an aching desire to see another standard Indian town.

My journey to Mcleod began in Rewalsar, I mentioned this place earlier, the very quite and tranquil holy place for Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus where I had chilled for a few days.   I wont write much about it but I left there with a feeling of peace and  do recommend checking out if your passing through.

The ride to Mcleod was pretty uneventful, there was the usual random Indian in the middle of nowhere staring out into space. If you haven’t been in India you would never have witnessed this phenomenon. It doesnt matter where you are you could be miles from anywhere, in some remote area and you will come across an Indian just sitting or squatting, you will have no idea how he got there, and you do ask yourself this question, or what he’s doing but he will watch you go by and then possibly return to whatever it was he was thinking about. Its one of the deep mysteries of the sub-continent.

Mcleod, when I arrived, it was a nice change from the other places I had been so far, I think the Tibetan contingent give the town are more relaxed feel. I only spent four days there but in the interests of journalism  I did go and see a the Tibetan Doctor Yeshi Dhonden. For those of you who dont know anything about Tibetan medicine, neither do I, so I thought it would be interesting to check it out and see what he said. People apparently swear by it.  I had to take a sample of my urine, the fresh dew of the morning, most people had little cups for these but considering I’m an Australian male and that I didn’t have anything else on hand, I used a  one liter plastic water bottle. Woke up, opened my eyes and proceeded to fill up the bottle, I think it was at least half full. So arrived at the ‘ practice’, one litre bottle in hand and waited for my name to be called.  Now to give you a bit more background, Doctor Yeshi used to be the personal physician of the Dalai Lama and is still highly respected in his field. Plus you have to give him credit as he is 81 years old and still works six days a week.

When my name was called Dr Yeshi came ambling out, asked me to pour my urine into a big cup over a sink while he swirled it about with a stick, got a good head on it too, there was a lot of it but he seemed pretty happy for me to keep pouring while he did his thing. I was then called into his room, where he was sitting, and he then proceeded to feel my pulse.

My chocolate woody balls - I have to take about eight a day.

Now this is the big examination with Tibetan medicine. All your internal problems can be discovered and diagnosed through your pulse, and examining your urine. Initially I was a bit skeptical but I have heard things recently from different people that has caused me to be more open about the issue. Jon, if you have any thoughts, you know the would be appreciated.  The doctor then asked a few questions if I had any specific complaints, i said no but I would like to stop getting colds, he then looked at my mouth laughed a bit (why?) and prescribed a two month course of Tibetan pills. That was it.  In case your wondering the pills taste like wood and some mild herbs, I will try anything (just about) at least once, so I have already started and will see it through. Its only two months, problem is, I’m not allowed to drink alcohol.

So after that I headed to Bhagsu, a hippy enclave that is attached to Mcleod, a stress free place where I could try and sort out getting my camera. It was a nice place to wait. I met some good friends listened to the djembe beat played by hundreds of different hippies. They must have the same teacher. Look I like the ‘lets except everyone mantra’, but it was interesting to see dreads and hippie pants as like a quasi uniform, I was getting strange looks when I was wearing shorts and running shoes. My beard demands anyone’s respect though.

I did make the acquaintance of one Israeli guy by the name of Omer. We had a good laugh, he told me some Jewish jokes, which i won’t be repeating here and he informed me that he was an acupuncturist and Shiatsu practitioner. So i went ‘Why not, I will give that a try as well’. I have had both done before and was happy with the result but never together. So he stuck with some needles, and gave me a massage, honestly I felt great after wards and would do it again. He told me after one session he had pushed a needle almost the complete way through my wrist. I though it had felt strange when I had moved my fingers.

And yes, I did see the Dalai Lama, for about ten seconds as he got out of the car and went inside the Tibetan Children’s School. It was very sweet, there weren’t many people and there were little Tibetan girls in traditional dress singing for him as he came in.  We weren’t allowed inside  but that was enough for me. Someone told me that he said he wont leave this earth until there is a free Tibet, it might be wrong but it sounds good.

This is the sports field, at the school. One of the most popular areas for the kids but Suchin highlighted that this is not really their land and never will be. If locals wish to walk their cows through the the area they will do even during games, as it is considered public open space.

Suchin, he is a Tibetan orphan grew up in the School and I think he has seen his mother once. His story is not unusual but really positive guy.

Your giving me the shits.

Got sick… again, yesterday, this has been happening on and off over my travels, so I decided to check my symptoms in my little travel health book. I pretty sure I have or did have Giardia,as it is recurring if left untreated and matches my symptoms pretty well. So have taken a hit of antibiotics and hopefully that will clear it up. Seems to be working. If you dont have a book, no tv and its raining outside, being sick just bites schlong. All you can do is complain to yourself about how sick you are.

An alternative title for this post was ‘The Giarden of Secret Delights’

Whats in a picture.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am aware of the lack of photos in the more recent submissions.  I am really feeling the absence of a camera at the moment , even with just some simple things.

When I was staying in Shimla I asked for hot water and they said they would bring me a water rod. What the? Ok, so i waited and the next thing he walks in holding two exposed wires joined to some coils sandwiched between two boards.  He then puts the boards into the bucket of water and then inserts the two exposed wires into the electrical socket (I’m being observant at this time, as you normally are when live electricity is involved, and I see a spark arc in the water and then bubbles start to come out from between the boards. I’m standing outside the bathroom giving myself a good distance while at the same time looking for any loose bits of solid wood just in case the situation changes quickly.) He then tells me, as he stands there in his bare feet, that it will take about fifteen minutes to get hot and to make sure its unplugged before I put my hand in. This stuff is magic! This is when i regret not having a camera, I would love to have got a photo of it.

So please be patient, I’m doing my best to get a camera so I can bring more of these kind of special moments and hopefully some shots of the Himalayas. My next port of call.

For your ears only.

Apartmentality.

It was about this time that the cracks really started to show between Doug and I. In all honesty there had been problems for a while but things were reaching a head at this point. We had decided that we would ride together to Shimla where Doug would meet his friends then we would go our separate ways. There were many contributing factors and I know it had become stressful for us both. I am telling you this just because I believe in being honest and its a part of my journey but I would prefer to not talk about this too much. It is between Doug and I and really not for general discussion. I’m sure you all understand.

Doug decided to leave early in the morning each day as his bike was slower and I would meet him at our final stop each evening. This was the pattern that we continued in until we reached Shimla.

There was one interesting point, I had picked up some samosas and gulab jammun before I left town that morning and was looking for an idyllic spot to enjoy a bit of lunch. I reached the top of one of the hills and  found a temple sitting on top, commanding a beautiful view of the valley below. I stopped, removed my shoes and asked for permission from the sadhus , holy men, looking after the temple to sit on the grounds., which was duly granted. It was all very peaceful and relaxing and when I had finished I was invited by the holy men to come and smoke Charras with them. To the unitiated this is weed.  Now normally this is not really my thing,  if you enjoy this thing responsibly then more power to you,  my views have changed considerably over the past few years regarding this and there are much worse things in life to be dealing with but its just not my bag. This time though the setting just seemed to fit, a perfect Indian experience, but it wasnt meant to be, I had to be somewhere and there was no I was going to smoke and then try to ride my bike . So I regretfully bid farewell, maybe next time.

When we reached Shimla, we stayed one night then went our separate ways. Doug would continue on to meet his friends and head north whereas I would stay in Shimla a few days to get my head together and decide what I would do next. So I had to find a hotel, I was starting to hunt around when became aware of some internal discomfort, I had woken up not feeling so good but had thought nothing of it but something was starting to intrude on my conciousness. We had eaten at a crappy Indian place the night before which was a forced choice because at the time nothing else was open. I had ordered fried rice which tasted exactly like dirt, yes dirt. It was inedible, how do you mess up rice in India? Im sure it was a couple days old and the agent of my intestinal distress. I registered my disatisfaction with the waiter who at first pretended he didnt speak English but when I asked some other Indians to translate they told me he had been speaking perfect English with them. Very soon after I was told I would not be charged for the rice.
Back to the next day, I had started detoriating rapidly and just didnt have the energy to find a hotel. It had been fortunate that the day before Doug had picked up a hitchiker by the name of Vik, a local Indian guy who had seemed very friendly, I took a stab and gave him a call. I asked if him or his friends had a room I could rent just for a few days. Now in the past I might have been hesitant to ask someone for help like this but really who cares, they can always say no. Thankfully he said no problem and that I could stay at a friends of his, Keddy. At this point I was still thinking I could at least be sociable, so I rode my bike over to meet them. By the time I got there i was just about to throw up and my guts were being torn apart, I just asked if i could go back and crash. I always feel bad when your completely reliant on your host, I feel like I’m not doing my part but they were more than helpful. So for the next two days I just recovered and thought about things. I got to learn a lot about Indian culture from Vik, Keddy and their friends. I was, I think, inducted into their club called the Royal Peak Masters (RPM). I now have stickers on my bike to prove it, courtesy of Vik, including flames on my fuel tank. That was basically Shimla, just getting ready for the next part of my journey.

One of the other things I wanted to talk about but it doesn’t really fit anywhere into the post was something thats been happening along especially in the north. I have been meeting a lot of Russians,  i never thought I would say this but they have managed to worm their way into my heart and I find myself having a certain affection for them. There is, i think, an appreciation for any culture that comes from having lived amongst it for any extended period of time the offshoot of that is that I find myself wishing I spoke Russian much better as I have a genuine desire to want to communicate with the Russians i meet.  Somehow Russia has become a part of my life.

Next stop Mcleod Gunj, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in Exile. Time to get some inner peace.

Reader Submissions.

This was sent in by one of our readers, James D of New York City. Its a photo of his favourite Enfield. If you have any photos or funny anecdotes about your favourite Enfield that would like to see submitted on the site please email me at whitesupremacists@wevechanged.org .

” Including a photo of my favorite “Enfield”. Manufactured in Sheffield England in 1916, I named her Betsy on the evening I first brought her home, and lovingly caressed her.”

Sacrament.

I was staying at a place called Rewalsar, its a holy place for Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus. So its a pretty holy place. There is a huge Buddha on the side of the mountain and in the centre there is a sacred lake filled with large fish that get fed by the pilgrims. I started thinking if they would be tasty which then reminded me of this.

Carte Blanche

I have an Indian made map book. The distances are wrong a good percentage of the time and some of the roads in there dont exist. Others that should be in there aren’t. Adventure!.

Rishikesh to Shimla.

Doug and I had decided earlier to try and make it to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of India, in one day, covering a distance of over 200km. This might not sound like a lot but for anyone that has traveled in India this is a full day. Our average speed was probably about 50km an hour. Doug’s bike had to be kept at a top speed of 60km as he had just had the bore replaced and it needed to be treated carefully for the next 500km.

It was a fairly straightforward affair and we finally rolled into Rishi at about 7pm that night. For anyone who doesn’t know Rishikesh, it is where the Beatles stayed with the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi during their spritual enlightenment tour. They famously left after a short while after claims of sexual abuse against the guru and bad food. When asked by the guru why they were leaving apparently John Lennon said ‘Your the cosmic one, you should know’. He had a a sharp wit that guy, I really do wonder what he would be doing if he was alive today, him and Hendrix.

We pulled into a place that Doug had stayed at during his last visit here and had fond memories of. Unfortunately it had changed a bit since last time, including getting new owners. I think Doug might have been a little disappointed, as he had talked about this place a fair bit and I think he had been looking forward to seeing again some of the people he knew.
The new owners were interesting, in that they represented one common way not to run a business. Let me digress (For a change) If you are running a business, let me also iterate, the customer is king, especially in hospitality. So many places in tourist heavy areas think that just having banana pancakes on the menu is the key to success. They might get business, due to the large traffic in these areas but that’s not business, that’s just surviving. It is really not hard to do a few little things to make a place feel special and your customers feel welcome. I think that was one of the reasons that Doug wanted to return, the place looked newer now but had lost that sense of uniqueness that was present before.

So we chilled in Rishikesh for a while, i got my suspension fixed, again, after having only just done it in Delhi. Checked out some waterfalls, watched a monkey attack some kids, the usual. I later returned for a night swim in one of the waterfalls, it was beautiful. The water was flowing, fireflies were circling around and no one else was there to intrude on the scene, or see me naked.

We couldn’t stay too long as we had organised to meet some of Doug’s friends in Shimla, and although it was very nice there. I wasn’t feeling the vibe too much and was happy to move on. Our plan was to head up to the a place called Karanath, a temple up in the mountains, then backtrack to head to Shimla.

This was a beautiful ride, the road was curving and wide, with overhangs and beautiful mountain vistas. I was and am growing more confident on my bike everyday and riding becomes like your own personal roller coaster.
It was curious to see the people on the side, young and old, women and men, breaking rocks by hand to be used for making new roads. In India a lot of the time this is all done by hand. I have seen an excavation of a hillside being carried out just by manual labour. Whats cheaper, to pay for expensive machinery which you have to insure and that you have to repair if it breaks down or to employ a limitless supply of cheap labour, which can be replaced if there is ever an issue.

It was a two day ride and along the way we stopped at one village, I cant remember the name, booked a room and then went for a swim in the river. I love water, and any will take any opportunity to have swim, as long as its clean of course. (Though I have swum naked in the Vlatava river in Prague with a Ukranian – Dima it was special and I will always remember it)
The guy who owned the Hotel, was a tour guide and we asked specifically if the Temple will be open and accessible, of course he said ‘Yes, no problem’ I probably don’t need to detail what happens next but anyway we geared up and headed for Karanath and again it was beautiful ride with only one little hiccup. I  had stopped briefly to look for an internet cafe  in one of the small villages we were passing through, I couldn’t find one and had returned to my bike. I was getting ready to leave when I felt something pricking my leg, I scratched it then felt a really sharp pain, I looked down to see a scorpion fall off my leg and scurry away. It didn’t hurt too much and I wasn’t too worried because it was a long way from my heart but i thought i better do something about it. I asked for directions to the nearest doctor and fortunately there was a small hospital there.  I went inside and due to the language barrier I had to draw a picture of a scorpion, now even by my standards i thought it was a pretty accurate picture but the staff couldn’t figure it out, so they sent me to the doctor down the hall, who thankfully got it straight away and told me they would give me an injection further down the hall. I wish I had a camera with me then as there were all these Indian mothers with their children watching as I was told to make a fist then injected in the top of my hand.

That settled we set off again and made good time, arriving at Karanath ready to ascend on our pilgrimage only to be told that it wont be open for another 15 days. Well, what can I say, its India.

When reading about Karanath, i found out that there were hot springs that the pilgrims bathe and cleanse themselves in before ascending to the mountain. So I thought I’m not coming all this way for nothing and proceeded to ask for the whereabouts of said springs. This being India it took about an hour of walking up and down the hill, talking in varying degrees of English and Inglish before we found the springs. They were in a temple at the bottom of the hill. We were greeted by the temple, maintenance guy and duly showed the sacred waters. They looked a bit green and there was a nice oily film on the surface of the waters. There looked to be fresh hot water being pumped into the pool which we were informed came directly from the hot springs but again this being India i could just envisage it being connected to a hot water tap somewhere coming off the mains. I eased myself in careful to not let the water anywhere near my face, Doug came in a little bit later but said it was too hot and sat in the cooler end. I’m not going to say anything about him being a pansy. So after a suitably pleasant time had elapsed we got out, made a donation and got back on the road.

Again we had to stay in a halfway house, just a nice little village on the side of the mountain. It was here i had the best samosas I have had so far. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to eat. Its a passion for me and full time job supporting this mighty frame. So I try to enjoy the task as much as i can. Even though I had been riding at the time through the village and had only glimpsed the food stand briefly, It was enough to see that these golden packages were something different and the locals crowding around the vendor had been enough to confirm that i should return. So once the room was organised I headed back out and straight for the vendor. There was a queue, and everything that was cooked was consumed immediately, fresh. Even before I tasted them, I could see that the pastry was light and a delicate golden brown, then one bite and it was heaven. Honestly one of the best things i have tasted so far. I had three in a row. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.

At night there is not a lot to do in a village like that and you have a lot of time to think about the country your traveling through. During the day you can see the terraces that are created by the villages for farming and grazing, they look like massive topographic lines that you would find on a map. Then at night, it changes the picture quite differently. There is not as much lighting as you would find in the city and there might be something in the architecture and the way it reflects the light but every mountain village made me think of both a scene out of a science fiction movie and of little oriental castles.