Sure, the steering wheel is on right side of the car, but that doesn’t mean you have to drive on the left side of the road. In India, any gap in the road is a lane. Cory shot some video of the trip from New Delhi to Chalets Naldehra in the NW Himalaya. Our driver, Padam, preferred driving the mountain roads at night because “you can’t see the drop-offs.”
We spent the night of June 5 in Dharamshala to explore McLeod Gunj and visit all the Buddhist and Tibetan sites in this area. This area has been the home of the exiled Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama for the last 50+ years. We first visited the Temple of the Dalai Lama in McLeod Gunj, also known as Little Lhasa. We just missed his Holiness by a day, but it was quite a site to see the hundreds of monks and refugees sitting in prayer as if their homeland would be returned to them tomorrow.
During a quick shopping tour, one of the store owners told us about Norbulingka down in Dharamshala that was set up by the Dalai Lama to keep the Tibetan language and cultural heritage. In our search for Norbulingka we also discovered the well hidden Gyuto Tantric University.
On the road from Shimla to Dharamshala our driver, Padam, stopped to check the rear right wheel of our Mitsubishi Pajero to find some of the bolts loose–not something you want when driving the hair-raising bends of the lower Himalayas. By this point we had just come across the Beas River and we were able to cautiously drive to a mechanic 8km away. Within about and hour and a half, the mechanic had the wheel secure and we were on our way.
In the pic above, one of the mechanics takes a curious look at Kunal monkeying around with the tools. While we waited, I tried to make friends with a curious bull I named Marlboro (below).
Monkeys rule India, especially around any Hanuman Temple. Cory drove an expedition to the granddaddy of all Hanuman temples, Jakhoo (pictured above), on top of Shimla’s highest peak at about 8,000 ft. The statue (pictured) is under renovation, but after dodging hundreds of monkeys up a very steep, 30 minute walk, you can’t help but be in awe of it.
Along the way up, there are numerous warnings to secure all personal belongings and beware of the monkeys–obviously to be mocked:
One of the monkeys must have not liked my act because as we left the temple, I let my guard down and a monkey took less than a second to: leap from a side wall, place a foot on my back, arm on my right shoulder, snatch my sunglasses from the left of my head and leap away. By the time I realized what happened, the monkey was already 20 feet away with the frame in his mouth–the lenses having popped off during impact.
To get the glasses back one of the street vendors threw a little bit of food to the monkey and the tree bandit nonchalantly tossed the sunglasses to him. It costs Rs10 (about 22 cents) to get it back from the vendor.
Monkeys can generally be found just about anywhere in India and we continue to see them all over the road, but they especially congregate in crowded areas. When the guide book tells you to bring a stick, you should bring a stick.
After a nice week in New Delhi we traveled north on June 3 for a relaxing weekend in the mountains. Shimla is a popular tourist destination and the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. It used to be the summer capital of the British Raj and has many luxury hotels and amenities.
Here we had a visit to Kunals alma mater, the Bishop Cotton School, where he spent his formative years and marveled at his name posted on just about every record board–his record for awards in a single year has yet to be beat.
We celebrated Kunal’s 30th birthday over looking the north-western ranges of the Himalayas.