Epic Family Journey

7 days in Tibet (or almost)

For the second part of our trip in the North of India, we chose to spend time in the city where a large population of Tibetans, including his Holiness the Dalai Lama, found shelter for the last 60 years. This allowed us to kill two birds with one stone since we couldn’t visit Nepal or Tibet during this trip. If several people refer to Dharamasala as the hometown of the Dalai Lama, it’s actually a little further north in McLeod Ganj that he settled with his community. We rented two rooms in a small hostel which also served as a community center and as a school mainly for the Tibetan monks. McLeod Ganj is really unique because it is a small city where many Tibetans, Buddhist monks, Hindus, hippy travellers and several volunteers amalgamate. Here’s all the highlights of our week in McLeod Ganj.

Visit to the Tsuglagkhang complex

This visit is the main reason many people decide to visit McLeod Ganj. It is indeed the complex that regroup the main Tsuglagkhang temple, the temple of Kalachakra, the Tibet Museum and the residence of the Dalai Lama. The two temples are authentic Tibetan shrines, featuring colorful hand-painted murals and several relics and statues. Some of the artifacts have been saved from destruction over the course of many years of exile while some others have been recreated based on what was found in the old Tibetan temples. In comparison with the churches that we were able to visit across Europe, those temples were rather modest, which both surprised and saddened us. Unfortunately, the exiled Tibetans have been left with very few resources. The very interesting Museum of Tibet tell the story in detail of the invasion of Tibet by China, of the exile of the Tibetans and of the assimilation and persecution that have never ceased. This museum is free and aims to inform the visitors about the situation of the Tibetans people and while we already knew about some aspect of this story, all of this was new to our children. This story touch us even more after spending a week surrounded by so many nice Tibetans people.

Enchanting little waterfall 

Lovers of the great outdoors that we are, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to go and see a small waterfall. If our friend Julie, who visited this region fifteen or twenty years ago, advised us to visit this peaceful and quiet little place that nobody visits, the situation has changed today. The path to the stream was filled with shops and street vendors and the waterfalls were unfortunately overrun by dozens of people. A small additional hike of 10 minutes however enabled us to have the top part of the falls for ourselves. The rivers are very important gathering places in India. It was interesting to observe, from the top of the waterfalls, women who were doing their laundry,  adults and children swimming and goats and wild horses drink from the same stream.

Hiking the Triund Mountain 

The trek of Mount Triund is the first leg of the Bharmour trek which normally take 5 days. We’ve unfortunately missed our shot at the planning stage and we have not planned any long-term trek. We are a little disappointed because this hike seemed fantastic. We have nevertheless made the first six kilometres which lead us to the summit of Mount Triund. This hike was beautiful as it was zigzagging the mountainside and offered some great views of the mountain range. To add to our happiness, some French children happened to pass us by and were joined by our boys, they did their best to distance us maximum. Nothing is more peaceful than to walk in nature without having to push young people forward or to have to answer to their ten thousand questions :). At the summit of mount Triund, we discovered a small community mixing travellers, tea shops selling a small selection of snacks and meals and some small rental company providing tents and other materials to hikers. The view was beautiful and we took the opportunity to chat with the parents of the French kids while our boys were playing with their new friends. Since this family lived in India for the last fifteen years, they were able to answer our questions and gave us some good advice for the rest of our trip.

The Cooking Class 

Gluttony is one of the main reasons why we wanted to visit this Tibetan corner of India. When we lived in Montreal, several years ago, one of our favorite restaurant was the Tibetan restaurant “Chez Gatsé” where the specialty were delicious “momos”, a kind of Tibetan dumpling. Since there are no Tibetan restaurant in Calgary, we well intended to learn the secrets of making the momos to be able to prepare them at home. This activity was a great success because once again, the whole family got their hands dirty. Indeed, the children were able to take part in all the stages of the making of the momos and were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Karine discovered herself a real talent in making beautiful raviolis. We now have the recipes and technique and we promised ourselves to play a little with the ingredients and to be creative when we do this back home. We will be glad to prepare these small treats for our friends in one of our little thematic dinner when we get back to Calgary, for those who know us well, start thinking about your costumes 🙂

All in all, we really liked our stay in McLeod Ganj, even though this city is quite small and does not have the spectacular attractions of other cities across India. It was really good to enjoy the fresh air of the Himalayan mountains and live in this “mini-Tibet” for a few days before heading to the busy golden triangle of India.

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