Today I was supposed to travel to Dalhousie, but there had been a recent snow storm and there is still snow falling, so i decided not to risk delays on the road (India is not prepared for snow like we are back in Iowa) and hang out another day at my hotel at Strawberry Hill.
I rode in a taxi up to Naddi Hill, then hopped out to begin exploring the village further. My guide from the previous day had suggested that after Naddi Village that I walk on a trail through the forest that connected Naddi Village to Dharamkot. I thought this sounded like a great plan. The weather was like a splendid early Spring day back in Iowa, the sun was shining, and I thought it would be very tranquil to be alone under the mountains, alone relishing the solitude.
Before I got out of Naddi Village, to my delight I met three persons who identified as “third gender.” It is a legally recognized gender here in India. These three were a delight, and we had a great time taking photos of each other. They loved to pose! (especially “Sweetie) She was a real ham. I then meandered through the small village, stopping to talk to people I met along the way and of course asking them if I could take their photos. Indians in general I have found love getting their photo taken, and love posing for selfies with the photographer. I was very intrigued at the architecture in this town. There was a wide mix of old mud houses, very colorful one and two story wood houses and newer construction of more concrete. It looked like a mixture of Aspen does Mexico does Costa Rica. The sidewalk I was instructed to follow led me all the way to the beginning of the cedar forest.
I followed the path into the forest. Huge cedar trees surrounded me. I could see the snow capped mountains off in the distance. I soon came to a group of secluded monk huts. Many of the monks in this area remain in seclusion up in the mountains, in caves, or in the forest in small huts. They only come out to get provisions and then return. I met one monk walking from one hut to another. I asked him “Aaap Kaise hai?” (How are you?”) and he smiled and answered “Tee kay” (OK!) and I waved and continued on my way. I sat down on a hill facing the mountains and sun and meditated for a while, took some photos and ventured on. THEN, the trail ended. I was deep in the forest and had no idea which way to go. There was still a bit of snow on the ground, and where it had melted the ground was quite slippery and wet. I tried to find footprints or some sign on the ground that someone had walked here before me, but i didn’t find any. At one point i slipped and fell and tumbled down the hill side, slamming into a tree. I was just glad my camera was not damaged! I seriously didn’t know how I was going to get out of here. But, i breathed deep and told myself that it would work out.
I then saw two women collecting sticks, and i called out “Dharamkot?” and they pointed up and behind me. I thanked them and turned around and climbed back up from where I had fallen. I kept walking and walking and walking and still I could not see any trail. It reminded me of the time my cousin and I had climbed a mountain in Kentucky and got totally lost coming down. I stopped to catch my breath and take a breather, and just then I happened to look up on the horizon and I saw what looked like the top of a white car driving! I knew there had to be a road up there, so I climbed straight up the hill, falling and slipping many times, but i finally reached the top and there indeed was a road. I decided to go right, and after a bit another car came past and i again said “Dharamkot?” and he pointed in the direction that I was going. Eventually I came out on a road that led into Dharamkot, right to the front gates of Tushita Meditation Centre, where I had gone last year. What a relief!!!
I then had a chai, ran into my guide from the day before, and then hopped in a tuk-tuk and headed down to McLeod Ganj. I had made plans to meet a friend of mine who I had met last year, and he was waiting in town at the Dalai Lama Temple. We had lunch at the Peace Cafe (which included a banana lassi!-YUM) and then I jumped in another taxi and went back to the hotel. It was a fantastic day filled with sunshine, great people and delicious food.