As the Beatles said, “she’s got a ticket to ride” and so the long awaited journey begins to India, visiting wintery Madrid on the way, a delicious little stop to see a dear friend and catch up proper.
Airports always provoke an interesting feeling inside, the world is yours, especially when you are solo traveling… do, don’t, here, there, never mind, whatever, no biggie… same but different.
After a 2.5hour flight I landed in Dharamsala from Delhi, approximately 500km north of Delhi’s capital in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Kangra in HP is located at the foothills of the Himalayas and you can begin to appreciate their snowy white peaks from above. Once I landed, I decided to take the more adventurous and of course, much cheaper route, walking outside of the airport about 1km and over to the next town where the bus station is located. For R30 / €.35/ $.44, I travelled 22kms by bus to the main town, switched onto another bus and drove up another 10km to Mcleodganj. Riding local is interesting, especially as a solo traveller you are just with yourself, in silence, observing people, their behaviors, watching the little shops and stands you pass along the way, signage in a foreign language, and people getting on and off the bus… not really knowing where your stop is but also at peace that you will find your way.
My next stop took me to Mcleod Ganj at the foothills of the Himalayas, also known as “Little Lhasa” or “Dhasa” it is also a place called home for the Tibetan government in exile since Chinese occupation in 1959. The streets are filled with little textile, mala, tonka, chai shops, monks in robes dressing the streets, westerners and Indians, and loads of Tibetan street food.
The Vijaya Stupa located near His Holiness Dalai Lama’s temple represents the purity of Buddha’s mind, the goal of those who wish to live a more peaceful life, understanding the origins and causes of human suffering.
On the crest of a hill above McLeodGanj, Dharamkot is an attractive spot that presents a wide view of the Kangra Valley and the Dhauladhar ranges. There are many guest houses and home stays- very nice local experience. Rooms run from R400 / €5 / $6 per night overlooking the hills with Himalaya views.
This forest hills with the Himalayan views or as Indians call it Himalias, brought me to Tushita Meditation Center above the town of McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala – the seat in exile of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It is a place for contemplation, meditation, and silence – in my case, my first stop upon arriving to India, which undoubtedly added an interesting lens of perspective for the whole experience.
Back in November of 2016, I travelled for 2 months, beginning in North, then traveling more central and ending in the South- all these regions being drastically different to each other. This was already a year and a half ago and I’m not surprised it has brought me back here. On my first trip, I did a 10 day Introduction to Buddhism course, open for anyone interested in learning more about Buddhism, and the Mahayana tradition. This course was residential, providing food, accommodations, daily teachings and meditations at an unbelievable price of less than $100 / €80. Naturally this doesn’t come close to justifying the price for what you come to grasp and begin to understand about the Dharma, Buddha’s teachings and how this begins to change your world and life perspective.
On this trip I did a 9 day residential retreat focusing on Medicine Buddha. This was a tantric retreat using malas, mantras, prayer and visualizations for healing. The course was almost entirely in silence, although you have a group discussion once a day to talk about life experiences, the teachings and contemplate on the philosophies.
This was my humble abode at Tushita Meditation Center, curled in under the blankets for the cold nights and mornings. Luckily there is always a bottomless supply of hot chai or lemon ginger honey tea and when the sun comes out you can warm up quite fast!
This is the main temple Vajrasattva Gompa and where the introduction courses and our teachings are held as well as free daily meditations from 9:30-10:30am, open to the public when there are no retreats or intro courses scheduled. Definitely worth a visit!
Here we are, alive and well after the residential Buddha Medicine Retreat at Tushita Meditation Center, taking a photo in front of Lama Yeshe’s stupa.
This takes us to approximately 1.5 hours from Dharmkot, Dharamsala hills where you can appreciate this trail on a waterfall hike with contrasting red flowers with the barren mountainside as well as view the permaculture hillsides.
My bags are packed and I’m out the door, and whom to greet me down Bagsu Road, by total surprise, a fortunate and serendipitous encounter with my friend, Shedup. He is a Tibetan monk that I met on my first trip to India, practiced and studied yoga together in Rishikesh. Happy to hear he is learning English because I have still not committed to Tibetan classes.
And we say good bye Tushita, the green mountainous landscape, the trekking, the Himalayan snowy peak views, peaceful people, the hot lemon ginger tea mornings, street momos and the space and place to just be.
This is for now as my India journey continues. Where to next? Stay tuned!! Message me for any questions, I’d be happy to provide more information about my experience at Tushita Meditation Center or you can visit tushita.info
In the meantime, where will your next leap take you? Yes, you’ve waited long enough. Get out there, find joy and “Be the dream”, every single day. Thinking about the next trip or a new destination you’d like to explore? Tell us where!