229 flights. Or so says Anna’s iphone’s health app.
My legs were nowhere near as prepared as they should’ve been to trek up Triund. It took us (me, Anna, and two friends we met on the nightbus from Delhi ~ Conor and Matt) 5 ish hours to make our way up the rocky path, through tightly-wooded forest and stomach-dropping cliffs to the saddle of the mountain. Once we reached it, I fell onto the grassy slope and breathed for a few minutes. In the sunlight it was warm, the kind of warm you want to drink in, the kind your skin relishes. In the shade, I could tell the night would be bitterly cold.
The guys already had a tent, so Anna and I had to go find one to rent. The first seller we asked wanted too much, so we found another. 600 Rupees for a tent which we soon found to be a piece of sh*t (hilariously) as one of the poles had no elastic binding it, and the other pole was broken and haphazardly taped together. It was snug, though, and we set up camp quickly.
The sun set earlier than usual because of a large cloudbank above the horizon. When its rays had melted into purples then dark blues, we made our way to one of the scrap metal-tarp shacks to seek out dinner. I ended up with a cup of tomato soup, Anna with mushroom, and we sipped our scalding dinner as the night’s chill deepened.
Going to sleep was a bit of a challenge ~ I was cold to the bone so had a billion layers on… plus adding a liner to my sleeping bag, I spent at least an hour baffled by all of the layers of cloth I was trying to sleep in. When I woke up in the morning, I had somehow pulled the top part of my sleeping bag closed and had burrowed effectively into my layers.
The sunrise reminded me of everything I adore about mountains. It slowly ascended, its sharp and yet soft rays leading it forward. Stray light dotted the mountainside, and the air became a lovely mix of nighttime giving way to day.
This (above) is Anna and Nawang, a monk Anna met at Bogdo Cafe and I met the next day, at the same cafe, because he offered to teach us Tibetan. Our meeting ended up leading to korra around His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s temple. The korra path is pretty long, perhaps 45 minutes, and deeply green. I should explain korra: from what I understand, it’s walking around a spiritual place, with compassionate intent ~ often people say “manis” (Om mani pemme hum, which is a mantra for the wellbeing of all sentient beings) as they walk.
Nawang is a hoot. He is so patient in teaching Anna and me Tibetan, but often laughs at us (for some reason, who knows). Once I dropped a ring off the balcony of Bogdo Cafe and Nawang followed me down to the undergrowth below, using a shovel to pry away at the stinging nettle blocking the ground so I could find my ring. We had the whole cafe outside, surrounding the bushes, one guy helping to push back trees and everyone else watching and laughing.
Our apartment has pretty much become a home. The balcony is still my favorite place in Mcleod Ganj, a perfect spot to sit and drink homemade tea (Tulsi black tea + honey + a dash of rose tea), or to watch the sun set through the pines, or to watercolor. Also, the sun spends about 4 hours a day streaming through our plentiful windows.
My independent research project has shifted, a bit. I’ve spent a good amount of time with the Clean Upper Dharamsala Programme, learning about their approach to waste management. Through them, I’ve begun to look at sustainable tourism. I went to the Environmental Development Desk at the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) and learned about their approach to environmentalism.
Through my experiences so far, I’ve begun to realize that there are many different approaches to environmentalism here in Dharamsala. There are political influences as well, since the Indian government has began a “Smart City” project ~ which hasn’t really gone anywhere yet ~ and the Municipal Cooperation isn’t as reliable as it should be.
All of the questions are nearly overwhelming, but I think a picture is beginning to form.