By Leona Thomas
After a week in town, a Spirit voice recommended I go stay at a particular hotel. When I asked the locals they directed me to a big colonial style hotel with an inflated price. I figured my Spirit friend knew what he was doing but later I discovered there was a hotel with the same name in nearby Bagsu at half the price.
After two expensive nights in the central hotel I ran out of money. I checked out and left my luggage in their storage room.
It was an amazing feeling of freedom to walk through Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj) without any idea of what would happen next and just enough cash to get a bite to eat!
As I arrived at the main chowk (large area with many roads all converging there) I was shown by my Spirit guide to go straight and walk up the hill.
I had the coach station and main taxi stand down below on my left. My road climbed up through the forest. It was breathtakingly beautiful but there were a few hurdles to negotiate before I could arrive safely in the little village just 15 minutes up that hill....
Wild dogs were running loose and monkeys were lurking at every turn. Add to that the steepness of the climb, it made it an interesting adventure. With the tension caused by the presence of so much really wild wildlife I found it somewhat ironic that this tiny single-track lane took me right past a huge meditation centre!
Finally I turned a corner and found the teashop. I had arrived at Dharamkot.
The man in the teashop took me to see his rooms and we agreed a price. I had no idea how I would pay.
By the time I got back to the hotel to collect the luggage, night had arrived. And I realised had a problem.
There was no way I could take my suitcase up that tiny road. And, anyway, I didn't want to encounter any nocturnal nuisances along the way!
The tuktuk was 60rs so I had to get some cash from the green pirate. And then I was off up the hill via the much longer road that went round the other side of forest.
But when we arrived at the teashop it was closed. And now the village was dark. I had no idea where my room was! And I didn't have the man's phone number either.
The driver decided to drop me off in the next little lane, as there were a few streetlights there.
There was magic in the air that night.
As I walked down that lane I found a solitary man standing underneath one of the streetlights. He spoke English. And he knew where my room was.
He rang my host and then helped me with my luggage. We had to climb up steep terraced steps in the dark, startling cows out of their slumber. Finally we were there. He looked at my very small case and commented on how heavy it was.
I explained I was a sound healer and had Tibetan singing bowls in there and he admitted to being a meditator and then said,
"I'm teaching a massage class starting tomorrow and I need a body. If you're interested, come over for breakfast. My partner has some really good French coffee."
When I met his business partner the next morning she booked a sound session with me for the next day and paid 3000rs.
The tiny village of Dharamkot was like paradise on earth but I soon discovered that this verdant beauty came at a price. All those trees could mean only one thing... MONKEYS!
As soon as I left the central little town I was in the home of wild monkeys and they were everywhere!
We have all seen monkeys in a zoo but wild monkeys are no joke. They move in packs and can attack you. They especially hate it when people laugh. And I am inclined to agree that it can be annoying to be around happy people if you just want some grumpy peace and quiet! But monkeys don't know anything about being happy.
They are The Happiness Police!
They hate it if you laugh.
Because, in the monkey world, if you show your teeth it is an act of aggression.
Unfortunately the lush forest around Dharmasala (McLeod Ganj) is deeply relaxing and most tourists are very happy indeed. And so the monkeys operate on high alert. Luckily for me, it was winter and I was freezing so I wrapped up in a big scarf and laughed merrily behind it, safe in the knowledge that, whilst I may be annoying, I was definitely not a threat to my monkey friends.
I stayed in the picturesque village for 6 weeks and discovered that an Indian winter was nothing like life in the UK. The monkeys were the least of my problems...
Dharamsala Part Three
The mysteries of an Indian village winter are revealed...!