“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live.”
McLeod Ganj is a bustling little town nestled high up in northern India at the foothills of the Himalayas. Despite wide belief that the hometown of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is Dharamsala, it is actually this wonderful little town that is his home in exile.
Since the Cultural Revolution in Tibet thousands of Tibetans have taken the perilous trip over the Himalayas for the safe sanctuary that this town provides. The Tibetan culture is so strong here that it now has the nickname ‘Little Lhasa’.
I flew into Gaggal airport which is a short taxi ride away from McLeod Ganj where you are instantly greeted by the peaks and troughs of the majestic Himalayan range.
Straight away a yearning was born to get higher up to see the full beauty of what was on offer from this incredible landscape. A few days into the trip I learned of a trek that could be done in one day that affords you a wonderful up close and personal view of the snowy peaks I had seen in the distance.
Armed with water, snacks and many layers of clothing we set off a week later to climb up to this place which is commonly known by the locals as ‘Triund’. Straight away our band of two became a band of seven as five local dogs decided to accompany us all the way to the top.
Something told us that this was their way of ensuring a daily meal or two from many unsuspecting tourists who were easily smitten by how cute they were. And their endearing ways had us pulled right in there with the best of them! Two hours into the climb we stopped some local people to ask them was it much further.
The glint in their eyes accompanied by scoffs of laughter confirmed we were nowhere near where we wanted to be and had to toughen up if we wanted to get to the view we had heard so much about.
The day got hotter and hotter, the climb got steeper and more perilous as we found ourselves weaving around and up the edge of the mountain with nothing but a seemingly infinite drop to our right to make sure we kept our focus. At one point we turned a corner and could see the path winding and winding its way upward and beyond, which at the point in time made our feet ache that little bit more.
Three quarters way up to the top, although we didn’t know it at the time, we came across a little house with a shop selling food, drink and beautiful raw crystals cut straight from the mountain. It was there we got chatting to other climbers who were Nepalese and did this climb regularly. Their advice was ‘slowly slowly’. Armed with more water, extra biscuits for the dogs and fantastic crystals for friends and family we set off once again.
About an hour and a half later, we were so high that snowflakes gently falling all around had replaced the blistering sun and we thought we must be near! Another quick check in with some locals passing by in the opposite direction confirmed we had guessed right. Inching our way up the last winding pass we came out into a view that can only be described as incredulous!
Snowy peaks towered over us in the nearby distance bringing about genuine humility at the true power and beauty of our dear Mother Gaia. It was one of those times in life where you are totally present to the mercy we humans are at when it comes to her leniency towards us and all the harm that we do to her.
The mighty strength coming from those mountains was so intense that one could only feel respect. And as I looked out over the Himalayan range I knew in my heart mess with Mother Gaia and there would be only one winner…so why as humans do we not see this? When will we learn?
P.S. As for the dogs well they followed us all the way back down and at the end of our journey ran back into their respective houses!