So now I’m at Naddi village, about 6 km. up the hill from Kashmir Cottage. The road goes from McLG to Dal Lake and then over the ridge a bit further, ending about 100 m. from my accommodation. I’m here to get closer to the Dhauladar mountain range, and perhaps even get up on top of a ridge for a big view if the weather permits. When I scoped out this place last Monday, it was gloriously clear and the mountains (ranging from 11 to 15,000 ft.) were just stunning. Today, the veils and curtains were drawn, although I could see to the other side of this huge river valley, and got a glimpse of fresh snow on high peaks around sunset. Rain and snow is forecast, so I’ll take each day as it comes.
Being here in Hindu India once again makes me realize just how circumscribed the Tibetan settlement in McLG really is. Restricted to a single ridge top and lone mountain for the Dalai Lama’s residence and temple, McLeod Ganj is a tiny island in the vast sea of India. There are other islands as well in the lowlands, most significantly the Norbulinga Institute that preserves Tibetan graphic arts and the Dolma Ling nunnery that Rinchen (one of my two hosts at Kashmir Cottage) helped to establish. But that’s about it. I’d imagined the scale of the Tibetan government in exile to be larger as well but it too was in a very compact area and looked rather run-down and decrepit. The large central courtyard remains unpaved and littered although it should be some kind of showcase cultural center where Tibetans and visitors are welcomed.
On my first walk from Naddi village and my accommodation at Udeche Huts, I ran into a kundalini yoga ashram run by some overweight woman. Beyond that was a locked gate that stopped further progress. An international school is also in the vicinity, as is a waterfall, but I couldn’t find either on this trail. This afternoon, I revisited kind of consciousness last tasted in September and felt a surge of relief as only natural sounds greeted my ears: wind, riversong, bird calls, and that was it. Namaste! I had the feeling that every step on the trail was new and fresh, taking me further, deeper into the reality itself, now manifest after months of imagination and expectation.
And so how will the Dhauladar mountains reveal themselves? or will they?
Fog and clouds veiled them on arrival and through most of the afternoon, although just before dusk I did see upper ridges with new snow. I’m grateful for enough light in the river valley, enough to see homes perched on terraced slopes, rockslides, pine groves, a little Vishnu temple way up on a ridge–and above that, at the very top of this mountain that is only a foothill in the “outer Himalayas,” the stone ruins of an old fort or lookout post, surely 8,000 ft.