There’s not a lot of time for us left here in India. And before we go we made plans to spend a night in the mountains by trekking to the snow line at the base of Moon Peak above the ridge known as Triund. Borrowing a tent from one of the volunteers, a nice young Dutch man named Ruud, we set off at the crack of dawn to hike up the mountain. It took us about four hours, and because the path is so steep you rise in elevation pretty quickly. We felt just how out of shape we’ve become! It was a really tough climb. But the reward was one of the highlights for our entire trip abroad. We spent the night alone atop the mountain with just one young local Indian man who lived up there in the summer to manage the Snow Line “Café” – a pile of rocks with a tarp pulled over it. He was our only companion for the evening. It’s impossible to really describe the experience, but our photos tell you more than we could ever do in words. This was Karen’s first tent experience. And the good news is, she thought it was a lot of fun! So hopefully there’s another camping trip sometime in our future.
We finally booked our flight tickets. It was about three days’ effort to try to reach Cathay Pacific’s office in Delhi in order to change our flight from May 15 to July 1. The phone lines here are completely unreliable, even using the STD (that’s a telephone shop that caters to long distance calls here) in McLeod Ganj. We could never attempt an international call from the Centre. The monkeys have chewed through the telephone wires so many times, the phone works only intermittently when it works at all. But after three days of aborted attempts, no one answering the Cathay phone, or running out of coins before the time ran out, we finally got someone live in Delhi and they changed our flight. We have mixed feelings. On the one hand we are tired, and have been really sick a couple of times. But on the other hand, this is a special place.
With just four weeks left before we somehow get ourselves to Delhi and then the flight home to Vancouver, we have been trying to see as much as we can. We have two meditation retreats, ten days each, between now and then, so we do our sight-seeing in day trips.
These last few weeks have been amazing. We’ve seen the Dalai Lama twice, once when he was just six feet from us. You don’t have to be a Tibetan Buddhist to know there’s something very different about him when he’s near. His Holiness has been in McLeod Ganj giving teachings for the last few days, but these talks have been exclusively for monks, so we were never able to speak with him. Instead, we joined a large crowd of other people outside the temple and waited for him to leave. He interacts with the crowd before returning to his residence or getting into his car after the teaching.
His presence is a big deal here. Today, as his car drove through town to take him back home from a remote monastery nearby, the streets of McLeod Ganj were lined with people as word spread that he was coming by. All business stops, the shops close and everyone stands outside to wait. There is a huge sense of excited anticipation among the crowds of adults, monks, nuns and children. As his car slowly drives through the streets, he holds out his hand in a gesture of loving kindness and blessing. It’s pretty emotional standing there among the crowds as you can see how much the experience means to the Tibetans.
Running the Centre has been a lot of work, and there’s not much we would share publicly about the things that happened. But we have learned so much about our own meditation practice and ourselves. Much more than we could ever have imagined, in fact. We feel a deep gratitude for our good fortune that led us to this point. We would love to stay away and live here for longer, perhaps journeying further afield in India to explore more of all of this. However, we feel we’ve been away now for 5 months and we never want to think we’re avoiding real life. So we’ll return to Vancouver and prepare for the adventure of moving across the country to Toronto to start a new life.
In one sense, these last few months have gone by so quickly. But it also feels like we have lived another lifetime since we left BC politics to head across the ocean here to Asia.
We’ll try to write one more time before we leave.