Scorpions 'r' Us
Here's a little pal Andrea found under the bed two nights ago.
This is the sign outside Pops. Florida. Did I tell you?
This is a temple in the middle of the heart of McLeodganj. I think this picture really gives you a clear idea of what it's like in McLeodganj - spiritual and commercial, cheek-to-jowl.
This truck, which seems to be a supply truck, was trying to get down the street in McLeodganj. It's nearly as wide as the whole street. After much fuss, it finally got disentangled, but in the process it tore the tin overhang of one of the shops.
This is the "crazy circle" at the top. Andrea and Chunzom have adopted that name - officially it's the bus stop circle. Just uphill from here I discovered something really cool: the place where the cabs go when they're not busy. There are about 40 cabs up there, and there's an office that you can call to get one. This is what the hotel people call when you ask for a cab. The number is 01892-221034. They seem to give honest rates, but you have no choice of which cab you get from here, so if you're fussy and want to shop around for the nicest cab, it's better to go down the hill to His Holiness' temple - there are always three or four cabs hanging around there, and you get to negotiate with an individual driver.
When we got to McLeodganj the first day, we arrived a little after dark. The sight that greeted us was intense. Downhill, most of the color is in the cars and the fields. When you get up here, the Tibetan sensibilities take over, and it's a riot of color. At night, after eleven hours of India, the impression was intense.
We had arranged to stay at the Hotel Tibet, which I think is a nice hotel. Anyway, the restaurant is very nice. But we got a pretty crappy room, with no screen on the window and no fan overhead. And the bathroom was tiny and scary. So we wound up ditching the next day, which brings you back to my comments about Hunted Hill House at the beginning of this series. The folks at Tibet House are very nice, and very honest, and I think if you get a good room it's probably a nicer place to stay than Hunted Hill House in some ways, but we're happy where we are. Sharon has a bit more of the hard-bargaining western capitalist thing going, but she's really taking good care of us, so I don't fault her for it.
The owner of the Green Hotel says his rooms are a little nicer than Hunted Hill house, but admitted that he hadn't seen the rooms there. The rooms here are 800 rupees, he says. I don't know if they're cheaper when His Holiness isn't teaching - it's quite possible. That's Nancy's theory, anyway.
The ride back from the teaching last night was intense - at about 10:00 in the evening, the rain started to come down in buckets, just as hard as the first day of the teaching, but this time it was during the teaching, and we could hardly hear the Lamas over the rain. But we could hear them, and the teaching was pretty intense, so we stuck with it. When the teaching ended, there was a brief lull in the rain, and we managed to get out and find our driver - it was Amit again.
I heard Kim Stanley Robinson, in Escape from Kathmandu refer to the drivers in the Himalayas as Homeric heroes. I think his description was apt. Amit is not a large man by western standards, but he has nerves of steel. He drove us, at night, in a monsoon downpour, with no road lights because the power was down, for an hour, and delivered us safely to our hotel in Dharamsala, and was shocked (but happy!) when I tipped him extra for his trouble.
Since his holiness' teaching is over, the population of westerners in town has dropped substantially. The beggars are out in force, desperate for a last bit of baksheesh before they head back to the lowlands. It's a bit hard to take - I would love to be able to make them happy and comfortable, but at the same time I am fairly certain that whatever I give them will wind up in the pockets of the man who brought them up here, so giving them money won't help them. It's a really awful situation. I think, too, that they know that a lot of the remaining westerners are down the hill, so it's like running a gauntlet coming up the hill. They wouldn't let Nancy get in the taxi.
Andrea is down in Lower Dharamsala with Nancy and Chu; they're having lunch and she's looking for a sari. I'm recovering from my adventures today. It's about time for me to run the gauntlet in reverse. Sigh.