Monthly Archives: November 2011

Hot Springs and Ancient Temple

Vikram, our Indian friend and knowlegable guide of 6 years suggested we take a daytrip to visit these 2 sacred places.  we travelled about an hour up and donw the steep mountain valleys towards the hot springs only to find out that the bridge that is supposed to go over the river nearby has not yet been completed. we walked along the river and scouted out some crossing places. the jeep slowly plowed through the river in a shallow spot and we took off our shoes and socks and carefully made our way over. well, I should say this is what Joseph and I did. Kelley and David leapt across boulders and rocks in about 30 seconds made is safely and dryly to the other side!

as soon as we entered the first pool of the hot springs, a group of enthusiastic young boys jumped in and played. here is Kelley sitting with her feet in the warm water.

a woman came and washed some clothes in an adjoining pool and I went to explore the women’s pool. SInce there were only young boys and no men at the site, we could enjoy the more public pool. this hot water has been streaming out of the mountains here for longer than anyone can remember.

ABOVE: this is a small temple at the site of the hot springs.

When we finished here we waded back across the river and drove again up and down the valleys and mountains enjoying spectacular views of geological wonder as we made our way to this mountain top temple.

ABOVE: this temple was carved into the mountain. after centuries of erosion and earthquakes much of it has slid and crumbled and disappeared. we had a geat time exploring caves carved into the rock, inricately carved figures and animals, gods and godesses.





ABOVE: Vikram and Joseph enjoy a quiet moment at the inner temple shrine.

ABOVE: Kelley joins them.


One of HH Dalai Lama’s main focuses shortly after the tibetans arrived in India was to preserve and protect Tibetan culture. This includes language, performing arts, music, religion, government, traditional medicine. In this regard he can say there has been success. Norblingka is a ‘campus’ dedicated to the above.  we visit this place every time we come here to be reminded of the energy and commitment deicated to preserving this rich culture.

ABOVE – this is the inside of the temple in Norblingka

ABOVE: this is a butter sculpture – an art form perfected and practiced by Tibetan Buddhists

ABOVE: this is the room where students are painting thangkas. this is a 3 year course of learning the styles and themes of traditional Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting. these pieces of art are desired all over the world and also in temples (new and old) so these men and women are learning a skill that can support them for life.

ABOVE: thangka painter

ABOVE: metal sculpture is a 7 year training program. these students are producing Buddhist icons

ABOVE: here are the happy travellers (David, Kelley, Vicki and Joseph) tibetan prayer flags and a glimpse of the himalayas are behind us.


want to know how to get in shape really really fast? just climb up and down these stairs a few times a day.  i haven’t counted them yet but I am sure there are over 100. they are various depths, sizes, lengths and interspersed with water pipes, water, missing blocks and ‘shortcuts”. when we walk them after dark it gets really challenging! this is the view looking down. you can only see about halfway….


this is Joseph standing (catching his breath!) at one of our resting places.

another view looking down


when we get to the top we catch our breath and start up (UP!) the street to shops, eating places etc. the town of McLeod Ganj perches on the ridge of a hilltop of 9,000 feet. we are always walking up or down very steep streets – amidst the autorickshaws, cows, motorcycles, people walking, beggars, cow patties, shoppers and school children. the dogs have tucked themselves in every corner – exhausted and sleeping all day so they are ready for another night of howling and patrolling their territory. some nights we can hardly sleep because of the fighting and barking.


First Trip to Geden Choeling Nunnery

We met our Tibeten school teacher friend, Lhakpa,  and arranged a visit to Geden Choeling Nunnery to talk with the nuns that are helping Simple Gifts. Lhakpa’s English is very good so she fills in the blanks in the conversation when we are all looking at each other blankly. we got an update on the children Simpe Gifts is sponsoring and also some ideas of some new short term projects that we may embark on.

it was great to see Ani Wangmo again. Of course, three years have passed since we were here last time, so she has grown (I think she is about 17 years old now) and her English is better too. This is the first time we met her new room mate Ani Kunsang, who – along with Lhakpa – have been our liaison with the children we are supporting. She is also very soft spoken, and has added words of appreciation  to us from the families of the children.

It was hard for awhile for me to be in the room where Ani Choenyi and I sat and had so many great conversations, lots of laughter and where Simple Gifts was born. (Ani Choenyi passed away in June 2009 – after our last trip to MG). I offered a picture of Ani Choenyi to Ani Wangmo but Lhakpa explained that in their tradition, they did not keep pictures of those who passed on.

I went to the nunnery office and made a donation for a special puja (ceremony) for Ani Choenyi.



Arriving in Our Mountain Home

Our trip to McLeod Ganj was uneventful – which is the way we like it! we took an internal airline from Delhi to Kangra, a flight of about 90 minutes. We were picked up at the airport and at our guest house an hour later – in good health and spirits. This time we decided not to take the harrowing 16 hour bus ride to McLeod Ganj so that we did not have to take two days to recover – although looking death in the face for hour after hour can be a life transforming experience! but twice is enough!

our hotel perches over the edge of the mountain ridge (like everything in McLeod Ganj (MG) and consequently we have spectacular views of the activity in the valley (villages, goats, firewood gathering..) as well as the view of the himalayas. there is a roof top cafe so every morning we climb up 2 flights of stairs and enjoy our chai, yogurt and fruit and the conversation of any guest who feels like talking. we have met russians, hungarians, indians, americans – the conversation is always lively and enlightening. our perspective of the ‘world’ is so limited by our media, so we learn so much when we hear from people around the planet. perspectives on religion, politics, communism, american politics and activities, climate change etc.

the first morning Joseph took his circumnabulation of HH temple and home. walking alongside (or being passed by) the very old Tibetans, as this is part of their daily practice. HH is in Japan right now and will return next week. the day is not publicised for security reasons but the grapevine will let us know what day it is so.

the air is clear, the sky brilliantly blue – we have been sunburned already – as it is not so hot, but at 9,000 feet we are closer to the sun!



We are in Dharamsala.











well….my experience of Delhi has not improved. it’s just too big, too busy, too smelly (exhaust and God knows what else) and we were really ready to leave after a day and a half.  the time change still makes it hard – up at 4 am and ready to crash at 7 pm. we try and try to stay awake later than that but not much success. one day I slept 14 hours – a little tired I am sure.

we did go to the Baha’i temple – one of my all time favorite places in the whole world. the peace is unbelievable. everyone enters in silence and so for awhile there is the fluttering of saris and slap of bare feet. everyone settles into some prayer time and then like a flock of birds rising to fly away – they exit the temple. (Joseph’s beautiful image). we sit in prayer and in peace – shanti.  people from all religions and walks of life together in the quiet and beauty.

white marble, views of the sky, lotus formation and 9 reflecting pools. exquisite.

we started to chat to a man on the street and he – with usual Indian hospitality – showed us a pure veg restaurant where we enjoyed our first yummy Indian meal.

off to mcleod ganj

Hong Kong

What an extraordinary city – we spent three days wearing ourselves out from morning til night to try to absorb as much as we could. the time change is such that we wake up around 4 am – ready to get on with the day. the ‘bakeries’ are a wonderful place for us to pick up some food since being a vegetarian in this city doesn’t leave alot of options. at the shop i buy a red bean bun and a chestnut bun which I enjoy very much and are pretty much my mainstay for the rest of the time. Joseph samples a corn cheese bun that gets the ‘thumbs down’ – he is the adventuresome eater/taster – not me. thank goodness we actually find a vegetarian restaurant and have 2 meals there which are fresh and delicious.

last time we were in HK it was hard to escape the smokers. every restaurant is filled with people smoking – even in the middle of their meal! On july 1 smoking in public places was banned – how wonderful!

off to delhi