Near Dharamsala there is a small village which is not very busy with cars, and sits at the foot of a high mountain range.
It is called Dharamkort.
It could easily be called “Little Israel.”
This little Indian village is now populated with young Israelis who come here after being released from the army.
They rent a room in one of the many simple guesthouses and stay for months, or even years.
All the restaurants around the village, have signs in Hebrew and a good selection of Israeli food on the menus.
Some places do not even have signs in English nor in Hindi…..only in Hebrew, which is so strange to see.
People on the street spoke Hebrew and greeted us in Hebrew as well, when we came to have an Israeli breakfast before our hike up to Galu Devi and farther, to a remote waterfall.
There are a few ways to walk up to Galu Devi temple which is located at the start of the Triund trek.
Since we were already in Dharamkort, we walked to the edge of town and started to climb up the very steep steps above the village, and up the steep narrow goat path to the temple.
We came to a fork in the road and were not sure which way to turn….
As it happened to us before in India, somebody was always watching and ready to be helpful, even before we asked for help.
At the Dalai Lama’s teaching a few days before, we sat in a section that was full of monks and nuns, and Jules mentioned to me that we need to find out which FM channel would be used for the English translation.
Almost immediately afterwards, a man walked by us, pointed to me and asked:
“Will you be listening to the English translation?”
I nodded my head to say “yes”….
“Use the 92.3 FM channel” he said and drifted away.
In the same way the Universe loves and wishes to help us all, the answer was there before we even formulated the question….
So back on the path above upper Dharamkort, we stood there wondering which way to turn…. Nobody was there to ask directions, and we truly did not know which way to turn….
A man who was doing construction work on the roof of a far building, yelled towards us.
When I realized where the sound was coming from, I looked in his direction.
He was waving his hand to signal to us to choose the straight path forwards.
How he knew where we were going, I have no idea….. But we followed his directions and got to Galu Temple.
From there we turned left onto the path to the Waterfalls.
We walked down a beautiful narrow path at the edge of the mountain.
At times the path meandered through the forest, and at other times we had to walk over what looked like an avalanche of rocks which ran down the mountain.
A black dog with some light spots adopted us on this hike.
We named him “Bleachy” and he waited for us faithfully on the narrowest parts of the path, when we had to be mindful of placing one foot at a time and bending our bodies around boulders blocking the path.
The path was interesting, and the scenery breathtaking.
It was not a steep incline, just a beautiful trek to a beautiful waterfall.
When we got to the waterfalls and offered Bleachy a snack of one of our candy bars, he refused to eat it, and seemed very disinterested in the “award.”
He looked at me as if he were insulted that I tried to “bribe him.”
His look seemed to say:
“Do you really think that I do it for the money?….. Pfff…. I do NOT!”
At the foot of the river, the waterfalls collected into three small turquoise pools.
People were taking a dip in the cool mountain water or sunning themselves on the large rocks.
We had some lemon ginger honey tea at the tiny shack overlooking the waterfalls.
When it was time to trek back, we became aware that the sky had turned darker and that rain was definitely about to fall.
I prayed that the rain would hold off until we would be in a safer part of the hike, not hugging the single foot-wide path above the cliffs.
We walked and walked for two hours and my prayers were answered.
We were back at Galu Temple when the rain started pouring down.
We stopped and took shelter at the temple, put on our raincoats and backpack rain covers.
As always, help was there and was offered to us.
From a nearby hill, a taxi driver yelled to ask if we wanted to take a taxi.
I have no idea why…..maybe because we had already put on our rain gear….. Maybe because we discussed which path to take back to the village….. But I thanked the taxi driver and said no……
It was a stupid decision that ended up costing us a lot….
After refusing the taxi, we walked down in the gentle rain to a split in the road.
We decided to take a steep narrow stony path down, which would have taken us only 45 minutes, saving us another 45 minutes than if we had stayed on the main path.
That was our second mistake….
Almost immediately after we chose to walk down the steep stony path, the rain intensified to a torrential downpour.
The rain poured on us in buckets.
I was soaked to the bone within ten minutes….
Not one part of my body was dry….my hair, my shoes, my underwear, were all dripping wet.
It was as if I were not wearing any rain protection at all, but taking a cold shower instead with all of my clothes on.
My camera was in my pocket, and it was soaking wet as well, but I could not stop to put it away, as there was no break in the torrential rain even for one second.
On top of this, the stony path became VERY slippery with the rain.
I had to be very mindful not to slip on the rocks, and to choose the best places to place my feet.
At times, I walked into the mud, which was a better choice than the big slippery rocks, since my shoes and socks were filled anyway with muddy water.
We walked feeling miserable and soaking wet for another forty-five minutes.
Hail was hitting our faces and the rain and hail hurt my head and face.
I was praying that we would not slip and every time I looked back and saw Jules walking upright and not having fallen, I felt a surge of gratitude…
I prayed that my camera and our iPads would make it through this journey as well…..
They did not.
This hike turned out to be a very expensive one….
At the bottom of the path, we took shelter in a cafe with dozens of other Tibetan monks and people who had gotten caught in the rain.
I spoke to the owner of the cafe who went out into the rain to get us a taxi.
The taxi took us to our little cottage where I went straight into the hot shower to warm my freezing body and wash away the mud.
We washed our clothing and socks and we laid out the content of our backpacks and surveyed the damage.
Both of our cameras were fine…. So was our money, wallets and passports, which I had put in a rain protected plastic sleeve.
We also had rain protected plastic sleeves for our iPads, but we did not bother to put them in the sleeves, and both our iPads sustained serious water damage.
After two day of drying everything with a heater we borrowed from our guesthouse, my iPad miraculously came alive again.
Jules’ iPad never recovered from the water damage.
We spent our last day in Dharamsala sitting in our favorite cafe and researching how to replace Jules’s iPad.
We had found a wonderful non profit Japanese restaurant which serves only veg food.
It is called “Lung Ta” and is run by an older Japanese couple who donate all the profits to help Tibetan causes.
The place was humming and buzzing with positive energy and nice people who all share tables, since the place is incredibly popular, and even though it is not small, it is not large enough for how popular it is.
They have a new set dinner menu for every day of the week.
It is not sophisticated delicate japanese food, but it is yummy and fresh and cost only 150 Rupees ($3).
In this wonderful restaurant we had our last meal and to warm up, I had drunk cup after cup of roasted Japanese tea.
We had another bit of bad news….
Kingfisher Airlines had canceled all of their flights.
We would not be able fly back to Delhi, and we could not get anyone on the phone to refund our money.
We booked a large Taxi to take us down to Delhi.
It was going to be a long day of twelve hours of driving, including breaks for breakfast and lunch.
We left Dharamsala at 6AM and arrived in busy Delhi by 6PM.
Our guest house was located across from the ancient Humayun tomb, in a leafy upscale neighborhood.
The guesthouse was designed and built by a couple of architects who live in Boston in the US.
Our room was large and comfy and tastefully decorated.
The next day we made our way to the Vasant Kunj mall, to buy Jules a new iPad.
Replacing Jules’ iPad was a first priority.
We no longer travel with a small laptop computer, but only with our iPads.
Since we travel so much, we need to pay our bills, make bookings, and research things online, and a computer tablet is purely a necessary tool.
We got the new iPad and spent a few hours loading it with all the applications Jules uses.
Not a necessity, but as a pure indulgence, we also got for me the new Samsung notepad tablet which is famed to be able to do much artistic magic.
It felt strange to buy all those technological gadgets in an upscale mall with attendants dressed like Rajas with white gloves, a piano and Gucci and Dior stores, while outside kids walked barefoot and dirty, playing between cars and growing up in shanty tents.
India is still a place of such contradictions….
If I were to hand to one of those kids a large amount of money, would it change her destiny?….
Would she take the money to her mother and demand to go to school instead of playing barefoot in the dust dressed in dirty rags?….. Probably not.
She would spend the money and not better her situation at all, or give it to an adult who will spend it and not better their situation either.
We are better off supporting a reputable non profit organization who works to educate poor people and better their situation this way.
The prices of the iPad and tablet were higher than they are in the USA, but we have almost two months of trekking the Himalayas before we will be back in the USA, and we needed to have access to the Internet and our emails.
Tomorrow we fly to Bhutan, where we start our journey in the land which is called “The Last True Shangri-La….”