Students travelling to Dharamsala, India in 2017
The Journey Starts
The Journey begins with great excitement at OR Tambo. Moms and Dads seeing their young travelers off. The traveling is part of the fun. We boarded Etihad Airways heading for Delhi via Abu Dhabi.
With a connecting flight from Delhi to Amritsar, we had finally arrived at our first destination. Amritsar, Punjab The streets were loud and colourful jam packed with the hustle and bustle of the mix of cars, motors bikes, Tuk Tuks, bicycles all announcing their presence with wild hooting. We quickly got in on the action and piled into Tuk Tuks that took us from our hotel to the Golden Temple and to Bother Dhaba (restaurant) for our first of many delicious Indian dinners.
Walking the streets
Walking through the streets of Amritsar making our way to the Golden Temple. The people are beautiful and so friendly, and there is always time for a photo.
The Golden Temple glows brightly against the hot night sky. It is spectacular. The heat is quite overwhelming to get used to at first, but you do surprisingly quickly. The religion of this region is called Seekism. To enter the temple you must take off your shoes and cover your head with a scarf out of respect. The crowds are peaceful and dedicated to their beliefs as they make their way around the giant lake in the middle.
A quick pit stop
The general stores on the side of the road are an adventure in themselves. A pit stop for us to buy water, toilet paper and the odd snack or two. Compared to the South Africa, everything is super cheap. A big bottle of water cost 20 rupee which is the equivalent of about R4.
Our first full day Amritsar
Day 2: Our first full day Amritsar. The streets are alive with markets and kiosks and bright fabrics and interesting smells. It’s exciting just to walking down the street and taking everything in.
There was alway time for a selfie!
The soup kitchen
We visited the soup kitchen at the Golden Temple. Our guide took us into the kitchen area to see how they prepare meals for over 10 000 people every day. The kitchen operates solely on donations and volunteers and it works like clockwork. The rich dine next to the poor in the soup kitchen because they believe that everyone is equal. It’s fascinating to see the scale on which this kitchen operates.
Volunteers and visitors from all over the world are welcome here. Tea is a huge part of their daily culture. Milk Tea is a staple drink. Their theory of drinking hot tea in the hot weather is f you increase your inside body temperature the hot outside temperature will not feel so bad… and it works, we were all big tea drinkers and the end of the trip.
One of the many modes of transportation through the streets.
Institute for the blind
We visited the Institute for the Blind Amritsar and were lucky enough to have a sit-down chat with the principle of the school, and have a guided tour. Opening our eyes to their daily struggles. The smallest things we take for granted are big challenges when you don’t have your sight.
India / Pakistan border
This celebration happens every day to celebrate the peace between the two countries and watch the lowering of the two countries flags while the border gates are ceremoniously opened for a short while. Dancing in the street, running with the Indian flag and watching the soldiers progression added to this amazing experience of peace and tolerance. The most incredible part is to see the same celebration taking place in Pakistan which was only a few meters away.
Hit the road
Day 3: We hit the road from Panjab to Himachal Pradesh heading north into the mountains on our way to Dharmsala… of course with a few tea breaks along the way.
The first glimpse of the snow-capped Himalayas from the deck of our Kunga Guest House & Restaurant in Macleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, India takes your breath away.
More of the view of this beautiful and quaint mountain village. This is where peacefulness lives. The Indian government has given this area to the Tibetan refugees who are in exile from their beloved homeland. The Tibetan culture also lives here.
Macleodganj - Himachal Pradesh
Town Square in Macleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, India, was our meeting spot. The atmosphere is tangible, the restaurant is in the trees and we couldn’t wait to explore all the corners and learn all about this magical place.
Daily life continues and education is of the utmost importance to the Tibetan community in their fight to keep their culture alive.
The quaint village streets of Macleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, India.
One Two Café
One Two Café Mcleodganj Interesting people and a good Cappuccino started off our day and a very good note.
The Kora prayer walk
The Kora prayer walk.
Tibetan prayer wheels
The Tibetan prayer wheels on the Kora walk are a method of prayer. There is also a wall commemorating all the Tibetans who out of pure desperation have self-emulated in hope of bringing light and attention on the cause of the Tibetans.
Cows are holy animals
The view from the Kora walk. Cows are holy animals in India and there are many stray cows wandering the streets.
Hiking through the forest in the Himalayas.
An afternoon spent watching the learned monks loudly and enthusiastically debate on topics of philosophy and quantum physics. It is fascinating and very entertaining to watch. The Dalai Lama’s Temple. Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.
We met Kusho Bagdro #MonkOnAMission, an amazing monk who was A Tibetan Political Prisoner, spoke to us about his book entitled A Hell On Earth about his experience in a Chinese Prison. He spoke about how he survived and overcome his anger and is now on a mission to tell the world about the Tibetan cause.
Tibetan Children's Villages
We visited the Tibetan Children’s Villages to learn more about these homes that care for and nurture the young Tibetan children and preserve their culture.
Meeting the children
Meeting the school principal, and the little ones and seeing the precious baby’s home is quite overwhelming.
Beautiful little souls
We had the opportunity to visit one of the junior classes and interact with the children. We played with them and sang songs. They are beautiful little souls.
The group donated some winter jumpers and beanies to the children, who were very excited.
One of the highlights of the trip was definitely meeting the hermit monk in the forest, who invited us to sit with him and answered some of our questions about life and happiness.
Tushita Meditation Centre
Tushita Meditation Centre was a significant visit on the trip. The young travellers attended a meditation class.
The beautiful grounds Tushita Meditation Centre was the perfect setting for some quiet, reflection. Meditation teaches mindfulness and peacefulness. Travellers from all over the world gather at this retreat to practice meditation.
A sharing session after the mediation on each person’s experience was a very emotional and powerful and significant point on the students’ journey.
The Dalai Lama
The most unbelievable and unexpected highlight of the entire trip was being granted and audience with his Holiness The Dalai Lama. We were privileged to be the only group for the day to be asked to join His Holiness in his private lounge for an up close and personal chat. What a surreal experience.
Conversational English class. We had the opportunity to have a one on one conversation with Tibetan monks and Tibetan students. The English classes are to help them with their vocabulary and pronunciation.
The Hope Gallery
The Hope Gallery is a very special photography studio. The students did a self-branding session here, illustrating what the trip has meant to them and what they have learned about the meaning of life, mindfulness, and happiness.
Momo (delicious steamed potato and cheese dumplings) were a huge hit and ordered with enthusiasm at dinner every night. We were lucky enough to have a cooking class with Lhamo’s Croissant. He gave us his secret recipe so that we can recreate these delicious little bites at home.
We made the long journey from Dharamsala to Amritsar, hopped on a plane from Amritsar to Delhi and into a taxi and hit the road to Agra, en route to the iconic Taj Mahal. We visited this wonder of the world before 7 am in the morning because any later in the day the heat and the crowds become a bit much.
The spectacular architecture, and moving story of the TAJ MAHAL – Agra, UP was magical to experience in person.
Some retail therapy at the Khan Market in Delhi, India Ajmal Khan Park, Karol Bagh, New Delhi.