Doug & Mom: 3/23/99

McLeod Ganj, India
Tuesday, 3/23/99
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McLeod Ganj had some good internet options, and we used this place (right) several times. Geek details: it's four Windows 95 PC's in a peer-to-peer network, with a single 28.8KB modem shared by all, running an unregistered copy of WinProxy. The young Indian man who works there was very sharp, but he probably won't be doing this forever -- he was studying some type of med-school exams on a spare PC while customers used the ones shown here.

We've taken some long walks around the area outside McLeod Ganj (the ridge above Dharamsala where we're staying), and it's been a nice break. The weather is very cool, and once you get a hundred yards outside McLeod Ganj in any direction there are no more hawkers of souvenirs or beggars.

This morning, I walked back down the road toward Dharamsala to a cemetery we passed on the way into town yesterday. It was the first cemetery I had seen in India -- the standard practice of cremation doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing, of course. Turns out it was a British cemetery from the 1860's through 1880's. Many stone crosses, and a lot of tiny infant-size tombs, in a clearing on the steep hillside below the road. The walk back and forth was a little harrowing, though -- the buses and taxis bringing tourists to and from the ridge go very fast, and I swear they deliberately come very close to pedestrians just for fun.

Later this afternoon, we both took a walk up to the top of the ridge opposite the hotel. We went about two miles on paved road (but no traffic to speak of up there), and then another mile or so up a steep rocky trail. It was great to get away from the crowds (there was nobody within sight of us most of the time), and we had a good view back down across the valley to our hotel from the top of the ridge. We thought we were going to walk to Dal Lake (not the famous one up in Kashmir, but a little namesake down here), but the maps are unreliable and none are to scale. So what we thought would be 2-3 kilometers turned out to be about 13 kilometers (according to a British girl we met on the trail), so we turned around and came back.

There are quite a few tourists who have bicycles here, and it seems to be a great place for that. We talked to people from several European countries (by their accents, I would say French, British, and German) who were bicycling around the mountain roads. The paved roads are very good, and the roads above the tourist area are pretty deserted, with spectacular views.

Tomorrow we go on to Shimla, and we're planning to hire a taxi. It should be about a 5-hour ride. We're both getting ready to return home, and most of our conversation in the last day or two has been about how disgusted we are by the filth and the boorish behavior of many Indians, both of which seem to be direct results of the "that's not my job" attitude that the caste system promotes. Too many grown men relieving themselves along the road, too many lazy waiters who won't bring the check until you ask several times and then get up and stand by the door, too many pushy young men on the street, and, well, we're not in the best mood to recommend India right now. It's fascinating to see, but after a while you really appreciate how courteous, compassionate, and CLEAN people are back home. I think after this trip I'll complain a lot less about people in the U.S.

Anyway, enough of whining. On a more positive note, here's something we've seen in McLeod Ganj that an incurable dog-lover like myself can enjoy: the older Tibetans actually have pet dogs that they seem to take good care of. We've seen men and women with dogs on leashes (something you don't see in other Indian cities), and we haven't seen even one of the ubiquitous three-legged dogs that have been everywhere else we've been. And this morning we saw a little old Tibetan man slowly shuffling up the street, carrying a little old terrier dog in a cardboard box. The dog and the man were both looking straight ahead, with clear eyes and very dirty faces, and it was my favorite site in India so far. Then we went around the corner to a little bakery, where we bought two American-style cinnamon rolls while trying to ignore the stream of raw sewage running down the hill between our feet and the pastry counter. Schaumburg never seemed so cool.

We'll e-mail again from Shimla if possible, or else this weekend in big bad Delhi.

- Doug & Mom

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