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An excellent morning! We had breakfast at the Hotel Tibet again (the banana pancakes weren’t as good this time), then went to the taxi stand to wait for the taxi for our morning trip. One of the excellent taxi union stands, so you don’t have to argue with drivers for ages – 500 Rs to go to Kangra and back, including waiting time!

Two guys piled into the mini van (driver and sidekick), and off we went. Kangra is about 18km south of Dharmsala. As usual it was a bouncing, hair raising ride full of close escapes, noise and madness. We stopped in the streets of Kangra when the roads became laneways, and we walked up the hill through tiled market lanes lined with bright temple offerings and plastic toys, to the temple of Bajreshwari Devi. Apparently this was once legendary, but it looks pretty run down these days. We took off our shoes, but luckily no one enforced the ‘socks off’ rule, as strolling over marble tiles covered with grot didn’t appeal. Even so I hit a wet patch.

It’s hard to describe a Hindu temple such as this, but I can’t say I’m too impressed with Hinduism yet – from my limited knowledge I can’t shake the impression that it seems to be a primitive religion that very effectively keeps the poor poor. But then I’m not a fan of religion in general.

A guy at the door wanted to charge 10 Rs to bang a drum. There’s something vaguely idol-worshipping about it all, but that’s probably a completely ‘western’ value judgment in reaction to the strangeness of their pantheon of gods. 

There was a spectacular Himalayan backdrop to the temple compound though. 

Back in the taxi we drove up to Nagarkot, an ancient fort on a hilltop overlooking a spectacular ravine. I really enjoyed visiting this place as I felt overdue for a dose of spectacular ancient ruins!

A sign by the road leading up to the fort pronounced ‘Jehangir took it in 1620’, but the fort began in about 1009. The British also held it for a while. A spectacular position; several gatehouses lead up to a main complex. There was hardly anybody around – peaceful and incredibly beautiful. At last a chance to take lots of photos!

The whole trip cost us 600 Rs. Back at McLeod Ganj we had lunch on the roof of the Ashoka, from where I’m writing. It’s quite sunny and warm.

A really fun evening too. We met the two people (Claire and William) who are also catching the train to Jaipur, and organised to share a taxi with them to Pathankot on Saturday. Then we decided to see the film starting in the ‘video hall’ – 10 Rs to sit on a wooden bench in a small room and watch a poor quality pirate copy of a very bad American romantic comedy called She’s the One. The power in town failed twice during the film.

The sun had gone down when we stepped back out into the muddy street. After a break back at the hotel, at about 7:30pm we went out again for dinner and had a delicious vegetarian meal at a Tibetan place called Tsongas. Good vegetarian – garlic vegetables and mushrooms, rice and ‘mo-mos’ (vegetables in pastry, a bit like a wonton). Then to Hotel Tibet for a coffee where we were invited to join the table of a stoned Irish guy who looked like an extra from Oliver Twist, and his large silent Tibetan friend.

After coffee we went back to the video hall to catch a showing of Starship Troopers, which despite the poor tape quality and sound was really entertaining and a lot of fun. Yep, the usual amusements – dinner, coffee and a movie, only we did them all at the feet of the Himalayas in North India! It felt very weird as all the travellers emerged out of the hall into the quiet muddy lane and off to their various hotels and guest houses.

A wonderful day in the north of India.

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