Hiking in Dharamsala

After a dusty, bumpy, traffic-packed 2-day trip north, we arrived in Dharamsala.  Eight years ago, I lived here as an intern, earning credit towards my MPH by doing a community assessment with local NGOs through a host agency called Cross-Cultural Solutions.  There, I met Raja, the project director, and we quickly became friends.  It was unthinkable to come to India and not get up to Dharamsala and spend time with “Uncle Raja.”

A few years ago, Raja and his fiance, Elise, built a mud house in the Dharamsala village of Gamru.  Like all of Dharamsala, Gamru is a village stretched across the side of a mountain.  It is at about 6000 feet, and the walk is steep.  To get there, you have to use a footpath going around the mountain. It is easy to get winded walking up and down to the market and the house.

The day after we arrived, we took a walk with the kids up the mountain side a bit, along a water diversion path, and then into the valley and back up to the house.  When we set off, we were met by several donkeys, walking unattended down the road.  Elise told me that they make the trek all by themselves: they simply wait at the arrival spot until their owners to load and unload them.

As with most walks, Kate tired out quickly.  Paul and Raja took turns carrying her.  Raja joked that he would have no problem carrying her, as he carries heavy packs on his trekking trips (Raja runs a fantastic trekking company).  Paul warned that unlike a pack, Kate “squirms.”  Raja got to experience this first-hand as Kate directed our walk:

We followed the donkeys for the first part of the walk.  The peaks in the background are the Dhauladhar Range.

Will bounced, flung, jumped, ran, skipped, and stumbled his way — following Raja’s every step.

Except when he stopped to stretch out on a rock.

We passed a group of men working on some water diversion — unclogging the water ways and other water control concerns.  In one area, the wall was being repaired and getting across was a bit difficult (as there was a decent fall on the other side).  One of the men walked through the water (holding his pants up) to give us a hand in getting across.  Very kind.

For the most part, the channel was easy to walk along, though.

This is the view of the valley…

Kate loved the mountain water and stopped often to wash her face.

Here are some examples of the water works…

After climbing up, around, and over… we went off the path and started down.  That’s Paul and Elise far down the side of the mountain.

Here are Raja and the kids headed down.

Down in the valley, huge boulders were strewn in, with water rushing all around.  Will had endless rocks to scramble.

The rocks were all sizes.

The water was cool and fast.  Most areas were shallow, but with the long walk back, we wanted to stay as dry as possible.

Lots of sounds of rushing water — and views of mountains in the distance.

Will loved wading in the water.  He was dry for less than a minute.

Paul tried to relax.

Kate tried to pee and ended up having an accident.  We washed her in the river.  Then she fell in a few times.  So did Will.  In addition to both of them soaking themselves in the river water, they scrambled up and down rocks with enough stumbling and bumping to cause Paul and me at least four episodes of heart failure.

Kate stopped to poise for cuteness.

Luckily, Kate’s diarrhea started AFTER this trip.  Will and Paul had been struggling with tummy issues, but Kate’s recently took the prize… resulting me in going to the market to buy her more pants.  Those pants lasted only a few hours.  She is doing well, all things considered, and eating voraciously.  But with all the tummy issues, we’re lying low in the mountains for a few days so the kids can recover in what they consider to be paradise!