Just a short walk around the hillside, we visited the local buddhist temple set on another promontory, the first operational one of my trip, indeed my life. Suitably adorned with bright colours and prayer wheels, inside there was also the garish idolatry of a golden buddha and other deity figures, to which offerings had been made. Buddha seemed to have a particular penchance for Cornflakes and Hobnob biscuits. I also had to summon the attention of a guardian monk after I discovered an empty whisky bottle in a velvet pouch had been left outside, that raised a chuckle, maybe buddha had been a secret tippler too! Sods law applied though, we had also come here to enquire about the possibility of sealing an audience with the Dalai Lama since his home in exile was just down the hill at nearby Darramsala. Unfortuantely he had only just announced that day that he would be taking a few weeks break from the endless round of handshakes, he was getting on a bit after all. What we did manage however was a very similar corroborree with the 18th Karmapa, a guy I'd never heard of until Kaira revealed it to be the main impetus for her visit. She explained that there are 4 ancestral lineages within Buddhism, each following slightly differing belief systems, the Dalai being the headman of just one of them, though he does tend to be the international figurehead. A taxi took us the half hour to the temple at Sidhburi on another tortuous crazy mountain track, whereupon we arrived to find a fine modern temple alive with crimson clad monks. In the end Kaira was disappointed there was no ceremony or even handshake from the Karmapa, but a train of devotees and inquisitive tourists passed by and bowed in turn, and received a token length of red cord from him with a doubtless symbolic knot, me included. Just a 21 year old guy and still studying, it was like he was just going through the motions, he had a kindly face though and looked like he'd make a good rugby player. The rain turned thundery and then to hail on the way back. After savouring the novelty of beer, pop music and English all together, we made a point of trying Tibetan food for a change. Chow Chow was not dog but perhaps predictably like Chow Mein instead, but Momos were small fried or steamed dumplings reminiscent of the staple Georgian fare Kinkhali but better. Not bad.
8th February McLeodganj
With dodgy weather we took another short walk past characterful buildings and still stunning views through the alpine forest to check out the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. It turned out to be a charity based hostel complex for more young refugees, part of whose education included the promotion and retention of Tibetan culture. There was to be a dance performance the following evening but that was too late for me and the others didnt seem to be interested, a pity. Shunning the rain, I spent hours on the net researching flights this day only to finally discover the shattering news that all of the cheap airlines and online travel agents had ceased accepting international credit card payments due to an upturn in fraud. Having no means of booking, it seemed I would be unable to fly in this country which didnt bare thinking about considering my aspirations and the distances involved.