Conquest of the mud castle on the hill – Dharmalaya

Apart from retreats and courses, we never stayed more than 5 days in the same place for the past 11 months. So from the beginning we knew that joining the Dharmalaya institute to volunteer for at last one week was going to be something different. But first we had to reach there. Hidden in the Bir forest, there was no landmark to find that place. We knew there were 80 km from Dharamsala to Dharmalaya- although, the names are so similar we could have thought we had arrived before leaving!

The best description of how to reach was given by the following image. At least we knew the goal was below snow level but still a good final climb ahead of us.

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We rode all day, no lunch break, no idle stop except to look at the map still holding the bikes and on the side of the road. At 4pm we rushed 2 ice lollies that gave us all the sugar we needed to continue climbing and set off again at the same time a storm passed over our heads dropping fat and cold drops that were kind of refreshing and kind of aggressive… we sheltered for 10min and back to business.

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The toughest part was yet to come, the most insane slopes were awaiting and our bodies were already quite worn but.. the most beautiful landscapes of the day and the most smily and encouraging people were part of the challenge!

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We were still at quite a distance from our goal when the sun started its daily leaving show – first showing off the golden dome of the Tibetan Buddhist temple we passed by earlier on in the climb, and then leaning on the edge of a cloud to display its powerful rays.

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By twilight we made it to what we thought was the track to the house. After a final exhausting and slippery slope pushing up the bikes ( bloody pine needles!) we reached the foot of the hill where the mud castle was standing and agreed quickly that the bikes would have to stay here, left behind like childhood friends that we don’t really like anymore ( sorry for that harsh metaphor, we were exhausted).

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