Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leaving Bir

I pack up in time for my taxi ride at 12pm – the trip to Dharamshala airport is at least two hours – the flight is 3:45, but contingency time has to be allowed for. A small Suzuki Maruti van arrives for me, and the agreed price is R1400 – about NZ$45. Miraculously the van has fully functioning safety belts. I encourage to the driver to also wear his – say that while he may be an expert and careful driver, that there were others on the road who were not, and that it improve his welfare by wearing it. He reluctantly puts it on…. An hour into the journey we are following a bus very closely, the driver looking for an opportunity to overtake, when the bus stops suddenly. Brakes are slammed on and we stop with a few inches to spare. The driver shortly afterwards then takes off his safety belt with a flourish – his demeanor indicating that he considers that by wearing the safety belt that it has jinxed his driving. Despite the near miss he is not inhibited from continuing to tailgate the bus. Five minutes later the inevitable occurs and the bus stops again suddenly. Once again brakes are slammed on, but this time we are short of about three inches. I laugh with involuntary nervousness as we thud into the rear end of the bus…. Having stopped for a few moments the bus continues on its way, the driver obviously oblivious to the collision at the rear! My driver jumps out and inspects the dented bumper and front panel. I assure him that the din rapid Hindi what has happened. We then continue on at an only slightly more sedate pace….

At Dharamshala airport I start chatting to the person next to me in the queue – his name is Tendzin Choegyal, and it transpires that he has visited Wellington in the past! He was part of the delegation that traveled with the Dali Lama a number of years ago, and that he was a former MP with the Tibetan Government in exile. I ask what I, as an individual, with many other demands on my time, could do in a remote land to promote the freedom of Tibet. His response was that I should travel with other paraglider pilots to Tibet to explore and get to know the place, even though it would mean money going to the Chinese government…. We sat together on the plane to New Delhi and had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. Tendzin was now devoting his life to studying Buddhism.

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