Himalayan Explorers welcomes University of Guelph

Learning’s the order of the day here for the next month as we embark on our service learning programme with the University of Guelph from Ontario, Canada.  This is our first year of partnership with them and we hope there will be many more to come.

The group of fifteen students led by Assistant Professor of Political Science at the university, Andrea Paras, has come to Dharamsala India to learn about giving service in a community abroad. The focus of the students’ course is to examine in a practical way the benefits, challenges and negative impacts of international volunteering. They also look at the ethics of short-term volunteer experiences and how the benefits of these programmes can be maximized for organizations and volunteers, and how more meaningful partnerships can be developed. They will write a paper based on their studies and their subsequent experiences working in an NGO here in Dharamsala.

The students have been placed in a variety of NGOs in the area, ranging from human rights organisations to schools in the slums to animal rescue.  The experience for them will not only benefit their university education, but also give them invaluable human connections that will remain with them all their lives.  The NGOs in turn should benefit from the students’ hard work whilst they are here, and from their findings and observations they will report at the end of the programme.

Apart from the voluntary work, we have a plethora of guest speakers who have kindly agreed to talk with them on a range of topics from women’s issues in India to life as a Tibetan in exile.  Their life experiences and knowledge will enhance the learning experience and help give a wider view of what exactly is going on here in the community.

There will also be time for some relaxation and enjoyment.  Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, local temples and forts and a Himalayan trek are but a few of the activities we have lined up for the students.  They are sure to be happily exhausted by the end.

Stay tuned for updates as the programme progresses and don’t forget to tune in to the students’ reflections here:

India Field School

Guelph group photo Amritsar

True Romance: Bear Necessities in the Dhauladhar

Rhododendron in DhauladharI was trekking in the hills above Dharamsala with my better half the other week when a man offered me a beautiful red flower. Standing next to my man I felt kind of awkward that another man had produced a floral gift, however this feeling soon subsided.

What he’d given me was a rhododendron (known locally as Guras) and little did I know it was a tasty Himalayan snack. Apparently it is used to make jams, juices and chutneys by the locals and it is even thought to have properties that help with heart ailments and blood pressure. It tastes good, slightly bitter but yeah, nice. And here comes the best part – bears love it. No, we aren’t talking Winnie the Pooh here. Forget your cute red-t-shirted bear with a sticky honey pot. We’re talking about the Himalayan brown bear folks, otherwise known as ‘Dzu-The’ or yeti, and yes he likes to eat flowers. Badass.

So, there are two lessons to be learned from this incident…

Firstly, if you’re trekking in the Dhauladhars or some other part of these here mountains, you know what to do if you come across a big brown bear: pacify him with his most favourite delicious snack, then recover from your heart attack and lower your blood pressure by partaking in some guras yourself.   Not sure what to advise you about your soiled undergarments, mind you.

Secondly, a flower is not always a romantic gesture. It could very well turn out to be a great chutney ingredient. Get over yourself.

Know your physical sustenance from your emotional sustenance; they are but mere morsels for us mere mortals.

Himalayan Vigilantes

Vaila and Raja remain ever vigilantIt’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.  Keeping people safe in the Himalayas is a full time job, that comes with dodgy outfits apparently.  We’re much cooler in real life, honest.  Batmobile? pah! pimp’d up Royal Enfields more like.

Rocky Road Trekballs

Sustenance is of huge importance when you’re out on the trail.  Anyone who’s ever trekked knows that keeping your body energised and hydrated can make or break your trip.  With this in mind we’d like to share a series of recipes for delicious and energy-boosting food for the road.  We’d also love to hear from you if you have any favourite trekking/riding snacks, please share your recipe!!!

Rocky Road Tsampa Trekballs

Tsampa is roasted barley flour from Tibet and is a top choice for the trail due to its nutritional qualities and ability to fill you up.  Tsampa is widely available here in Dharamsala due to the fact that it is the principal Tibetan settlement in India.  Tsampa is beginning to be a bit more widely available in the West also.

Here’s our recipe for quick and easy tsampa snacks:

1 cup tsampa

2-3 tablespoons melted butter

3 tablespoons crushed peanuts (or other nuts)

3 tablespoons crushed oreo cookies, maltesers, butter biscuits (or chocolate/biscuits of your choice)

Handful of chopped marshmallows

2 tablespoons honey

Cocoa powder for dusting

Desiccated coconut (for coating)

Combine all the above ingredients (except the cocoa and coconut) in a bowl (or food processor if you have one) and mix thorougly.  Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls and roll firstly in the cocoa powder to coat, then in the coconut.  Voila, some Himalayan-inspired Rocky Road, for the road.

Rocky Road Trekballs