Ellie, Himachal Pradesh 2017

I joined the pilgrimage to India with Judy Arpana to fulfil a dream to return to a country I had visited as a teenager. I was not disappointed.

The itinerary was perfectly balanced allowing opportunities to relax and process our experiences before the next adventure began.

Indeed the pilgrimage did feel like an adventure as we explored towns, passed through villages and walked over the remarkable terrain of the foothills of the Himalayas to visit Buddhist temples, and listen to the teachings of nuns and lamas.

Every day was different, from the tranquility experienced in monasteries hidden high up in the mountains to the noise and clatter of towns, from the sound of young monks loudly debating to the calm, coolness of an early morning circumambulation around the Dalai Lamas residence in McLeod Ganj.

The essence of Tibetan Buddhism is everywhere in this magical part of India, a still, calming and refreshing thread woven comfortably through and mixing with other faiths, cultures, customs and lifestyles.

Judy’s knowledge and love for this country and it’s history is present in every story told, the love demonstrated to her by esteemed nuns and lamas is evident with every precious audience we were invited to. Karma, our guide and teacher, also embraced us all so that I felt like a treasured family member.

I am a Christian and I felt blessed to be given such insights into the ancient and fascinating history of Buddhism and how it was brought to the people of this region, to learn about the plight of Tibetan refugees, to see the resilience of survivors and their families in their new settlement. My beliefs were both challenged and enriched by this experience.

I would heartily recommend this pilgrimage to anyone who wants to know more about northern India and Tibetan Buddhism.

The pilgrimage provides an exclusive opportunity to be immersed in culture and custom but even more so if you are seeking a small, intimate tour group devoid of the challenges of large organised tours.

This well constructed tour is put together by Judy, Karma and Lily with such expertise and the small group dynamic is effortlessly managed so that we quickly became a tight knit, loving, caring albeit temporary family.