23.10.2010 - 26.10.2010 31 °C
You'd think it would get easier when you do it every day, dipping into the startlingly hot water of the mountain spring, the central feature of Vaashist. It doesn't. And today I have sunburn.
It was meeting for breakfast at the Tibetan Lhasa by 8am then a run downhill at the end of the village to catch the bus to the Solang valley. The bus never arrived, so we flagged down a ride.
As the five of us rattled about in the open back of the utility truck, the landscape transformed from dusty riverside road to a hillside climb through gatherings of ski hire shops, through to soaring green pine forests amongst snowcapped mountains. If the forest in Shimla was the first, here was our second moment of stepping out into a postcard.
We frolicked amongst the streams and trees. Furry horses and independently-minded sheep were herded by. We happened upon an encampment of Indians training for a climb up Everest.
The other boys, the many-voiced Rob, roomie Alfie, Charles from England and Antoine the French Canadian scrambled up boulders. Slawek and me sat on a rock, watched the world filter below in brilliant colours and sucked in the alpine air. A hot round sun smiled through the snowy tree tops.
The children in Vaashist still play marbles on the carpet. They wrestle on flat rooftops. Whack a badminton shuttle back and forth in the street (Badminton was invented in British India). They play hide and seek amongst the cowpat-strewn stone alleyways. Their parents keep a cow or sit in the sun decloaking corn. Grandma will pick up a smaller one and cheerfully cart it back to where it was supposed to be. A real sense of a community that might have existed hundreds of years ago in our own land but no more.
Our roommate Alfie lost his iPod, then his phone, then his towel - and this evening he lost the key to the padlock on our room. No bother, the friendly teen from reception dispatched it with a single blow of a hammer and left us all feeling lucky the thousands of pounds of equipment otherwise protected by this pointless 40 rupee device had stayed put.
We've met a fantastic group of people here in this hippie enclave: a single street, really. There's over 12 of us in various configurations, so whichever cafe, bar or pool you might choose, any time of day, you're sure a friend is inside willing to share stories, lemon honey ginger tea and chess.
Tomorrow a rickshaw to central Manali and the local bus (10hr) to Macleod Ganj.