A Travellerspoint blog

Vaashisht: day 20

sunny 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.

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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.

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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.

Posted by Pharkie 16:42 Archived in India Tagged india vaashist Comments (0)

Trading in Manali

snow 30 °C
View Indianarama on Pharkie's travel map.

"Charras? Mushroom? Opium? Sony camcorder? You want hire motorbike? Indian girls?"

A motley group of thin, shivering young men huddle outside around the flames of something insubstantial in a tin wok. Gleaming Enfield motorbikes in front. A humble concrete workshop behind.

Another 'man from del monte' moment as me, with my technical cycling jacket and black umbrella, join the group for momentary respite from the encouragable rain.

He wants my iPhone. I think he'd happily sell his soul for it. But never steal - less and less could that happen in India.

Several attempts to disengage, I finally manage to get away to continue my walk, refreshingly alone, to Old Manali.

An auto-rickshaw pulls in front; pushing the wet curtain aside, he waves. Whatever, I get in. At least I won't pay tourist fare.

Now in central Manali, I sit watching the high street. I've taken myself up the Khyber which, beyond the Carry On connotations, in Manali is a bar. With beer. Beer!

The rain presses down. Not found at the backpacker hotel. Not found in the hippie cafes of Vaashisht. Not found in the temples with their hot, so hot, mountain springs. Finally, amongst these foothills of the Himalaya: peace. It's starting to snow.

Posted by Pharkie 14:30 Archived in India Tagged india manali Comments (0)

Chandigarh, day 12

You can trust some of the people some of the time.

sunny 29 °C
View Indianarama on Pharkie's travel map.

Arriving in sector 43 and trying to get to sector 22-B, I felt like an extra in Prisoner. The effect was increased by the manicured roundabouts with fountains, a grid system and cycle lanes. Cycle lanes!

Chandigarh was designed by a Swiss architect who pretty much devoted his life to this the state capital of Punjab. It has a boating lake, parks and squares. None of which we got to see because this is just a stopover on the way to Manali, via Shimla.

Emerging from the bus after 9 dusty, uphill hours we were set upon not by a big white bubble trying to stop us escaping but, as per, by rickshaw drivers cum hotel touts. A local from our bus took pity on confused looking Slaw, me and Alfie and offered to put us up in the room of a friend.

Since day 1 it's been 'trust no-one', so this took consideration. Another local had moments earlier offered to take Slawek home and make Alfie his ninth girlfriend (it's the long hair).

Still, Slawek thought we could trust him so off we went by cycle then motor rickshaw to the outskirts of town. We had a beer and a curry, slept on the floor of the 1-room home, exchanged Facebooks and now we're on the bus to Kalka for the ambling toy train to Shimla.

So a mixed bag so far. Most see us walking by as a particularly white, walking bag of money - but yesterday in Hardiwar a local bought us a pack of cards as a gift because he wanted to show not everyone is out to scam us. Last night, where they really took care of us, proves the point. Big love to Mohit, Chkezring and Arkind.

You can trust some of the people some of the time.

Posted by Pharkie 14:48 Archived in India Comments (0)

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