With the sound of music. Well, birdsong anyway, as I seem to have the noisest bird in the world ever having taken up residence outside my window here in Manali. Yep, I’ve made it after a 17.5 hour coach journey. Hurrah for all that. So, what’s been up?
Well, as we had a free day in Delhi after sending out the last e-mail, we attempted to go the cinema, as I said, which proved to be very far away. It also proved to be sold out by the time we got there, bugger. Apparently there aren’t very many in Delhi itself, which I assume is because there aren’t theatres in the centre that were converted like the UK. We did pop into a market though on the way back, and I got a very cool t-shirt for 200 rupees (about 2.5 pounds) It has racing written on it, which always makes me weak in the wallet area. Strangely only one of them had it spelt correctly, the rest said ‘racnig’. It’s nice anyway, and I have it on now…
So the bus. Ah the bus. I had the joy of sitting next to Claudia, who was having some bowel problems (I’ve been lucky so far), for the whole trip. Luckily she proved to be ok, but as my immediate family will know, I can move very quickly when threatened with someone vomitting near by. The years of experience with Laura meant I swapped seats in record time so she could have the window. No vomit was forthcoming though, as I’m sure you all wanted to know.
Travelling through the night emphasised that there really are a lot of people in India. I thought at least some of the trip would be like the trip to Ellough Park in Norfolk for BUKC in 2003, where we drove for miles with just inky blackness on either side, but that never happened here, there were lights and people all the way through the night…
The first part of the trip was like the trip to Jaipur at the start of the tour on the public bus, well paved dual carriageway. However, the second part was in the hills, as Manali is in the foothills of the Himalayas (which seem to be huge all on their own!). The roads here were a bit more rough, and we seemed to career down them at ludicrous speeds. I once saw a quote from Mario Andretti on a t-shirt that “If everything seems to be under control, you’re not going fast enough”. Well, judging by how out of control that bus felt, I don’t think he could have been going much faster.
Still, as dawn broke, I was distracted by the scenary. It’s amazing around here, so completely different to Rajasthan, deep, deep valleys, waterfalls, rivers. It’s just mind blowing… Yet more pictures of that for you all to enjoy (I’ve taken about 300+ so far…). We finally pulled into Manali at about 11:30am, after setting off at 7:00pm. B2, the tour leader, had been telling us that the hotel was the worst one of the itinery, but we’d have the best rooms. Turns out he’s a good liar, as this is easily the best hotel so far. We’ve got a full pine room, and as we’re much further north and higher up, duvets to deal with the cold! I’ve been lusting for a duvet for ages as blankets just aren’t the same, and the desert, as expected, was hot. Before bed though, we went to a restaurant called Chopsticks. Being quite near China, Tibet and Nepal here, the food is much more oriental, and it was gorgeous, and ludricously cheap. I couldn’t even approach finishing mine as there was so much, and the whole meal cost me 135 rupees, so about 1.5 pounds.
Manali itself is quite strange. Apparently it’s population is only 4400, but there seems to be at least that many westerns here as well. I assume this has something to do that with the fact that cannabis plants are growing wild all over the place. That would also explain the few people on the bus from Delhi who looked a little slow with the reactions and had bloodshot eyes…
Today we’ve been on a 12km hike up to the Solang valley. The scenary has again been wonderful, and you can see glaciers up at the top of the hills. I’m sure Neal and Jake will be surprised to hear I was the only one who kept up the tour guide all the way I put it down to good shoes and being 10 years younger than everyone else
I was quite tired after all that though, so it’s been a lazy afternoon for the last couple of hours.
We’re off to chopsticks again now though. So I’ll catch you all soon! Dharamsala tomorrow for 3 nights, then Amritsar and then home.