Published: September 7th 2006September 7th 2006
Well I am sooo sorry to you my (huge) reading public to not have written for a while. Its not my fault (obviously) I am currently blaming the Ganges. I reckon it steals time. I'm here in a place called Laxman julah, near Rishikesh. Its a very holy place for indians and a very easy place for a wiseman to lose track of time. I couldn't actually let you know how long I have been here!
In the last few weeks I've been up to quite a bit of adventuring so here goes where I left off in Vashisht - near Manali
ADVENTURE IN SPITTI WITH THE GALOPPING ITALIAN
I was having a quiet tofu curry in the TIbetan Lhasa. I got chatting to the young man opposite me, an Italian called Federico who has been travelling for seven years total and a year and a half in India. Anyway he was off to Spitt valley and I didn't fancy going to yoga in the morning.
So at 5am we set off. Get a great deal on a jeep with the obligatory israelis, check out a quick high altitude lake and 12 hours later we are in Kaza a small 'town' and the administrative headquarters of Spitti valley. Spitti valley is a dry, highy altitude area quite similar to Ladakh.
Now Federico likes to save money so walking and hitching were the order of the day. I have been in the back of two trucks, one of which we shared with an enormous full gas tank (I wasn't sure if I preferred being exploded or crushed to death) shared a tractor and the most uncomfortable - in a trailer attached to tractor. Now that is seriously painful on the posterior and I think I might have almost preferred walking.
Our best hitch was in the front of a tata truck which took us 12kms shy of our final destination - a village called mudh at the end of the Pin Valley. I was happy to stay there until the bus came along a few hours later. Fed wasn't. Fed is as skinny as a flagpole and likes to walk. ....for miles.....really fast......He's just got back from 3 months in Pakistan where he walked for hours every day at altitude.
So off we set. I'm not too hopeful of a lift, there are no cars/trucks anything on this road. And as it turns out the only vehicle that passed us on this walk was a full truck. The walk nearly killed me. Its pretty tough going at altitude and I have had to seriously reassess my fitness levels (or lack thereof) At about 7km, Fed is happily striding off into the distance and I am having a crisis. Somehow I make it to the village, which was completely wortwhile. A tiny place of 225 souls. Bless that is what it actually said on the 'welcome to our village' sign. It was surrounded by majestic green and purple mountains.
Our last stop in Spitti was a little village called Tabo. The hairy local bus dumps us 1km before the village. Two weeks previously the bridge over the torrent of a river broke. It seems like the whole village is pitching in to sort out the situation. However, all they apparently have sorted out currently in a plank of metal filled with some large stones! To even get on it you have to wade/balance across some stones. I took one look and just thought "I'm going to cross ..that?" So I did. It was pretty scary. You're focus is down on your feet making sure they don't slip, however the water is rushing in the opposite direction, somehat forcefully. Its a bit distracting.
Again it was worth it. A beautiful little village, with a 100 year old monastry and some caves filled with beautiful paintings. I picked out a nice cave for winter meditation purposes. Just wondering how early I'll need to reserve, I think there might be some stiff competition from the monks.
I may have mentioned earlier in my blogs that India is nothing if not surprising. Well, within minutes of arriving at our guesthouse in Tabo we had the pleasure of meeting one of the strangest characters yet. Angel was the manager and a true 'Indian nigger' He was a wannabe black guy.
Angel "I love music, music is my life. Do you know my nigger Lauren Hill?" (Imagine an indian affecting a jamaican accent)
Me "Yes she's very good
Angel "You know Lee Scratch Perrin, Bob Marley and Underworld?"
Me "Yes, they're very good"
Angel "You know my nigger Sean Paul?"
Repeat ad infintum.
Angel was a man who knew no difference between men. He was happy greeting a tourist with "hello my nigger" as he was the local monks - go figure.
A pleasant time was had by all in Tabu and we had the good fortune to meet a lovely pair of English lads (who have just left me - boohoo)
Funny Tom and Dan from London. Bless their little cottons, fresh faced young university boys, who have joined me in my trip back to Vashist (12 hour painful local bus ride starting at very unpleasant O Clock in the morning)
I finally get out of Vashist (phew) and spend a couple of days in the Parvatti valley with an israeli guy I had met in Leh. A beautiful place full of Israelis getting stoned.
Picking up speed we head on for Chandigargh in the Punjab. A bad place, don't go there. I had hoped to take the toy train to Shimla, but I couldn't find a single room in Chandigargh. I spent an hour and 100 rupees being driven around in a sleep deprived state not to find a room. So I went back to the bus station and got on a 6 hour local bus to Amritsar to check out the Golden temple.
Which is amazing, stunningly beautiful, amazing atmosphere. I think it is the nicest religious place I have ever been to. They feed thousands of people a day for free - you should have seen the chpati making machines! It was a bit hot though, and after a couple of days of riding around in cycle rickshaws feeling like a princess I decided that it was time to head on. Although I left my guidebook in behind. So now I'm freestylin' my way across India.
Once again I went through Chandigarha and couldn't get a room so gave up on the toy train and headed straight for Haridwar. I was fortuinate enough to meet a young Indian barister on the bus, who helped me find a hotel in Haridwar. Lucky because I got there tired and late after 12 hours on two different local buses. Now Hardiwar might be a very holy city for indians but my new young friend and his mates got a bottle of whisky. DOH woke up in one of India's holiest cities with a hangover - not very clever (or respectful)
So that brings me bang up to date in Rishikesh. Where my time is being stolen. Its a very special and peaceful place. Shanti the Indians would say. Getting back into the yoga and going to the beach! Yes there is a small beack the travellers use on the ganges. SO I've been bathing in the ganges. The Indians believe that it washes away your sins. I'm not so sure. I reckon I might have washed mine away but I've go the sins of some other bugger a mile upstream and some unfortunate soul has my sins a mile down stream.
Phewee. Enough for now. I'm booked to do a vipasana course for ten days in a couple of days. Its hardcore mediattion. Up at 4.30am, no talking or looking at other people for ten hours a day. I'm a little nervous!
A lot of fuss over a big river