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Published: June 18th 2008
Up and Down and All Around.
Well well. Onwards with this trip with many more stories and adventures to tell you all.
Continuing our play in the Himalayas, our first stop was hippie central in the Kullu Valley. This is a rich and lush valley producing many fruits including apricots, apples, plums and delicious, delicious cherries that happened to be in full season when we arrived. The surrounding area including the town of Manali is hippie central with many travelling hippies mixing with an eclectic assortment of expats from a variety of countries. We decided to make a foray up a smaller valley off the Kullu Valley, called the Pavarti Valley.
The town of Kasol and the Parvarti Valley is one of the more unique places I have ever been too. A quiet and tranquil valley, its number one industry is the production of charas (hashish). Although illegal in India, authorities turn a completely blind eye to it in this valley as it supports the entire local population. For example when out walking, frequently we would have to politely deny requests from even 60 year old village ladies selling blocks of hash! Completely crazy. But despite their livelihood,
Interesting Roof construction
the locals are honest, friendly and very genuine. We befriended a kid from one of the small villages and he showed us how to go fishing using nothing but our hands!(by damming and re-routing small creeks) and even got to feast on them afterwards! Another highlight was hiking up to some amazing hot springs high up on a mountain side and spending the night. If you visit this valley, be sure to check out Kir Ganga hot springs.
From here we made an unscheduled trip down to the plains to Chandigarh, as Andrew wasn’t feeling too good and we didn’t want to risk anything with the closest decent hospital being 12 hours away. Fortunately it wasn’t anything too serious and a couple of days lying low getting some good rest fixed him up. While we were in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab State we took in a professional cricket match and wandered the most civil of all Indian cities (Chandigarh is known as ‘City Beautiful’ to everyone in India; it is a far cry from that but far better than most in India).
After this is was off to Amritsar, capital of Sikhism and famous for the Golden
Temple, head of the Sikh faith. True to everyone’s word it is extremely beautiful and holds a special aura for everyone regardless of faith when you walk around it and see it in person. The temple gives out free meals (40000+ a day) and free lodging to anyone who needs it. It is a remarkable testament to the Sikh faith to see them reach out to all walks of life like this. The other attraction I guess you could call it is the border closing ceremony at Attari. While baking on concrete bleachers at +40, we witnessed the spectacle of the flag lowering ceremony between India and Pakistan’s only official border crossing. Civilians on both sides of the boarder try to out cheer and out dance each other while the military guards try to out march and out scowl each other. Bizzare.
From here we followed the Indian Pilgrim trail to the Ganges (mother Ganga to them) and followed the river right to the source high up in the mountains. First it was Haridwar, sight and spectacle of thousands of bathers on the ghats with an air of festive cheer. Then it was up to Rishikesh, self proclaimed capital
picture speaks 1000 words
india for you,. so random
of Yoga and spirituality of the Universe. While I don’t exactly believe that claim it is true that this is the place to come if you want to brush up on your yoga skills (and cheap!) The place is teeming with sadhus (holy men who have given up their worldly possessions), babbas (spiritual teachers/yoga masters) and yogis (same thing, maybe higher profile). Interesting place. Also went whitewater rafting on the Ganges (a little cleaner up here nearer the source). I find it so strange that for how sacred a river it is, they treat it with the utmost disprespect, from building hydro projects, to dumping rubbish and sewage in it. They say “Mother Ganga can take care of it.” Not exactly logical, but then again illogical thinking seems to be the norm most of the time over here.
We made the trek up to the source of the Ganges imagining beautiful scenery and a religious spirit to the trip; this is after all one of India’s most religious valleys. While the scenery was very pretty, Indian pilgrims are a breed of their own. Imagine 30 or so people crammed into a little bus for a week, eating, sleeping, cooking,
washing all out of this bus. Now multiply it by 100 buses a day, add souvenir shops of every imaginable sort, hundreds of people walking around like they are in the county fair and voila, you have quite possible a mental image of the scene of one of India’s holiest temples at Gangotri. Hinduism, I tell you is not what you think. The trek up to Gomulk, meaning Cow’s Mouth is where the Ganges comes out of the glaciers. It was pretty nice. Most Indians don’t do physical activity so for all those pilgrims coming up to the temple, the last 19km to the mouth is too far for them. It is a beautiful setting for the beginning of the world’s holiest river.
Well all for now, we are off to the south to brave the heat and see the sights that you all know India to be famous for… Namaste
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