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Published: July 15th 2006
Strawberry Lassis and Banana Pancakes
A bit late coming.. but better late than never!
So the last 3 weeks of our time in India were spent in vast contrast to our first 2... No more dust, 40 degree temperatures and personal driver
... Bring on the serenity of the mountains, hill stations, rivers, waterfalls and overnight buses.
Yes, that's right - no more could we enjoy the life of "flash-packers" - we were now on true traveler's path and back to life as "back-packers"!
So out comes the Lonely Planet, in comes the painful bus trips and onto the road of best budgt hostel searching - but bring on the strawbery lassi's, fruit yogurt museli, banana pancakes and mint tea for breakfast! Woo Hoo! Destinations:
So we were able to cover a fair bit of ground during our time in Northern India - stopping at; Manalai & Vashist
- Vashist was a little slice of heaven - only 15min rickshaw ride up a windy forested hill from the chaotic downtown Manali. We truely fell in love with our first stop from Rajastaan. $15 night clean rooms with spectacular views, yoga in the mornings and
a very chilled out vibe (you could walk into a shop and then walk out without buying anything and still have your life and a smile to boot!).
We knew the LP was right when it said there was a bit of a 'traveler's scene' here, when we did the rounds of local hostels on our first morning, trying to find the best bet for accommodation and chatting with other travelers...
Yvette to 35+ y.o/dreads/cigarette in hand/wide smile/all-round-hippy-type dude: "So, how long have you been staying here?"
Hippy Dude: "Oh you know.. Not very long"
Yvette: "So you've just arrived then?"
Hippy Dude: "No man! I think I got here about 5 weeks ago, but then I was here for 3 months about 4 months ago. It's so great. I can't find any reason to leave you know."
Yvette: "Right....Cool. Sounds like you really like it here. So well, have a good day" (Or some kind of similar closing/moving on type/end to the conversation)
Vashist was also our launching pad for our 5 day trek to the Hampta Pass (ref: previous blog), and coming back after the hard-yakka it was great to settle back for a day's R&R
Standing Room Only
Public Busses.. Gotta love 'em
at our favourite Dharma Hostel. McLeod Ganj
So McLeod Ganj was our 2nd stop in Himachal Pradesh and again, we LOVED the place! Greeted by a few local touts at the sprightly hour of 5:30am, we initially dismissed them, only to discover that all LP recommended hostels were booked out! So we ended up taking up on the offer of Javid for him to show us his 'Pink House Hostel'... and it was wicked!
3 days later we'd spent many a sunny hour on the hostel roof top, watching the eagles, playing chess, chatting with new friends and of course.. downing the occassional lassi and banana pancake!
McLeod Ganj is actually the home in exile for the Dalai Lhama and the place is apparently more Tibet than Tibet itself. (considering the Tibetans are becoming more and more the minority in their own home). The monestry and the local museum were an amazing education for Dom & I on the issues facing the Tibetan people. Dailhousie & Kahjjar
A short 4 hour bus journey from McLeod turned nasty when you prefix the word 'public' to it. Nearly 6, sweaty, dusty hours later our side trip to Dailhousie
was becoming a bit of a bad idea... Even more so when we arrived to find the place - far from being an idyllic hill station akin to Vashist - was actually something more close to Indian tourist trap! Hotels were very over priced and the serenity was somewhat shattered by the thousands of domestic tourists!!
We took the advice of a local who reccomended Kahjjar as a nice day-trip from Dailhousie. (Ref: "It is where the movie makers go to make all the film clips for Bollywood songs!) And luckily Kahjjar was nice, perhaps like a corner of Centennial Park in Sydney. Dom & I chilled out in the sun, watched the locals play cricket and dress up in old-fashioned garb so they could have their photo taken for $15 and best of all - became what could be something like D-Grade Celebrities.
Over lunch we were approached by a lovely
Indian family (isn't there something about not approaching celebrities whilst they are eating?) and 30 minutes later they had enough pictures with us to fill a small photo album. On top of this, they then asked for me to sign my autograph on the back of
their hands. Whilst we may not be the next Brad and Ang (or should that be Brad & Jen), you can rest assured that the fame hasn't gone to our heads.
There is another story about how Dom nearly punched a dude in another town for casually walking down the street and pretending to take a picture of the scenery.. only to swing around at the last minute and take a sneaky picture of me!! Prince Harry - eat your heart out - we were both none to pleased! (kind of creepy really). Anyways.. Rishikesh
So we decided it was time to bail from Himachal Pradesh and head to the more southerly provence of Uttaranchal and "YOGA CAPITAL" Rishikesh. I can't quite remember, because I think we have blocked the pain from our memories, but it was something like 5 forms of transport (including a 12 hour o'night bus) to get us there. Ouch.
Rishikesh didn't rock our boat initially, (mayhem was back!) however it certainly did grow on us. We somehow scored the best room which overlooked the town and overlooked the Ganges - and we were both more than happy to
kill a few days on our balcony's swing-chair, book in hand and one of the world's greatest rivers crashing below!
Rishikesh is where two major events happened.
1. I went white water rafting for the first time - and LOVED it!!
2. Australia beat Japan in their opening game of the World Cup.
I have to say, I was pretty damn excited, and since then, when searching for a place to stay the series of questions we ask have been (and in order):
a) Do you have a room?
b) Does it have ESPN?
c) How much does it cost?
d) e) f) etc... Other questions that don't really matter like hot water etc. Farewell India
When it came time to say farewell to India, I think it would be fair to say we were ready for a 'mutually agreeable parting of ways'. All in all, India was an incredibly wicked destination, and when they say it an 'invasion of the senses' it really, truely is.
I think we will look back at our 5 weeks in India with a big smile, a broader mind, an appreciation for order, and a real respect for the Indian
institution of 'family' and the billion people who call this country their home.
So next stop is a easterly soujourn to Hong Kong for a uber quick 5 hour shop for camping gear (horay for the Airport Express Busses) 'cos we're onto AFRICA!!!
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