Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The LOOONG Busride

We decided to go cheap and meet the locals, and take the overnight bus up the road to Dharamsala. The picture of the bus was brand new and they said it was air conditioned, so it sounded relaxing. Instead, we got an old bus and before we even started, we had police hassles looking for a bribe, and they delayed us for nearly 3 hours. Eventually we got a different bus, and we all switched. The new bus didn't have a/c but it did have a few sleeping berths, which were really just flat beds up in the luggage racks. I crawled into one squished along side of Adrian and settled in for sleeping. Unfortunately, a few hours later we got to the border of the Himashal Pradesh state, and had to change busses once more, because they don't allow sleeping busses in their winding roads. So back to a regular bus with seats.

Ok, this had to be it, but then an hour later, we stopped again, this time for dinner. It was midnight, and this was our first food stop, only 4 hours later than the time we'd been promised. Nonetheless, we ate well, tasting some interesting Indian dishes that we had to guess at from the menu. The next 6 hours were pretty uneventful, but not full of much sleep. The temperature had definitely dropped, it was starting to rain, and we were freezing. Our warm clothes and shoes were all packed in the bottom of our backpacks, thinking we wouldn't need them again till Toronto. We huddled together to keep warm and all dozed occasionally.

And of course we had another stop for breakfast. By now the view was incredible, with houses built right into the mountains, and the road reduced to a 1 lane road with hairpin turns. We probably travelled only 50 km in the final4 hours, and arrived in MacLeod Ganj 16 hours later than we'd departed. A little cold and damp, tired, but ready to get out and walk around.

We found a nice, clean guesthouse and set out looking for food. Prayer flags flapped in the breeze everywhere around us, and we felt like we'd been transported to the magical land of Tibet, with Buddhist monks everywhere and friendly Tibetan people. Tibetans certainly have a lot to teach Indians about cleanliness and environmental concerns, and there are signs everywhere encouraging these ideas. The vibe is definitely friendly, and there are plenty of foreigners mixed in with Indians, Tibetans, and monks.

After a 3 hour nap, we felt refreshed and ready to explore. We trekked to the next town (Dharamkot) this afternoon and enjoyed the mountain views, as well as the antics of the many monkeys. We had our first dinner of Tibetan momos and tsingmo with mutton gravy. Excellent!! Adrian found pasta and pizza, so he indulged in both, and fattened up for the next few days when he might not find any more western food. We plan to move farther into the mountains tomorrow and to rest up there a few days before we tackle the return bus trip to Delhi next Sunday.

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