I'm a star...maybe not!
Manali Travel Blog› entry 8 of 8 › view all entries
After my ridiculously long journey arriving in Manali, I was too tired to be good for much. Jai & I spend most of the next couple of days just hanging around in cafes, sampling what is considered to be some of the best herbal substances in the world, called ‘Charas’; Traditionally smoked through a pipe called a ‘chillum’ by Babas (holy men) it is supposed to help you on your path to spiritual enlightenment.
Manali is a beautiful Himalayan town in the North Indian county of Himachal Pradesh. Due to the altitude (1950m) during the summer months, Manali provides some a welcome rest-bite form the souring heat and humidity of the rest of India and historically is a place of pilgrimage for hippies (I think we call all put two and two together there).
Having crashed ourselves out in various cushion piled cafes for a couple of days, nothing that notable happened until we were leaving Manali. In India you get used to the occasional native coming up to you and requesting a photo. This has always seemed a little strange to me, and often feels a little uncomfortable. However of course each time you oblige as refusal may offend. I was sitting on a wall with Jai in the area where busses left from - to call it a bus stand would be more than a little misleading; More like a big areas of mud where buses would turn up an leave from…anyway I digress…when a group of about 20-25 Indians came up and starting shaking my hand, and introducing themselves. It turns out they were a group of friends who had travelled up to the mountains for the day to have a picnic (how lovely is that [note to self – organise picnic with the gang when I get home]). They were delightful, so when they asked if I would pose for a photograph I was more than happy to oblige. What followed was just bizarre. When that had asked for a photo, they did not mean a photo with the group and me. What followed was like the some kind of Hollywood meet & greet, with them lining up and taking photos one by one! As it want on the girls started to get braver, they would step a little closer, then one put her arm around me (a bold gesture for a Hindu lady). After the photo call having invited me to join them to their home village and with me reluctantly declining on the basis I had already paid for my bus, they alighted theirs. Of course the bus sat there for the next fifteen minutes, they were staring at me out the window. Occasionally acknowledging them with a wave and a smile, which created a ripple, which each time transpired in to a wave of excitement, giggling and rip nudging.
Eventually we got on our way. As always the case in India the journey was not strait forward. At about midnight we reached a point on a secluded mountain road where the road was blocked by a truck with two burst tyres. After about an hour (providing a good opportunity to lie out staring at the vast starry sky and get to know the other passengers a little better), the truck was sorted and carried on its merry way. We piled back on to the coach. The driver was in the cab. The key turned and…He tired it again; this time a small sputter, then…nothing! The next hour and a half was spent with the drivers tinkering with the engine. Eventually it was our idea to try push-starting the thing. We got onboard and announced what was about to happen, asking all those fit enough to help to do so, otherwise we asked people if they would get off the bus in order to lose a little weight. Of course being a tourist bus, and coming from Manali, after the charas consumption of the last few days, most of the passengers did not have the get up to even get off the bus. What preceded, was a Tibetan monk, a woman who must have been in her 50s, a couple of locals, Jai and myself pushing a bus full of young tourists, backwards (I don’t know why backwards, we were just following instructions) up a mountain. The result…the engine turned over and we got on out merry way!
What followed was some quite hairy….no scrap that - goddam wreckless driving, which I had decided was best to sleep though and be blissfully unaware should we have slid off one of the rain soaked mountain’s hairpin turns during the night (which thankfully we didn’t). We arrived in Mcload Ganj on time at 5am. Dazed and confused we made our way to a hotel and crashed.