We headed to the hill station of Missouri by private jeep courtesy of Sally and Steve. It’s so nice not using public transport although the 5 hour drive was terrifying. Lots of bends and twists up massive mountain sides speeding past buses and lorries. At one point a massive coach came whizzing around the corner and we had to swerve to avoid it. We were inches away from the edge, 4000 ft up and even Steve admitted he was a bit scared! After a death defying journey we arrive in the hill station of Missouri.
It looked like a British seaside town without the seaside. The tiny town was filled with little tea shops, cake shops, penny arcades,candy floss stalls, souvenir shops and Steve's favourite, MAGIC SHOPS! People on every corner selling home made sweets, food and the smell of fresh BBQ corn on the cob lingered in the air.
Steve loves any kind of magic trick and set off into the town with his coin trick to impress the local magic hawkers. We must have walked round for hours whilst Steve bought, tried, and tested his magic tricks. He has a smile on his face every day but this day his smile was much bigger, he was like a kid in a sweet shop.The Indian magicians loved him and his magic habit!
We drank lots of chai, went up the cable car and did what we do best-ate lots of local delights. Headed back to the hotel with a few bottles of red we found earlier on and met a young Irish lad, Paul, 22 from Dublin, Ireland but lives in Sydney. We sat up till the wee hours talking whilst Steve entertained us with his new magic tricks. He showed me a coin trick and everyone knew how to do it except me and Paul. Every time I tried and thought I had it I never. It was getting frustrating and he finally showed me the secret after an hour of me failing miserably whilst everyone laughed and couldn't believe I couldn't figure it out. I have practised this trick over and over and am really looking forward to driving Felon round the bend with it when I'm back in Oz as she will never get it! Just like me! Marty on the other hand I'm sure will get it but if not I'm sure he will Google the trick and find out the secret! haha Mr.Google.
We spent the next day walking around the town and I decided to leave the Douglas's 3 days early and continue higher up North with Paul. I am quite glad I chose to leave earlier unplanned as I was counting down the days till me and Sorcha would say goodbye and it was better this way as I never had enough time to dwell on our parting! I had only been with Sally, Steve and Kiera for a couple of weeks but I even thought leaving them and saying goodbye would be tough too.
The last few weeks have been amazing travelling with such a close, connected, happy family and even though my mum and dad are better off separated I really wish I could share this quality time with my family all together. I wish we were all not so far away living in separate countries, with separate lives and even though I had the best time it made me feel a little bit sad wishing I was travelling with my mum and dad and not someone Else's. Although, that would never happen! My mum would hate India, her idea of a holiday is an all inc resort for a fortnight with all the home comforts! I wouldn’t even think of bringing her to India! My dad on the other hand would love everything about it except the heat. But no, it's been brilliant and I am so glad I got to experience India with my 'second family' and good friends. When I do finally settle down I am going to model my family on the Douglas's and make sure we are as close as them. Sally and Steve have taught me more in 4 years than I learnt growing up in 20 odd years, they really are an inspiration.
We said our goodbyes which was not so bad as we are all moving on with our next adventure and me and Paul jumped on the local dirty, rickety, packed bus for a couple of hours drive back down the windy, curvy death defying hill road.
An hour after being on the bus my stomach is grumbling, I have a hot sweat and I know this feeling to well, being in India, if I don't get to the toilet now I will poo my pants! I've known Paul 5 min and have to swallow my shame and tell him in a panic 'If we don't stop this bus I'm going to shit my pants!' I squeeze past all the Indian men who are standing and sitting in the isle and whilst waving toilet paper in my hand shout to the driver 'toilet please! Stop! Toilet, toilet, toilet!'
Good enough he stops around a bend in a few minutes. I am running left and right like a headless chicken looking for somewhere to squat where the 50 odd Indian eyes that are staring at me off the bus can't see! I see a sort of cave and run inside. I cant see properly as it's dark but there are a few people in the cave. shouting quickly toilet, toilet but they don't answer me. I run back out the what I think was a homeless persons cave and squat behind what looks like a closed chai mans tea stall. The buses engine has been turned off by now and the bus can see my head popping above the chai counter. All eyes are on me(they can only see my head)and I can hear Paul cracking up laughing. The noise is loud as my bum is exploding whatever dodgy food I ate out and a few people at the front of the bus can hear I'm sure!But I couldn't care, it's better this than shitting my leggings!Finally after a few minutes the deed is done , I'm back on the bus relieved and can't thank the driver enough for stopping! Paul is still laughing hard and can' get the picture of me running down the bus like a mad woman screaming 'Toilet!Toilet!' out of his head for the rest of the journey.
We arrive in Dehadrun for our connecting bus to Shimla at 8pm and are told our next 10 hour overnight bus is not due till midnight.I am starving but dare not to eat in case my stomach plays up again.We attract a crowd of intrigued Indians as you always do at any bus station and answer all their questions of where are we from,what do we do and how we like India.I always lie and tell them it's my favourite country on earth and say how much I don't want to leave. I like S.E Asia a hell of a lot more than India but I will never say that to them! All Indian's I meet are shocked to hear I am not married with no children at 30 years old to to save any confusion, long boring conversations and marriage proposals I am now married to a yoga instructor,who is training in Goa and he is Australian.We may have children next year.
An lady of about 50 wearing Harry potter thick lenses glasses comes and sits with us and from the minute she sits down and starts talking the little English she knows we realise she has a screw loose.She is a really nice,happy chatty,weird,crazy old lady and her smile widens when I tell her me and Paul are not married and he is single.I buy her a drink and we all sit and chat about India and where we have been. The group of young Indian college lads are getting fed up of her talking and move away and the station police comes over and taps her with his wooden stick and starts shouting at her.Paul jumps up and protects her and says there is no problem she can sit with us.She looks so happy bless.Her Irish night in shining armour!
The bus arrives at midnight packed full of people?!Why are we waiting for a bus that is already full?!We are told the next bus is at 6am so we decide to sleep at the station. The guard tells us there is a dormitory upstairs a dollar a bed. I have never seen beds at a bus station so we head upstairs to investigate. There is a massive room with about 50 beds, it stinks of sweat, curry, stale milk and cheese. I’d say 30 of the 50 people were snoring-my biggest hate and I would rather sleep downstairs on the floor! He shows us a private room for an extra dollar with a toilet. We take the room and drift in and out of sleep for the next 5 hours.
The bus arrives half an hour early, quickly fills up and we pop a sleeping pill that Paul had from a friend in Australia. We fall asleep for 3 hours immediately and are woken for a tea and curry stop. I jump off and get a tea and my body feels stoned, my legs are spongy and I feel like I'm walking on the moon! Paul runs to the fruit man and buys a pineapple. I have no idea how he plans on eating it on the bus?
10 hours pass and we have arrived in Shimla hill station 2300ft safe and sound. The bus journey felt like it was 5hours long not 10. I pass Paul his pineapple when we get off the bus and he looks at me weirdly. He can’t even remember buying the pineapple! Ha, ha he must have been that doped up on the sleeping tablets he cannot even remember the transaction!
Shimla is a lot like Missouri only there were heaps more mountains around and we were higher up. We went for a walk into the village and met the ex-mayor of Shimla who took us to her house, introduced us to the family, made us tea and made us feel at home. Paul played cricket with the kids whilst I got stung by nettles trying to snap some photographs.
There was nothing much to do in Shimla so we decided to head to Manali. There was no way I was getting the shits on this bus so we paid 12$, our 3 day food budget for one dominoes cheese and pepperoni pizza to share. The base was thick and soggy, it was dripping in grease and I felt like a bloated whale after eating it. Paul is a chocoholic. He eats about six bars a day and after the pizza he ate, dairy milk, 3 ferreo rocher, a milky bar, a caramel crunchy and something else. I am trying to be healthy, I hardly ever eat chocolate but when you are travelling with someone who keeps pulling a bar out of their pockets every hour, it’s hard to say no to a piece!!!
It took 12 long hours to reach Manali on a bus filled with Tibetan monks. He journey felt like it took forever, it was too noisy to sleep with the screeching of the brakes, rocky roads and snoring monks. When we got off the bus at 6am though the journey was worth it!
10 degrees, crisp cold mountain air, fog blowing out of our mouths, hot chai stalls billowing steam out the kettle and the sun rising above the snow covered Himalayan mountains. A herd of yaks run past us with a Tibetan farmer wrapped up in a handmade blanket and a woolly Nike hat. Yaks are funny looking creatures and look like a cross between a sheep and a goat with cute monkey eyes. There are ladies in the village outside weaving blankets, washing clothes and making tea.
We find a nice guest house run by a local man in the village. Hot water 24hrs a day which is very rare in India, nice shower, balcony views of the Himalayas, a clean room, big bed and warm blankets all for $3 each! Bargain.
We have spent the last few days exploring the villages and hills, country walks, taking photographs, drinking lots of herbal tea, eating Tibetan momo’s, Manali fresh river trout, thupka- Tibetan soup and breathing in fresh mountain air. Manali has the Beas river flowing through the centre of the valley, hot springs, apple, pear and peach orchards, mountains, hills, waterfalls and amazing views. Everywhere you look there is a photo opportunity it is a magical place. He homemade 8% apple cider is a sweet tasty treat as are the peach, pear and apple wines!
I remember being 18 in Amsterdam and smoking Manali weed. Well this is the place it is grown. It is the 2nd best hash in the world and there are weed fields everywhere you look. I thought it would be rude not to sample some of the local delights whilst here so I headed to the local chill out cafe to see what the go was. The Bob Marley lookalike barman told me to head to the local wool shop and ask for a guy called ‘crazy’. Found the wool shop, introduced myself to crazy and told him I wanted to buy a pink woolly hat he had on show and some of his finest hash. A joint later and I’ve bought a new hat and 10g of Manali’s finest cream hash.
We head back to the river bar, order some chai and I make the biggest joint known to man. I did give up smoking the 29th March so I can be 3 months clean so I can go back to he mines and pass my drugs test but after speaking to a few stoners 3 months is not needed only 40 days so I now have another month to indulge and what better place!Manali.
The next few nights are spent listening to music,talking each others ears off and smoking what has to be the strongest, nicest smoke I had ever smoked.We take country walks in the day, visit the local villages and Paul tried his hand at paragliding.
The scenery here is some of the best I have seen in India, the spring temperature in the day is perfect as is the winter chill at night.I am going to hang around here for a while and try some Tibetan cooking classes and learn how to make my favourite delight 'Momo's' (a Tibetan steamed dumpling filled with veggies or chicken served with chili and soy sauce), do some trout fishing and maybe treat myself to a helicopter ride over the Himalayas!