Me and Paul took a taxi further up the mountains an hour away to the Rotung Pass. The snow or should I say 'powder' as all these 'snowboard dudes' call it here was fresh and deep. Apparently snowboarders and skiers come from all around he world to sample this kind of 'powder'?
Paul did a paraglyde for 7 Min's and zorbed down the hills.Fuck that. I opted for a cable car ride to admire the stunning views and sat and had a cup of chai on op of the mountain. Later on we hired some fishing rods and jumped on a local bus further down the River Beas to a fishing spot a local recommended to us. After 2 casts my line got caught on a rock and I realised there were no spare hooks in the tackle box. Great. Radio1 live lounge on the Ipod it is then.
Paul headed further up stream whilst I got hassled by a few Indian holidaymakers for photographs with them.I was seeing flashes the amount of photos they were taking. Snap!Snap!Snap!After 10 min of this my patience was running thin and I was in the mood to tell them to 'fuck off!' But I bit my lip. If I have learnt anything in India, one important thing is to keep my mouth shut and keep my opinions to myself. Yes, really.ha ha. I think I'm growing up!
The crowd finally dispersed and the heavens opened. It was teeming with rain and the sun was blocked by all the massive rain clouds.I'm shivering now and cursing the rod.I jumped under the nearest big rock for shelter, put on my ipod and rolled a joint. Half an hour passed, Paul returned drenched with a trout the size of a gold fish and we jumped on a bus to Vashist, another village close to Manali to organise a trek.
The trek takes three days, climbing 6000ft to the top of the mountain in snow boots and the 1980's scouse fluro ski suits they provide, camping over night -03 degrees, learning to snowboard the next day, camping again in the freezing cold, then the last day snowboarding to the bottom. No way am I doing that. I can't snowboard or ski and I don't fancy the idea of sleeping on a freezing cold, flat tent floor, climbing 6000ft,getting mountain sickness and wearing a fluro ski suit for 2 nights. Paul goes off to buy a shit load of chocolate for his journey and I move to the village of Vashist for a change of scenery.
Vashist is an old Tibetan town with lots of wooden houses with slate roofs,lots of wells,goats,yaks,cows,farms,cow shit, hippies, cheap accommodation, hot springs,temples, Tibetan restaurants,weird people and has some of the best views of the Himalayas in India.
I meet a local Tibetan guy who gives me a room in an old, wooden, Tibetan house in the middle of a farm in the local village. We have hot running water 24 hours because the water is pumped straight from the hot springs to here. I'm at the top of the house with a wooden balcony and stunning views across the Himalayas. It is amazing.
I went to the hot springs today which was a bit weird. Set inside the temple garden is men and women separate baths. You go down the stairs and go into a massive outdoor stone room which has a small stone pool steaming with spring water and showers pumping out spring water. All the Indians and Tibetans are in the showers naked washing themselves, their children and a weeks worth of washing. I really did'nt want to get naked in front of all these random strangers so I sneaked back outside and went and drank chai at our local tea shop.
Later that day I met some weird, wacky hippies,spongers,gypsies,travellers who told some tales whilst sipping chai and smoking charras.
White lad, young fresh face,sounds like a posh southerner, looks like Harry Potter without the specs walks into the tea shop wearing what looks like a carpet with a hole cut out for his head and carrying a wooden flute. Nearly all travellers in India carry an odd instrument from triangles, to xylophones, to fiddles and bongo drums whatever, it pisses me off. It's like you're not a 'real' traveller unless you have some annoying instrument. Anyways, this guy doesn't even introduce himself when he sits down to join us he just announces, '' I had a dream last night ,that I was sat on top of a mountain playing the flute. So today for the first time in my life I bought a flute and guess what? I can play!''
Randomly he starts belting out the theme tune to Lord of the rings and I keep telling myself ''don't laugh, don't laugh Paula. Be nice!' He finishes, there is along silence then we all start to clap. It's moments like this that I think, only in India. Incredible India. The conversation is flowing and I am not listening properly to the weird stuff going on around me I am thinking of home, going back to Oz, work, friends and my family when I'm brought back into the conversation by Harry Potter announcing ''I have seen some amazing puppies in Vashist.''
I spit out my tea laughing, as earlier on, me and Irish had seen an Indian guy in a t-shirt saying 'I like puppies.' We both thought the same thing and burst out laughing.We know he means dogs but it's still funny.And it does not help when he then follows it on by saying, ''Some of them are so cute!'' Nobody is laughing, Harry looks a bit upset and we have to explain our childish reason for laughing so he knows we were not laughing at him,for fucks sake!
As the hours tick by more dread locked beasts join the table talking about religion, Buddhism, politics, freeing Tibet and all things that I cannot converse about because I ain't got a clue. I do try to get involved but there's no point I don't know what their talking about.So I just switch off and learn how to play 'shit head' with a group of 'normal looking' Irish lads for the millionth time in my life. I forget card games after a few games, I'm useless with cards.No memory whatsoever when it comes to card games and jokes. I do not know one good joke. I always forget them. Every Indian I meet asks me to tell them a joke. I must learn a few.
Today is a new day so I got up early and decided to take a stroll through the mountains as the weather was perfect.Clear blue sky, nice cool mountain breeze and the warm sun. Along the way I met a young Indian lad, age 24 with a glass eye. I couldn't talk to him properly cause I kept looking at his eye when I looked him in the eyes. Anyways, one eyed willie aka Shiva was a coffee shop owner and was out foraging for fresh tea and herbs so I went with him picking up litter along the way(good karma) and chatting about what all Indian's love to chat about. A million questions why I am single?Why I have no kids and why am I not married?...bla bla bla...
We stop at an old temple and one eyed willie pays his respects whilst I go and sit next to a baba. A baba is a man in India who dedicates his life to the gods, wears an orange robe, dreadlocks, more than likely carries a stick and a metal tiffin box for food. This dude looks like the above and is about 70 years old smoking a joint. People give the 'baba's' money donations, food, cigarettes and accommodation. These guys are sorted. They travel from place to place, sleep in a cave, in the hills, wherever they can, live free, and have a small bag of belongings. I think it would be a good life- as long as there is always a river close by to get a wash and lots of generous tourists! I sat and listened to his prayers, made small chit chat and gave him a cigarette. This baba was real, he wasn't a fake, some are fake and do it to make money .They then go home to a nice house and family at the end of the day. Just when it all seemed to good to be true the old bastard grabs my ass. I smack his hand and then he moves onto my thigh.Bastard! I knew it. I should have known, sitting out here in the forest waiting for a random lone traveller. Well,that's it, I'm off. Old fucker.I smack his hand again calling him a dirty old bastard under my breath. I pay my respects at the temple and apologise to the gods for swearing and then head back to Vashist.
It's really has been a strange day. On the way back to the village I get talking to two Indian guys 24 and 39.They are on holiday here and want to know why backpackers they have tried to approach are rude and tell them to go away. I assure them we are not all like that and then have to accept the invite of a cuppa chai. I go back to their room they are renting and sit on the floor. I thought we were going to a cafe. It's all a bit awkward, they are pumping questions at me and I wish I had not come. I calm them down talking about my family and life so they can't get any questions in and one of the guys bring in 4 cups of coffee. I am so paranoid I grab my own cup thinking 'what if they have drugged me' haha. Funny the things you think sometimes. The youngest lad who tells me he exports gems and diamonds pulls out a guitar.Hindu hymns are being sung and played and they make me learn a few hymns. I'm sure these guys are going to try and make me take some gems or buy stones.You always read about these scammers. I try to think positive, sometimes well most of the time there is always an ulterior motive. This time I actually think these guys are genuine and really do just want to socialise and drink tea with good company.I end up sitting their for 4 hours chatting,singing and drinking chai but and I need to leave I still can relax.I make up a story, I have to meet a mate and they ask me to come back at 8pm for dinner. I say maybe but they insist. I go home get a shower and have another cup of tea.It's 7.30pm and I really can't be bothered going but I feel I have to or I will feel bad. I knock at the door and there is about 10 Indian men all sitting on the floor. I sit down, all eyes are on me, it's quiet, the TV has been turned off and I cross my fingers and lie, ''I'm sorry I cannot make dinner, my male friend has arrived and I have to spend time with him.I will see you all tomorrow.'' I quickly jump up and they are asking what time? Where?Breakfast?Lunch?'' I tell them I don't know and dash off. Sod that. I felt so uncomfortable and paranoid. There were too many men who didn't speak English and me. I wouldn't want the land lady to think I'm I....Oh I dunno I just did not feel comfortable.Maybe the joints I had earlier that afternoon had something to do with that paranoid moment! I headed to our local tea shop 'shanti,shanti' and ordered a cup of chai.I'm going to miss chai so much in Oz. They're all here tonight, Harry Potter, a London serial squatter ,one eyed willie, a Mexican who looks like Aladdin with the biggest head I have ever seen, three stoned Korean girls who are drooling over Aladdin and a Russian chick. Russians are always a bit crazy.I haven't med a calm or 'normal' Russian ever. This girl was chilled out and cool. We had a few smokes together and went to get some dinner.She took her hat off at dinner and I nearly choked on my samosa. She has a skinhead with a dread locked multicoloured Mohawk, looked cool though. We exchanged travel tales whilst getting strange looks off the Indians and I gave her my hard drive to borrow so she can copy my movies. She better not do a runner tomorrow or her dread locked Mohecan has had it!
I'm off for another cup of tea and a smoke then its bed time for me.
I AM ABSOLUTELY LOVING INDIA RIGHT NOW. What a beautiful place it is up in the Himalayan Mountains. Bliss.....................................................................................................................