Friday, 22 June 2012

Cashmere and Ladakh..where dreams come true-well almost!

Cathy and Dave arrive after a 36 hour local bus journey and we head out to explore Srinagar. Srinagar is a busy little city with the main attraction being the Dal Lake. The lake is full of house boats and small wooden boats called shikaras that take you on hour tours around the lake. The boat touts roam the streets in their hundreds harassing tourists.
I met a lovely local man who took me for lunch at his home. His wife picked fresh salad from the garden and we ate it for lunch. Later on that evening his friends took me and Irish the river for a beer and we watched the sunset. The people  here are so nice.
I have been in McLeod Ganj so song with so many westerners I forgot what ‘real’ India was like. The stares are back, but this time it feels like there are a million eyes on me at all times. It feels different, I can’t explain why.
 The Cashmere men are so handsome. Dave and Hussam the Israeli guy walk ahead viewing the sights, architecture and culture whilst I and Cathy dawdle behind them eyeing up the local cashmere talent! My god I have never seen so many good looking men in one place. The men here are not like the other Indian men that gawp at you like you have two heads they are all very charming, intelligent and speak very good English. The city relies on its tourism industry so these guys know how to sell ice to Eskimos. Dave and Hussam find mine and Cath’s obsession hilarious and don’t mind when we stop every 5 min to let the hot cashmere men chat us up.Hahah Funny shit.
After a day ogling the local talent we take a boat trip on the lake. It was so relaxing, beautiful and an amazing experience. Various locals float past selling their wares and there was even a man making, cooking and selling shish kebabs from his wooden canoe. I decided I must break my no meat ban. It smelt amazing, looked delicious and tasted fantastic! Hussam has an obsession for all things meat so we spent an hour floating alongside the kebab canoe whilst he gorged on 20p shish kebabs!
That night we followed the local’s recommendations and headed to Srinagar’s most famous Cashmere restaurant, ‘The Mogul Dabba’. The decor, food and service were shit. When we left there was a man outside telling us the real mogul dabba was upstairs. This happens in India. Places get good reputation so cunning business men set up a business in the same literally upstairs in this case to steal business. We investigated upstairs it looked more traditional, the waiters were all smiling and the owner told us he was the real mogul and had been open 20 years. When leaving the boss from where we had ate came to us and demanded he was the real mogul.Catherine exclaimed Eminem style “Can the real Mogul dabba please stand up!” We came to the conclusion we ate in the wrong Dabba and decided to visit the next night.
We went to the real mogul Dabba and it was fantastic apart from Catherine being served meat with her sag dish even after we explained a hundred times no meat! I think she secretly liked the taste of mutton.
We all decide to head to Ladakh but Cathy and Dave want to go by local bus as it’s cheaper. It’s also 24 hours longer so I took a private jeep again with Hussam. We waited and hour to fill the jeep with 6 people. The last person to fill the jeep was a 20 odd year old Indian. He wanted to use the loo before we were setting off and a huge, loud Czech woman who was also in our jeep told him he could not go the loo and to get in the car. The poor lad climbed in the car! I ordered him to go the loo and ignore her. I then told her she cannot tell people if they can or cannot go the loo and I use the loo often so she better not try and tell me what to do! I was so angry. How dare she?!?!? She stared ranting in her own language to her husband whilst looking at me. I just kept staring. I was hoping she was not that crazy as one punch and I’ve been dead. She was built like a WWF wrestler. After 10 min it was obvious the Indian was having a poo and her husband beeped the horn whilst she rudely banged on the cubicle door. I got out the jeep and told her to calm down and asked the driver why he was letting this happen. The Indian guys rushed out the loo still buttoning up his trousers bless him and jumped in the car next to me. It took minutes for me to realize he had human shit to on his trouser leg and shoes and I could smell it. Great. He must have slipped whilst squatting when she was rushing him. I made sure I stopped the jeep every 20 min to have a pee and take a breather.
The drive to Ladakh was one of the most amazing, out of this world experiences I have ever had. Breathtaking views. Layers of Desert, Rocky Mountains, greenery, and snow capped mountains and turquoise rivers. I have never seen anything like it in my 10 years of traveling. I must have snapped a thousand photos on the way. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife in the jeep. That woman was so angry with me but I didn’t care. I just made sure we did lots of toilet stops. To be fair it was cold, wet, raining and I did need a pee a lot.
On arrival we seen Irish walking down the street and checked into his guest house. There was a nice group of us but no sign of hot accent until the following day when he arrived which brought a big smile to my face.
Our group all got on well. We hired motorbikes, ate delicious food, went sightseeing and even found a local pub to play the football and serve cheap beer.
As the days went by I started to like hot accent more and more and we spent every day together. He made me feel good about myself for the first time in years and I had never been this happy in ages. It sounds vain and stupid but I never look in the mirror and think I look good. I actually avoid the mirror. The last 7 years or so I’ve hated my body, my looks and have never had confidence in how I look. I may be confident and happy with my personality and what’s on the inside but I hate what’s on the outside. All my close friends and family tell me I look fine and I’m not ‘fat’ or ugly but it does not make any difference. I don’t know why it was different hearing it from hot accent but I actually listened and felt good about myself. For the first time in ages I felt confident about my appearance and it felt great. As the days went by this feeling grew and I can honestly say I am satisfied with myself and am the happiest I have ever been all thanks to him and his words of wisdom. I have also had a positive impact on his life and his personal issues and we both think it was a blessing we met.
After a day in the she snowy mountains driving on the world’s highest road and playing in the snow it was time for hot accent to leave. I was very sad to see him go but we both planned to meet again in November in Nepal for another meditation/Buddhist retreat.
After a few days of him gone I missed him a lot and after speaking with Cathy, Dave and Irish they egged me on to message him my feelings. Paula, being honest Paula opened her mouth and what always happens to Paula happened. He didn’t feel the same as I did and just wanted to be mates, nothing more. I felt like a right knob. Every guy I like wants to be mates. I don’t get it? I admit I was gutted and had a wee cry. I really liked him and thought he felt the same. He liked me but never had the same feelings I ‘thought’ I had. A few amazing, kind messages followed and I and the situation was all good. I think I just got over excited, as I normally do! We met for a reason, to make each other appreciate what we both have and realize we are both two amazing people. We have made a great friendship and will still do the course in November as planned which is cool. I am looking forward to another month of Tushita. If ten 10 days changed my thoughts, opinions and beliefs imagine what a month will be like!
Me, Cathy and Dave hiked to the mountain village of Yang Lang which took a day. Beautiful scenery stayed in a local’s house and ate amazing local family food. The next day I was aching and felt weak so after a few hours of hitching in the heat I ditched the trek and hitched a ride to Lama Euro with 6 Ladakh cricket players. Cathy and Dave were worried and were reluctant to let me go alone. I persuaded them and relaxed in the mini bus for the next 6 hours thinking of them walking up the dry Rocky Mountains in the heat. I got to Lama Euro and was ill. I had hot accents Bangladeshi flu and was cursing him in my head. I took pills and went to bed. A few hours later Cathy and Dave arrived. They felt terrible leaving me and had checked all the police posts along the way to check if I’d signed inch ha.
Next day we headed to the Lama Euro cham mask festival. The local monks in the monastery parade around and dance in traditional clothes and masks to warn off the evil spirits. It was magical. A group of French tourists embarrassed Europe by having a brawl in the middle of the monastery because of a disagreement about photographs and the monks had to separate 2 women. It was very embarrassing. In a place where compassion is the main focus and these fuckwits are punching each other and throwing water over one another because they have a camera dispute. When the monks left and the coast was clear me and Cathy gave them a piece of our scouse mind whilst Dave minded his own business bless him.
Time to head back to Leh but the bus was taking forever so we hitch hiked in an Indian oil truck with 4 Indians’ 2hour traffic jam followed, we finally caught up with the bus and got back to leh to spend our last night together until we meet again in Jan 2013. They bought me a lovely local turquoise and coral necklace for my early birthday present and we had a little cry on saying goodbye.
I have a new plan. I will return to Oz as planned in July and leave in Nov this year. I will do another course at the Kopan monastery, Nepal in Nov, 6 months in India and then me Cathy and Dave will hitch hike the silk route from china to france.From France we will get the boat to Ireland, boat from Ireland to Holy head and then finally THE FERRY ACROSS THE MERSEY to Liverpool. I think I will spend a good 6 months at home working and living with the family till Cathy and Dave’s wedding in August 2014 to star t saving again. I have the travel bug again. Sod putting a deposit on a house! I’m following my dreams.
Arrived in Nepal and it is boiling? I imagined snow, cold temperatures and hot chain around the log fire. No chance of that. It’s monsoon season,mosquitos are everywhere and it is boiling! It  is a hell of a lot cheaper than India and the Nepali people are beautiful, friendly, humble and sweet.
I have met a cool Australian chick who I lent funds to as she lost her bank cards and we are planning to spend the next few days visiting villages,temples,light trekking and taking it easy. Met a cool Nepali lad called Santosh through Erica in Cairns and we are planning a nice celebration for my birthday next week.

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