I am in the town of Manali, India After arriving in Delhi, I got the fuck out of there as fast as I could... that was not without trouble. For some reason, I kept going to tourist agencies, and all of them basically told me that my plans were stupid, or impossible without a guide, or blah-fucking-blah. I hung strong though, finally located a REAL government tourist bureau (actually, the supid-rad BRIT had showed me one earlier), and they put all my fears out. I boarded a bus at 6:30 that night and arrived here the next day.
Manali puts Boulder to mother-fucking SHAME. In fact, it puts every place I have ever been to shame. It's absurd. The small, cutesy town is in a valley. The east and west ridges are covered in tall-ass pines, and high above them are even greater peaks covered i rock and ice. They gleam in the sunlight and call to me. I'll be up there shortly.
On getting off the bus, I was told by Fred - owner of Himalayan Extreme, an adventure sport company here, originally from Switzerland and says that this place is exactly the same... but cheaper, MUCH cheaper - a fellow traveler on the bus that I should head to cheaper, backpacker-friendly "Old Manali."At that moment, a man named Mr. Sarju asked if I needed a place, presented a card and a price for the room (250, exchange is 50, so that's 5 bucks a night!) and assured me a free Auto-rickshaw up to is. SWEET. I jumped on boad.
The hotel... I was expecting something similar to what I had looked at in Delhi, i.e. shit-pits, but I was pleasantly surprised. My view isn't the best, but it isn't the worst, I get first-morning sun, the bed is big, and - most importantly -I have hot, HOT, LAVA-HOT running water. Sold. (Today I found a local woman that wanted to put me up and cook for me for 150 a night, but I didn't have the heart to leave Sarju. Oh, and she offered me "Charra" which is HASH, assuring me that her's was the best in the area and to tell my friends. "Will do, Miss.").
I ventured out to find soap for body and clothes, and inspired by the gorgeous blue, turquoise and purple house high on the hill above me, I ventured UP. Flowers abound here... mainly marigolds, Goat and cows live in small barns in between the houses. Everything is colorful in a laid back, not for flair but for color sort of way. Pot grows everywhere.
Pot... charra. The people rub the leaves between their hands until the oils come out. They then rub their hands together to get the oils to mash together to form a black resin (dirt is also surely involved). They then pick the pieces off and smash them into flat globs to serve to tourists. It seems that this is a very hippie place. Everyone I've met is smoking or or going to smoke or drinking tea and talking about smoking later. Peace Corps volunteers would do well here.
I met a fellow traveler, Sanda, on my way back to the room (I was perusing the abundance of fake north face backpacks and jackets). She is a physical therapist from Austria and has been on the road for almost a year. We decided to grab tea and chat more, and at the coffee shop we met Jason, a film major from temple that had been working in hollywood, started feeling lost and decided that a travel of indefinite time period was in order. The three of us ended up spending the remainder of the day together, sipping tea, talking about books and psychopathy, hiking into the hills, drinking beer and smoking hookah.
Needless to say, my fears of traveling alone were both silly and unfounded In an incredible stroke of coincidence, the four travelers that I have had the greatest conversations with were all 29, all educated and talented and all without a real clue what they wanted to do... and so they hit the road. Talk about reaffirmation that I'm not crazy for wanting to see more of the world and to avoid the norm at all costs. THANK YOU FELLOW TRAVELERS!
After a delicious dinner of veggie curry and naan, I crashed out in a bed for the first time since monday night and slept well.
Today, my mission is to figure out how to get to Kaza, one of two towns in the Spiti valley, about ten hours away. I believe public transit goes there leaving at 4:30 in the morning, so I could be out of town a early as tomorrow. I've also got to pick up an "Inner Line Permit"to travel from the Spiti valley over the range into the Kinnaur valley and pick up a American-to-Indian wall socket converter. I've also met some really fun Israelis that I hope to hang out with more a bit later.
Weather wise, the trip could not be more perfect. Fluffy clouds here and there in the sky, delightfully warm in the sun (not hot, not sweaty hot, just pleasant) and chilly in the shade (I pull on a thin fleece now and then). The nights get cold, but they are nothing compared to the sub-freezing temperatures I'll encounter at higher elevations in Spiti. Based on this weather, I think the pass to Spiti will surely be open.
DIG THIS LIFE!
Thanks for reading.
I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)