For those of you who are reading the French and English posts, you know that Fabien has been posting a lot more than me in the last week. I’ve been sick with a stomach bug for most of this week, so while he’s been entertaining himself, I’ve been holed up in the hotel room sleeping and reading. I’m feeling about 95% recovered and overjoyed to still be in the mountains.
At the end of our trek, we took a taxi jeep from Jari (where we parted from our guides) about one hour to Manikaran. Manikaran is a village famous for it’s hot springs (hot enough to boil rice- and we saw it) and it has a fabulous spot on the river. There is a large Sikh temple and several other temples to visit. We stayed in a nice, modern hotel with a view of the river. The other great thing about the hotel was the showers fed by the hot springs, I spent a good hour in the shower scrubbing off 5 days of grime. We did a beautiful hike the second day with Forest (he was catching the bus from a nearby village.) We followed a path along the river past several abandoned cottages (potential fixer-uppers) until we came to an actual sandy beach. There were women and children washing their clothes there, and Forest went for a frosty swim while Fab and I settled for dipping our feet. (check out Fabs post: un jour en Inde: Manikaran for photos)
I started feeling bad in Manikaran, but already after 3 days of resting, we decided to start the trip to McCleod Ganj. Our trip would involve a few changes, our first bus would take us to Bhuntar (about 2 hours) the we’d change for Mandi (2 hours) where we would catch a bus to Dharmasala (6 hours.) We were the first people on the bus to Bhuntar so Fab and I naively thought that the bus would not be so crowded. 45 minutes later when the bus was bursting at the doors, we realized our mistake. As we made our way slowly downhill bouncing and healing at every turn and pothole, we were convinced that the bus would not make it. When our tire exploded in one of the potholes and we were left at the side of the road (only 1 hour outside of Manikaran) we knew that McCleod Ganj was a bit optimistic in one day. So, we hitched our first ride in India, and ironically, it was our Belgian trekking friends who delivered us to Bhuntar.
From Bhuntar, we hopped on a bus to Mandi, but after two more hours of Indian public transport, I was feeling exhausted and weak from not eating much that morning. We went to grab a lunch, and the real nausea began to set in..nothing was appetizing, and all I wanted was a pillow and toilet nearby. So we found a very modest guesthouse in Mandi (complete with squat toilet) and I spent the rest of the day horizontal while Fabien went to explore the town. The next morning, I was determined to make the trip to Dharmasala, so I woke up, drank a lot of fluids, ate bananas and cookies. When we arrived at the bus station, the bus was leaving, so we jumped on it, squished ourselves and our backpacks into a small seat, and we were off, on a roller coaster ride through the mountains. Saying that I tossed my cookies is putting it lightly, but at least I wasn’t the only one…these buses are challenging even for the locals. Fabien wrote a beautiful post about the experience so if you read French you will be enlightened by all of the interesting things he wrote, all I remember was staring at the inside of a plastic bag.
But, alas, we arrived in Dharamsala and took the 30 minute taxi uphill to McCleod Ganj, home of the exiled Dali Lama and to a large number of Tibetan refugees. Fabien and I spent yesterday visiting a Buddhist temple and monastery and the Tibetan museum. It’s opened our eyes to another one of the international injustices that the world has ignored and introduced us a bit to another culture. This place is definitely a backpacker’s scene, and a couple of days of having a few western conveniences (we saw Madagascar in a makeshift movie theater earlier this evening) has been enough to put me on the road to recovery.
We’re going to brave public transport again (this time the train) and head for Amritsar to visit the golden temple tomorrow.