13.06.2007 26 °C
Written on June 13...
So we set off to the town of Tattapani, a local bus ride which is said to take 2 hours. I've now come to the conclusion to always add at least 1 hour for every 2 "planned" hours. Not surprisingly, the trip took 3.5hours.
Driving in India is sure to be one of the most dangerous activities on earth. It is bound to be scarier and more dangerous than BASE jumping (which I believe currently holds the title of "most dangerous") hehehe, I got a VIP seat (not really, but it felt like it), the seat at the very front, beside the driver, giving me a full panoramic view of the dangers lurking. It was scary in town where cars and motorbike and big trucks were cutting in and out on the narrow zigzaging streets of Shimla, and it was scary in a different, but very real, way during the entire trip, zigzaging on a narrow mountain road (aka, if I looked out, all I could see was the cliff, very steep and long!). We often had to pass or maneuver around incoming traffic (mostly other busses and big trucks, on a road that can barely accommodate 1 of these vehicles!!). Many times I felt like on the ride at Play Land, the one where you're in a small car and turn abruptly at every end and always feel like the car is going to fall off! Same here, but for real! Much scarier! hehehe The driver was clearly quite experienced though, taking time to change the cassette (of wonderful ...khe khe khe... Indian music) and/or spit out the window! hehehe From my seat at the front (where I was soon joined by an elderly lady) I could barely see the state of fullness of the bus (which was ever increasing) to the point where people where doing the trip hanging on the handrail of the doors (there are 2 doors on every bus, thank god! as one could not possibly walk down these alleys when they are full). Overall, a good time, but I was glad to get off that bus!!
The scenery was quite gorgeous, driving fairly high on the mountain, and seeing valleys, trees, a river, little clutter of houses, etc. Very nice indeed, kinda reminded me of the Interior of BC, but with higher mountains.
Tattapani, is a very small village and we stayed in a hotel that is mostly known for its hot spring. Man it's hot!!! Like burning hot!! and they diverted some of the spring to a bath where people submerge themselves in the water!!! I actually managed to do so, for about 5 sec, after almost 1 hour of meddling around the bath, starting with the feet, then the legs, etc! Still, way too hot for comfort, but apparently good for the skin, joints, etc! The hotel was ok, located right on a big river, which was great, but power kept cutting in and out (mostly out, for hours at a time) and the shower only worked once, after that we hgad to use buckets to wash. On the last day, there was even a shortage of cold water, so I got given water from the hot spring! I think I burned my back a little! Hehehe! Worst hot “shower” ever!!! hehehe
So anyway, not much to report about this town. Mouchi's a trekking guide, so we went on a little easy trek (for my feet, which are getting better and better, since yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I've been able to go down stairs the "normal way" - aka 1 foot on each step, without pain) as opposed to my previous “sideway, one foot at the time, with pain" method.)
We ended up at a river where locals where beating sticks of wood in the water to "tenderize" them I guess. They use them to weave baskets. Anyway, they did that uninterruptly for at least a couple of hours, then proceeded to gather the wood in bunches and walk them back up the side of the mountain to the main road (several trips of at least 1km up hill with a massive bunch on their head!!!) People work so hard here (physically speaking) compared to anything I've ever seen anywhere else!
We stayed in Tattapani for a couple of days and I made a friend in Mouchi. He’s a great guy, and he taught me some basic words in Hindi, which will prove useful if I make it to smaller towns where people don't speak English, or just to know what the heck I'm ordering in a restaurant (aloo means potato!!! haaaa! it was like a revelation!!! hehehe). In return, I taught him some French (guides are impressive with the number of languages they must have basic knowledge of!, I remember in Thailand, guides could speak better French and/or Hebrew and/or whatever other language than I ever expected - the same situation applies here...by better I mean 2-3 sentences and a few words, but still!). He's from Kashmir, and we also got to talk about the situation there, which was very interesting. He left the place at 12yrs old when the trouble started (mid 80's) and up to a couple of years ago, the place was completely shut off to any tourists, as there was a fair bit of terrorism. It's now been deemed safe by the local authorities, thus the massive tourist push, and he thinks that it's only a matter of time, less than 1 yr before the foreign embassies lift their travel advisories....we shall see I guess!!
We came back to Shimla yesterday, on the same bus with the same driver hehehe, to my great joy and sorrow at the same time (at least I know he can do it, but I also know how he does the trip - aka almost recklessly! hehehe). This time I didn't have such a good seat and fully felt the crush of people on the bus (combined with the fact that my knees only fit in the seat through some contortions) and are leaving tomorrow for the Kinaura and Sippiti valley in the Himalayas, which is apparently the next best thing to Kashmir. So far we will be joined by a Dutch girl and a couple, so that should be fun. On one side I'm happy, as it means that the next 10 days will be quite easy (no need to worry about hotel, making my way, etc), but on the other side, I'm a bit unhappy about opting for what I feel is a bit of an "easy out" of this trip, as it will be too easy... anyway, I'll have 2 more weeks left in India after this, so plenty of challenge to come (I hope!)
On a last note, Shimla is a pretty enough city, somewhat reminding me of Qc City, with the older buildings, lots of hills, and lots lots lots of tourists! hehehe A major difference however, is that there a monkeys roaming everywhere here! I LOVE MONKEYS! (with a bit of caution however, as they are wild animals and will not hesitate to bit anyone attempting a foolish move, such as trying to corner and/or pet them for example!) Still, it's so great to see them around!
The weather has been a bit cool here, probably around 25, but when you're used to 45, 25 is cold! hehehe
On that note, no news from the next 10 days, but probably too much to say upon my return!