Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodbye Manali, Hello McLeod Ganj!

So my alst few days in Manali were spent doing pretty much nothing. It was quite stupendous. I mapped out the next couple months of travelling in utter serenity around me. It felt more like I lived there, than I was visiting. I finished my book Eat. Pray. Love. pretty much in one day. I couldnt put it down and was devastated that it was over to be honest. I love books because I fall in love with the charecters, their triumphs become my own, their sorrows become my own, and so on. Such a wonderful and inspiring book.

So the bus to Dharamsala was full the past few days, but nonetheless I am here. Well actually a few miles north in a town called McLeod Ganj. Another backpacker friendly place surrounded by foreigners, yoga centers, and monasteries. I can get used to this!

However, I miss the serenity of Manali. Dont get me wrong, McLeod Ganj is just as beautiful but Manali holds special meaning to me. My last few days there, I could see substantial change in the foliage turning into the glorious colors of my favorite season. Autumn. The green leaves when I arrived were now a beautiful bright yellow and then yellow leaves were now a golden amber. Every so often, I spotted a bright red tree in the midst of these wonderful colors. Combined with the beautiful colorful scenary, was the cool crisp mountain air. Oh how I loved that town. As I left my guest house with my backpack on my back, walking a few miles to the bus station I passed by all the stores where I passed by multiple times a day and made small talk with the owners there. These people are so desperate for business its crushing. Around this time most of the shops close due to the cold weather arriving and less tourists as a result. My heart crumbles for these people who dont get business for days and are so happy to have someone to talk to. Saying goodbye to each of these warm hearted people was so difficult. I was unable to say goodbye to tibetan wife to be. I was seriously bummed about this. We could have been happily married. But for some reason her shop was closed that day. I didnt get to have one last meal and one last exchange of words. Her hospitality among everyone elses will be sincerely missed the most. I loved that Cafe.

Strangely I have developed a bond with them that was hard to let go of. Travelling alone really makes lonliness set in to where you become best friends with sometimes inanimate objects as a book, journal, or animate objects like strangers or animals. As I was leaving yesterday I passed by a shop where I stopped by to say goodbye to a young man named Hari whom I met on my first day I was in Manali. I went into his parents shop, sat down, we shared a cup of Chai, and listened to the glorious music of Ray Charles.
"Ah! You have IPod!? My CD player broken, play something!"
"Like what?...What kind of music do you like?"
"Anything, please put on anything you like."
Ray Charles it was. Hari had never heard of Ray Charles.
"What is this?"
"Ray Charles, you like it?"
He closes his eyes slowly, tilts his head back slightly, wiggles his head to the beat, puts out a happily smile and says, "Oh yes...I never heard this before"
There we sat, drinking a hot cup of chai, jamming out to Ray Charles. My fondest memories of India always involve a warm cup of Chai. I love it.
"You travel alone?"
"No girlfriend?"
"Why? You like girls?"
Not this again...
"Yes Hari, but its a long sad story...How long have you been with your girlfriend"
"2 years. I think next year marriage. Here, I give you my number, I want you to come."
We then exchange info, give a warm handshake and I am off to catch my bus.

I was early by an hour. It was pitch dark by then. No lights except for the ones each bus produced. I found a nice spot where I lay down listening to Jimi Hendrix looking up at the clearest sky I have ever seen. The only thing to make this moment perfect would be a cup of Chai. I reminisce on Manali and I will miss the hospitality I recieved there. From the guest house, to my beautiful tibetan cook, to the store merchants, to the people on the street. I am thinking of returning in June where it will be perfect for backpacking.

Then I loaded into the bus, the first bus Ive been on that wasnt packed every seat. I had two seats to myself. I found this quite the blessing. The ride was not nearly as crazy as the others. I arrived in McLeod Ganj at 4 am, found a cheap guest house nearby and went to sleep.

This morning I went in search of food. I stumbled upon a coffee place called, First Cup. Very americanized. The shop was small but there I had the best Iced Mocha I have ever tasted. Made me instantly wish Shawn was with me to taste it, it was delightful. I know he loves Iced Mochas.

Halloween is near and to be quite honest I am not too stoked on it. Its more of a reason to get drunk or high out here more than the holiday. Id rather spend my time seated in meditation in a monastary with some monks.

Today I goto different monastaries, meditation centers, etc to try and find a place where I can stay and study for a few weeks. Ive wanted to do this for quite some time now and will be stoked if I am blessed with the opportunity to. Just a note in advance, if I do find a place, I doubt I will have internet access or will be able to leave to access a computer.

I love you all.
Many blessings and peace to you all.