Sunday, October 26, 2008

Manali: My Hippie Mountain Village

So after my last post I was on a mission to find an outlet adapter to use to charge my camera and Ipod. I ask someone where an electronic store is and he walks me over to one about 20 feet away and I find my adapter. I make sure it works before I buy and it does so Im stoked. No more conserving my battery life!
"You like chai?" the man asks
"Yes. Very much."
"Come with me. My brother owns Chai Shop, you can get food if you are hungry."
"That would be wonderful, thank you."
He takes me to a shop in a bazaar and there was only jewelry for sale. Shortly after a man brings in two cups of Chai.
"You hungry?"
I nodd and say "Yes"
He then tells the boy my order in Hindi.
Then the man busts out the Kashmir photobooks and I start laughing so hard I think I am going to choke. Just when I thought I was out of the hustling, I get it shoved up my rear here. I kindly listen and look drinking my Chai. My food then arrives in a plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag, were other plastic bags with my food and my naan wrapped in newspaper. There I ate in the store cold indian food off a newspaper. Delightful! He kept swinging me going to Kashmir with him and friends to stay on his houseboat. He even had me talk on the phone with another american to make sure he was "a good man". He wanted more money than the tour agencies! I took his info and got out of his shop asap. I go to give him money for Chai and he says
"No..Money comes, and money goes."

Getting to Manali was a blast. I love the situations bus rides provide me with.

So I arrive early to catch the taxi to my bus about 3:30 and my bus leaves at 4:00. I dont get picked up until 4:35, and we walk through shady alleys to finally reach where my bus will be arriving. Everything in India is late, Ive came to realize. There are alot of foreigners, I feel alot more comfortable about this now. I park myself by a young japanese man and we immediately start talking and share some snacks together. He is going to a town called Kullu which is about an hour and half before Manali. His main focus is pot. Apparently in this area it grows wild and as a result it is very accesible for those who take an interest in that sort of thing.

So then we board the bus. It came at 5:30, Ive came to the realization that everything is late in India. But rest assured it will come and you will arrive. So I get placed next to a young man who looks like a blend between Naploean Dynamite and Robert Plant. Tall lanky body with a head full of curly brown hair.
"Hello" (I go to shake his hand)
"I dont speak..uhhh...good english"
So I have a 16 hour bus ride with someone I cannot talk to?! This will be interesting. So getting out of Delhi at the time we were leaving was horrible in terms of the traffic. It made L.A.'s rush hour traffic look like a breeze. I was placed in the very last row before the uncomfortable bench seat. I put some music on and doze off. I am woken up by guess what? Yes, being lpunged out of my seat! I think it is being put in the back maybe? But this was nothing like the last bus ride. The insanity of this ride was 100 times more severe. It was dark out at this time so it was hard to see, but all I knew is that we were not on a paved road. We were literally offroading in a bus. Every bump we hit lifted me off my seat and caused the windows to shake so hard that I thought they would break. The ride was so bumpy and loud the WHOLE time (literally) all I could do everytime was bust out into a roaring laughter looking at Napolean where we exchange laughs. We stop for food and Napolean sits by me and through sign language I figure out he is hungry, but doesnt know what to order. I give him a bite of my food, he likes it, so I order him some. Whenever we stopped we were together eating or drinking Chai. No words exchanged, and none needing to be. The driver stopped around 3am to take a nap, the bus was so quite inside. I am awoken by a man behind me snoring. But not any normal snoring. I can handle snoring and sleep through it most of the time. But not this time. This mans snoring was slow, drawn out snoring that sounded like someone was farting(Anything that resembles farting I cannot help but laugh). Here I am in this calm bus, doing everything I can to hold back my laughter not to wake anyone up, but that makes it that much harder not to laugh. I wonder if anyone else can here this man, but doubt they find it as humourous as I do. I eventually put on my Ipod to drown him out, the bus starts driving shortly after. So I doze off for a bit again and notice we are driving around a lake because I saw the stars reflection in the water. I cant wait for the sun to rise to see whats around us. Slowly over the next 2 hours the sun slowly creeps up to light my beautiful view of lush forrests, thick fog crawling down the mountainside slowly pouring downward, and a glassy water lake below us. At times we were above the fog, through the fog, and below the fog. It didnt feel like I was in India anymore. This felt more like forrests of Big Bear back home. However, seeing random houses, shops, shrines, and temples on the mountainside brought me back to reality that I am in India. I doze off again to awaken to Napolean sleeping on my shoulder. I keep trying to push him off but he comes right back. Too tired to care I fall back asleep. Its now like 8am, I have no idea how long I slept or if I did at all really. Napolean is on his side now. He wakes up enough to pick his nose, but falls asleep too fast for him to dispose of his girant green treasure. It remains on his finger. This ride has been such a lovely comical expierience. I loved it. A few hours later people start leaving. Napolean leaves and we both issue a silent farewell to each other.

I reach Manali, and I am engulfed in huge towering trees, snow capped mountains and powerful roaring rivers. I get out of the bus and breathe clean crisp air. No awful smells. Just lovely. I then get taken to a guest house to stay at, very cheap. $4 a night. Staff is very friendly. The driver says he will wait for me to change then take me back down to town. I change and walk down to the courtyard where he said he would be and he is no where to be found. I wonder around for 15 mins, he is no where to be found. So I walk myself into town and ask about arranging a multi day trek. They tell me trekking season is pretty much over now, its starting to snow and some of the parts are closed as a result. He tells me to check back in a few days, gives me a route to a nearby town and sends me on my way. I find an awesome little cafe, which is where I have the rest of my meals during my stay here. A beautiful elderly lady cooks here. (Over the course of the next few days I developed quite the crush on her) Her food is amazing. Anything from chocolate pancakes to pizza to Thali. After dinner I go back to my room, close the blinds for bed and a spider the size of my fist (no joke) creeps out from the side. I hate spiders, espiecally huge brown ones that could eat me alive. After panicing like a little girl, I center myself, grab my sandal and repeat "Im sorry, Im sorry,Im sorry..." as I deliver the spiders impending doom.

Next morning I wake up, do my morning practices, go get breakfast (an awesome omlette and chai) at my little cafe. Then I walk down to where I saw a sign that said free yoga, however it was closed. Alot of places are closed around here because it is going to start to get cold and snow. So I walk down to the main town and buy a towel so I can shower. Go back to room, take freezing cold shower, get dressed then head to a local temple. It is called the Hadimba Temple located in a beautiful forrest, it was built in the 1500's. I sit down to wit for the line to go in to slim down and within 30 seconds I am swarmed with 10 children.
"Where you from?"
"HAHAHA, Americ-uh HAHA"
"Whats your name?"
"HAHAH...Poo-tee...Hi my name is Poo-tee HAHAH"
One child flips me off, and I explain to him that is bad in America. This fuels the fire of mockery of the children. Now they are all doing it screaming my new name "Poo-tee". I suddenly feel like I was sent back to elemetrey school. I keep silent and they leave, flipping me off. The line is alot shorter, I go take off my shoes and ring the bells outside. The shrine was below ground level and was barely big enough to fit a midget. I place my offering, bow, pray, get up, give money and leave. Walking around different group of kids swarm me wanting me to take a picture with them. Indians do not smile in their photos. Interesting. On way back I found a spot to sit at that overlooks the whole town. Lovely. Then I went and got some more food at the cafe (delicious indian thali) went back and sat so long in meditation I thought my leg was broken when I got up in a hurry (bad idea, need to let the blood flow before putting wieght on your legs) because I heard MASSIVE thunder outside, I thought my window was going to shatter. Filled with excitement I rush out of my meditation pose, put all my warm clothes on to sit on my balcony to listen to the thunder and watch the lightning. Nothing like in California. This was intense and beautiful. HUGE lightning bolts crash down and roaring thunder follows. God told each lighting bolt where to go and he placed this beautiful array of nature before me. After it was done I went inside and went to sleep.

My dreams have been quite lucid since Ive been in India, and they all involve my ex girlfriend in some way. Interesting. Shes been on my mind alot here, theres alot of damage , its like an open wound thats been lingering around and just now surfacing. I wake up, do my morning practices, get breakfast (omlette, pancakes, and chai) then I am off to my 14 mile trek to a nearby town. My favorite part of Manali is sitting in that cafe in the cold morning, drinking a hot cup of chai by my window seat of the river and forrest. So I got my map the trekking company drew for me and I am on my way. I left at 9 and didnt get into the town util 1. It was alot longer than 14 miles because one of the roads was closed so I had to take the long way which felt like it was double the length. Ofcourse, today it decided to be hot outside, good thing I layered.
I keep asking locals "Solong?" and point ahead
They nodd and give some head wiggles
"Thank you, namaste." (wth head wiggles)
Its strange, a smile and a head nodd do not give a smile back. But, a smile and a head wiggle, give a smile and a head wiggle back.
I find many rivers along the way to revive me with its cold water against my sweaty hot face. The villages I passed through were very culture-rich. Small hut like houses made of brick or clay. Everyone was at work to either benefit the community of their household. Women of all ages carrying huge loads on their backs of straw into town. After being redirected a few times I am almost there, walking up my last 3 miles a gentleman pulls off and asks where I am going. I tell him Solong, he tells me to hop on the back of his motorcycle and I do. What a blessing, I was exhausted. Hes a paragliding instructor. He takes me to a grass field where there are many people paragliding off. I goto a stall to get some water and something to eat. I get some delicious crackers and sit down. I am greeted by a hungry stray dog. He wants some of my crackers. So here I sit, sharing my food and water with this dog. Once he realizes I have nothing else to give hes on his way. So I then go sit in the field and watch the paragliders. I am swarmed by teenage girls who want to take a picture with me, but only with their camera not mine. Are they thinking they will print out the picture, show their friends, and be like this is my friend fom America!? I have no idea... After like 6 pictures they leave. Then I swarmed with a group of 5 teenage boys. All very friendly. They take me to get me food. They poay for me and tell me I am their guest.
"you drink?"
I point to my water, and say "Yes, water"
They show me a bottle of liquor they hide in a backpack. They pour me a cup and I kindly decline. They ask, "How come you no drink?"
I reply with because, "Its not good for me to."
We then go back to the field where they buy me cotton candy
"Have you had before?"
"Yes, but I dont want. Please you eat."
"No, you are our guest. Please."
So I eat a bit then offer it to any of the kids and each one says the same thing.
"No, you are our guest! Welcome to India friend."
We take pictures and then they go. Such kind hospitality. I give many thanks, hand shakes and ofcourse, head wiggles.

Then I had to catch a bus at 3 to head back to Manali, there was no way I am walking back. The bus ended up being a truck with a campershell on it which everyone, except me piled into every square inch within 15 seconds. They tell me no room and drive off. So I ask a local where I can get a taxi.
"Taxi?...No not here" then points to one that is stopped nearby. I run up to the window and say
"I missed the bus to Manali, can you please take me there?"
then an english accent says,
"you should ask me, this is my taxi....Hop in"
"thank you so much, here" I hand him some money and he declines.
His name is Phillip and he is from England. He looks like a young Ewan McGregor. He was rock climbing nearby. He started climbing when he was 46. He is now 52. He has been fortunate to travel around the whole world. He used to live in Inda infact. We get to Manali, I offer him money again he declines, so I give it to the driver. It was quite a healthy tip.
I love this about travelling. The unexpected. Your plans get shot and then God places another opportunity for you like "Plop. Here you go!'

I find a different place to eat. Asian cuisine. Had some delightful veggie chow mein. I walk back up and notice infact, pot does grow wild out here. Now I cant notice it. Its everywhere. Whats funny is that if you are caught buying or smoking it, it apparently is a big crime, but yet it grows naturally here.

This trip is already teaching me to embrace things I do not neccesarily want to do. I tend to avoid things that are uncomfortable, challenging, etc. and doing things daily that are uncomfortable, challenging, etc. are helping me build my charecter. I have alot of time for personal growth here, it is very needed. I have alot to work on and alot to heal. This town with its beautiful surroundings and lots of down time has provided refuge for me to do a bit of self analysis and to see in what aspects I still need to work on to better myself. However, I feel like its time for a new place. That place is Dharamsala. It is home to Tenzin Gyatso (The current Dalai Lama) and there are buddhist monastaries around the area. I would absolutely love to be given the chance to stay at one. Keep your fingers crossed for me :)

I miss you all.
Many blessings and peace.