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Mcolud Ganj, Manali and Shimla

Mcloud Ganj to Manali and Shimla

Well, its 10pm, 1st October and I am sat on the balcony with a vodka and coke writing this blog about the past week, and what a week it has been!

(25-27th Sept) Mcloud Ganj is a lovely place to be, mainly populated with Tibetan refugees and budding entrepreneurs who set up restaurants, hotels and shops for tourists and Indian couples on their honeymoon. Set within the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, this place is massively different to the big city life. For one, its not dirty; two they have sewers; three, they sell beer at nearly every establishment! However, we have not been well from Delhi Beli and are off booze, currys, milk and mangoes (apparently does not mix well with antibiotics) and a day or two recuperating in the hotel serves well (especially when the TV has HBO films!!!)

The reason for our visit to Mcloud Ganj, is because of the irresistible pull to glean knowledge, peace and happiness from the presence of his Holiness the Dhali Lama. The visit to the Buddhist temple was so inspiring, as the peaceful and self fulfilling philosophy of the Buddha is so encouraging to lead a better life. There were so many Tibetans around the temple who live from charitable donations made to the Tibetan government and other sources, however, the Tibetans are very humble and a loving kind that I saw none begging or hassling, its just not within their culture. The museum gave me a massive shock when I read about the Tibetan persecution from the Chinese over the past 100 years. Its disgusting really that an entire nation can be almost wiped out from existence in this modern day, not to mention the 1.2 million killed from starvation, execution, or other dreadful ending. I do not want this blog entry to be wholly serious, but things have to be said. - such as FOXTROT OSCAR OFF CHINA!!!

(28th Sept) There is a lake in Mcloud Ganj, about 3km walk away, me and Annie made this trip and we wish we hadn’t. It was an infested putrid pile of goo, surrounded by tacky little concrete temples and so much litter and nappies strewn around the place. However, if you like walking through a forest when the heavens open up just remember turn around before you get to the lake. Perhaps a walk to the waterfall is more to you liking?, well, I can vouch for this little walk through the village of Bhagsu, there are lots of cows and goats that roam free through the streets (well 1 street actually), and survive from bits of plastic and sporadic patches of grass/soil. Anyway, the waterfall was cold and not as impressive as Igwasia Falls (Annie tells me that all waterfalls are inferior to Igwasia Falls in Argentina/Brazil) and in my opinion the shop opposite which is constructed from blue plastic sheets, wooden poles and stones spoils the setting and would be swiftly refused by any planning officer – although, I'm not sure the Indians have grasped town planning best practice. I am sure to bore anyone about town planning in India, so I will let you readers off for now.

A bus journey to Manali took 10hours and was very uncomfortable and left us both without hardly any sleep, but we arrived at about 5am (29th Sept) in the morning for a nice man to drive us to our destination (Old Manali)and to also offer us refuge in his hotel for only 400 rupees per night (£5). I have to say that Manali is beautiful and relaxing. We have an amazing room with a balcony and view of more Himalayan mountains (we are 2000m above sea level) and valleys. A river runs by about 200m away ans the sound is sooo soothing and relaxing. The air is clean, me Annie have got over our illness and back to 100%.

I sat on a yak and had my photo taken today (30th Sept) which was nice (cost 50 rupees), on the way to a 16C wooden carved Hindu Temple. More impressive was the paraphernalia which surrounded the temple such as Gypsy women thrusting great big white rabbits in your face (for photo opportunities, all at a price – 10 rupees), and old battered fair ground rides like the big wheel (not working), throw a ball at the bean bag, and the old classic – hook a duck! Afterwards I went and sat in a boiling hot spring by the side of a temple, whilst Annie read a book next to a Hindu Sadu (religious man who has no possessions and lives from mother earth).

I've never seen so much cannabis before. It grows at the side of the road and the pungent aroma is often found close to coffee shops populated by Israelis. The street value of the back alley to our hotel is probably a manc gangsters dream land!

Today (1st October), we took a Jeep trip to Rhotang Pass (3980m above sea level) to participate in some trekking amongst real Himalayan Mountains! We saw snow (not too far away), hilarious snow outfits that adorned indian men and women (probably over reacting the cold in my opinion) and eagles with at least a 2m wing span. Most people took a horse ride upto the snow line, whilst me and Annie braved the apparent cold and set off up the the ridge. I'm not sure, but walking just isn't the norm in India if you can afford it. Why use your legs when you can get a rickshaw, taxi, boat, horse or elephant if you can? 3 hours later, the driver still waiting for us, I had an omelet sandwich before we got in the jeep back to Manali. Had some food - The fish here is fantastic, fresh trout from the river! Tomorrow we travel to Shimla by bus out of the Himalayan mountains and across into more mountains. Shimla used to be the summer British Raj capital of India, so we are expecting to see lots of British Architecture, a 'Railway Pub', 'battered fish and chips', and please O GOD, a 'British Fry Up!!!'. I will keep you posted (especially the fry up.)

Peace and Up The Clarets!!!!

ps. Burnley 5 – 1 Forest. Amazing! (can you please pass my sincere apologies on to any forest fans I may know? Ta).

(4th October) Namaste. We have been in Shimla for two days following a long 10 hour bus journey. The journey out of the Himalayan Mountains to Mandi fared quite well, but the back roads and winding roads through the Shimla Hills was quite an experience. Shimla is the capital of Himichal Pradesh, and rightly so. Its actually quite a large city, which was built by the British Raj. Many architecturally notable and distinctly British buildings adorn the high street called The Mall. Its just like being in Skipton, or Stafford.. A very English Gothic Church and Town Hall are the main buildings along with a mock Tudor Post Office. I have to say that I feel we are cheating at the moment because this does not feel like India at all. The shops are fine boutiques and restaurants are top quality. Although i'm sorry to say that I have not found a Railway Pub, Fish and Chips or a greasy spoon café serving a fry up. Instead we have settled for kingfisher beers and chicken do-piaza.

The orientation of Shimla is very odd. The mall stretches east to west and other streets are also east to west, but lower, or higher altitude with the main Scandal Point at the summit where you can see 360 degrees over the hills and valleys. The whole town centre is pedestrianised, which makes for a very clean and stress free environment. I'm particularly fond of the horse rides dressed as British gentlemen at Scandal Point – I'm so tempted, but perhaps in bad taste!

Yesterday (3rd October) we walked up to the Jakhu Temple which is dedicated to the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman. A 100ft statue of Hanuman sits proudly atop of Shimla, surrounded by rhesus macaques who loiter and swagger around the place as if they own the joint! How apt! I was until this point a massive fan of the cute little cheeky monkeys. In the morning, I took out contact lenses and decided to give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses. This decision was clearly going to be something that I was going to regret. Walking down from the temple, still gazing at the cute little monkeys when one jumped onto my backpack and grabbed my glasses and legged it! I couldn't believe that I was duped by this little critter, so I sought to bargain with the monkey with a bag of nuts and sweets (that I purchased from a road side retailer, so convenient – perhaps too convenient if you ask me, I'm sure it was an act). I'm laughing now at the sight of this cheeky monkey looking through my glasses! He eventually let go when offered the bag of goodies. Unharmed and relieved, I started to laugh, whilst Annie was literally wetting herself!

Today 4th October – we have chilled out, played cards, drank beer and been shopping! I bought some new trainers and a new shirt! Out with the old and in with the new! Tomorrow we are back on the move via the famous Toy Town Train from Shimla to Kalka, which is sure to be an experience.

Take it easy. Lanky and Annie x

Posted by Annie Thornton 06:36

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