Incredible India

Last year two of my friends, Peter A and Peter P emigrated to Puttaparthi, India. From time to time they send updates on their life out there. Here is one of their wonderful stories about life out there, with vague relevance to animals in the story about the donkey. I’m sure you’ll enjoy their sense of joie de vivre. This is about their trip to the Himalayas. Enjoy!

The Himalayas.

The heat of Puttaparthi was becoming a bit onerous so we decided to do what all the ex pats and the British of the Raj did and head for the mountains where it is said to be cooler.

Now this is easier said than done. This being India……

We had done a lot of research and enquiring around and had a fair idea of where we should go, and armed with a map and a purse full of money we headed for the travel agent. We had great ideas of travelling by train to Delhi. They have a wonderful luxury train that runs between Bangalore and Delhi. We would spoil ourselves and take the train and really see and experience India and its fantastic rail system first hand.

Man proposes but god disposes. The train was booked up months ahead so we had to settle for air travel and, shudder, a bus trip again from Delhi to Dharamsala – 12 hours !!!.The area being far too mountainous to lay railroad tracks.

To catch our flight we had to leave home at 5.30am. Arrived at Delhi 1.30pm. We had four hours to kill so we took a taxi and did a tour of a few sights. What we saw of the town was lovely. It was clean and the avenues were tree lined. A nice change from what you normally encounter.

If you remember we had vowed never to go on a bus trip again – well here went and broke this vow. The ticket said the bus departs from some petrol station at six. Now we found this a bit strange but we had asked people who knew Delhi and they said yes it is a well known spot. Well the taxi driver hadn’t a clue and had to ask around. We were getting agitated because we seemed to be going into a very grotty area and it was getting dark. Then a sand storm blew up. Have not seen the likes of this before. You could not see more than three feet ahead. With that it started to rain mud. Eventually the station was found: an empty stand down some funny little alley. Very disturbed, we got out and found our way to a spot under a tree and by asking the people hanging around we were assured that this definitely was the spot. Just be patient we were told.

Here you have two hungry souls standing in the drizzle looking very unhappy and decidedly worried that we were being taken for a ride and not in a Volvo bus to Dharamsala. More and more people started to trickle in and they looked very Tibetan so we felt progressively better. Six buses arrived but no sign of a Volvo. Suddenly an angel appeared by the name of Sarah, an Australian girl (very pretty) who lives in Dharamsala and who frequently travels this route. She put us at ease and just told us the routine etc. The routine is firstly; the bus is always late. Secondly; the bus stops once for a pit stop; thirdly don’t eat anything until you get to your destination twelve hours away!!!

Now having a weak bladder I was rather concerned and emptied a bottle I was carrying to use in case of emergency. It was night and I had a rug to cover myself so propriety would be maintained. Thank God there was more than one pit stop and I did not have to resort to this plan.

Eventually the Volvo arrived and we were surprised to find that they were organised and had our names and seats all booked. Wonderful. I must at this juncture explain why the emphasis on a Volvo bus. Here it is considered the height of luxury having air suspension, air conditioning and reclining seats. It is called a semi-sleeper. If you had to see what is termed a luxury bus you would shudder and wonder if the bodywork would hold together. Anyway you pay for what you get and each bus has a different price range.

Our driver was practicing to become a formula one driver, tailgating whatever was in front of him and slamming on the brakes causing the air suspension to react as if we were a ship in a storm. What turned our hair grey was that we were sitting directly behind the driver and could see what was happening on the road. Tip – don’t ever sit behind the driver again. Somebody, whose name shall not be mentioned, became a back seat driver giving a running commentary on all that was happening and going to happen.

We proceeded merrily along in this manner until about midnight when we came to the mountain passes. These were corkscrew bends, steep as hell going up one side and then down the “backside” as they say here. This guy continued flat out without lifting his foot off the peddle and doing his damnedest to overturn the bus. Hats off to Volvo, try as he might to roll the bus it still held the road although the passengers were clinging to their seats in terror. We eventually reached our destination Dharamsala and disembarked very happily. Our little angel, Sarah, confirmed that this driving was normal.

A couple of days later going up to McLead Ganj we realised why the trip was only done at night!! The passes are so steep and the drops so precipitous that if that ride was done in that fashion in daylight the drivers would be lynched. At the bottom of all the passes lay an overturned bus or car.

Peter A and Peter P (better known as “The Hunks”) at the Gate of India

Took a taxi to our hotel which turned out to be charming. The most wonderful thing was, as we stopped the rain clouds lifted and exposed a view so beautiful it was breathtaking. My first and lasting impression of the Himalayas. Behind the foot hills rose this snow covered peak with clouds just skimming the top. Peter A has a million photos of it. From that moment on everything went better and it was fun.

The rest of the time was spent visiting temples and monasteries, so beautiful. We also did a lot of walking through the forests and one very long walk through the valley of wheat fields. This was actually very lovely but after a while it felt like 28 kms. As the path turned into a riverbed going uphill and convinced we were lost. When we asked the way we were kindly informed with a great big smile that we were on the right road and had only one kilometre to go. However after what we assumed was a kilometre we enquired again to be told one more kilometre, and so it went on until we eventually got to the village. I will never forget its name: Bir. We took a taxi back.

One of the pics attached you will see a donkey. It was so cute. The Dalai Llama saved its life. Evidently it had broken its two front legs and the owner had cast it out to fend for itself as it was of no use to him. The D. Llama was driving past and saw this, stopped and gave instructions for it to be taken to a monastery and to be cared for. It has become something of a pet and is spoiled by all and sundry. It manages to get up and down stairs as they find him all over the grounds.

It was at this monastery that Sarah had arranged for us to have an audience with the Karmapa. Unfortunately this was cancelled at the last minute. The Dalai Llama was out of town. We got the distinct impression that we were definitely not in favour!!

The Greek will soon be sending you a link to view the rest of the pictures. God help you. Greek time is the same as Indian time.

Peter X2

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