Following the visit to Varanasi our touring group returned to Delhi for a last supper before going our separate ways. A big cheers to Angela, Cat, Charlotte, Fred, Gabby, Hannah, Jimena, Josh, Laurie, Kirsty, Myriam, Rags, Shaemus, and Sinead. We had a blast.
We had decided to head off to McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh after the organized trip, but our bus wasn’t due to set off until the evening, so we spent a day with Hannah and Josh at Delhi Haat. It’s a market, but you pay Rs20 (20p) in, and you don’t get constantly hassled to buy stuff. In transit, I managed to wonder off from our little group in the metro station (the Metro is a cheap and good way to get around the city). After some mild panic we were re-united on our destination platform twenty minutes later, and we walked to the market.
Hannah got some henna tattoos.
I bought a shirt, and a very small bronze Ganesh to give us some luck while travelling. Nikki bought some baggy pants to go with the ones she already had, and we sat down for some flavoursome Nepalese food (which was a taste of things to come).
There was some confusion when we boarded our sleeper bus to McLeod Ganj. Basically, the bus stations in Delhi look like laybys, which doesn’t instill massive levels of confidence. The bus we were told to board was empty apart from one other passenger. Then a guy came on the bus and told us (laughing) that we were on the wrong bus. He left, and the driver and assistant said that they would take us anyway. The sun was setting in Delhi, and we were leaving on a bus we weren’t supposed to be on, and not entirely certain that we were heading in the right direction; but as the morning broke the driver was joyfully flinging us around sharp corners of the mountain roads, as we ascended towards our destination.
Our hotel room was basic, but we had a balcony, and this view.
We were in the foothills of the Himalayas, in an area of India that borders the Tibetan part of China, and we were the same distance from Delhi as we were from Kabul in Afghanistan; so (obviously) our main concern was sightseeing.
After catching up on some sleep, we had a look around the town.
Here is the local butcher,
some market stalls,
and a building site (women doing all the heavy lifting).
The following day, we headed for Bhagsu Waterfall.
This walk is popular with Indian tourists, particularly day-tripping groups of lads from Punjab (it’s only two to three hours drive), who seemed very keen to have their picture taken with us (for some reason). We would highly recommend taking this route if you are a pasty faced Brit in need of a boost. We felt special.
I managed to get Nikki away from our crowds of admirers long enough to take this one. It was a beautiful place, adorned with Buddhist prayer flags.
Two days later we decided to walk up to the Galu Devi Temple. Our map informed us that it was on the way to Triund (a 1200 metre ascent from McLeod Ganj), which we were planning to do later in the week. As we walked along the road that led up from the town, it felt as though we were climbing into a cloud.
Further on we found ourselves amongst prayer flags.
We couldn’t see the Galu Temple, but we did find Anna and Jolan, who had also run slightly off track in the mist. Anna had been to Triund before (20 years previous), and was confident that she knew the way, so we tagged along.
Further up the track we found this wonderful creature.
If you look closely, you can see some little stowaways on the wings.
We saw these beautiful flowers.
We passed by this strong lady, taking a rest (no wonder!).
The clouds broke for a few moments, and gave us a view of the valley,
but we still had some way to go.
Eventually, we made it to Triund – 2,875 meters (9,432 feet) above sea level;
and this tea hut,
where we enjoyed a cup of masala chai with our new friends.
Anna and Jolan had been great company on the way up. Being Dutch, their English was better than ours (along with their French, German, Italian and of course Dutch). Anna had three boys, like Nikki, the eldest of which (Jolan) she was travelling with. They had been volunteering in a hospital in the south, but were now roaming. Jolan was into Sci-fi, music, and nature so we didn’t run out of things to talk about.
Soon it was time to head back down (if we wanted to get off the mountain by nightfall), and the pathway looked inviting.
We wound our way down through the landscape.
If you look closely, you can see Nikki and Anna resting.
The light was fading as we reached McLeod Ganj. We headed for Kunga, where we had ginger, lemon and honey tea and noodles, momos, pizza and a game of chess.
Following some port and rum in their nearby room, Jolan broke out his guitar, and we took turns playing songs. I remembered that Carpe Diem had a spare guitar, so we headed down there to finish the night off with some more music and beers.
Later that night, the heavens opened, which was indicative of the weather that would follow for the next few days. We had been lucky to get up to Triund when we did.