“Holy crap, I am a little drunk”, I think as I walk along the dusty streets of Manali, hoping the 3 km walk home will sober me up. The buzz of hard cider has got me feeling all warm & fuzzy, and i declare my love, yes, out loud, to Manali. Yes, I know, It seems like only yesterday i was all atwitter over KL, what can I say? I am a mercurial girl.
My first stop in India, after a brief overnight in Delhi, was Dharamsala (Mcleod ganj). And I was led to believe this was nirvana. Everyone I met, spoke of Dharamsala in a wistful & almost reverent way. It was the home of the Dalai Lama, so what place could be more tranquil? I was looking forward to spending some time here, absorbing the vibe, chatting with monks, doing a little yoga, & just resting from last weeks whirlwind travel from eastern Borneo to India.
I wanted to love this place,I wanted to feel the presence of the Dalai lama (even if he was in Canada) but I just didn’t. I told people I loved it, with the hope that it would make it so. I mean what kind of douche doesn’t love the home of the Dalai Lama?
So what was it? Maybe it was the rain. It poured rain virtually 24 hours a day while I was there, turning the streets into fetid & muddy rivers. Maybe it was all the hippy tourists, trying to get all enlightened & shit. I mean I am all about self reflection & finding a way of life that works for you, but for the life of me I can’t understand why westerners come to a country as a guest & then seem determined to look & smell like homeless people. Maybe it was the drivers plowing through the roads, hands permanently affixed to the horn, daring someone to get in their way.
Overheard in a café “I’m going to a Tibetan healer to get my nervous system re-routed”. The gist of the conversation was that he could not deal with all the horns, sick dogs, aggressive monkeys & maniacal drivers. But, nonetheless, was hell bent on staying in Dharamsala because it is so “cool, ya know”. Seems logical to me, but as a traveler, if a place makes you entertain re-wiring your central nervous system, you might consider going someplace else. Which is what I did.
Boarding the night bus to Manali was really a leap of faith. The bus was a ramshackle vehicle held together with bailing wire & duct tape. In for penny in for pound… I was seated close to the front,with New Yorkers & new friends Amy & Michael, feeling only slightly better that I wasn’t alone. Sitting close enough to see out the windshield is mistake. Some things are best left unseen. Honestly. It was a harrowing ride, 12 hours through the mountains at unbelievable speeds skidding in the gravel with 1000 ft drops on either side. We arrived a little damp (the windows leaked) and a lot tired, but still standing.
Manali is what I hoped & dreamed Dharamsala (mcleod) would be: serene.
Manali is our departure point for Leh, where we will hire a jeep to take us through the second highest navigable pass in the world over 2 days. I am planning to rest up before the next road trip and I have chosen well. Manali has everything a weary traveler could want. Numerous paths through the forest or along the river, friendly locals, good coffee, massages, (the food situation is a bit disappointing, but you can’t have everything) good budget accommodation & travelers that don’t look like court jesters.
Exploring Manali has been a treat. It is so low key, which probably has something to do with the ubiquitous, potent & cheap hash. Keeps locals & travelers alike very mellow. Manali looks a little like Colorado, or maybe Montana. Snow capped mountain peaks, alpine forests, raging rivers. (how many clichés can she fit in one sentence, she wondered…) anyway, it’s beautiful here.
I spend my days walkimg. Walking through the forests, the neighboring villages, along the river. I read, I write & I contemplate what I am going to do with my life (which is another post for another day).
*Even though Mcleod was not my scene, it is an important place. It is shame the Dalai Lama lives here. It is a disgrace that the Tibetans have no homeland. What China did, as the world watched & did nothing, to Tibet & it’s people is nothing short of genocide. We owe it to the Tibetans and our own humanity to learn more about Mao’s cultural revolution and it’s disastrous results.
“We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. That the happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.”
Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama