Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Through rivers and over mountains

The jeep safari ride wasn't too bad; fun, if not a bit tiring. Everytime I'd fall asleep we'd go flying around a turn and I'd have to wake myself to keep from ending up in the driver's lap. Once I didn't wake up in time and the gear shift was the only thing that kept me from causing an accident. He played music the whole time. Hindi pop including the soundtrack from Kriish, a Bollywood movie! That was really nice. He had about 40 or 50 tapes on his dashboard and when he'd tire of a tape or when it wasn't playing propely he'd switch it with another one or sometimes he'd just throw it out the window.

Pixagogo direct photo link

I never got altitude sickness but I felt properly womped upon arriving and my back was pretty sore from bouncing about for 17 hours. I was developing a cold and felt I was getting borderline sick. Woke up in the night coughing and was like "uh oh, my luck has finally run out", but I had taken my trusty wellness pills and took more in the morning and was in top shape by the end of the day.

Last night went to a party/dance hall and was up past 3am. The guest house I'm staying in is run by a trekking guide and lots of people had just gotten back from a trek including four Indian boys about my age from Bangalore. They were celebrating their 6100 meter ascent. It was a bit strange to be in a dance hall listening to American music in this isolated mountain town. Was surprised how much energy and wind I had for dancing. They played Deep Forest "Forest Hymn" and Robert Miles' "Children" among other more traditional pop/dance/house music. Seems that many of the treks involve crampons, ice axes and 6100 meters of sky scraping fun. It was the
first time the guys from Bangalore had seen snow and yet they nearly made it to the summit of the 6100+ meter glacier peak which you have to ice climb up. I was duly impressed. Unfortunately they leave tomorrow morning.

When we were all ready to go home apparently the bus to bring us back to the guest house wasn't to pick us up until 6am. But, with some complaining and insisting, a little car smaller than a Ford Fiesta was arranged to pick up eight of us, yes eight (8) adults piled into a teeny four seater. Four in the front and four in the back. One of the guys in the front had to operate the shifter in sync with the driver because he was sitting on the gear shift. That was ... interesting. There was only one other westerner at the party and on the ride back, squished against the windshield she says "I love India" - yes, somehow it's moments like these that make travelling fun. In America we drive around in our oversized SUVs with one, maybe two people on a rare occasion, and in India 8 people happily squish into a car the size of a pin head and joyously sing custom versus of Old Mcdonald all along the way.

But back to the jeep safari. Along the way there were all these cutely written signs warning you that you'll die if you speed. Things like "The shortcut may cut short your life" -- "Life is short, don't make it shorter" -- "Be gentle on my curves" -- "If you’re married, divorce speed" -- "No race, no rally, enjoy the beauty of the valley." all of which seemed to have no bearing on our driver, especially the last one. I'm afraid no pics for awhiiile.. The internet is garbage here and expensive. One section of the safari reminded me of Fraser Island from Australia, flying along the uneven sand in the same style jeeps.

Pixagogo direct photo link

And the signs are not without their warrant. Pixagogo direct photo link
At one point the bridge was out and a truck capsized in the water trying to fiord the river. A jeep in front of us got stuck and the poor occupants had to get out in the freezing water and shovel out. We were lucky and crossed the river without incident.

A truck stops to pay homage to a fallen friend. Or maybe he was just too afraid to go on..... Our driver would cross himself and say a prayer out loud whenever he made it to the next town. Up until he started doing this I had been feeling relatively safe considering his speed and the condition of the roads and pretty confident about our chances of making it to Leh in one piece. But it then ocurred to me that just because Indians are used to the crazy driving, doesn't mean they are always completely comfortable with it.

Pixagogo direct photo link

Well, there were pics I wanted to post but it doesn't seem I'll be able to until I go back to Manali. Maybe I can upload one or two.... okay, faster at night when less people are using it.

Sun kissed mountains
Pixagogo direct photo link

Uhh... snow.. cause it's the Himalayas.
Pixagogo direct photo link

Light, shadow, and mountain align...
Pixagogo direct photo link

The road winds ever on.
Pixagogo direct photo link

More funny road signs:


Nori said...

Out til 3? Shmoozing with the locals? Waddya need us for? Seems like you're soloing it with style and ease.
Tonight we take the stinky bus to back to Delhi. My envy will only intensify as we head into the dust, smog and chaos. but there's a certain charm there too, hai na? Breath deeply for us.

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Sharon said...

Once again fabulous pictures and commentary. We are so happy for you. I think you've found your calling in travel writing!

ben said...

yeah man,
your writing is great. get a job for lonely planet or something.

nice shots too. that cam is nice.

take care of your health, first and foremost, is my recommendation.

ollie ollie oxen free.

Daniel Schmolze said...

You're a champ with the photos. Congratulations on not dying, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

gojus. just gojus.