Monday, 17 December 2007

Day 208 - Mcleod Ganj

What a difference a few days make.

Getting out of Chandigarh was far easier than getting in though I needed to go east and the grid went diagonally. I think I just got lucky. Whilst in Chandigarh I went to the Rock Garden, made of all sorts of unwanted things. There were lots of figures made mainly of crockery, but some were made from broken bangles, all a bit whacky, but fun. There I met some nice people, Narinder Singh, the Gaurdian Angel of Tourists according to the article he gave me, though he talked so much that I never got beyond the title. I also met Anthony from Australia and two other tourists whose names I didnt get that were also entrapped by the GA, but it was all very friendly and he took us to an office and gave us tea and biscuits whilst he faxed a letter to Amritsar to organise a room for me to stay in at the Golden Temple. The night was spent at Rupnager, another uninviting place, but at least it was small. I was getting over the slight illness, but the rich food I had for dinner made me feel sick again.

I woke during the night to thunder storms and alot of rain and it was still raining as I was ready to leave so I gave it a while and it stopped. The rain itself was not a problem, it's the mucky roads that are! About 20k out the road turned to gravel and in places covered from side to side with water, a complete mudbath. If going through it wasn't bad enough the other passing vehicles plastered me from head to foot in mud as they bounced through the potholes. Bike and bags are now brown. After 30k the road went up into the mountains with an 800m climb. By the looks of it the scenery was excellent but visibility was very low. After I arrived at the hotel there was another thunderstorm right overhead so at least I was lucky to miss that one.

The following day started with thick fog and it was cold too. I started with a climb and before long I was above the clouds which were over the rivers and lakes, blue sky was above me and the mountains looked just great. The road kept rising up gently and before long the sun cleared the fog giving a wonderful day with just wonderful scenery. I passed through little villages which were pretty clean and friendly people greeted me as I passed, it felt great to be alive and passing through this fantastic vista, what a difference a couple of days makes. Having passed through all that filth and flat lands its hard to believe that these wonderful mountains are in the same country, let alone just being a handful of kilometres away. I ended up in Mandi, a nice little town with a sunken garden and market in the middle, and mountains and rivers all around.

The following day started off foggy again, but also started with a climb and again I was soon under blue skies above the clouds in the valleys. It was cold, 6 degrees, but I can't really complain about it as I passed a school where they were being taught outside in the sunshine. The scenery was just amazing and got better as the day went on as I approached the high snow covered mountains. I am sure there is better scenery around in Northern India, but coming so soon after those bad days, this was just pure joy, I think I rode with a smile on my face all day. I ended up in Baijnath and even found a really good hotel at a very reasonable price. After a hot shower that included washing all the mud off the bags from a couple of days ago I sat on the balcony with a great view of the mountains, what more could I ask for. I even watched 2 live Premiership matches in the evening.

I left Baijnath on a beautiful clear day, but the riding wasn't up to the standard of the previous day. At one point I seemed to be heading away from the high mountains so stopped to ask the way to check. I was told I had missed a turning and needed to retrace 10km. I asked another for confirmation who said I could continue and turn right. I continued, but there was no right turn. Further questioning gave me answers of both directions, all a bit confusing, so I just continued and eventually found a signpost. From there it was 25km to Mcleod Ganj (3rd photo), uphill all the way, steep for the first 12k, then a gentle climb for the rest. On arrival I met Anthony who I had seen in Chandigarh and I also met Dan from Oxford who knows Combe very well through playing cricket there. A small world indeed.

Breakfast was taken with Anthony and Dan and today has been spent at the temples and monasties of Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and a little bit of Tibet in India. It certainly doesn't feel like India, almost everybody is Tibetan and they look very different to the Indians. There are still beggars here, but some are better dressed than me, not that that is saying much.
So I feel much better than at the time of the last posting, but I have always said that when travelling alone the highs are higher and the lows lower.

It's good to hear from you John and that another reader is on board, and welcome back Harpo, I thought you had forgotten all about me. In answer to your question about the roads Aaldrik and Sonya, yes they were the yellow roads. They seem to be the most obvious to take to the Nepalese boarder, but they are not much fun. Hopefully I will see you in Nepal, you never know. It would be good to ride together for a few days.


Caff said...

Good to hear you are in better spirits again, especially so close to Christmas. My friends have asked are you going to go across the border at Amritsar to Lahore, or has your visa run out?
Did you like the silly noisy Christmas email? You are likely to get a few more of those before the season is through!!
Sorry to have missed you when you emailed earlier - have been caught up in meetings.
Continue to take care. :-)

Caff said...

You know i'm a little slow on the uptake. It must be around Day 215 and I didn't congratulate you on the double centenary - I suppose it is what we expect of you now though! Good to hear about you seeing/meeting the Dalai Lama, I look forward to hearing more about it in your next blog entry. :-)