This will be mostly a photo update, because all I do here is walk around staring slack-jawed like a little kid. I'm in Vashisht, a hill-station a few k's from Manali, at the base of the Himalayas. It's gorgeous, it's beautiful, it's awesome, it's magical.
Vashisht, and the neighboring Manali, are popular destinations for domestic tourists who are looking to escape the heat of India's central plains. So everything here is nicely set up for tourists, but I'm one of relatively few white people. So that's perfect. You know what else is perfect? The scenery here.
A 21-hour bus ride (!) took me from Delhi straight into an 8-year-old girl's imagination. Waterfalls and sheep, horses and cows and bunnies and the most colorful clothes. Every group walking down the street is a bouquet of fabric. Oh, down with words! Let the pictures speak for themselves:
The bus ride here was picturesque, if cramped and uncomfortable and long and worryingly steep:
You'd think 300 miles wouldn't take 21 hours, but you have to drive pretty slowly on these scary roads (I'm quite happy the driver took 21 hours!), and sometimes an impasse would take an hour and a half to negotiate:
How cute is that little old man?
Arrive in Manali, take a quick cab to the quieter village of Vashisht. I had to push-start the cab, and then we ran out of petrol, so he bought another liter and we push-started it again. Vashisht is right out of a fairy tale.
That's the view from my room! My 150 rupee a night room ($3.75). The room has a pretty drawing on the wall, and the world's thinnest pillows:
The name of the guesthouse is Ganga Guesthouse. Marijuana grows here like, well, a weed. It's everywhere. Took me 30 seconds to find this shot. You just walk outside and there it is.
Lookit this roof I found in the village! What a great roof!
It's just one big fairy tale here.
"Alright," said the Indian raft that slammed into the Eurasian plate and smashed up the Himalayan orogeny, "let's get a little river in the valley, and the first mountains you see? Make 'em green, covered with coniferous forest. But behind 'em, let's have the rocky Himalayas loom triumphant, barren, and always covered in rolling fog."
"Barren mountains covered in rolling fog, 'looming triumphant'? Sounds a little, you know... B-grade cheesy? What, you want waterfalls everywhere too?"
"Yeah! Yeah, great idea! Waterfalls everywhere! Do it."
That's one of like, 10 waterfalls. Here, this river just tumbles down from the fog:
Oh! Oh! Have you ever seen an Angora bunny?!
HAHAHAHAH!! HAHAHAH! I can't look at one without laughing! FLUFFY BALL! FLUFFY BALL! HAHAHAHA! It's like a mythical sheep-bunny! Fluffy sheep-bunny!
Everything here is fuzzy 'cause it gets a little nippy here at night. And I packed only for hot weather, so I gotta get a coat. There are worse places to need to buy a coat, though. The tailor at this little hole-in-the-wall, Mooldas, is particularly nice, so I got a hoody from him. Custom-made, took my measurements. I'd like this material, that color, like this, but I want the pocket a little different. It's fun. And for $9? You can't beat that. Not with a stick.
Mooldas saw me walking past later, and, of course, invited me in for chai.
I had lunch at this cafe in the middle of nowhere. It was delicious!
This Vashisht place is pretty nice. Maybe I'll go hiking tomorrow. Here, I'll sign off with one last photo of the valley. It's just so gorgeous here. So gorgeous.