2006 #9: Ladymen and Helipads

On the second night we went and watched the puja at the village square. A great cacophony of bells all over the place and even a drum machine outside one of the temples. There are eighty-four temples in this square (some very small but still counted as temples). One of them was built in the 7th century! It has amazing wooden carving around it and inside, and many interlocking pieces. An absolute masterpiece of work.

Next morning we went for a walk up the slope to the helipad they have just built in Bharmour. On the way up a brightly dressed woman went past us, bells tinkling, etc. Then she tapped me on the shoulder and said in a deep man’s voice that the zip on my bag pocket was open. You see these men every now and again, but I have never spoken to one. I must say it was a bit of a surprise to hear that voice come out of a sari-clad woman. The helipad is huge. I’m not sure how many helicopters they are expecting, but they shouldn’t have a problem finding a park.

The view was great – many more slopes visible as well as tiny villages dotted all over them. We started to walk up even further via a backtrack found if you duck round behind the houses. We stopped and chatted with a few locals and took photos of them, them and us, their cows, the marijuana growing wild all over the place, etc, but it started to rain so we had to make our way back down again, stopping for chai and conversation by the helipad. Then a lazy afternoon on the veranda watching the monsoon do it’s thing. It was actually almost cold. So cool we had two layers on.

Later on we went for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant where we had chow mein and momo. Momo are really yummy. Pastry with meat or vegetable inside, steamed or fried and then you dip them in chili sauce. Mmmmm.Then music on the veranda with the Israelis. Wonderful to have a guitar in the hands yet again. I am getting spoilt with that on this trip.

The next day the Israelis left on their motorbikes. We went down to the road to see them off – an unbelievable amount of luggage fitted on, around and all over the bikes. I felt a lot better about the 2 bags I lug round with me once I saw the performance they had to go through.

We then went for a walk in a different direction – actually DOWN a gentle slope for a change. I wanted to get hot enough to brave a cold shower – the hot tap being only a useless decoration in the bathroom. In Delhi, cold water is never cold enough, up here, cold water is actually pretty teeth chattering stuff. Not a particularly exciting walk, but pleasant all the same. Paul tried to hitch a lift with a guy on a steamroller thing, which was going all of 2 mph at top speed. Our casual ambling was much faster. The guy thought it was a great joke and it no doubt added interest to his day that was otherwise incredibly slow. Them’s very long roads at such a slow speed.

We saw a couple of schoolboys on our amble, stealing apples from an orchard. We watched them or a while being as surreptitious as they could, then walked past them and told them they were very naughty (in Hindi). They looked so guilty and a bit abashed that they had been sprung. Some things are the same the world over, huh.

That night we had a nice chat with Mrs Sharma then headed for the English Wine Shop (bottlestore). Paul found a hipflask of whiskey with “King Paul” on the label, so naturally he had to buy that, regardless of the quality, which was a little dubious upon tasting. I was making signs behind him about how his head would be so swollen now that he found a whiskey named after him and the guys in the shop were cracking up laughing. It’s nice that sign language works well globally.

Next morning we had to be on the bus at 7am. Mrs Sharma kindly woke us up with a knock on the door and two cups of chai. What a sweet thing to do. We were a bit sad to say goodbye.

We got seats behind the driver on the bus and the ride was reasonably sane. A bit of a shame that the driver’s windscreen wipers made horrible grinding noises and refused to go, but he just peered through the raindrops and carried on. I had the window seat this time, so I was able to take a movie or two when it wasn’t raining. They have amazing statues up there, like Hanuman the Monkey God and Shiva. They’re really big and either right in the river or on huge rocks in the river. Further down we saw some kind of monkeys that sat on the roadside barriers staring in amazement at the beings in the big vehicles going by. This was a funny turnaround from me watching the monkeys with great curiosity.

There were several landslides on the road, but all of them go-roundable. And on some of the houses they had waterspouts that spat rain right out onto the road. Quite spectacular to watch. My hand actually got sore from holding on when we went round the multitudes of corners on the road, and I won’t even mention the state of my backside.

We stopped in Chamba for a two hour lunch break, and I bought a woven shawl from a shop where you could watch a guy making them on a loom. Then finally, back to the train station, via the flatlands where the driver suddenly turned into a loon, playing chicken with large army trucks and weaving in and out of horses and carts. The mountain part actually seemed a lot safer in comparison! We had boiled eggs and bananas for dinner, then back on the train to Delhi.

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