2007 #19: Sarahan – Seven Light Switches Equals One Bang

Sarahan, the “Gateway to Kinnaur”, is an exquisite place. It had been described to us by somebody as ‘something like being in fairyland’. Well, I’m not quite sure about fairyland, but it is as beautiful a place as anywhere I’ve ever been, and we enjoyed our brief stay there immensely.

With one or two exceptions:

  • The bus ride up to Sarahan. Not at any time of my life has it taken me an hour to go about 17km in a vehicle. This raised my stress levels by quite a bit, as we were supposed to be on a train to Delhi, leaving from Kalka, by the next evening. Considering we were many miles from Shimla, from which we were hoping to catch a bus to Kalka, to catch the train to Delhi so I could catch my plane to New Zealand……well you get the picture. And here we were meandering up a mountain road on a bus going slower than a duck’s waddle, with Indian music on a screaming, scratchy stereo speaker not so far from my head – featuring women that can sing higher than fingernails scratching a blackboard – and no idea really whether we can get a bus back down this road in the morning to get us to the right places on time… After being on a bus from 6.30 in the morning (and was by now not long before dusk), I was starting to come a little unravelled at the edges. God help me, I can be an unreasonable woman at times.
  • The dhaba next to the bus stand, where we sat for two hours waiting for our breakfast order before the owner admitted he wasn’t actually going to feed us. With no good reason forthcoming. At first we were fairly cruisy about this situation. After all, the bus wasn’t leaving till midday and the place was fairly entertaining with it’s foil-gift-wrap-covered wall, plaster parrot statues and various and sundry people dropping in on our table to chat with us. And this was India after all, and there’s just no rushing around in this country. But upon enquiring at quarter-to-bus-leaving time as to when our paranthas were going to arrive, we were met with a bewildered look and a shrug of the shoulders. I leave you to imagine the ensuing conversation between said miscreant and two very hungry travellers who still had a day and a night of travelling ahead of them…
  • The guesthouse room we stayed in, where naturally, two of the seven light switches in the room actually worked. This, not being a new concept to us by this stage in our travels, did not exactly come as a surprise. It was the loud bang when I switched on the bathroom light in the morning that kicked off alarm bells within me. I chose to ignore that and have a shower in the dark. HOWEVER – for some reason the hotness of the shower was on an equal functioning par with the lightbulb. In other words, not working. And I’m not even going to talk about there being only, mysteriously and suddenly, enough water coming out of the tap to brush our teeth. The language I used at that point is not appropriate to put in here, because my Dad will probably read this. The ironic thing was, when leaving in the morning Paul booked us out and forgot to pay. One of the workers came to the bus stand to fetch him back and extract money out of him, and it was all I could do not to ask him why he wasn’t paying us for putting up with such an expensively useless room. Fortunately for him I found I just couldn’t be bothered even discussing it. I was just glad that we had had a sleep and were back on the road to continue our journey. Little did I know…

Aside from these little hiccups, things went reasonably smoothly in Sarahan. They have a beautiful temple complex in the village that we could see very nicely from our room window. The mountains were strung out in a dramatic line with fluffy-looking snow-covered peaks. Mountain dogs wandered about or snuggled up in comfortable heaps together. Children frollicked happily in the little park across from our guesthouse. And they served real Tibetan momo a few doors down on the right.

We went on separate wanderings for an hour or two, and while Paul explored the impressively ornate temple, I, succumbing yet again to womanly tendancies, went and explored a few of the shops, which very considerately were still open in the evening hours.You gotta love a place that doesn’t slam it’s doors closed at 5pm. Particularly on a Sunday. I ended up having chai and a delightful conversation with a guy who’s actually an English teacher, but was minding his sister’s shop for the day. His charm was a splendid anaesthetic to the surgery on my wallet that did actually occur in the end, and I finally left his shop as the proud new owner of some Himachal-style woolen waistcoats and a Kinnauri-style hat, such as are seen in my photos. By the way – some of these photos can be seen Here:

I load them on there as I can be bothered, so check back occasionally for updates, if you’re interested.

So, apart from being miles from where we were supposed to be in our rapidly-becoming-a-very-tight schedule, having no breakfast because of the idiot in the dhaba round the corner, being horribly unwashed and running out of clothes that wouldn’t scare off the average hyena pack with their smell, we rather enjoyed our stay in Sarahan and I’d like to go back there again.

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