10 August 2009

From the desert to the mountains- what a long, strange trip.

It’s been a little while since I last posted here, because we've been on the move, and deep in the desert where internet connections were hard to come by. We got as far as Jaisalmer, a mere 100 km from the Pakistan border, deep in the Thar desert. And now, we are finished with our trip through the desert, finished with our planned tour through Rajasthan, land of kings, and are now back on our own. The tour was nice, it was a good way to see the desert, but it was a little rushed, with more or less fixed departure times, and only a day or 2 in each place. Now we’re on our own itinerary and schedule, and I’m much happier that way.
By the way, thanks to all my readers, I don’t know how many of you there are but I appreciate your interest, and I hope you’re enjoying these little stories. You can respond to any post at the bottom of each one, so feel free to comment, even if it’s just to let me know you’re out there.

Our journey to Dharamsala was incredible; one of those India horror stories (like the dog bite/rabies shots) that becomes an amazing story later. We booked a bus from Delhi, which was supposed to be a nice, air-conditioned overnight bus, leaving at 5pm and arriving in Dharamsala at 7 the next morning. The bus turned out to be awful, with windows that wouldn’t close, A/C that barely worked, and stains on all the seats from previous difficult journeys. And the worst part was that we were in the back, over the tires (I think our seats were attached directly to the tires), so we were bounced around ridiculously. We literally were bounced into the air every few seconds with the bumps. Sleeping was impossible. And just when we thought it could not get any worse, sure enough, the bus broke down at 3 in the morning. The driver left, or climbed on the roof to sleep, or something, but was nowhere to be found. He left the engine running until it ran out of gas about about 8 in the morning. Most of us slept through it, some people didn’t even notice we were stopped. I got off the bus at one point (stepping over a couple people sleeping on the aisle, I guess they could lie down flat, but yuck, that floor), but we were in the middle of nowhere with no one around. Slowly, as the sun rose, we realized our predicament. Apparently the driver took off to find a mechanic, and one arrived at 8:30 or 9 am, took out a very important-looking part of the engine (the starter motor? the distributor? the solonoid?), got on a passing local bus, and left us again. We had no idea what was going on and no way to reach anyone with the bus.
Pretty early on, a group of Israelis (the demographics on the bus were about 1/3rd Israeli travelers (Dharamsala is a favorite destination of theirs), 1/3rd Tibetans, and 1/3rd other Western travelers) decided to bail. They took an auto-rickshaw to a supposed taxi-stand in town, to grab a taxi the rest of the way. The rest of us stayed behind. But when the mechanic showed up, took that part and left again, more of us had reached our limit. I had gotten the phone number of a taxi driver earlier, when the first group left, so I called him back, we negotiated a price, and 6 of us started the drive to Dharamsala. The other 4 were Israeli, and were happy to learn that I’m Jewish and could speak a little bit of Hebrew. I told them if my Hindi doesn’t improve in Dharamsala, at least my Hebrew would. A few hours later, after some crazy winding mountain roads with steep drops and no guard rails, we arrived. That made it about a 24 journey, with very little sleep and much physical discomfort. Heather and I hauled on our backpacks and looked around the main square. It had changed considerably, but I found the road we needed, used the Chocolate Log as a landmark, and sure enough, the Ladies Venture guest house was right where it was supposed to be. Amazingly, they had one room left, so we took it, showered, and crashed. What a journey! But we made it to our destination with a happy ending, so all ended well.
here are some camel pix:

1 comment:

Jam said...

Wow! i wish i was you and i'm glad I'm not!