Day 97 Manali
Manali was an assault on the senses we arrived in town at 8.30 in the morning and we were hassled by people wanting to provide us with a massage, shoe clean, offer us a room, even a local dog wanted some food or petting. It was all too much for me, I simply wanted peace and quiet and somewhere to put my head.
We cycled out of town until we found a half decent hotel (away from the hustle and bustle) we probably paid over the odds at £12 a night but I could not have stayed in the centre (we have subsequently seen dormitory rooms for as little as £2). On a positive note the room was on the ground floor but unfortunately it smelt damp, I had to ask for the toilet to be cleaned and the staff in the hotel needed to learn some customer service skills. The only time we saw the receptionist smile was when we came back to the hotel during a monsoon down pour.
We agreed to eat some breakfast at the hotel, shower and sleep before we did anything else. I had a little bit of food envy when Gary’s poached egg on toast arrived as I had ordered the egg parantha which was really plain and greasy.
You won’t be surprised to hear that as soon as my head it the pillow I was asleep (it is a fantastic skill) whereas Gary had too much on his mind and got up and went up to the balcony to dry out some kit and write his diary. I followed him about half an hour later just long enough to shake off the sleepy feeling.
It is fair to say that we were both a little tired and grumpy, the monsoon season had started and it was clear to see after a little research that it would affect our plans for travelling across South East Asia, so we needed to come up with another plan. For most people this would be heaven; we have bike, health, money, time, and could go any where in the world… but we thought we had it all mapped out and we were tired so it felt like a chore rather than an exciting opportunity.
We walked into Manali, I still didn’t like it. The high street was paved so that vehicles couldn’t go down it but other than that it felt like a bigger more modern version of Leh but without the spiritual element. It had lots of little side streets selling an array of goods (even a water bottle for my bike) and was full of Indian tourists and stray dogs. It was interesting to note the shops that sold wine and liqueur called themselves ‘English Wine and Beer shops’ (in reality they don’t sell wine and beer from England but clearly think the British drink a lot of beer and wine, not sure where they get that impression from). On our way back to the hotel we saw some monkeys sitting on the wall and running across the wall, unfortunately we did not have our camera with us, amazingly we did not see any of them in the town or near the hotel I would have thought they would have been scavengers in search of food.
In the afternoon we found a bar to sit in and do some research, we had a pleasant afternoon and reduced our options to going to Indonesia, going back to Europe or sticking with plan A, Indonesia was a clear favourite as the dry sunny weather was guaranteed. As we were leaving we were fortunate enough to bump into a family from Isreal, they invited us to join them, they were really good company and just what we needed to lift our spirits.
Unfortunately the feeling did not last and we had a horrible evening, where we ate separately. You will be glad to know we kissed and made up before sleeping.
We both woke feeling a little better but wanted different things from the day so Gary sorted out kit in the room and went for a walk into town and I had an impromptu food and head massage, whilst I went for a planned massage and manicure.
My massage and manicure cost the equivalent of £18 whereas Gary had his feet and head massaged in town for a mere £3, mine was a lot more private but I think Gary may have had the better deal even if he did have a small audience watching him.
The rain started early afternoon and we made our way to our local hotel/restaurant (very expensive but clean and modern, I so miss the UK for cleanliness). We arrived at about 3.00pm and did not leave until about 9.00pm, a little indulgent, we spent more in this restaurant than we had in the previous week (£35) but in fairness we had 3 drinks each, lunch and dinner and 6 hours of dry, comfortable chairs and free wifi.
At the end of the day we had formed a plan for the rest of our trip, cycle back to Delhi, take a flight to Indonesia (stay in Indonesia for 2 months, we haven’t worked out the details) then fly back to Vietnam (in Oct) cycle down South East Asia until Dec/Jan, then maybe fly to Tasmania, before joining Stuart in New Zealand. We’re trying to be open minded, so please don’t hold us to this, we may change our minds about any aspect of it, especially the cycle to Delhi as it has rained non stop for the passed 3 days and apparently will continue until Sept.
Our last day in Manali, we packed our kit and had breakfast in Manali in a cheap cafe, we both had a mixed piranha, Gary had tea and I had hot water for the grand price of 80p a big difference to our breakfast the previous day of (£5 for one full breakfast and a coffee).
In the morning we did some further research in our room and went for a walk around Manali to see the local sights, mainly temples and a museum and a walk to the river. It rained non stop, Gary had a further snack at lunch time costing 70p (bread omelette).
In the afternoon as the rain just kept coming we agreed to go to our local bar/restaurant so that we could write our diaries, use the free wifi (which is more dependable than the wifi in our room) and chill.
In the evening we walked into town, which was really busy, families, couples and mainly men strolling up and down the high street in their best clothes. We’re not sure if this happens every evening, or whether it was because it was a Friday (Sabbath), or because the rain had stopped for an hour. What ever reason it was interesting to watch them parade themselves.
We had a meal in a restaurant called Chopsticks (we had previously eaten in a similar restaurant in Leh by the same name). The food was good and we were in good spirits knowing we would be moving on in the morning. I’d ordered the chicken Sechewaun and Gary had the honey and garlic chicken, we had some vegetable rice and a beer each. Ironically although the restaurant was called ‘chopsticks’ we were presented with a spoon and folk (the utensils usually used in India) we politely asked for some chopsticks which we were provided, it was a very nice but very filling meal.
Day 100 -Manali to Kullu
Went down 3236 feet
Went up 510 feet
We are now at 3669 feet
Miles covered 32
Breakfast in our bleak hotel restaurant I ordered poached eggs on toast and received 2 boiled eggs no toast, Ginette had an onion and aloo parantha (2 very thin chapatis with a filling).
Loaded the bikes and set off, it was raining not heavily but continued to rain all day. The road was mainly downhill, tarmaced with a few pot holes. We followed a flowing river all the way. (In the local newspaper it was reported that all water sports were banned during the monsoon, and it was clear to see why). We passed loads of white water rafting companies but none of them doing busy.
The road was not too busy but bottle necks like small towns the traffic did back up a bit. It is good to be on the road again especially down hill, the few ups we did, still made an impression on my heart and lungs, so I don’t think I am fully fit yet.
Ginette – I found today easy going on the body but a little challenging on the mind, it was wet, noisy and the roads were busy. However by mid morning I gave myself a big kick up the butt and reminded myself at the end of the day I would be in a dry hotel room whereas many of the people we went passed during the course of the day would still be wet and cold as their homes were makeshift corrugated sheds. It is very humbling cycling through India and it is really making us appreciate the lifestyle we have in the UK.
Another interesting observation is no matter where we have cycled the majority of Indian women have been dressed in beautiful saris, you rarely see a badly dressed Indian lady.
and although we are irritated by the rain most Indians seem to take it in their stride, they don’t wear coats and few use umbrellas.
We stopped outside Kullu at about 2.00pm after spending a while looking for a suitable hotel, we found very posh at £65, fairly posh at £25, another fairly posh at £20 with a discount and we settled on a place called The Tara Villa for £14 per night including breakfast. It was a circular building with a central parlour with rooms radiating off from the parlour both upstairs and downstairs with an upstairs balcony. The garden outside is pretty and it was very quiet.
We took a walk around the area but there was not a lot to see except run down small shops, busy craggy water filled roads (not conducive to walking on unless you like getting wet feet and splashed) and a raging river. The river was interesting it seemed to be rising as we watched it and I was concerned about the houses that were sitting near the rivers edge. Whilst we were walking two little boys no more than 6 years of age approached us for some money they were clearly versed on what to do when they spotted white people. We stopped for some vegetable samosas before catching a tuc tuc back to the hotel.
Throughout our stay in India we have seen hundreds of stray dogs and the health of the dogs seems to reflect the local area, today we saw a number of very poorly, disabled and pregnant dogs in very run down towns.
Once back in our hotel there was not a lot to do, we had to wait until 7.00pm for the wifi and for dinner. Although we ordered our food at 7.00pm it did not arrive until gone 8.00pm. I was partly to blame for this as I had changed my drink order from coke to sprite which meant some poor chap had to go to the shop to purchase me a bottle. Whilst waiting for dinner we met an indian family who were very sociable and practiced their english on us. One of the ladies had spent 4 years in Croydon studying for her MBA. They strongly recommended the Punjab area to us, which has prompted us to do some further research on India.
Dinner was OK but not great, Gary had an egg curry, which consisted of two boiled eggs in a curry gravy and I had a chicken murgh which consisted of small pieces of chicken on the bone in a similar sauce, with some rice which I think was uncle bens and some chapatis.
I was still really thirsty after dinner (Indians use a lot more salt than we do) so we went to the local shop/kiosk for some more sprite and chocolate, yum yum.
Day 101 Kullu to Mandi
Both slept well and were ready for breakfast by 8.00am, again we placed our order but had to wait at least half an hour. It was very pleasant and whilst we were waiting the land lady/Guest house owner came and spoke to us, her English was very good. We admired her garden especially the pomegranete treas. The previous day she had reminisced about the 60’s and 70’s when people from Europe had drove their mobile homes across the mainland through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. It is a shame that this would now be nigh on impossible to do.
Had a quick look at the internet before we packed up and sadly read my friend and colleague Karin Dixon had lost her battle against cancer, I had dreamt about her the other night it was so good to see her face so clearly. Karin was a really supportive, encouraging and positive person who was so vibrant I will miss her, my thoughts go out to her husband Mark and children. I spent a lot of the ride replaying our conversations and remembering her beautiful kind eyes and lovely smile.
It was a drizzly day but mainly warm, we did have to put our jackets on after a lunch time stop as we were cycling down hill and as we were already wet the wind felt a little chilly.
The first 10 miles were OK, although my body was finding it easy, my mind was struggling a little. We stopped for a coffee which was a good pick me up.
Not long after our first stop we entered a tunnel, not normally a problem but this one turned out to be 3km in the dark, very scary.
Gary; I really enjoyed todays ride, it was easy going (not the traffic, but you learn to ignore the hustle bustle and horn blowing) a one point I was cycling alongside Gary Edwards as he chatted and sang in his usual cheerful manner (this was obviously in my head but I think Gazza would have liked todays ride).
Our next 10 miles were very amusing we got stopped several times to have our photo taken, as Gary said the tourists had become the main attraction, which is quite a claim to fame because the scenery was spectacular, green mountains, raging river, lots of small temples and lots of monkeys (many with their babies).
Most drivers seem genuinely pleased to see us, giving us a lot of room, beeping, taking our photos and cheering us on. Unlike the Leh to Manali Highway, where cyclists must be a common sight we seem to be a bit of a novelty to the locals. As silly as this sounds it does make the day easier and the time flies by.
Gary; I am sure I will be photo shopped out of the picture so they only have the devil women with white hair. at one point we had a queue to deal with as three cars pulled up, two families, and one bunch of of duty squads, all wanting not only a group photo but also individual photos, so it did take some time. the hassles that come with fame.
At some point in the morning we came across a car crash, nobody seemed seriously hurt but it was a timely reminder to everyone re the dangers of driving on wet, windy roads.
We seemed to cycle down hill more than up hill but their were a number of climbs which I enjoyed, the views were amazing and I am beginning to appreciate the sense of achievement of climbing to the top of a mountain/hill.
Gary; I my god I have converted Net to a hill climber.
Ginette; I wouldn’t go that far : )
We stopped a number of times for photo opportunities unfortunately on one of these occasions my cleat stuck and I fell off my bike, again hurting my thumb (I later learnt, I’d cut my leg, bruised my bum and crazed my finger – all very minor)
We stopped for lunch at about 2.30pm and ordered an onion pakora and a veg pakora, we were both surprised when we were presented with a big plate of each , they were really filling and only cost £1.80 with 2 cups of tea and a hot water (trying to ask for a hot water in India can be very interesting).
Gary; wild life encounters today.
Monkeys (we had to passed really close they were on the cliff edge as were we, one had a bit of a snarl at us, but they were mainly a little scared and shot off when we approached. Horses (although Ginette is convinced these are some other breed of animal that has four legs and looks like a horse). Pigs (not coppers, real pigs) in the middle of the road and at the side of the road clearing the rubbish the Indians are so good at making. Cows as usual. although we did see a dead cow, someone had stopped and placed a blanket over it, donkeys and of course lots of stray dogs (they are much more docile here).
We arrived in Mandi (our destination) at 3.30pm and booked into a very nice hotel (after two others hotels were declared full).
Observation – I keep meaning to writing about the number of men we have seen on route holding hands, today as we climbed one mountain I saw three men walking up the hill holding hands. I am not saying there’s anything wrong with this, it is just noticeably different to how men act in the UK.
We wrote our diaries in a local bar and raised a glass to Karin, she would have embraced India and I will try and take a leaf out of her book and try and enjoy it a little more than I am at present.
As we were checking Facebook and updating our kindles in the hotel lobby we got talking to a man from Stratford upon Avon and his lady friend from France (sorry forget their names). They were touring India on an Enfield which I think they’d hired/purchased over here. They’d previously toured South America. It is always great meeting like minded people.
We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and had a quiet night.
Day 102 Mandi to Nr Joginder nagar
32 miles (24 miles up hill)
climbed 3153 feet
got to 5547 feet
Woke early thanks to an early night, went to breakfast but had to wait ages to be served and when the breakfast did arrive it was mediocre.
Beautiful sun shining day 37c – Gary got sunburnt arms
Lots of hill climbing throughout the day, we stopped lots of cold drinks, we’ve found a drink made by Coca Cola called Limca which seems to be hitting the spot, not quite as good as the fanta
lemon drinks that we consumed in Turkey but still refreshing. Gary had an ice lolly at one stop but it had seen better days, as he opened the packet the lolly stick fell out and he had to scoop the ice-cream out yucca
As the hills got steeper and longer we attracted more attention, several people filming us or taking pictures as we cycled by, one group of men stopped and asked us to pose with them.
We stopped for lunch in a small restaurant/kiosk and had some vegetable dahl, lentil curry, rice and chapattis, it was very good and cost the grand sum of £1.50 amazing.
The views during the day were spectacular, lots of very green mountains, paddy fields and colourful houses. The area seems so much cleaner than other areas of India we have visited and quieter although the vehicles do still use their horns to let you know they’re overtaking or passing you.
As we neared one hill two young boys cycled along side us but soon gave up the chase, we have seen a number of children today that have been genuinely excited to see us and have shouted hello, how are you and one little girl tried to run alongside us.
As we reached the crest of one hill a lorry tried to over take us but was stopped by a convoy of army lorries came towards us causing a bottle next in the road we took this opportunity to have a short break in a local cafe. It took about half an hour for all the vehicles to go by and for the traffic to die down.
Once we hit the downhill stretch the nice tarmac disappeared and we were left to cycle on rutted, bumpy roads, not very pleasant especially as we had to navigate our way round buses and trucks coming towards us and over taking us. Fortunately all the drivers we came across tried to give us a wide birth.
An observation from the day, we saw a number of women today carrying pick axes and scythes, even when Indian women are involved in manual labour they still dress impeccably in beautiful saris.
As we were enjoying the views we booked into a hotel near the top of the hill, although the hotel had good views, it was not one of the best we stayed in. The water pipe for the sink was not connected so as I washed my hands I also got a free foot wash! The bed had bugs, the door didn’t seal and as we came back from a mediocre dinner in the restaurant there was a cockroach making its way to our room.
Day 103 Joginder Nagger to Dadh Updria
We survived the night without being eaten alive by the local wildlife and went down to breakfast to find a man having a shave in the sink in the dining area lovely! Whilst waiting for breakfast we saw a monkey jumping up and down in a tree.
Another really hot day, but unlike yesterday very overcast and humid, temp approx 34c humidity was really high, we were soaked by lunchtime (sweat not rain).
Gary had hoped to jump on a steam train at the first town we entered but was informed this was not possible with the bikes, he was a little disappointed as he had been looking forward to seeing the train for a couple of days (it is funny the little things you get excited about when you have no agenda).
It was another hilly day but rather than one long hill we had lots of ups and downs, the ups were much steeper than yesterday. During our ride we cycled passed paddy fields and our first tea plantations, we also passed a zoo with big black bears. There are very few cyclists on the road, so we continue to draw attention in towns and as we climb the hills.
I struggled a bit today (that time of the month again – sorry boys, I know too much info) but kept up with Gary and soldiered on. At about 4.00pm we could see a big (and I mean big) rain cloud coming in so we checked into a hotel. It looked grand on the outside but I would only give it a 6/10, we had very little choice but to accept the room at £27 per night. I am not sure what it is (perhaps we’ve just been unlucky) but we are yet to have a clean hotel room in India. The bathrooms are my biggest issue and very few have showers that work, you have to fill a big bucket with water, lather yourself and then use a smaller jug to rinse off. There’s no shower tray so the bathroom floor gets soaked, in addition very few hotels provide toilet paper, we can only imagine Indian people use the bidee function in the toilet to wash themselves.
We had only been in our hotel room for 10 minutes when Gary broke the curtain rail, (he wasn’t pretending to be a monkey, honestly) and I dropped the bucket used for showering on my foot ouch. On a positive note the view from our window was lovely, the bed was comfortable and free from wildlife and we had managed to avoid the monsoon down pour (which is apparently is scheduled for the next 5 days).
We had dinner in the hotel by the pool (nothing else around), we were the only diners (we are getting used to this), I had sweet and sour chicken and chow mien (I am fed up with indian food I never thought I would say that) and Gary had Kadhai paneer (vegetarian dish) with some chapattis (called Roti here) as an added bonus we were also able to have a beer before dinner (not many hotels/restaurants sell alcohol here).
Dadh Uparia to Dharamasla
Not a great nights sleep, it sounded as if the heavens were open all night but it turned out the rain was hitting a corrugated tin roof outside of our window made worse by an overflow pipe. At one point in the night I got up and put tissue paper in my ears and wrap my buff around my head argh!!!! Both woke up at the crack of dawn feeling sleepy.
Gary; a down pipe was missing so the water was falling from the roof above our room to the tin roof below, torture.
Breakfast was really pleasant served by the pool with all the local wildlife putting on a show for us including some birds that looked like larger versions of the kingfisher.
Gary; Mrs Belamy decided to take up wildlife photography, and there was loads of wild life putting n it’s morning display just for us. She even went to great efforts to save two hissing cockroaches which were stuck wobbling on their backs, is there no end to her compassion (ps, they were not hissing until she got hold of them).
Set off expecting to climb for 12 miles and was pleasantly surprised to cycle at least 8 miles over undulating low gradient hills.
Gary; this was not a good sign, we needed to climb 2000ft today and this gentle terrain meant a nasty climb later.
We stopped not long after setting off to view a temple, we were encouraged by the locals to leave our bikes and shoes which we did. However on entering the site it looked like we would need to pay to go into a very dated tourist attraction with a boating lake and a very tacky looking temple. I wasn’t keen so we went back to our bikes which were being drooled over by the locals.
Gary; Ginette was uncomfortable leaving the bikes with the local cafe owners, we hadn’t locked them and had left our money, passports, phones and importantly her chewing gum and I pod.
Gary; we passed loads of army barracks yesterday and today, as we climbed the mountain a good portion of it is taken up by army barracks, with some great posters calling men to join up.
Ginette it was a good ego boost receiving admiring looks from the soldiers and the occasional thumbs up.
On our way to Dharamsala (where the Dalai Lama resides and where the Beatles visited in the 60’s) we saw a number of interesting things on our ride including ox’s being used to plough fields, men working by the side of the road, this in itself is not interesting but their method of working is, two men work together to dig and pull dirt out of the road, they have a rope on the shovel so two men use one shovel, one pushing, one pulling the rope. we also saw couples working to break up rocks with their children sitting on blankets whilst they worked, people with really poor dental health (missing teeth and very brown stained teeth). Seeing such sights makes us realise how fortunate we are.
At about the 8 mile mark we realised we still had a lot of climbing to do at least 1000 feet and prepared ourselves for the road ahead. Although it was steep there were lots of things to keep the mind occupied, little shops, people working by the side of the road and the admiring glances from the people in the cars coming in the opposite direction.
As we reached Dharmsala our hotel was within spitting distance when a police officer informed us the road was closed and we would need to take a 10km detour up and over the mountain. We were both in good spirits and were kind of pleased we didn’t need to climb the very steep climb that would have taken us directly to our hotel. The climb was scenic and although it was drizzly it was easy to keep pushing the pedals and moving forward.
On reaching our destination we were really fortunate to find a woman who could take us to our hotel because we would never have found it. It was up a narrow street, down the side of a hotel and up a lot of steep steps, with no signage whatsoever.
We unloading the bikes and carried the bags up the stairs and Gary brought the bikes up, personally having seen the location of the hotel I would have cancelled the booking and booked in somewhere else but Gary was up for an ‘adventure’. Fortunately the room was worth it, it is the cleanest room we have stayed in since being in India! The room was very basic but met our needs.
Gary; I had to put my limited knowledge of plumbing to use, there was no hot water, the boiler was off and the water all shut off.
Once showered and dressed we went in search of food and a laundry.
We stumbled across a cafe which had lots of potential but we clearly caught them off guard. It took them three quarters of an hour to make two sandwiches and a bowl of chips. The guy in the kitchen made two visits to local stores returning first with my coke and on his second trip the bread for the sandwiches. We didn’t mind too much the ambience of the cafe was good, comfy chairs, english music (a mix from the 60’s to the 80’s) and the views were interesting. When we arrived it was really misty but this lifted so we could see where we had cycled. We also saw some birds of prey and a troop of monkeys (that were scavenging on the roofs) and walking on the highest railings with no sign of vertigo.
We found a local laundry and left our clothes to be cleaned and wandered the town, which was much bigger than expected. We purchased a trinket for the christmas tree (which we are doing in each new area we go to) and some socks for Gary (20p per pair) and stopped for a beer in a family restaurant before buying cake and wine (£12 for the wine so alcohol is not cheap here) to take back to the room.
Day 105 Dharamasala – sight seeing
Another interrupted nights sleep, a big lightening (and thunder) storm was taking place somewhere in the distance but it was like having our own laser light show in the room.
Gary; although the storm was not directly overhead it sounded like distant artillery fire.
After a breakfast of bread omelette we took a walk to see one of the local temples (very tacky, complete with christmas decorations and very worn looking shrines (Gary; along with tacky plastic gods which look like cheap children dolls, plus outside was an open air swimming pool with Indian men bathing in there underpants, no women) and a walk to a waterfall, although majestic as most waterfalls are it was slightly spoilt by lots of tourists and coffee shops (Gary; Brecon Beacons Horse shoe waterfall fall wins by a mile). On our way to the walk we passed a number of shops, cafes and hotels most of which were trying to present their businesses in a positive manner, but right by the side of them were overflowing skips with dogs, cows, birds and monkeys scavenging in them. A local charity had set up a ‘green warriors’ volunteer scheme for the waterfall but the volunteers may have been better used in the local streets.
Gary; as we passed some very nice hotels we saw a large skip which was being ransacked by Monkeys, I stopped to pose for a photo, I was distracted by a baby Monkey in the trees fooling around, when I looked down one of the Monkeys had come right up to me to see what I had in my bag (which was a few pears) I didn’t realise it was there and it really made me jump, I did end up feeding them the pears.
In the afternoon we went to see the Dalai Lamar Temple, which was really basic, we got to see a lot of buddhist chanting from books in the main prayer area, also outside the prayer room there were several groups of monks gathered in small groups, they seemed to gather in a semi circle around couple of seated monks and then proceed to shout and gesticulate a lot including lots of smacking of hands like a false karate punch to the two seated monks. The shouting and gesticulation seemed to be aimed at the two buddhists at the centre of the semi circle. It was interesting to watch but we haven’t a clue what was being said.
We had hoped to visit the Tibetan museum but unfortunately this was closed, so as we had done everything that the tourist board had recommended and it was pouring with rain (monsoon rain is something else, although it is warm the rain comes down in sheets and goes on for hours) so we found a local bar to pass the afternoon in and to have an early dinner. Whilst eating in the restaurant we could see the main high street from our window and were not surprised to see monkeys, a cow, buddhists and a donkey strolling through the high street along with people from all nationalities with their umbrellas held high. If that was not enough to amuse us the traffic was the usual chaos of everyone jostling to go in their own direction, no road lay out and lots of hooting of horns. India is a very strange country.
Gary; I don’t see what all the fuss is about this area, I don’t understand the Yoga / spiritualist mumbo jumbo, this place just feels like a tourist area with overpriced restaurants (still cheaper than the UK) If I had met with the Dahlia Lama my question would have been ‘why is this place such a pigsty?’