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  • Traveling with destiny

    Posted on June 22nd, 2009 Sheila Yair 1 comment

    shimlaWe are now in the mountains.

    We took a bus to kalka where the guidebook said you can take an unforgettable train up the mountains. The book doesn’t say anything else about kalka.

    When we got there we found out why. It is not a tourist town. There are only two hotels and it took me about half an hour to find them. The town itself is on a highway that is constantly busy. It takes you about 10 minutes to cross. Hence there is very little connection between the left side of town and the right side (Of course the hotels where on opposite sides). With luck we arrived the day of the weekly market, and it was on our hotel side of the highway. It was a huge market at least a square kilometer big. The first tear was cloth, shoes and house ware and the inner circle all food and vegetables. Punjab is the most agricultural state and one of the main suppliers of food in India. All different fruits and vegetables with lots of stalls selling snacks, pickles and other interesting and indefinable things. The market goes on till midnight so after sundown all the stalls had battery operated halogen lights, a sea of bright white lines.

    trainIn the morning we took the aforementioned unforgettable train. Now unforgettable can go both ways… this train climbs from 500 meters to about 2400 meters above sea level, it goes through 103 tunnels and over 24 bridges to do so. It is a big locomotive pulling 6 small cars that seem like a toy train (that is what the line is nicknamed). I decided to splurge and buy the A/C car seats. But all the 6 cars were the same, semi deluxe, a term which means just slightly above the chaotic normal seating. The views where amazing but the seats very hard and uncomfortable. After 7 hours we got to Shimla. It is finally chilly, the weather is great here and it is very refreshing to get out of the steaming hot lowlands. Unfortunately the whole country wants to escape the heat and Shimla is a big tourist attraction with the locals. It takes us a while to find a vacant room. Despite Shimla being a charming town in hilly pine forests, we stay here only one day as it is too hectic. We book a night bus to Kangra, semi deluxe of course. We ask twice to make sure we are on the right bus and board it. We have the front seats so plenty of leg room and we can comfortably stretch the night away. In the morning we ask the driver’s assistant if we are in Kangra but he just laughs and points to the horizon. At 7am we reach our final stop, Dharamsala. Not at all where we planed to go or the ticket we bought, India.

    Maybe it was destiny or karma or dharma or whichever of the other forces that prevail here but we got to Dharamsala.

    It is a beautiful little village in the foothills of the Himalaya, in the middle of huge pine forests with the backdrop of snowy peaks. It is also the home of the exile Tibetan community and the Dali Lama. I have already seen a couple of hills I would like to climb. It is very steep here so it takes some figuring out how to get to places. So I guess we will be staying here a while.

  • Welcome to India

    Posted on June 22nd, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    indiaWow so we are finally in India.

    The first thing you notice here is shit, yes I am talking about #2, doodoo, kaka you name it India has got it, and in mass quantity. You see it and smell it everywhere it hits you the minute you cross the boarder. With over a billion human anuses and who knows how many more billion animal ones working hard on a daily basis to fill the subcontinent up.

    On the other hand the number one cause of shit, food, is incredible here. Everything has such intricate and delicate flavors. You are tempted very 5 steps you take. There are stalls everywhere selling different things and even after a hearty meal you just have to stop and taste a few more things. My favorite so far is a chaat (snack) called paprichaat. It is chickpea and potato stew with tomatoes yogurt nuts and raisins. It is sweet tangy and spicy at the same time. I never thought I would boost a sweet dish but it is truly heavenly. Everything tastes so different it is undoubtedly the most complex cuisine in the world.

    There is a park in Delhi called the garden of the 5 senses but it seems that all of India is a garden of 5 senses. The smells, aside from the above mentioned you smell insent, spices and food everywhere.

    There is music from every corner, from the popish ballywood tunes to traditional religious music to the classical Indian music. Incredibly complex rhythms with ¼ tones scales that seem to come from a different reality. I have sat with some musicians and seen them play. I was playing a four string giutarish instrument, I played something Arabic sounding but then the musician took the instrument and played a classic raga. It was like me sitting in a car pretending to drive and then having him turn the engine on and go. For a western ear it is almost like hearing for the first time.

    Even the 6th sense, which I know nothing of, is probably well present here.

    But there is a lot of poverty and misery that accompanies these extreme sensory delights. It is hard to walk past all the beggars and crippled and not feel depressed.

    This is only my first impression, we have only been to the border and Delhi so I might have to delete this posting and deny all connection to it.