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  • Further into the mountains

    Posted on July 17th, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    chambaLike most places on this trip we get to Chamba by chance. We planed to go to Bharmour and just change buses in Chamba. We wake up early to catch the 6am bus to dharamsala, which is 40 minutes away. The 6am leaves at 6:30 making us a little late for the 7am to Chamba. But luckily busses are consistent and the 7am leaves at 7:30. Two hours into the journey we have a flat tire which turns out to be 2 flats. I think to myself why is it that the god/goddess of bus traveling doesn’t like us? (They seem to have a deity for every aspect of life here). But the instant deflation of two very worn-out tires turns out to be a heaven sent. First it allows Sheila to take her last dysentery pill in peace and quite and with no bumps and second after two hours of fixing the tires the bus continues on its way almost empty. Traveling on a less crowded bus is true luxury here. You can put your legs in the isle instead of cramming your knees on the seat in front of you, you can put your bag to the side and each of us can get a window, this is the life. Now I should say two hours of trying to fix the tires as they are pronounced unfixable and we go on with one tire instead of two on the right back side and no spear. But luxury travel has its risks.

    The bus stays fairly empty and the tire fairly full till the end of the trip.

    We arrive in Chamba at 6pm a little late for the connection bus. Chamba is a small town with a busy one street bazaar. It is the district capital but still maintains a small place ambiance. It is very hot as it sits in the bottom of a steep valley but in the evenings a fresh breeze comes running down from the mountains. The center of town is a big grass patch where the whole town seems to congregate in the evenings. Families sit on blankets, teenagers play mp3’s from each others cell phones, vendors sell all types of snacks and beggars and holy men comb the crowd for donations. In the bazaar we have a moment of mobile domestication. We buy a tupperware container. When we set out for this trip, not knowing its duration, we cut on everything that weighs. We brought only the very basics, tent sleeping bags and very few items of cloth. But as we go on we discover that a few luxuries are definitely worth their weight. We have salt and pepper shakers. Imagine the pure pleasure of being able to salt or pepper your food to your desire. Definitely worth its 200 gram weight. We also have a plate and two spoons, it just beats cutting things on a rock or the floor. And now we have a container which serves as a salad bowl, bread box, and vegetable drawer in the backpack. Now traveling is not only fun and games and we don’t go out every evening, sometimes we stay in and have a nice candlelight salad cheese and bread dinner. We like to think of ourselves as a romantic couple but the candlelight here is mostly because of the power-outs. Hotel sweet home.

    The next day we go exploring the ancient temples which are more than a thousand years old and have very beautiful intricate stone carvings on their façade. On the way back we pass a bunch of ladies sitting in the park. We stop to inquire and next thing I know Sheila is sitting amongst a huge group of women singing and clapping. We later find out they are devotees of Sai Baba and every now and then they bring tons of food to the park and feed everybody. We are invited to eat delicious vegetable and cheese stew with fried bread. We look around to see the whole park being fed by these women. We can’t resist but to stay another day after that. In the evening despite eating so much for lunch we go out and have the best shahi paneer (a cheese and tomato based curry) and dosa masala (a pancake with potatoes and spicy stew) we had so far.

    We leave Chamba at noon, a very bumpy 2 hour ride that lasts 4 hours. Now I don’t think it was officially announced anywhere but they had a great deflation of time here in India and every hour is now two hours. 1 old hour is equivalent to 2 new hours. Several times now we go on trips that end up double the time. A 2 hour ride lasts 4 hours a 12 hour ride is 24 etc. at first I thought it was due to language misunderstanding, but we are traveling now with an English guide book written in English by English speakers for English speakers and even here durations are quoted at half of what they turn out to be. So the only explanation is time inflation, which I am not quite sure how that could happen but I know the rules of time and space are different here.

    During the ride I strike up a conversation with the person in charge of tickets, the bus conductor you might say. He has limited English and I have much worst Hindi. But we manage to talk about the US, Europe, India and our jobs. He is on the road for 4 days then goes home for one or two days. I have mentioned before that India is the land of the senses. So Indians tend to overwhelm the senses. Every now and then even in the middle of a sentence the bus conductor blows his whistle. They have a system here where one blow means stop and a few mean go. Now the conductor is right on my eardrum but a loaded bus away from the driver who is the intended receiver of the signal. So the blows pierce my ear every time. But I guess the conductor needs to make sure the bus driver hears him especially since he is on his cell phone the whole time taking with one hand extremely sharp turns on a very narrow road 60 meters above the river bed.

    A little after 4pm we arrive. Bharmour is a tinny village filled with wooden houses apple trees and marihuana plants. It is surrounded by mountains and certainly looks like a place one can spend some time in.