Another day of journeying. I was feeling much better, and after a couple of hours wait at the bus station we finally found the bus to Dharamshalah. A local bus this time and often absolutely packed, so much more uncomfortable, but still a very interesting trip and lots to see. 7½ hours. While a long journey, there is so much to look at that it doesn’t seem too bad. We left at 10am, wound over mountain roads, then descended into Kangra Valley. Everywhere you look, despite the space, there is always a figure in a field, or a ramshackle group of buildings. The most popular form of architecture seems to be the concrete box, with a garage door or two to block off the bottom floor (from which the family business is conducted), and a flat roof to hang out on. Almost everything is made of concrete, with reinforcement rods sticking out in case another level is added on later. Incredibly ugly!
Of course if there is a cliff nearby all the town garbage is thrown over it – this was especially obvious in Shimla and Mandi.
Several times the bus came to a town bus station, and then the bus would squeeze past other buses and trucks in narrow, packed alleyways, and somehow manoeuvre into a spot in the town centre where the buses gathered. A brief opportunity to stand up and stretch our legs, or perhaps buy a few bananas. We munched on biscuits and chips during the journey, and we seem to be eating a lot of ‘Merry Cake’, an artificial yellow cake with bits of glacé cherry in it.
Lots of young people got on and off the bus, especially packs of young lads who gabble endlessly at each other like rabid chickens and steal glances at K. At one stage we had a Hindu song festival behind us as several guys sang selections for half an hour. The lads love to hold onto each other and are often holding hands or travelling with their arms around each other; apparently this is just Indian male ‘buddiness’.
Finally arrived at the Dharamshalah bus station about 5:30pm, and following directions from Lonely Planet, headed up a steep set of stairs, through a small market and onto the main road. By ‘main road’ I mean steep narrow mud track with ramshackle buildings on either side. After a bit of confusion we found the taxi stand and we were pleasantly surprised to discover it was a set fee, 80Rs, up to McLeod Ganj.
The mountains which provide an incredible backdrop to all this are called the Dhavladhar Range, and the highest snow-clad peaks were tinged pink by the setting sun as we headed up the steep road to McLeod Ganj. The town is quite small, just a series of muddy tracks really. Our driver took us straight to the Hotel Natraj where we got an OK room.
Dumping our bags we headed to the nearby Ashoka Restaurant and had delicious chicken korma and mixed vegetables and rice for dinner. Chatted for a while with an American woman who’s been here for four weeks. We’ve been lucky with quite good food so far, except for that shocker of a meal our first night in Shimla. K refers to anything called Ashoka as ‘A-shocker’ but this restaurant has proved to be great!
Fawlty Towers was on TV as we fell asleep, which seemed very appropriate since when we tried to get a heater they were going to stick live wires into the socket to power it! No thanks!