We Flew Off a Cliff Into a Two Thousand Foot Gorge

(Title courtesy of Bret and Cheryl)

We are safe and sound in Manali now. We arrived a couple of hours ago. As you might have guessed, we DID end up taking two days to travel. The first day we travelled from about 5 am to 7 ish pm (13 hours). Though we were 75% of the way, we stopped in Keylong for two reasons: we knew it would be tougher to find an affordable room at midnight and we wanted to see that last 1/4 of the trip. We are so glad we did. Not only was Keylong a really nice little town (with a very accommodating restaurant that promised our home-sick Brit an apple custard and then came back and embarrassed said "how about a pineapple custard?") but there were some great sights to see during that last leg. (I wish it were more convenient to download photos!)
First, I'll say that our taxi driver was excellent. He was an intense young guy (mid 20s, probably) who obviously knew all the tricks of the trade in driving on a rough road with passengers. He would take the smoothest and/or safest track through the obstacles as he could. Sometimes that was rocks in the road, sometimes a stream, sometimes a herd of goats, sheep, ponies, or other cars. He drove at a safe pace most of the time and we were all very pleased with his performance.
We left Keylong at 5 am, because the taxi driver was worried about "traffic." At first, that seemed like herds of goats and sheep, then just after we went over the last pass to Manali, we understood. Apparently that pass is also the Indian version of a ski resort. No infrastructure, of course. No lifts, no buildings, no parking lots, only yellow and blue tarp tents, with parking along the dirt road and a lot of packed and dirty snow. All the Indian tourists were dressed in "onesie" style snowsuits or fake fur coats, with rubber boots (we saw the rental shops, about 700 of them, stocked with these items further down the mountain). We navigated through the parked cars, and then had to pass waves of cars travelling in the other direction, often on a 1 1/2 width road, and often with ponies (for pony rides) crossing the road in front of us. Then, if we weren't delighted enough, some large flocks of sheep and goats were herded along the same road. I have some great photos and promise to post them.

In Manali, we had a bit of a row with a hotel keeper, but are now safely ensconced in hotel rooms at New Dharma Guest house (link courtesy of Tania's excellent help in a previous post, but not as close a satellite photo as before).

We are not sure if we're going to Nagar (a small mountain town) tomorrow, or staying here for three days, then continuing to Chandigarh. Either way, the clock is ticking away my last week in India.

Hope everything is going well for you guys. Nathan, I have a special stash of chips and beer under the stair, saved for Armageddon. I guess I can get more.


Nathan said...

Something tells me we're gonna be looking at a hell of a lot of pictures starting next week.


Random Michelle K said...

Jeesh Nathan!

You can see she's all busy right now. Why don't you hit Jim up for some money and go for a beer run?

Unknown said...

Phew! Made your way through the wildlife (and I don't mean the animals). Good for you.
Looking forward those pictures.
Brrzzzttt to you Nathan. :-P

belsum said...

Ooh Chandigarh! *jealousy ramping up again*

That drive sounds like a helluva thing. Very cool and totally badass. Do you go back the same way?

Nathan said...

I wasn't complaining...merely observing.

You guys are awfully prickly.

Unknown said...

Don't mind us, Nathan. We were just responding in the socially correct manner.

Anne C. said...

No, I don't go back the same way. We are making our way south, back to Delhi via state (public) buses. The bus to Chandigarh will be a 10 hour bus ride, but we'll be able to observe the Indian countryside as we go.

And yes, I will have lots of photos. My friends have been taking lots of photos themselves, so I hope to commandeer some of those as well. We'll see. I'll probably post my own stories and photographs when I get back, and then some of theirs a month later when they return themselves.

Unknown said...

Anne, in addition to the ubiquitous dribbling of daily photo posts on blogs ... please consider doing some kind of slideshow that includes your commentary (written or verbal). I, for one, would love to totally immerse myself in a number of hours in a single sitting ~ following your journey and your incredible adventure; sharing how India has left her imprint on you.

Good onya Anne, what a great voyage!!!