One week after I arrived in Himachal Pradesh, I was back on the road again. To be frank, Mcleod Ganj had its negatives, so much traffic; it somehow seems incongruous to think of the Dalai Lama in his temple and Tibetan monks in the road while there are full-on Indian style traffic jams – think incessant honking (or horning, they call it here). But so it is. There was also such a mix of energies, ranging from the serenity brought in by Tibetans, especially monks and nuns, all the way to Israelis who were there to smoke marijuana and chill out and have sex, and then the Kashmiri merchants, and I was ready to get out. Krishnan and I had already been discussing some possible trips away from Mcleod, and it seemed almost like a choiceless decision to go to Chamba Valley. Very little information is provided in the guidebooks about this region, and Krishnan was ready to dish out for transport to Chamba. I said if we were going to head out that way, I wanted to go all the way to Bharmour. Instinct. Thank goodness.
The team: the oddest combination of people ever to be seen in Chamba, perhaps. Krishnan, 49 year old half Indian half Chinese, British citizen, professor of literature in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has been at Amma’s ashram for the past year, is extremely well-read, extremely physically fit, and full of corny jokes. Tashi, 36 year old Tibetan monk who escaped his family, perhaps even more so than the Chinese, when he was 15 and came to India to join monastic life. Krishnan and Tashi met in an English class that Krishnan was volunteering at in Mcleod Ganj in November. Sara, a Mexican girl I met in Amritsar who had been teaching in Jaipur. And me, the half-Japanese half-Chinese, Indonesian born, American-raised, pretending-to-be-Brasilian who constantly gets thought to be Tibetan when I’m in this part of the world. Only adventure and constant laughter could have awaited us, no?
The road from Dharamsala to Bharmour…unearthly. Perhaps because I had no expectations whatsoever, it just blew me away. I assumed we would be seeing more of the same scenery as Dharamsala, namely pretty pine forest with the occasional snowcapped peak behind. Wrong I was. Terraced fields started very soon after we left Dharamsala, which sort of reminded me of the Inca landscape in Peru, except the pine forests just didn’t fit. And snowcapped mountains, so jagged and dramatic.
We arrived in Bharmour and found a place to stay for the night…