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Parvati Valley

Kasol

semi-overcast 13 °C

Greetings,

When last I wrote I was just about to leave on a mini-bus ride, to Kasol. 12 people gathered, we were the fellowship of the mini-bus. We all came to the meeting point at seven PM, and waited for the driver to get there. We only had to wait ten or fifteen minutes, so it was OK. We spent that time talking amongst ourselves, and getting to know a few people who were new. Finally, after a short while, our driver arrived and we immediately started to load our backpacks. Our driver climbed on the roof and tied everything together. Here's to hoping nothing will get lost on the way. We started to file in, one by one, finding our seats inside, for that seat will be the only seat each one sat on for the rest of the way. The beginning of the ride was fairly easy. Everyone still had energy, because it was still early, we all went into simultaneous conversations in all directions. At the beginning, we hoped to watch a movie on the small screen, but that dream flew out the window, as we couldn't make the little doo-hicky work. The ride was very cramped the whole way, and more than once, while trying to find a good position, I found myself kicking someone, or being at the receiving end of a kick. Along the way, there are plenty of small villages that we passed through, so every few hours we stopped to drink Indian chai. The scenery on the way must have been quite something, but it was dark for most of the way, so we couldn't really make anything out of what we saw. As the morning came closer and closer, we realized that we were heading for the mountains, the road was getting narrower, and below us opened up Parvati Valley. This valley is where Kasol is, but on the far end of where we entered it. The valley itself is mostly green today, because it rained a lot recently, the terrain is rocky with plenty of streams coming down from the peaks of the mountains. Little villages litter the valley, with farms and farmers everywhere. A very beautiful place to be in the rising sun. A special thing about Parvati valley, is that marijuana plants grow wild on the sides of the road. In every village we drove through, and the mountain road in between, we saw it everywhere.
The valley was just beautiful once the sun came up.
Though it was early morning, our journey was not yet over. We still had a very long way to go. More than once, we stopped again and again for Indian chai, bathroom breaks and picture break, each one taking its toll on our timing.
After more hours of driving alongside a river, in a forest, the valley opened up, and before us were the first buildings in Kasol. Ahead of us, looming, gigantic and towering above all the others, was the first of the Himalayas. Its presence is felt everywhere you go in town.
As soon as we disembarked, we split up into teams of twos and threes, and we all started to look for places to stay, while at least two people stayed behind to watch the bags. Quickly, each group found its own place to stay, each group in a different guest house. I found a room in a place right on the river, overlooking a bridge the stream runs under. I had a small porch looking down the river, where at some point, Omer and I suntanned on.
I teamed up with the girl I was sitting next to on the mini-bus, and we took that room together. Omer and Noya were four doors away from us. A great start to Kasol, we quickly became hungry, so we went out to look for something to eat.
Omer and Noya weren't hungry, so only me and the girl from my room went out. Next, I found myself in a Nepali restaurant, with a girl I barely know, and have nothing in common with, in a city I have never been in. When we went in, the first thing I saw was a group of Israelis, sitting like zombies and ordering the waiter around, like he was some kind of servant. I immediately started to dislike the place, because of the fact that the sitting arrangement makes you sit on the floor, on low tables, and it just made the whole scene more obnoxious. I felt sorry for the waiters, and shame for how my country is represented. I didn't want to be there for longer than I needed, so I stayed away from conversations, and didn't engage one with the girl I came with. The sooner out of that place, the better. After a very long night-day-night, we were both very tired, so after we each took a shitty shower, in our shitty little bathroom, I could finally go to sleep.

The remaining days of my first week in Kasol, were spent by getting to know the town, and sitting around with friends. The first two nights I spent in the guest house room I took with the girl. After I understood from her that she doesn't really want to be in that guest house, she kept complaining about the cold because the room had no heating and we both froze at night, so I decided I wasn't going to stick around for her to leave me, and then I'd be stuck paying the full amount for renting that room. I found a guest house through some friends I met here, and finally got myself a room with a mini fireplace.
In that guest house I share a room with an Israeli guy, and with us are two others in a separate room. Also staying there are two Italians and an Indian fellow. The Indian guy's name is Karthik (pronounced Kartik), he's 24-25 y/o, and he is really cool and great to hang around with. He knows the area extremely well, because he's been in Kasol for about a month now. He showed us a hot spring just outside of town, three and a half minutes away by foot. All we had to do is cross one raggedy bridge, but the clear view straight at the snowy mountain, is worth every risk. The local population comes to this hot spring for various reasons. People bathe there, wash their cloths, get hot water into town for cooking and other uses. The rocks that come into contact with the sprouting are all warm to the touch of hand, and warms ones behind on a cold afternoon.
After our first visit to the spring, Karthik took us twenty meters further, to a small cave. The cave was made by man, it's a deep rock that was sealed by concrete except for a small door opening. Before entering we were asked to take our shoes and sandals off, and inside we understood why. This place we were in was a shrine. A Hindu Baba lives there. Karthik told us that in order to become a Baba, a person will need to exclude himself from society, and go live on his own, in the wild. In order to reach enlightenment, these people live in extreme conditions, whether if its in the forest, desert or mountains, and only after 12 years of this so called "training", these people will receive the title of Baba. After becoming a Baba, that individual will keep on living in half exile, he will have no money, and can only accept donations of food, or practical things for living outdoors. They can only dress themselves in cloth, in which they wrap around themselves, never more than two or three pieces. Each Baba has his own thing. For example, one Baba will live only on potatoes and water, and nothing else, his title will be Aloo (potatoes in Hindu) Baba. Or the Baba that lives in that cave we were in, the Cave Baba. Another type of Baba, is the motorcycle riding Baba, Avenger Baba, because of the type of motorcycle he rides.
While we sat and listened about the Baba's in India, we learned that there are over ten million Babas here, and they are also protected from the law. Therefore, they're also allowed to smoke, for "recreational" purposes, the local drug that is manufactured here, in India, the jarras. It is made out of the type of marijuana grass that grows wild in these mountains. After a while in the cave, the sun began to set, and the resident Baba came "home". He lit a small bonfire outside the cave, and we found ourselves in an extraordinary situation. This person isn't allowed to converse, so we all spoke in hushed voices amongst ourselves. We were five Israelis sitting around that fire, along with Karthik, another Indian guy that joined us, two other Indian locals, whom I assumed were some sort of disciples of the Baba, the Baba himself and another local, that resembled Frank Zappa terribly, only he had silver hair. The night sky was clear and the moon was only quarter full, but still very bright. We could see entire constellations clearly, and finally, I knew where to look to find the North. After about an hour of hushed conversations, we respectfully said our goodbyes, and started back. This time, when we past by the spring, it was steaming hot against the cool night air, we climbed the rocks, up to the bridge again, and across it in to town. We finished our day with some food and drinks, said good night, and I battled my mattress to find a good position to sleep in, alas, it is still India, I gave up and came to terms with the fact that in the morning, I will wake up sore.

On Saturday, March 23rd, I bought my motorcycle here in India. I ride a Chinese motorcycle at home, I bought her in April of 2012, I have invested a lot of time and money, sweat and tears into her. But I still love her. Her name is Gemma. Today, to keep her busy (and still running by the time I get back home), I gave her to my friend at home, Nir. Here in India, many Israelis come to travel. Some of them choose to travel all these distances on a bike, instead of local transportation, whether it be by bus, train, taxi or a domestic flight. The most common motorcycle type on the roads in India is the Royal Enfield. A very old brand, with models dating back to thirties. The beauty about traveling that way, is that you're not obligated to any time table what-so-ever. You can travel at your own pace, from town to city, and on the road itself. I have spoken to many people that have traveled that way, and heard stories about villages they visited, that are unknown to most people who travel there. You happen upon a small village overlooking some amazing valley, or mountain, and you simply would never have gotten there without a bike. That is why I bought this new bike. It's a 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet, with 350 cc engine. My direction now that I have a motorcycle, after seder Pesach, is to wait with Omer and Noya, to leave for Delhi, which is two days after the seder, and then head to Manali, north of here.

Pesach came on March 25th. From the beginning of this trip, Omer, Noya and I all knew that we were going to spend our Seder here, in Kasol. The question was, where and how? I came up with an Idea of doing something different. Instead of going to the Habad house, where there will be hundreds of people, we will do one of our own, from top to bottom. I call it a Progressive Seder. We needed to collect the right people to join in on our scheme, and organize everything. Omer and I wanted to print hagadas, and do this somewhere outdoors. That idea quickly became obsolete, as it was rejected by Noya. One of the first (of very few) people who joined our cause, was Tal, Noya's friend. The both of them were very against reading the hagada, due to bad experiences in the past. But I insisted, that instead of compromising, and not doing anything for the occasion, and ending up in one of the restaurants here, and eating from the same food we eat almost everyday. Omer supported the idea of doing our own seder, so eventually, Noya and Tal spoke to the guest house owner, and got the kitchen for the day. We also met three others who joined in, they were Chen, Maya and Raz. There were only seven of us in the seder, but with enough wine for all of us, food that we cooked ourselves, and good company, Omer and I could tap each other on the shoulder, and call the night a success.

The next day after Pesach, was an Indian holiday, called Holi. I don't really understand what the celebration is, but the custom is to go to war. With color. The shops on the streets suddenly sell this kind of powder paint you can either throw as it is, or mix it with water. I left the guest house at noon-ish toward town, and found a bloody scene. People were walking around with yellow, pink, red and green color on them, some from head to toe. I quickly joined the fray, when I met my Israeli comrades, fighting against Indian locals. I quickly gave anything of importance to some girls I knew, and earned my stripes. Not long after I joined, Omer arrived from his guest house, fresh for the fight. Some twenty or thirty Israelis, trying to hold the main crossroads of Old Kasol, we encountered some fierce resistance from the local kids and teenagers, women and girls on the roofs and balconies, and one roof, held by a bunch of locals with a giant container of water, and three buckets, to shower anyone brave enough to pass in their range of fire. They rained terror on the street until twenty brave, young men laid their lives to take the hill. We charged up the stairs, deflecting resistances all the way to the first roof leading up to the objective. There, we found ourselves before an Indian with a bucket, full of red water-paint, and no-one wanted to receive that on the head, for the wind was cool outside. Finally, Omer made the ultimate sacrifice and moved to make the enemy waste his only deterrent. As soon as the bucket was empty we stormed up the stairs, taking to water tank for Israeli control. The battle was fought by the brave men and women of The Israeli-Kasol Militia. By the end of the day, the whole town was painted in various colors, cars and motorcycle were mostly pink. At some point, in the evening, when the whole war game was about to end, I was walking to the west, to get to an Internet place. To get there, I needed to pass through that part of the main street, and what I saw reminded me extremely of old western movies. On top of every building, and every balcony, there were people waiting with bucket-fulls of painted water, in ambush. The street narrowed down to a tight squeeze, because people were standing there, creating a sort of bottle-neck. This whole situation made me feel like the people on the rooftops were snipers in a movie, and the street was empty, because a big shootout is about to begin. While avoiding open air, I saw two motorcycles driven by a bunch of Israelis, three people on each bike, heading toward that ambush. I couldn't resist the urge to wait there, and see what happens. As soon as the first bike came through the first building, they were peppered by water and paint from every roof, balcony and person on the street. Small puffs of paint powder could be seen from the distance I was standing, against the evening sun. Priceless, that I witnessed a crazy scene like that.
The day ended when Omer, myself and a few other, all went to the hot springs, there we took our cloths off, and made the first attempt at removing all the paint. Eventually, it took two more showers, back in the guest house, to return to my natural, un-pink color.

The next day after the Holi was my last day in Kasol, for now. Omer and Noya are about to leave on a long bus ride back to Delhi, from there, a flight to Thailand. I joined up with an Israeli guy, named Shmulik, who used to be religious, but not anymore. Together we decided we want to head north, to a city called Manali. I made preparations with the bike for my first cross-city ride.

I hope everything goes well. Until next time, Share the Love.

Posted by Son_of_Axe 23:25 Archived in India

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