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Manali

rain 13 °C

Slow ride, take it easy!

On Wednesday, two days after the seder, and one day after after Holi, Shmulik and I left Kasol. We each woke up at our own pace, checked out of the guest house, and started our last preparations for departure. I took my bike for one last check up in the garage, then went to Omer and Noya's place to say goodbye, for they were leaving an hour later for Delhi, on a 12 bus ride, then to take a flight to Thailand on Thursday.
At around half past three in the after noon we finally said our goodbyes, and started to load the bike with our muchillas. My bike has a big iron rail connected, and we tied all our equipment to it. We started our ride to the south, looking for a gas station first, which came only after a few km, in the next town we arrived in, called Gerry (like the name Jerry). We refueled, added two bottles of 2 litres each, for extra gas, and headed east to our first waypoint, a town by the name of Bundhar. The way over there was full of cars, and bikes. The road is badly damaged for most of the way, and rarely paved. We stopped on the way to take some pictures before the big mountain, connected to the Himalayas, disappears from view. We felt very comfortable riding the bike. The Royal Enfield I bought is very stable, with great suspension for when we encountered potholes, and a strong engine, for when we needed power going uphill. Then the problems started. About an hour and half after departure from Kasol, the engine heated up because of all the weight. We got stranded on the side of the road two hours before sun set, and the way to Manali should take about 4-4.5 hours. We asked people around us how far the next town was, and learned it was 7 km away. We decided to let the engine cool down for a while, before we could go any further. By pure chance, a taxi stops next to us, and through the window I see Omer, asking us if we need help. They were on the way to the bus station. I suggested Shmulik will go in the car with them to the next town, and this will make it lighter for the engine. We split up and I followed behind, trying to keep up with the quick car on this bumpy road. After several more km's of careful riding, we entered the fray that is known as Bundhar, Me on my bike and the car before me. The taxi dropped Shmulik close by, and sped away toward their destination. We started asking around for someone who will change my oil, and strengthen a few loose bolts. We found a nice mechanic that started work immediately, opening up the gear box to empty, then change the oil. This took some time, like everything else in India, and while we waited, some Punjabi people on some pilgrimage, started talking to us, asking many questions and offering us some of their local foods. We were given some Indian chai, and very nice and very kind treatment from the people we met. After more than an hour, we could finally be on our way again. The sun had already started to set, and Manali was more than 25 km away. We discussed whether to finish journey, or to call it a night in the next waypoint we set for ourselves, a town named Kullu. On the way to Kullu, things started to get trickier. It was dark now, people drive like animals on the road, overtaking each other with no second thought. Though all this takes place, the average speed of cars is no more than 50 km/h, I never once went over 60, not even reaching 5th gear. Driving in the darkness made me be twice as careful, and at some point, before reaching Kullu, Shmulik suddenly noticed something flying off one of our bags. We stopped on the side of the road, to see if anything was missing, and decided we could continue. After ten more minutes on the dark road, he suddenly noticed his pouch, carrying his passport, and thousands of Indian currency, called Rupi, was missing. Trouble.
We disembarked near a hotel, in the light, to see if maybe, by chance he put it in another bag and just forgot, but chances, he said, were slim. He practically unloaded his whole muchilla to search, but in vain. We quickly strapped his muchilla back on the rail, and turned around to look for the spot where he noticed the thing flying off of us. We started searching blindly, him on foot reaching further down the direction which we came from, coming from Bundhar, and me using my bike's headlight to searvh the road. After more than thirty minutes of search, Shmulik reappeared with a spark of hope. He said, that while searching with his small LED light, he was reenacting how he packed, and remembered he took out his pouch, to write something in his notebook, which he keeps in the pouch, and maybe, just maybe, he forgot it in the guest house, where our friends are still staying at. We talked it over, and agreed to finish the ride as early as we could, reach Manali, find a guest house and hope we'll be able to find an internet connection that will still be open by the time we get there. We arrived in Manali just after 10 PM, chilled, hungry, tired and still had much to do and less time to do it in. First thing, we looked for a place to stay, taking a suggestion from someone we met, recommending a place called The Wooden House. It was easy enough to find, on a trail leading uphill, on a steep climb, so we took a room there, sharing a bed, and then asked the owner whether he knows if there were any internet places still open. He directed us down hill, in the direction we originally came from, to a small shop, that according to him had the fastest connection in this area, owned by a guy named Shalom. On him later. We walked out in the cold night, to look for this Shalom, on the way down, there were many shops and places to sit and eat, and signs in all kinds of languages, but Hebrew was the most common non-Hindu language that could be seen on the way down. Reaching Shalom's shop, we saw it was closed, crushing what little hope we still had of finding Shmulik's pouch. We made our way back uphill to the guest house, and saw on the way an open restaurant, full of people. We went in, because the sign outside said they have open WiFi. We went straight to the front desk guy, and begged him for the password saying it's an emergency. He gave us the password, and we could finally breathe a sigh of relief, at least now we can send a message to the outside world, and find out if Shulik's pouch really was back in Kasol. We tried calling first but no answer, so we sent messages to several friends and waited for response. After some time, we both agreed there's no point for us to just stand there and wait, so we decided to call it a night, and hope that tomorrow, some news will get through from the front lines.

The next morning, after some very needed sleep, we quickly got ready, and headed downhill, this time in day light, but rain started during the night, so the cold stayed too. During day time, we could see all the shops that were closed the night before, now open for business. We went together to Shalom's shop again, this time he was open, and we went online, to fish for some answers. During the night I received a message from Omer, telling me he spoke to one of our friends in the guest house in Kasol on the phone, and said they found the pouch, on the table where we sat, just before we left for Manali. Relieved, we asked someone there we could trust, to bring the pouch over to the local Chabad house. Now that we knew where everything was, we could relax, and now is the time to talk about Shalom. Shalom's shop is owned by an Indian fellow, his full name is Shalomraj, and is a place with computers and internet, like many shops we've seen here before, but with great connection. Shalom is also some sort of a travel agent, where you can book flights and bus tickets to various destinations. He also has a gigantic cloud library, with over 10 Terra bites of music. Cataloged by 0-9 and A-Z, one can find nearly anything one is looking for, from Hindu music to Hebrew, every kind of genre, from hip-hop to heavy metal, classical music and classical rock, famous bands and ones that have disappeared over the years. Every time I went there I got lost for hours, looking for new and old material, and erasing some of my own players' memory, to make space.
In the afternoon, after hours spent at Shalom's library, we went back to the guest house to find something to eat. Later that afternoon, Shmulik and I wanted to see the market in Manali. Little did Shmulik know, when he agreed to join me on this ride, that I had my own agenda. Vegetables and spices are easy to find in any market in India, you just need to look for the best looking stock. To find a good knife in India, that is a different story. Since I landed in Delhi, I looked in every market, asking locals, where I can find a good knife. In Bolivia, I traveled with a big hunting knife I found in some market, in southern Chile. That knife was of poor quality, and broke somewhere in the jungles in Bolivia. After that knife broke I've been looking to replace it, and all my queries led me here, to Manu Market, Manali. Somewhere in that market is the trekking shop I've been searching for nearly a month, but first, we find vegetables, first, I let Shmulik look for food, while I keep an extra eye open for anything that looks remotely like a trekking shop, and some shops are very confusing to the searching eye. We spent several hours in the market, and after buying all the food and spices we needed, I told Shmulik my intentions, now that we finally have everything we need for supper. Manu Market is located right at the entrance to Manali city, so to get to our part of the city, where we were staying, it was necessary to ride through it. It is made up of one main road, where thousands of people, tourists and locals, walk in every direction, and dozens of small streets and alleyways, where more shops lurk. I wanted to go deeper into the streets, that's where you find the good stuff. While dodging all kinds of things the shop owners sell, we came across one small trekking shop. In my eyes, that shop glowed, blinding out all the others, I could see it's small display of knives from the outside. I stepped in and greeted the shop owner, so that I could start off on the right foot, if prices are too high. I asked first about portable gas cans I can take out for trekking, because even that is difficult to get here in India. He gave me two for a good price, and then I asked about his knives. He showed me his Swiss army knives and small pocket knives, but I was looking for something more serious. He then showed me four bigger knives, their prices ranging from 1000 Rupi to 3750 Rupi. I believe a man does not choose his knife, I believe a man's knife chooses him. A perfectly balanced, hard rubber hilt, razor sharp, and shiny blade. Curved like a hunting knife should be curved, about 10-12 inches long. The guy asked 2000 Rupi for it, and doing the quick math in my head, this knife costs less than 140 NIS. I decided against trying to bargain for the price, because a knife this well made, is worth a whole lot more than what he was asking for it. I gladly paid for the knife and gas, and exited the shop. On the way up, while walking back to the guest house, we bumped into two friends from Rishikesh. David and Tzach are from Petach Tiqwa, both fresh out of the army, no more than a year. We started walking together up the mountain the street was paved over and some dog started to follow us quite in the beginning, this took us in a trail leading, probably, to the mountain peak. With no planing ahead, we started to walk on this trail, most of it was through some stream, with the dog guarding us from vantage points he could reach that we couldn't. About half way up, we actually realized where we were going, and saw that we weren't nearly prepared enough for this kind of trek/rock climbing, and made our way down. On the way down we talked it over, and David suggested we move to their guest house the next morning. We saw it had a great view over the entire valley, from East to West, surrounded by snowy peaks. That night, we spent sitting together, the four of us, David, Tsach, Shmulik and I, and two more girls we saw only once more since.

Early the next morning, we woke up and packed our belongings as early as possible, because if we missed check out time, they'd make us pay for an extra night. Because we are carrying with us things that weigh as much as another person, we literally had to make two trips on the bike, to carry everything to Tsach and David's guest house. We took a room right next to theirs, and immediately started to plan a big dinner for the four of us, making a list of things to buy. I spoke to the guest house owner, if he would let us use his kitchen for cooking. He said yes, for a small price. David and I, then took the bike downhill, to the center, to find ingredients. We started by looking for beans, spices and eggs, then went on for vegetables and rice. After we found everything on the list, I wanted to see one more thing in the market. When I was in the market for the first time, with Shmulik, I saw a different trekking shop than the one from the day before. I wanted a good top to wear while riding, so I found one I liked, one that prevents wind from freezing me on the road, and convinced the salesperson to give it to me for 500 Rupi less than what they were actually asking for it. As soon as we finished with the shopping, we rode back to the guest house, and started work on our shabbat dinner. Each one had his own part to do, with cutting, and slicing, peeling and cleaning, we had plenty to do. If someone would finish his work, he would be in charge of music, for the time being. Dinner was served much later than shabbat, so we ate while stars were shinning outside. Because Manali is very high up, and this hill our guest house was on, was even higher, the air was very clean compared to other places, and that night was clear, and the stars were bright. We talked until the early hours of the night about our intentions for tomorrow, we wanted, maybe, to finish that climb we started a few days ago with the dog, or go skiing, or roll down a hill in a giant inflating ball. We set our alarm clocks for 7:30, because no matter what we were going to do tomorrow, it will be early, and said good night.

UPDATE
Saturday, March 30, we woke up late. All of us.
None of us woke up early enough to wake the others, so we ended up wasting a full day drinking, eating and later, ransacking some more music from Shalom's shop. We also talked about our next move. I said that my reason for coming here, to Manali, was satisfied, and I want to see the villages around Kasol. That means, I need to ride back to Kasol, and start asking questions there. Everyone agreed this should be the next move, the only question was the timing of it. When will we leave Manali?
Staying In Manali right now is a waste of time. I came here for the trekking shops, and also because a friend recommended a good Enfield mechanic in one of the villages around here. Most of the shops were still closed for the season, nearly no tourists of any nationality, and the weather was too unpredictable. So leaving as soon as possible quickly became the topic. How, was the next obstacle. Now that we are four, travelling together was problematic. Only two people and their muchillas fit on the bike, the other two had to think creatively. Tomorrow, Shmulik and I, will leave on the bike, wish us luck that nothing will break this time.

Until then, Share the love.

Posted by Son_of_Axe 06.04.2013 11:02 Archived in India

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