Shimla to Manali
Sitting in a bus for the second day in a row, I'm asking myself WTH (What The Heck), this is meant to be a cycle adventure, why have I been in a bus 27 hours? I'm finding it hard to justify.....but then I realise it's a Bonus....
Bonus....I've completed all the kms I need to get to Delhi, and now I've got a few extra days of Visa where I can get a bonus ride, from Manali to Leh, supposedly one of the top 10 rides on the planet. But I need to bus in, to fit it in to the time available.
Bonus..... that I am able to share this experience with a wonderful young woman, Tessa Walker. Great to share time with, great to travel with, looks after me, gives me someone to worry about, other than myself, excited about being back in the mountains, happy to be out of the heat, but gets on with it, whatever the conditions. In two weeks I'm unfortunately, passing her on to someone else as a travel buddy. Offers welcome. (45 buffalo or near offer).
Despite spending lots of time in buses, we've seen a fair bit. Shimla High Street, is like an English High Street, transported to India. The city was built by the English, as a place to escape the heat of lowland India. With the current heatwave in India, Shimla is heaving with visitors. But the temperature was so refreshing. Room prices were high, $27 for a normally $5 room. The streets crowded. We went for pizza.....it was great, but we were the only ones in store eating a large pizza, everyone else had small, and not taking selfies. We were there to eat, and eat big. Shimla also has a "Christ Church", which made us feel right at home.
There is a large pedestrian only area in the central city, perched on a ridge, surrounded by English shops. The only oddity is all the monkets running around. No vehicles, and no smoking allowed. Yesterday, there was some debate as to whether we were even allowed to wheel our bikes through, but we chanced it, and weren't stopped. Several Kashmir hotel owners vied for our business, as we dodged the wandering tourists. Eventually we pushed our loaded burdens up a hill, it's 2300m here, and with relief, unloaded, to find Tessa had punctured her front tyre. After 18 hours in a bus, mending a puncture wasn't high on the want to do now list, but I muddled through, while Tessa showered. I couldn't fathom where the puncture was. The tube wasn't holding any air. Eventually, I found two small holes, and an offending nail through the tyre. Patched......but still can't get pressure into the tube. Remember, my mind is even more fuddled than normal. Eventually, with help from Hassan, we find 10 more pin holes. Tessa has pushed the bike uphill while flat. The nail had repeatedly pricked the tube.......too much for my brain to solve. Put in a new tube, went upstairs to a hot shower, and slept. Bonus.
Manali, sitting just below snow capped mountains, is also humming with visitors escaping the heat. And there's a taxi strike, so even more chaotic. The bus station is heaving with people. This morning, in Shimla, they were very helpful at the bus station. A guy had given us directions to our bus, and by the time we had found the bus, he was there, offering to stash our bikes on the roof. Did a great job, so much easier than yesterday, and even tied the bike down, all for a tip.....60c. But in Manali, I have to climb up again. At least it wasn't nearly as hot, and it was above the thrombing crowd. Tessa was amongst them, guarding the bags. Worked out okay, as by the time we were sorted, most of the touts had moved on to the next bus, and we weaved our way through the crowds, and up a steep street to Old Manali, not dissimilar to Pokhara or Thamel.
Today's bus ride, half the time, wasn't nearly as bad as yesteday, although an Argentinian guy did ask the driver to slow down a bit, but being cooler, and the roads narrower, so not so much chance to speed, with reclining seats, almost luxurious, and with decent food at lunchtime, Tessa wasn't nearly as antsi....Bonus.
We having a day off today. Washing, bike maintenance, wifi. Waiting for the first pass to open, then it's off......apparently climbing the height of Everest between here and Leh. Bonus.