Riding on a chair car on the way back to delhi. Planes trains and automobiles.
Car, baby jet, big jet, cab, van, tuk tuk, bus, subway, sleeper train second class ac 3 tier, sleeper train first class ac 2 tier, horse, bicycle dump truck, jeep knockoff pickup (stand-up), foot hiking, ac chair car train. And anything else. We've tried it all.
Headed into the foothills of the himilayas. Palampur. Went to local pottery place. They teach disadvantaged to make pottery on a very basic level.. We bought more than was reasonable to carry. We've already filled an extra suitcase with muck (excuse me, treasures). It's getting interesting to board a train without porters. We lug it all ourselves. Porters are disappointed.
Palampur is full of tea gardens (tea plantations). We went through a factory and found it very interesting. Processing,grading, packaging, all was very cool and fairly low tech.
I was out on the road taking pics of the guest house. Nice new car drives up. Hello.
What country are you from. My name is Batel. I own all of the tea gardens here. Are you alone. You have 11 with you? Bring them all to my house for tea. I apologized. We don't have the time. Would have loved to.
Out of every person we meet well over 50 percent have at least communicable English skills. They are all anxious to try them also.
Our guest house is run by a navy man. Sparse, tight ship. Incredible view. Valley, mountains.
Finally took off on hike up into himilayas. Started with long drive up mountains on dirt roads clinging to the mountain. I don't know where these other vehicles are coming from. Bad pass and we all die. We just keep going up. Austin's decided to embrace the Hindi belief that if it's your time it's your time. He's climbed on top of the jeep in the luggage rack with the other porter. They're swaying out over the abyss as much as we are, it just looks that much more dangerous. We're doing all the things we didn't get to do as kids. "no" you can't ride in the back of the truck.
We arrive and disembark. Loose rocks and steep grade. I'm thinking this is going to be too much for the kids(or me). All the kids are like Billy goats. Rhododendron trees in bloom. Valley green with wheat far below. We're hiking to as close to the source of the stream as we can. No houses or cows above. Sweet pure water. Porters/guides hiking with us. They start picking rhododendron flowers. Intense red. 3 hour hike we arrive at this wonderful pool with waterfalls up and down. We cool our heels in the pools and nap as they unpack and cook our lunch. Huge pot of rice on the fire with lentils (Dahl marsala?) in another huge pot. Funny how I didn't even notice the size of their packs. They had to be huge to carry these pots. Fresh garlic and spices. It's a photo op if there ever was one so we play and shoot photos. Guides mash the rhododendrons into a spicy chutney. It's bright red and spicy hot. Food is the best in the world. We pack up and march back. After 1 1/2 hours We end up in a high mountain meadow with a temple and the valley spread below. I think what a nice place to rest for a few. They start a fire and make us tea. I took a nap. We're cooked, tired and done. We're expecting jeeps to pick us up. Come to find out our guest house navy man has decided we're still feeling good enough to hike to the mud hut village. It's been great but enough is enough.
We hike another several km and as it nears sunset we hear drums. The village is talking and gathering. Little kids on the trail welcome us and Johanna recognizes some of them and they smile with anticipation. Amelia and Caroline run and play with kids their age while the big kids shoot pics. I finally get it. Our guide/porters belong to the village we're visiting. Their kids climb into the arms of their dads. They've pulled all the rugs out of the house for us to sit on. They're proud we're here. Harmit is here. He's choreographed it all. The drums all start again and probably 100 people gather. Dinner is served then we all formally introduce ourselves. All 100. They ceremonially present us with hats resembling the local headgear. Each of us take turns presenting them with high tech durable headlamps. This celebration is lit by one 60 watt bulb. Power is spotty (like everywhere in India). One headlamp to each of 20 family groups. When it's all done the drums start up again. Wild dancing commenses. We dance and shout until we're sweaty. We're served sweet rice pudding. We're trashed. Shouting goodbyes we hike out to land rovers with our own head lamps for the ride down. We were glad it was dark. We couldn't see the abyss.
Next day we take off on a marathon drive in the bus. Heading to the Pakistani border. Great ceremony to see. Ride all day long. No air conditioning. Truck fumes. No decent restaurant. Surviving on chips and pop.
Our driver has stopped 10 times for directions. We're late and can't make the flag lowering ceremony at dusk at the border.
A good dinner and bed. Amelia and Caroline are bushed. I'm being a man and not admitting I'm tired. Big kids, Joanne, and Elizabeth went to golden temple. Sikh religion birthplace? We see it the next day. Shopping too. Back into the crush of humanity. Rose ann and I need coffee. Finally find it after days. Nescafe is what they have been trying to serve us. This is real 100 test cappuccino. Caffeine is bad but boy is it good. We haul more purchases.
Back to the train. As it's come to be known in the past 2 hours as the eating train. Snack, soup, roll, water, then full dinner then ice cream. All spaced 15 minutes apart. We've been eating for hours.
Little 8 year old ahead of us in the seat is playing angry birds as Caroline and Amelia play angry birds. Small world. Caroline is reading a story about buffalo jones for school on the iPhone. Amelia is reading and listening to taylor swift on the iPad.
We get into Delhi around midnight to rest and shop tomorrow. Jump a plane next day.
This was more of a learning experience than vacation. Wouldn't trade it for anything. About killed us.
World cup cricket between Pakistan and India tomorrow. Don't offend either side or we'll have nuclear confrontation.
You know how you get when every one on the trip is done. We're done. I'm looking forward to the more than 24 hours of travel home.
Epilogue to follow. Points scored and tallied. Extra credit for successful transition thru jet lag.
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