A more reasonable 7am start this morning to begin making our journey into the mountains by getting the bus from Amritsar to Pathankot. Shared a TukTuk with a teenage girl who was running late for school – had a wonderful beginners English conversation with her! What’s your name? How old are you? Have you any brothers or sisters? It was literally out of her lesson textbook but was so sweet and great that she was confident enough to try it out on us! Got to the public bus station and found the local bus that would take us 105km towards our destination for the grand total of £1.10 each. We managed to help some Chinese tourists, despite them not speaking any English, who were going the same way as us – good old Lonely Planet and pointing at a map saved the day again!! Once on the bus, it was great to watch the scenery go past and the general hub-bub of the locals getting on and off around us. The bus was not particularly comfortable, especially when they squeezed another bum onto our 2 bum seat but it was great fun!
After 3.5 hours, we transferred onto a second local bus to take us from Pathankot to Dharamsala. Same kind of bus for another 3 hours but a completly mad driver who felt playing ‘chicken’ would be great fun on the mountain roads. There was a couple of hairy moments resulting in 3 other passengers throwing up out of the bus windows… We started seeing monkeys from the road too. Lots of baby ones too! However, my favourite bus of the day was the last one. A short 30 minute meander up the mountain side at a much slower and safer pace which allowed us to read some of the road signs. Particular favourites were ‘Drive slow and enjoy the scenery. Drive fast and join the scenery’, ‘Be safe or it is your last drive’, ‘Every accident is an act of negligence’ and ‘Mountains are a pleasure if you drive at leisure’. Not sure if they felt reassuring or a bit of an omen! Anyway, safely arrived in McLeod Ganj (the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama) and negotiated with the hotel to give us the room with the 3 sided balcony for half the price quoted on booking.com since its low season. The view is spectacular!!
Had a reverse dinner, starting with hot apple tea and cake in one restaurant before having hot peach tea, lemon ginger tea with honey and traditional Tibetan steamed dumplings and noodles for dinner. Finished off our dinner with a beer in our balcony. Had to wear a fleece as it was chilly… A fleece in India… Still wore my flip flops though – not giving those up anytime soon!!! Leaving our curtains open tonight so we can wake up to the view of the Himalayas.