Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ganga Man

I’ve been working most evenings updating this blog with pictures & text or doing administrative house-keeping or doing some training homework and so I allowed myself Saturday to go on another trip. When I move up to Shimla and start my proper studying I know I’m going to get very little time so I’m making the most of what I can grab now. I decided to take a trip to the Ganges and see a few temples. Papiya – one of the Koenig administrators, a pretty but quite petite girl with a lovely smile and a polite attitude to match – organised a taxi for me, which would cost me 2100 rupees – about £30 for a car & driver for the day. As with the trip last Sunday, the taxi turns up an hour early so I split the difference and make him wait for half an hour. Kamal greets me as I walk towards the surprisingly plush Toyota – leather seats, air conditioning, only a few scratches and dents and a reassuringly good distance from my front seat to the front of the bonnet!

We’re heading towards Rishikesh which is the first town/city on the sacred river Ganges. To get there we need to drive South down through Dehradun (which is actually pronounced Dehradoon and often known as Doon for short) and I start to realise how large it is – it seems to run for miles and miles and miles of the same dusty, potholey (Polish roads are like a mirror in comparison) and tin shack shopfront lined roads as the way into Doon from the North part that I’m staying in. There are however some obviously wealthier areas with walled compound cosseted houses with red and yellow flowered bushes dripping over the walls, teasing the cows – although some of the compounds seem to have some resident cows of their own. These will be the lucky ones that don’t have to root through the rubbish piles and skips searching for tasty polythene-based snacks.

Rick was contrasting the cows we see here with those he saw whilst he was study/partying in Goa where often the cows would be decorated up. Painted and flowered, like real-life versions of those city cow sculptures that seem to be de-rigueur in many European cities. Here, whilst they’re avoided on the road that’s about where it stops.

Just to prove the point a large bull with a flopped over hump is sitting in the middle of the main road out of the city. So the traffic just winds past it and motorbikes use it as an opportunity to zip in front of cars & tuk tuks. A queue of traffic ahead signals something obviously more significant than a cow on the road but Kamal seems comfortable going to the other side of the road to overtake the queue and head for the closed level crossing. I’ve seen the YouTube clips, I know what’s coming, so I make sure I’m filming an in-car view.

We’re lined up on our side, three vehicles wide and a swarm of bikes. They’re lined up on their side, equally wide, equally eager. A couple of blokes with bicycles and a motorcyclist chance their arm, legs & torso nipping across the railway line and under the barrier. A packed train strobes past us and once it has passed the engines rev and the starting gates are opened. And as usual, it just works.

Eventually we leave the city and start passing through some of the countryside I’d observed from the train coming to Doon. Now on ground level looking at the “wheat” I can see that its sugar cane!
Driving into a forest area, as we pass a sign informing us the “Elephants Have Right of Way”, Kamal tells me that we are now driving through a national forest in which the biggest herds of Asian tuckers live. “Do they ever have accidents with the road traffic?” “Oh sometimes, but only at night. “ Hmm. Grey elephants, dark roads. Hmm. I don’t see any elephants but I do start to see lots of monkeys, wandering down the verges, rooting through the far lesser amount of rubbish along the forest road, scratching each other and generally messing about. You can see why they stay on the verges and don’t own the road like their larger bovine road mates. Splatted monkey roadkill decorates the dusty asphalt. I start to think about the different ‘quality’ of Indian roadkill versus your standard British roadkill. We get rabbits, pheasants – lots of pheasants in Herefordshire – and increasingly frequent badgers. Here you get monkeys, puppies and occasionally on railway lines (apparently ) elephants – a couple of months ago a herd was crossing a railway line one night as a goods train was chundering along.
Out of the other side of the forest, we return to the usual dusty peopled places for a short while until we once more enter another part of the forest. The first road was arrow straight, this one is a dreamy twisty uphill that makes me yearn to be on my Transalp - that low down torque pulling you effortlessly up and out of a tight 180 right hander. Kamal continues with the same driving style he has shown throughout the journey, overtaking on wide blind bends in fifth gear (at about 40mph) with a lackadaisical calm. This often leads my bottom to very nearly swallow my seat but I’m writing this in one piece so as you can guess, it just worked! Passing some dry river beds that obviously get to carry voluminous amounts of rainy season we get to Rishikesh. Kamal parks up and suggests I take one of the guides that is there as soon as I open the door. 200 rupees will secure me a guiding hand and running commentary.
Before heading out over the swaying suspension foot bridge I pick up a copper bracelet for 10 ruppees, but feeling it now, it’s probably copper plated steel. People, bikes, cows & monkeys compete for space on the bridge over the Ganges which when I look down has some very large fish in it, waiting under the bridge for the fish food nuts being hawked by youngsters who plead to sell you little bags of food so they can “eat chapatti”. Some Langurs are just hanging out at the other end of the bridge, watching some dogs growl and bark at them. Despite this being a destination for tourists, including many Westerners, I still draw odd looks at my interest in our cousins.

Now for some temples. Taking photographs is not allowed or appreciated so I just have some outside pictures, but the insides though interesting in their novelty to me (yes OK, I’ve been in some before when I visited Malaysia but that was 30 years ago!) are not particularly photogenic. I am wearing my trekking boots and have to take them off in order to enter each temple. At first I feel slightly cautious at leaving £150 boots out to fend for themselves but soon grow up. It’s a pain to keep undoing & doing them up though. Most of the temples have statues of blue-skinned gods., generally Krishna, Shiva, Rama, Hanuman – the monkey god, Ganesha – the elephant nosed god and their various wives. These different gods are basically the same, just in different guises/eras. Some of them have big brass bells that devotees knock the clangers off, so I have a go – but resist the urge to knock out a rhythm!

(I now need to very quickly write the remaining things I wanted to note. It’s Wednesday 2nd Dec and tomorrow night I’m off on a 6-day safari into the Jim Corbett national park and it’s already quite late.)
I wandered around a few Ashrams – kind of religious & spiritual sort of communes, that offer free accommodation & food for people needing some spiritual calm and took a boat back across the Ganges.
Back at the car, Kamal has been reading the newspaper and snoozing. I pay my guide and we continue on to Haridwar – I want to see the candle lighting floating down the Ganges that takes place every evening and morning. Kamal stopped on the way at a couple of really very interesting temples – again no photos. The first was a seven storey temple that was a kind of Hindu museum with friezes, paintings & statues of different themes on different levels – I feel a bit sheepish as Kamal explains who the particular painted famous figures were that fought against the British or were hanged by us! As we walked there we followed a primary school outing on their way to the same temple and due to have a picnic – school is a 6-day-a-week thing in India.

The second temple is actually more like an amusement park’s fun house. It’s a replica of a temple carved into a mountain in Kashmir and again with boots and socks removed we climb up steps and following a zig zagging back & forth trail through fake rock caves, crawl spaces and walkways. With scatterings of temples on the way. I pick up the first of my many Hindu spots (or Bindis) for the day and it’s great fun. Although since we were following a gaggle of obviously well childrened out ladies with more flesh on show than a middle aged man wants to see on more than middle aged women at times it becomes a bit cringe worthy!

Before moving on I take up the suggestion from a stall holder for a glass of fresh pineapple juice and 10 rupees results in a medium sized pineapple losing its crown and being mashed through a large manual press and into a glass. Every drop of juice flows into the glass and fills it exactly to the brim, leaving squeezed out pulp – the guy knows his pineapples.
We arrive in Haridwar, but there is till two hours before candle time so Kamal drives up to a cable-car that will take us up to some temples overlooking Haridwar and the Ganges. There’s quite a lot of monkeys here and as we walk under a tin-roofed walkway to more temples, it sounds like monkey rain as they run up and down the roof. I remove boots, get Bindied and donate. One monk gives me some puffed rice, most of which I save to leave out for the monkeys. Although we should have a good view, it is misty so no real views.

The ceremony at Haridwar, as I said, is held twice daily and consists of lighting a flower candle and setting it to float down the Ganges as blessings are said. On the walk from the parking to the send-off zone I buy a candle which is a basket made from leaves around a small stick frame and filled with petals that I just can’t stop smelling and a tiny little wick and wax. It’s gorgeous.

On the way in I get asked for a donation. Well I say asked for a donation, a guy with a uniform on and carrying a little multi-carbon-copy receipt book stands in front of me asking my name and donation amount. He looks aghast at me in disgust when I suggest 200 rupees, but Kamal is looking after me and mutters something to the “official” who accepts my donation. He keeps telling me that I don’t have to keep making donations but I don’t know what gives in this country. Like many gullible Westerners who get confronted by official looking people asking for money – well they were actually official donation collectors – I’m going to hand over something. Carrying my candle, a priest/monk comes to me and beckons me down to the Ganges. He will say a blessing for me on my behalf. As he asks me to repeat after him in Hindi he keeps mentioning 2000, 1000. I suspect he’s talking about rupees but as it’s so high I decide to treat it as words that are part of the blessing. My candle is lit and I’m invited to cast it to the sacred river. Now one of the things that took me by surprise is the speed of the water. I had always imagined this to be a slow, meandering type of river, but this is a fast flowing mountain river that take my lovely candle and whips it into its torrent, capsizing it within seconds! Back with Kamal – who is looking after my boots – the monkpriest is hanging about for his own donation with a big glint in his eye. 200 rupees comes out of my wallet to which he objects and exclaims about how he made a blessing for me. Again, Kamal mutters something. The monkpriest simply says, quite genuinely, “Are you happy?”. “Yes”, I reply, “Thank you for the blessing”. “Then I am happy” he says as he goes to look for his next donator.
It’s grown darker now and the crowds have swelled. There are kids selling whistling, spinning lights and glow sticks and necklaces and it’s no different from a night time event in the UK. As what seems to be the main event begins (seriously large candles being lit and large chanting crowds) there are lots of mobile phones being held aloft to capture the proceedings. I’m far back in the crowd and have no desire to push through the crush for a better look and lose Kamal. Kamal puts the percentage of tourists here at somewhere around 90%. If you had a good vantage point, there are none as the bridges are closed off, then you may get a very photogenic scene, but as it is it’s a bit of an anti-climax.

It’s just after 6pm when it’s all over and we set off. The traffic back is seriously thick (both in volume and attitude). We hear a two-tone siren and can see a flashing red light behind us. Nothing pulls over and a white Ambassador car (the ones I thought were Morris Minors earlier) with rear curtains squeezes past. “Is that Police or Fire or something?” I ask Kamal since the red light has thrown me. “No. Minister” comes the reply and he pulls out of the traffic and tails the unknown state parliament minister. It’s 60+km back to Dehradun and for a good 40km, Kamal tails the minister’s car matching it overtake for overtake, weave for weave, wrong-side of the road for wrong-side of the road. No sign of any lackadaisical calm now. It takes balls to drive in this country and Kamal has the testicles of raging bull elephant in full musth! Mine on the other hand have retreated and are in constant danger of being sucked up through my anal sphincter.
When we eventually overtake and lose the minister we make good progress and reach Dehradun. The traffic is absolutely mental and it is now that I discover that directionality around roundabouts is optional. I get home in time for curry and as I enter the dining room the guys double take at my multiple Hindu-spots! They are, however, jealous. Everyone else here is studying their arse off, working really very very hard and determined – as without exception they are all, like me, spending large amounts of their own money on training and certification. I’m off on safari for a week tomorrow, but when I get back I’ll be taking a taxi through the Himalayas to Shimla. Then my own arse scraping studying will also start and this blog will likely stop or at the very least - like my testicles - shrink!

Friday, 26 November 2010

My Name is Alan

The last few nights I’ve been spending time catching up on writing and uploading pictures for my post about Sunday’s trip out with the guys here. To be honest there hasn’t been much more that I’ve been doing. Monday to Wednesday I finished off my Adobe Premiere “Training” – I’ll come back to the training thing in a later post – and started on Adobe After Effects today, which I’m loving!

The Internet connection I have is a flaky wireless connection shared amongst 10-12 people, which in turn is connected to a slow and flaky broadband connection. This makes it hard work to update the blog as inevitably the connection drops whilst I’m trying to select and upload photos and so I have to start on that edit again – it’s also why I post a blog and then continue to edit it. At least I’m now editing in a word document, just adding to it as I go along, and then copy & paste from there into the blog editing pages. I haven’t been putting the pictures into the base document, perhaps I should and then I’d have a complete offline version I could save for posterity?

Yesterday though instead of taking the 5 O’clock taxi back to TCH (The Country House), I joined Rick on a ride to one of the hotels in the town/city of Dehradun that Koenig use to put up students. You can also elect to “upgrade” your accommodation to some of these hotels - the idea was to do a spot of “needs” shopping and then make our way back to TCH. The ride from the Koenig training centre, which is out on the edge of town, to the hotels in town took about half as long as the ride to TCH and it got much much busier and of course noisier. We dropped our school bags in the hotel room of another Koenig student – whose name I didn’t catch – and headed to “Kumar Stores”, one of the supermarkets that carries a good selection of local & Western goods.

After a battle with an ATM to read my card – the instruction “To use this ATM please insert your card” omitted to say “ and remove it again or I won’t work!” – I withdrew the grand sum of 1000 rupees (about £15) and we headed off to find a suitable point to cross the road, if such a thing existed! An endless stream of bikes, tuk tuks, cars, trucks, buses all doing their usual criss-crossing, horn beeping, not stopping, weaving across the zebra crossing lines we stood at. The crossing though was at a three-way light “controlled” junction, which should have bought us a little time but after three light changes and no progress we spotted a slight lull and dashed for the middle of the road where we stood waiting for another slight lull and weaved our way across the stream of bikes & tuk tuks. All those years of practice ignoring crossing lights & sights and just crossing roads on your own initiative in UK towns & cities (as you’re perfectly entitled – and in my opinion should – do) certainly primed me for a successful crossing. This other guy, whose name I didn’t catch and shall call Doug for want of another name – that’s one of the features of the training here in Koenig, there’s so many different courses and people attending them, many of them starting at different times, that new people come and go – remarked that “they wouldn’t hit you anyway, they’re not allowed.” And whilst he was probably right and make no mistake riders and drivers here have immense practice at weaving past obstacles in and out of the path of other vehicles all the time, it’s constant, nonetheless I’m not taking that chance!

We wandered down broken pavements, on & off the road, stepping over holes down into the netherworld, past various shops and street food stalls, the air thick with fumes, dust & smoke from the food stalls and burning rubbish piles in equal measure until we reached the supermarket. I say supermarket, it was about the size of a small Spar/large corner shop/slightly larger than Natalka – the better Polish shop in Hereford. Despite the size there were still between 10 & 15 people working there and an assortment of customers, all Indian except for the three of us.

Rick has only been there once before but the manager welcomed him back, asking if there was anything specific he could get him, “No, no, I’m OK”.

I bought some oaty flake cereal and some UHT – for those late night snacky moments – some gum, fruit & nut chocolate, local biscuits & some roasted peanuts with local seasoning – which although in a sealed, in-date, foil pack, when I got them home they were black & mouldy looking. It might’ve been the seasoning but like I said earlier, I’m not taking that chance! I went to the checkout where one guy picked stuff out of my basket and said the item code to the guy operating the till – he knew every item code without looking at the sticker, which was quite impressive – then when it was all totalled up, I was given a sales invoice to take to another till at the other side of the shop to pay. A bit weird! 590 rupees of which 300 was the oaty cereal, so cheap. The gum – 6 pieces of Orbit – was a mere 5 rupees (7p).

Across the street I bought a couple of apples from a fruit stall, Red Delicious from the US, which were 10 times nicer than the same variety in the UK – we always get such crap fruit now in our supermarkets – mind you these apples weren’t cheap by Indian standards, 70 ruppees for the two (50p each). Just round the corner I spotted some yummy looking cakes in a cake shop and hopped in. There being a bit of a queue, Rick called in “Alan. Alan. Alan” of course I wasn’t responding to my new name which turned Rick into a ground squirrel! I twigged and looked round. “Go next door there’s no queues”. I didn’t, I liked the look of the Rum Balls, the last of which is sitting in my fridge, but only until I’ve published this!

Walking back through town I opened my packet of biscuits, plain with a slight edge of savoury. We passed a kid, no more than ten years old, who motioned at me putting his hand to his mouth repeatedly. I grabbed a handful of the biscuits and filling his cupped hands he smiled. This makes me very uncomfortable and whilst the authorities are trying to clamp down on begging and insist people don’t give to beggars as they’re usually a self-propagating racquet, a request for food is different. I realise that this is life, that there’s almost nothing I can do to change it, beyond a token gesture from one person to another. It was like that for centuries before I got here and will be like it after I leave. I don’t care if this is a stereotypical reaction, if it’s something countless people before me have experienced and written far more eloquently & coherently than I am here, it really is not nice to encounter.

Back at the hotel, to pick up our bags and then we hailed a “private tuk tuk”. There’s two kinds of tuk tuks – well three if you count the tuk tuk trucks – the blue ones, which are the bigger ones with two rows of seats and a front seat so will take seven “comfortably” but at a squeeze will take twelve! They go up & down the roads on a sort of fixed route and stop to pick up & drop off and are like a small highly frequent and very cheap bus service. Then there’s the smaller black and yellow tuk tuks with one rear seat for two big Westerners, or a family of four to five Indians, with “open” climb-in sides. They’re private in the sense that like mini-cabs they’ll take you where you want to go, but are more expensive – we negotiated 150 rupees instead of the 20-30 or so we’d have paid on the regular tuk tuks. Being so low down, close to the road and fairly open to the passing traffic – they’re only slow, 1 cylinder small engine diesels, which is why they go tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk – was thrilling, noisy and fumey as trucks, buses and bikes edged past us, struggling up the hill. In the 2 miles or so from town up to TCH the temperature had dropped from a sweaty “why on earth had I taken my coat with me today, oh yeah a forecast of rain that’s why” to a cooler “glad I brought this coat with me”.

Later, after dinner, I watched an old BBC programme on an Australian channel I get about some young people from the UK going to find out 1.) where their high street fashion clothes are made and 2.) where some of our supermarket food comes from. It was called “Blood, Sweat and..” 1.) “T-Shirts” 2.) “Takeaways” . They had to work alongside the workers for a few days, getting paid what they get and trying to buy stuff in the local shops with what they got paid. They visited India for the clothes and Thailand for prawns, chickens and tuna. They’re now mostly FairTrade “champions” and one of the girls from the clothing trip then became a BBC reporter on those issues and now helps run several charities promoting fair trade and “rescuing” kids from child labour. It was a very powerful couple of documentaries and having experienced some of India I can understand much of what they saw and I suspect it’s going to change my attitude as well.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Curried Bones

Today five of us take a trip. Alan [Alan is from London, of mixed English & Malay Chinese descent] who has arranged the trip by taxi, Pete [Pete is from between Pretoria & Jo’Berg, and Afrikaans], Rick [Rick is most recently from Dundee but hails from Minnesota, American Swedish & American German], Scott [Scott has kinda arrived in Delhi from 5 years in Northern China via a 2-week visit back home to London and will probably be heading off, ironically, to Minnesota soonish] and myself, Will [I am from Ross-on-Wye, near Hereford and am mixed Welsh & Northern Irish, i.e. a Celt!].

The taxi, due to turn up at 9:30, turns up at 8:30 as we just start having breakfast. Scott was picked up from the apartments en-route and since he was also expecting to be collected circa 9:30 hasn’t had breakfast and so takes it with us. This is not unusual practice by all accounts. Taxi drivers turning up well before and after time, not Scott having breakfast somewhere else. But then again Scott has practiced some unusual eating habits in the past as we later find out. We make him wait – the taxi dr... err I’m not doing that again! – and leave when “Alan. Alan. Alan” eventually sorts his shit out about 9:45, ha ha! We head off to, well we thought it was just a trip up to Mussoorie but Alan asks the driver to go first to Kempty Falls.

It’s nice to go on a trip with some other guys – we’re all about the same age, except Scott who’s probably very late 20’s/early 30’s and we’re all similarly motivated to have brought ourselves here under our own finances. (Whilst the training/certification is certainly much cheaper than the UK, for example, it still isn’t cheap and I haven’t yet met anyone who’s trip is not self-financed. This speaks volumes about the commitment of everyone I’ve met here, but I’ll come back to this topic another time. ) – and we get on really well.

We’re in a small people carrier vehicle in a 2-2-2 formation and the driver is a competent, steady driver, but like all Indians, he knows how to use his horn. We joke that to pass the test in India you only need to know how to operate the horn, but as a quick Google I’ve just done has shown, this is of course utter rubbish, you’ve also got to be able to do a U-turn, two of them. (http://www.insideline.com/features/driving-test-indian-style.html)

As we wind our way uphill and remark on the twists and turns, Scott informs us he has a friend with family in the area and has been told it gets much much twistier and that there are some bends where if you dare to look down, you will see the remnants of other less fortunate taxis. And he’s not joking. Windy windy we go, up along the un-ironed creases of hillsides that make up the foothills of the Himalayas. I look up and see cars high above us swooping about in the same manner as us, just further along their journey upwards. Horns blare and overtakes happen. Both by us and of us. On straights, on open bends, on blind bends. Traffic meets and just doesn’t hit, often literally only just. (BTW that article about the driving test in India also says there are about 85,000 deaths a year on the road and that is second only to China in the league of most dangerous place to drive (and presumably also be driven) in the world!

After much winding we pass a “humorously named” Snowy View Restaurant perched on the side of the ride and then see it does actually have a snowy view and it’s just…Wow! My and the other guys’ reaction is just like when we came out of a tunnel in Switzerland to see the snowy alps for the first time – jaw dropping.

OK, time to start videoing out of the window. It never works particularly well filming sideways and you can’t really see anything of the mountains with the 10-20mm lens so I turn its attention forwards. There’s a truck in front of us and I film a few seconds from car roof height and then bring the camera in. Not more than 5 seconds later a tight right hand bend comes up (India drives on the proper side of the road, i.e. left) and the truck that is 3-5 metres in front of us doesn’t turn and just crashes into the wall with a thump and an instant stop. Damn I’d just switched my camera off! OK, we’re only doing about 15-20 mph but have to emergency stop. What the hell happened? The guy just didn’t turn! The bend had another lane joining down and into our road and the truck has crashed into the step from this road. We try and reverse, our driver waving his hand and we’re met with incessant beeping as other cars just squeeze on past us. When we do back up enough to clear and pass we see the truck, embedded onto the step. What the …?

A bit further we ask our driver to stop so we can just get some photos. It’s still just…wow!

We all indulge ourselves as tourists – well we are so why not – and snap away. A bottle of Coke or Sprite each at least helps to fund the little shop/cafĂ© we’ve stopped at. The price at 25 rupees is slightly above the MRP (maximum retail price) – which most things, especially foodstuffs have printed on them here – of 22 but at 33p for a 500ml bottle it’s still about a quarter of UK prices. The MRP it seems is to stop sellers charging whatever they feel they can get away with, but as we’ll see later it doesn’t always work.

As we still need to get to our destination our driver herds us back into the car and away around the continuing set of hair-raising hairpins. The scenery continues to be breath-taking as we see the road ahead of us winding back & forth, higher and lower, round and round the sharp folds of the foothills. I read on Wikipedia that the Himalayan range was formed by the collision of the Indian sub-continent plate with the Tibetan-Asian plate, apparently at a speed of 18cm/year and with some 2500km, to-date, of that Indian plate disappearing underneath Nepal.

We reach Kempty Falls – a small village that seems to have sprung up as a tourist place around the falls and as with the Robber’s Cave yesterday, the tourists are predominately Indians – where houses cling to the steep hills on precarious looking stilts and columns. We pile out and are given an hour and a half by the driver and I now feel a fully fledged tourist as we make our way through the alley of trinket shops leading to the cable car run down to the foot of the falls. Before taking the cable car, all of about 50m, I take a leak in my first “Indian toilet” which when I think about it actually in a darn sight better shape than many British pub toilets!

 Down in the brightly coloured cable cars – India is full of colour, whether clothes, foreheads, food, vehicle decorations, etc – to the foot of the falls. Unfortunately here also there is the ever present dumping zones of rubbish and plastic, a problem that as far as I can ascertain from the collective opinion of the different people I have met that have also been to other so-called “third world” countries seems to be unique to India. It doesn’t fail to stagger me just how rubbish strewn this place is.

Another recurring feature is what looks like makeshift temporary scaffolding but is just the way they do things here. Bamboo and other long bits of tree used to hold up flooring whilst the walls are built and the flooring concreted. It’s got to be a specialist job being able to find the right length of wood, stick it at the right angle and with the right number and sizes of bits of brick to get the floor level and, let’s not forget, be strong enough to actually hold it up? From platforms being built whilst tourists traipse over them, to domestic house building up to full scale industrial buildings. The twiglets are everywhere.

After wandering about the falls a bit I decide against walking back up, a bit more interesting though it looks, as the blister my trekking yesterday seems to have given me reminds me just to be a bit more sensible and not try & overdo everything. So back up in the cable cars and a wander around the tourist shops. When we reach them, Pete goes in search of cigarettes but not finding any decides he needs a sprite. But here they want to charge 30 rupees not the 25 I paid “which was already overpriced-the bastards” he points out.
Back in the taxi and we drive back up the hills and head back to Mussoorie ( At the start of writing this I’d thought we’d gone to the falls on the way to Mussoorie, looking at Google maps it turns out we’d driven through it on the way there! If you look at this link you’ll see the snowy mountains we saw and if you zoom in on the map, you’ll see the twists & turns I’ve been talking about – but look further along the road from Kempty falls to where it joins another road and just how much it winds back on itself! – here ). Looking out on our surroundings it makes me think, “Yeah, gotta come back here on a bike!” – the trick is getting there without having to navigate city streets! We pass the truck we’d been following when it crashed and from the opposite direction we can see it is nicely crunched into the wall. The driver is standing on the side of the road holding a broken ball joint so we give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that’s why he drove straight into the wall and not that’s what happened when he hit it, though I suspect the latter!

Arriving in Mussoorie we’re again dropped off and given a couple of hours before giving the driver a call to pick us up and we go off for a wander. There’s not really very much to do but wander about a little and take a few snaps; the Ghandi statue, the car park full of Morris Minors (it’s quite funny and quite nostalgic to see so many of this old British car on the roads here – most of them have curtains in the back windows). Rick & I dare to take a stab at some “street food” – sweetcorn that is cooked on some hot coals on the side of the road, but it looks good, tastes fresh and leaves me picking cellulose out of my teeth. A bit further up there’s a small side-stall selling shots at little balloons with an air pistol. I wanna go, I wanna go, but there’s a queue and the guys have wandered back, looking for a restaurant.

We're led up to the roof terrace of the Silver Rock restaurant where we’re met by the monkey guard, armed with a stick which he twirls like a trainee cheer leader, but there’s no monkeys around so he must be doing a good job! But there certainly is a mountain view and a great looking abandoned house on a hill that seems to have some new residents. There is also a green and yellow fence which perfectly matches the outfit that Rick is modelling today.

The Vegetable Jalfrezi is nice, real nice (180 rupees, about £2.50). Everyone else has gone for chicken curries of one sort or another. Alan wanted the boneless chicken whatever, but Rick insisted he didn’t want boneless he wanted bones. Make sure I get bones. He forgot to add he’d like some meat with that and so got pretty much just curried bones! But he soon cheered himself up with coffee & cake at a proper coffee shop! :)