Monday, 27 October 2008

Manali to Shimla via the N22

Two posts in two weeks, you wouldn't believe it if you weren't staring at it right now. We left Manali on Friday which means I spent exactly one week doing nothing. Ok not entirely true. I did design a new tank bag and get it built. It's really quite fancy. The base is connected to my bike by 6 straps which hold it in place but the base can separate from the main bag by a zip. The main bag is a Adidas knockoff. I must have the only fake Adidas tank bag in the world. Photos soon I promise. I also had a sleeping bag liner made. Just a thin sleeping bag really which is going to keep the mozzies off my back in the south.

So we left Manali and rode to a place called Narkanda. Graham has a friend their called Kamal who helps organise motorcycle tours in northern India and Spiti valley which was far too cold for us to go up to this time round. He also volunteers in the Raid De Himalayas which is an off-road tournament which on difficulty level challenges the Dakar Rally. Again, we missed it this time but next time round I will definately enter the race.

Kamal is building himself a new guesthouse/home which when it is finished will offer amazing views of the valley behind the house and the mountaintops in front. You could honestly not get bored of the view. The light hitting the valley in the evening is a burst of pinks and oranges which are constantly changing. We stayed at Kamal's for two days and met a new type of rider. hmm, or old type I guess is more appropriate. Two girls (one from Aus and one from NZ) are riding horses around Northern India and were planning to head into Nepal. They even complemented on my beard and think that software engineering is cool. I am going to marry them both. That's possible in India right? Been given a great idea for my beard too. Don't shave it till the end of my trip and then cut it all off and keep it in a jar. Great conversation starter don't you think?

The road to Narkanda was varied. From impossible muddy uphill runs to perfect sweeping 2-lane tarmac. I know I have said this before or think I have but I don't care. The feeling of getting it "right" on a sweeping S bend is amazing. When I hit it as perfect as I can it sends a shiver down my spine. There is a moment between curves when you put the bike upright and for a fraction of a second everything feels up in the air like the laws of physics no longer apply. It's like hitting the peak on a roller coaster ride and feeling like your flying. I love it! I had a good half hour of spine tingling roads before it returned to potholes and mud but it was exhilarating.

On one of the muddy uphill sections we rode passed some vultures at the side of the road. One flew within inches of Grahams head as we scared it from its perch. It was huge. I have never seen anything like it. I didn't believe my eyes at first and it was one of those things where you blink and you miss it. I must have passed within a few meters of it as it swooped low over road and out over the cliff. I know it is a disgusting animal but watching it swoop like that was something special. Also worth mentioning is the hummingbird I saw in the gardens of the Shiva Cafe in Old Manali. At first I thought it was a wasp or something it was so small but it just hovered there with its tiny beak sucking at the nectar of the flower in front of it. I had to check with Graham to confirm it was actually a bird. It seemed too small at about half the size of my thumb. No photos of either sorry. These were moments when the camera is away and I refuse to miss seeing something to try and record it and miss it altogether.

So we are in Shimla now, it's a kind of hill town (I'm calling them hills but I am actually over 300m higher than the highest mountain in the UK at the moment but they are still hills compared to the mountains behind them) with a military training ground in the middle. I'd say it is populated mostly by middle to upper caste Indians. The first thing I noticed was the strange mix of western and Indian clothing. Baseball caps, bomber jackets, jeans and suits are all mixed in with traditional clothing. The second thing I noticed (ok more likely the first but shh) is how beautiful Indian women are. It might be because I have been deprived of talking to women and seeing anymore than their eyes and hands in Iran and Pakistan but they really are hot and they are all slim as well not just the girls but the boys too. At least while they are under the age of 35. There seems to be no overindulgence in the youth of India at least not yet. The older generation seems to lose any interest in their looks and thinks only of good food but then that happens often in the west when people get married.

Ok I am going to cut it there. I want to write more but I think I am writing too much as it is. It is Diwali tomorrow. The Festival of Light which is going to be interesting. Lots of fireworks and candles and colour. I am excited about being in the thick of it. For any of you that don't know Diwali is the celebration of the victory of light over dark in every individual. It is also the celebration of King Rama returning from a 14 year exile. (The rows of lights leading him home).


Anonymous said...

Hi Ollie
It's always a good feeling when I see you've blogged. It's like following a good serial and it makes great reading. I do think you need to give some thought to how many people you should be proposing to though. Most people stick with one at a time. Although I think it's fairly well established that you're not most people. I guess I should have worked that one out when you walked backwards to school for a whole term at the age of 8. Okay folks that's just a taster, you're going to have to wait for the book to hear the rest!
Sorry to embarass you Ol. It just has to be done!. Love you loads
Mum X

Anonymous said...

I forgot about that... class!

Great that you're having an amazing time. Please do not keep your beard though - that's not pleasant!


Anonymous said...

Hey backwards boy :-)

Just got your postcard today, in answers to your 2nd question, we have but not a very good one!! Not a scratch on you mate!

Can't get over how far you've traveled, I've just printed the map off in A3 to show the guys in the office. Whats the mileage on your bike now? How's it holding up?

Noticed you skirted relatively close to the afgan border on your trip, any trouble?

Hope your keeping well, take care mate.


Anonymous said...

Marry TWO of them, are you mad??
Having said that, if you're up for keeping beard trimmings in jars then I guess marrying two women at the same time is perfectly normal!!
Not sure how it'll all go down in Sully though!

Unknown said...

Hey Rich,

About 12k miles now. Glad your spreading the word! Took it in today for a full service, new brakes etc etc (ooo and a switch for the main light so I can turn it off)

Good to hear you at least have someone to boss around, keep him busy untangling cables or something.

Stay safe,