Delhi for me was any other cosmopolitan city around the world. Yes, we did heave sighs of relief when we saw real coffee shops and familiar people who could easily explain things in well-phrased English to us. But, the contrast between the wealthy and poor was much more striking than in more rural parts of India. One could walk out of an imported-only fruit shop to find a burn victim rubbing his stumps together with only the company of a starving puppy whose ribs clung to matted hair.
After a seventeen hour bus ride, packed with locals and crying babies, we arrived in magical Manali. Walking the streets, we were the only foreigners to be seen. The air was chilly, but it was not as cold as everyone had frantically said it would be. Manali does not have the name ‘little Switzerland’ for nothing. Snow capped mountains and massive pine trees marked the landscape.
As we hiked through their villages sweating and panting from the upward climb, old ladies walked past us carrying bunches of massive branch cuttings, their wrinkled faces did not even show a sign of fatigue and the contrast between our lives was striking.
After hiking amongst villages, temples, waterfalls, donkeys and local schools our hike was complete. Distinct moments include paragliding off a snow capped mountain, making a snow man after a 3500m summit and eating with our hiking guides local friends in the evening where we helped them cook authentic curry and sat eating dinner with them on their kitchen floor comparing and contrasting our different lives.
After our 3 day hike our guide invited us to stay at his guest house free of charge. We gladly accepted not knowing this meant no showers or heating. He encouraged us to go and use the local hot springs. Upon arrival we realised this was the only hot water outlet for many, many women and their crying babies. After psyching ourselves up to strip naked in front of strangers, I took a much too bold step towards the shower only to slip, knock my head on the step and badly graze my arm. Lying naked in foetal position and holding my throbbing head whilst old Indian women patted my shoulders was not one of my proudest moments, but definitely an hilarious story retrospectively.
- Date: Dec 5th until mid Jan
- Location: India