We reached McLeod Ganj today. We left Ludhiana in the morning. Luckily, it was a Sunday, so we could get out of the town on time. The hotel we were staying in, in Ludhiana, had thin walls and noisy, drunken guests… They must have been visiting “Cum-Eat-Here” at MarryLand for something more than ice cream…
We passed through Phagwara and then took a right turn to Hoshiarpur. Punjab seemed to have changed, and the National Highway seemed to elongate into one urban sprawl. After crossing a dried up Sutlej river and Phagwara, we entered Hoshiarpur. Crappy town, but as we were driving through the vegetable market, I noticed some old buildings. I hopped off the car and started to photograph. One chap asked me what I was photographing, and another chap told him not to be an idiot. I was photographing antiques. With and intelligent ‘Hummmm”, the first chap passed on… We stopped for some sugarcane juice, and greedy me had two! Then, I photographed Mama Pig and Baby Pigs wallowing in the muck.
We got lost in Hoshiarpur, and after driving through some delightful country roads, we made our way to National Highway 69 to McLeodGanj. Lunch at a little dhaba serving yummy parathas made in desi ghee. Can’t translate that. But, desi ghee makes food taste yummy, and if you are a lazy bum, gets you to a cardiologist with chocked arteries.
And then, the delightful eucalyptus trees along the highway. And finally, the snow capped mountains. We were like little billy goats, jumping off the car to take photos.
Finally, we reached McLeodGanj, after crossing Dharamshala and ForsythGanj. We then discovered that the road to the hotel was blocked. The hotel manager sent us a guide to get us to the hotel by a ‘back door’. So, we drove 9 km back to Dharamshala and then back to McLeodGanj via a shortcut. This road was at an average incline of 40 degrees, and full of hairpin bends. Finally, we reached the turn to the hotel, and the guide said – go right after this.
In two seconds, he screamed – no, no, that was the right turn.
There I was, on a 40 degree slope at a hairpin bend. I asked him.
“Reverse”, came the order. Reverse? Bloody hell. So, I started to reverse.
A chap on the road started to scream, “Don’t reverse or you will break the pipe!” Guide in car kept yelling, “Reverse”.
Too late. I was in a steep gutter. Shit.
I got out. My pal got out. The hotel manager came running, and said, “Unload the luggage.”
The guide said, “I told you to go right.”
I glared, “You told me after I crossed the turn, you idiot”
The man on the street said, “I told you not to reverse.”
So, freaking what? My car was in the gutter (luckily, with no damage to the interior or the engine), with the front right wheel dangling like a dancer’s damaged leg.
A Tibetan woman came out and yelled. “You broke my toilet pipe. I vaant moneeey..”
I yelled back, “Screw your pipe. Moneeey, no problem. I vaant my car…”
Ad infinitum, as nauseum
Then, a miracle. Ten chaps materialised out of thin air, figured that I was a brown saheb, who is of no use in practical situations, and slowly helped get the car out of the gutter.
This is one of the beautiful thing about my country.
People will mess with you, but when they see that you are neck deep in shit and stinking, they will not hesitate to wade in and get you out of that shit.
I reached into my wallet to tip them, but they melted into the dusk of the hilltop air. So did my old Tibetan girlfriend.
Me? I went for a walk, and had a good shot of Old Monk rum ( the best rum in the world).
All was then well with the world. It started to spin around it’s axis again.