Sunday, April 26, 2009


Manikaran is another mad little place. but one i will never forget! It was lashing rain the day we left Manali a perfect day for spending on a bus. AND my first bus journey with lifestock! An hour or two into the trip we were joined squashed in the back of the bus with a very unhappy sheep. The poor thing was bouncing up and down we had the bars on the seets infront to hold ourselves down with but the sheep? was funny.

Not a happy fellow

And not long after the sheep arrived the little fella looking down at the sheep that you can see from the picture, started vomiting all over the back of the bus, then the sheep started relieving himself all over the place. Next thing 2 policemen hop on and make a beeline down the back of the bus to us the only two tourists...oh the amount of contraban we must have!!!! He motioned that he wanted to search my backpack. It was a tough squeeze getting the bag out from between my legs, across the vomit and sh*t, over the sheep and around the people. He took one look at the bag approaching him, asked me What Country? I said Ireland, he replied with 'Very good country' handed the bag back and off we go again!

The bus to Manikarin drives down, down, down deep into a valley a little bit claustraphobic compared to open views of the mountains but it felt like we were entering a little hidden village. We arrived pretty late and were so lucky to find the best place ever! Why? Well it had its own PRIVATE hot spring bath!!!!! Oh wow heaven!! I planned to be in there more than out!

Check it out!Snazzy or wha!

The tiles in the room were a dindgy green, and the floor a marble chessboard. You locked the door and basically had the room to yourself. The one window (glassless) was covered meekly by a sheet of grandmother-style cloth that you hoped somebody wouldnt peel back from outside to have a look in at you. The guy changed the water everyday so some days it was roasting...a bit too hot...somebody told me the water naturally is 80 degrees. BUT on 2 occasions the water was just right...just like a little bit too hot bath you would run for yourself at home. When it was like this i spent at least an hour on my back floating, doing little laps of the pool etc etc... so good!

Ok sooo wow. There is a Sikh temple here, which basically means its run by the Sikhs who as part of their religion believe 'if you earn a decent living you should share this with others'. So just as in the Golden Temple in Amritsar the sikhs supply free accomodation and food. That first night we arrived we checked out the temple and what a bizzare place it was! A temple lit up by green and red christmas lights and with steam coming up from underneath it it really did look like something that should be in Disneyland.

Inside was dank, dark marble place underground with little corridors and iron bar gates, leading to the 'hot caves', the hot baths or the eating area. Its hard to exlpain the place! On one side it feels a bit scary, nobody is really talking, its just barely lit enough to see and as its situated on top of the hot spring the place is filled with steam! The hot caves are two rooms that are built around massive rocks that are very warm to touch. You crawl in through a door the size you would find in a childs playhouse and people are huddled in there, mostly in silence soaking up the heat.

There were pools with men everywhere, it was such a labyrinth of corridors that i couldnt find the womens pool but then...well .. sure didnt i have my own private one! Upstairs i heard the clattering of metal plates and we were just peeping in at the people lined up eating when a very friendly old guy escorted us into the place not taking no for an answer.

Oh the food here was the best indian food ive eaten so far AND this place gave out massive cups of chai. Compared to the Golden temple, nobody here spoke a word of english and despite that it felt so personally welcoming! I was tucking into my first meal there scooping the rice and dhal with my hands (ive mastered it im so happy to announce!) when i notice oh everyone is looking at me AND nobody seems to be eating with their hands doh! Well it seemed that everyone looking at me was just the usual and maybe its just the posher sikhs that eat with a spoon i found others eating with the hand too. I really like eating with my hand, scooping sloppy rice in and catching lumps of curry with chappatti, there is something very lovely ive realsied about touching your hand to your mouth to eat rather than with a metal fork. ANYWAY mmm it was delicious. I have been thinking about doing a tour of the Sikh temples next time i come to india! And of course even when you were eating you could hardly see a thing as the place was full of steam...crazy!

We went on another little adventure the next day, an extremly long walk accompanied by a very chilled out dog that didn't bat an eyelid when all the dogs from the villages we walked through came out from hiding to attack him! He just strolled on so cool and calm i never saw a dog like it before!

We walked for ages, through forest and random little villages, a man hearding a really wierd looking cow and the odd car or motorbike going past, apart from that there was just us and the beatiful valley. There was a strange ring around the sun that day we couldnt explain it.

After a few hours we stopped at a tiny little wooden hut in the middle of nowhere asking if he had any food. Inside were two young boys and an old man who couldnt speak. He kind of huffed and puffed and used hand movements to explain things. The walls of this place were covered with news paper i pointed at a picture of the Dali Lama and the guy went mad! I dont know if it was an exciting good story or an adventurous bad one that the dumb guy was trying to tell me about Dali. I though he was going to collapse with the amount of huffing and straining noises he was making, i had no idea what he ment but nodded along anyway while i finished my omlette and chai.

Random Shiva Temple on our walk
The local foliage

We realised we'd walked almost 12 k to the next town Pulga and decided although it was still early there was the whole matter of getting back again! IT was a long, tiring but really lovely peaceful walk, my last one in the mountains in india for now.

Manikarin main (only) street - to the left people are boiling rice in the hot spring water

For the next few days it rained which was fine since we were pretty settled in our nice guesthouse, going to the temple to eat, chilling out at our hot bath and sitting on our balcony watching the river go by with good conversation, a lot of laughs a just a little bit of tripping... I also made the 2nd best purchase of my time in india (the 1st clearly being the yak/rabbit photo!) I bought super cheap speakers for my mp3 so over the noise of the river we could just about hear it. The songs seemed just perfect for the situation and the sights.

Look at this guys hair! this was a holy man bathing across from our balcony

Beautiful sunset from our balcony

We tipped back on the cheap plastic garden furniture chairs and enjoyed the last sunset i'd have in the lovely!It really was time to get going, after almost 2 months in the mountains there wasnt long left on my visa so off to hot, crowded, dirty Delhi for a few days...maybe it wouldn't be so bad! Goodbye mountains!

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