Thursday, October 15, 2009

ah... manali.

Getting out of delhi i took the "volvo" bus.
If busses in india were arranged by some hierarchic system the volvo bus would
be right up there! maybe second only to a helicopter and sometimes would
probably be higher than the helicopter under some circumstances.
The volvo is often referred to as "the king of buses" the "archbishop of road transportation"
and lately also the "Megatron of tourist mobilization".
in reality, once you get on one of these revered vehicles you realize
it's just another bus, although slightly bigger. still the same pushback seats... still the same scorns
of indians boarding it on set locations to try and sell you potato chips. still impossible to sleep on.
(in fact, sleeping in any kind of vehicle in india will prove impossible when your driver takes
u-turns around mountains at 80 Km/h).
whenever you mount one of the night traveling buses here, you are essentially given 2 choices:

1. the driver is listening to up-beat indian music at 175 decibels (5 decibels beneath "death of hearing tissue" loudness) and you live to tell the story of the ride. music, driver falls asleep. you die along with 40 other passengers and you get to tell
the story to your great great grandmother in a cocktail party in the afterlife. (adding juicy details to make her proud...)

in case your ipod (other player brands encouraged) is just out of battery, by the end of the ride the 2 options are so close to each other you can hardly choose which one is better.

well... luckily for me my seat neghbour was an israeli-arab acctress and we had enough to talk about to get my mind of the music (that's one of the things i can say in favour of the conflict, if i find an arab girl to mary there will never be any awkward silences...).
when we weren't debating border locations she felt sick and the for some reason the indian
lady throwing up 2 seats ahead of us didn't make it any better. she pleaded me to ask the driver to stop so she could clean her stomach, afraid for the well being of myself and especially my clothes i got up and crawled up to the driver seat while the bus is swaying like a frigate during a tsunami.
reaching the bus driver cabin just in time to see the mountain side coming right at us and the driver turning non chaulantly to the left only slightly scraping the side of the allready very scratched bus... (don't worry. it's perfectly safe, statistically you have more chance of being run over crossing the street than falling off a cliff with a bus, chances of being run over though are just around 57%...)
i appeoached the driver and tried to explain the situation of my sick neighbour:
me: could you stop for a minute please?
driver: what?
me: stop for 1 minute please!
driver: why?
me: err... my friend is feeling very sick and other people are throwing up and i'm afraid if
we don't stop soon someone will either suffocate on his own vomit or go on a killing spree in the bus.
driver: friend not feeling good? use bag. - hands me a plastic bag the size of my fist -
me: err... what about the suffocating people and the killing spree?!
driver: - hands me another bag - here, take 2.
me: and i need to go pee pee. (i use my superior mimeing skills to show him what pissing is...)
driver: oh... ok, stop in 5 minutes.

i go back to my seat, defeated and knowing that the son of a bitch is lying and he's 5 minutes will probably be at least 30...
2 hours pass and we finally stop. my neghbour "R" is already changing betwean shades of red and green getting ready to fill my clothes and hair with vomit (since the tiny bags are definitely not going to help...) BUT! once we stop, she goes of the bus running, and when i get out 30 seconds later she's fine. like nothing happened! nothing! she just smiles at me, happy as a hippo! i find that amazing... women having the ability to just forget whatever they felt just 2 minutes ago. it's like they have no long term memmory of physical suffering, i'll have to research this phenomenon when i start my Ph.d in sexual applied sciences or something...

the bus stopped in buntar which was my original destination. i was sleeping... got pushed awake by some israeli girl whom i met on the previously mentioned stop only to tell her to bugger
off and go back to sleep untill manali.
arriving to manali i was hoping to find a room me and the israeli arab girl could share. for reasons i would not like to share with you narrow minded people...
we visited about 11 guest houses, some were full, some were too expensive, eventually we split up and i found a room with a great view and only a mild history of robberies. (they happen a lot in manali, so if your room get's robbed, remember, i told you so...)
manali is pretty conviniently divided into 2 parts. new manali and old manali. new manali is controlled by the local indians while old manali is pretty much over flowing with israeli tourists and you can even find some other nationalities if you look hard enough.
not wanting to break that gentle balance i stayed in old manali and after buying a small amount of some very good garas shaped like a pita bread i went down to the ATM and made the "decision" to wait in line for 50 minutes to take out some cash.
the reason for this extended waiting period is because a lot of indians have an apparant problem with "lines" (the kind you stand in)...
they just don't get the hang of it. or maybe it's the west that has a distorted view of how a line
should act... basing my knowledge on the geometric definition i'm pretty sure we got it right though. anyway... i'm standing in a line with 5 foreigners in front of me. i have 4 minutes to wait. when all of a sudden another line forms next to our line. this line however consists of only indians... i look bewildered at the new line, then at the door hoping to see a seperation for foreginers and locals like in the taj mahal, but there's nothing.
they just decided that they don't like our line and think they can make a better one... and it works... they keep pushing through the door going before the first man in our line and so we keep waiting there... after 45 minutes i've had enough and learning from my indian friends
i push my way towards the door. and... no one seems upset. they seemed more confused when we were just standing there waiting patiantly... (see? i just wrote a small culture piece!! hurray!)
i'll go on with one more culture shock i had and then we'll leave this town...
setting: it's the beggining of july in manali, its cold, the rain hasn't stopped for 6 hours.
mud is on the road riksha driver are hiding in their rikshas with the curtains pulled...
even homeless people are not sleeping in the street.
a river is flowing on the way from old manali to new manali.
a rope is stretched between the banks. on the rope, a man is hanging in a saddle of sorts.
aanother indian guy is swinging the rope up-down. the man in the saddle get's he's ass and legs
wet in the freezing river in the freezing cold and screaming with happiness...
my point: these people are completely crazy, who would think of an attraction like that in the fucking winter!!! crazy people! that's who...
on my way back from downtown manali my auto-rickshaw got a flat tire. i was moved out of the rickshaw and used as a human jack, holding the thing tilted while the driver changed the tire using a hammer. a hammer is your all around tool in india. it's the only one they have and it somehow eveolved to the point you can actually fix anything with it. i've seen a guy change a lightbulb using a hammer... honest...

dearly beloved, finally another post is published. next one is leh and kashmir. i hope. also i hope it will appear here today... love. ben.