From Shimlashimlashimlashimla (if you are confused why I am calling it Shimlashimlashimlashimla please referred to previous blog titled “Shimlashimlashimlashimla”) we decided that we needed to see more of the Himalayas. Shimlashimlashimlashimla was absolutely incredible; a city clinging to cliffs steeper than Obama’s approval rating after Trump announced his candidacy, and we w
ere still merely in the foothills. Several people assured us that the best was to climb the mountain range was by car. So, like any savvy tourist would do, we shoved a lot of money into a stranger’s hand and followed him into a dark garage. Within the first 1.5 minutes of conversation we realized that our driver spoke about 4 words of english, and he exhausted them all after his introduction of “hi my name is Ken” (of course his name was not Ken, but it was much too complicated for me to pronounce and I am fairly sure it started with a K). Ken’s car was a small white hatchback from an unfamiliar Indian brand and had a similar size and shape to a Geometric. The seats were comfy enough and he had a kick-ass collection of Indian pop CD’s. Who needs conversation when you have Sunidhi Chauhan on repeat?
Ken seemed to be the most cautious driver we have had the pleasure of riding with, which was a great relief after catching a glimpse of the road we were about to embark on. 90% of the drive was on a rugged-rough-rocky-road (is that an ice cream flavor?) and 100% of the drive was on an anxiety-inducing-bowel-loosening-ledge (hopefully not an ice cream flavor). Now you are probably asking “now just how high were these bowel-loosening ledges?” HIMALAYA HIGH, thats how high. The Himalayan mountain range greatly resembles a children’s drawing of what a snowy mountain peak might look like: an acute triangle jutting straight up in the air with a white top. As these drawings accentuate, there is really no extra space for roads. I have attached the picture below to demonstrate exactly just how steep we’re talking. I had the chance to snap this photo of Paul when we had to evacuate the car after it began smoking profusely and dripping green from the engine.
Fact of the day: the leading source of income in Northern India is Apple farming. We were fortunate enough to be visiting at the time of the Apple harvest, which brings a lot of hustle and bustle. Unfortunately, it also means that ginormous apple-filled big-rigs are making their way down the mountains on the bowel-loosening one-lane roads. Like clockwork, every blind turn we came across a truck four times the size of our little car would come flying around the corner. Our driver would inch as close as he could to the edge until we could squeeze around the truck.
After a day of this madness I had begun to grow accustomed to the feeling of my immediate impending doom. Just kidding. I spent the four days clinging to the side of the door with white knuckles, trying not to imagine what would happen if one of the apple trucks came around the corner a little too fast. I was trying to remember what my seventh grade art teacher had taught me about meditative breathing when the only only English song in our driver’s collection came on. It was Bryan Adam’s “I’ll be right here waiting for you”. Encouraged by the familiar voice of Bryan Adams, I took a deep breath and looked out the window. Right then we hit a large bump in the road and our back hubcap dislocated and rolled along side the car. Free of its commanding force the hubcap launched itself freely over the edge of the cliff, sending itself and a handful of pebbles cascading to their death. I did a giant cartoon character gulp, my eyes bulging, as Bryan sang to me “I took for granted, all the times that I thought would last somehow”.
My rational brain says that we never had anything to worry about, but my Indiana Jone’s brain says that I risked my life to see the Himalayan mountain range. It was completely worth it. We stayed in a beautiful hotel run by the warmest and most welcoming family. At night they took us onto the rooftop to watch the moon rise above Kinner Kailash peak (pictured above). We hiked up to several small temples, each time greeted by someone happy to share with us their culture and religion, each temple more timeless than the last. The air was clean and crisp, and smelled sweet of apples. We shared our hiking trails withfarmers and their sheep, who would smile and point us in the right direction. Occasionally the farmers would too. I am don’t know if my favorite part of the trip was the people, the views, or being reacquainted with Bryan Adams, but I do know that all of those things were well worth the risk.