22:07 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

Travelling in India can be incredibly tiring. The country is immense. I'm from the little old UK where a three hour train journey to London is considered a long distance journey. We drove from Shimla to Manali and it took about eight hours. I was exhausted when we arrived. I went straight for a sleep. After, of course, I'd taken in the view from the balcony...

 Unfortunately, in the night I was disturbed by a pack of battling pariah dogs going for it outside my window. I'm not being melodramatic, it was a horrifying sound. Vicious growls and hysterical whimpers. It went on for half an hour and I was relieved when it subsided. I was also pretty chuffed to be a few floors above ground.

Manali is is an ordinary Indian town with little concrete buildings full of the ubiquitous shutters painted with Airtel and Vodafone adverts. The town's main attraction is in it's surroundings. The town is surrounded by dramatic mountains which are full of waterfalls. We played a game of count the waterfalls - they're everywhere.

Where there are mountains, waterfalls and rivers - there are adventure sports. People come to Manali for the sport. After recovering from my tiredness, I was really exciting to be getting the adrenaline pumping. We drove up to Solang Valley to get involved.

We began by quadbiking up a hill to the main activity area. Arif just asked some guys can we use their bikes and they agreed, for a small fee. Arif was brave enough to be my pillion passenger. I hadn't ridden a quad bike since I was a kid and it was really good fun - even when a lorry came out of nowhere and nearly smashed us into the road.

Once at the activity area we climbed up a hill to have a go at paragliding from the lower take-off point. Kate and I watched a few hairy (failed) take-offs. One guy looked like he did some nasty damage to his knees. I was anxious. Thankfully Kate went before me and had a perfect take-off. It was my turn next. I was strapped to an Indian man (the pilot) and tied to a parachute. We ran to the edge of a hill and was blown into the air. My feet left the ground and we climbed skyward. I think I made a big girly "wooo" sound. We only flew for a few moments but it was exhilarating.

Unfortunately there wasn't so much of a landing area as much a place where people just gather and chat. It was quite funny to see the crowd scatter as me and the Indian strapped behind me came falling out of the sky. I nearly took someone out but I just missed him - it could have been my You've Been Framed moment.

After all that excitement, nature called. The weather had moved in and I had to traipse through the rain. I found a public toilet but it was so grim I decided I'd rather pee in the forest. Even in the foothills of the Himalayas, it is impossible to find privacy. There were little huts everywhere. By the time I was out of view I had climbed through several bushes and slipped on the wet rocks. I think in India you just can't afford to be so precious about these things.

In the afternoon we visited the Vashisht temple and hot springs. It was a small Hindu temple where people come to pay their respects and bathe in the hot spring. There was no changing rooms or anything, so we just stripped down to our boxers and got in. It was warm and smelt eggy - I think this is the sign of a good spring. Kids were splashing and holy men were washing. There is a real contridiction here - I was so careful to drink only the safety drinking water but was happy to bathe in a pool where the local holy men had their daily wash. I enjoyed the spring until I could no longer ignore the spots of phlegm floating by. After such an exciting day, I was spent. The dogs managed to keep it down and I sleep like a baby that night.

picture from here

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