My name is Thea. I have been working in a school in Bangalore since April. This August 2017, me and 3 other volunteers went on our first big journey through India.
Our destination was the Himalayas. Almost 3 days in a train took us to Delhi and from there to Amritsar. That might sound like a long time, but honestly, the time in Indian trains flies. Anything you could possibly need will be sold at some point or the other. Our favorite is for sure the chai-men. Because why would you ever say no to chai?
The beds are comfortable and allow you to get in some good rest before the actual traveling begins. My favorite place to be in a train is always near an open door. Getting some fresh air, listening to music and being astonished by India’s beautiful nature.
In Amritsar, we left the trains behind us and suddenly felt as though we were in a new country. The north and south truly differ a lot. We spent the day shopping, walking through small pathways and indulging in North Indian cuisine. The next morning we got up at 4 am to visit the Golden Temple. I can only recommend you to force yourself to get up that early because the atmosphere at the temple was incredible, almost magical.
Later that day, we jumped onto the first of many buses that would take us to and through the mountains. This bus took us to Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj. We arrived at night, so we had wait for the next morning to be able to finally really see the mountains.
The sight the next morning took our breath away. We spent the day with a little hike, jewelry shopping and visiting the Tibetan monastery, the main seat of the Dalai Lama. In the night, a bus took us to Manali. The ride was quite adventurous – driving through the dark, right next to you an abyss, to make it more scary other cars coming your direction, which leads to your bus driving backwards!
Trying to catch some sleep in the shaking and cooling down bus, we were surprised by a sudden stop in the middle of nowhere. Curious, Charlotte and I stepped outside the bus, to see that a big, heavy truck got stuck at a too steep turn in the road. The men of our bus and the truck behind us gave their best to navigate it out but after more than an hour they gave up. We gazed at the Milky Way above us and tried to not freeze to death. Eventually’, the bus driver decided to just go cross-country and we probably lived through some of the more scary moments of our life. In the morning, we safely reached Manali. There, we enjoyed 2 beautiful days, enjoying the beautiful nature, gearing up on warm clothes and lots of good food.
Then, we finally boarded the bus to take us to the Spiti Valley. This bus journey was even more adventurous and scary than the one before. The bus driver successfully maneuvered us across the Rothang Pass, through the thickest fog. When the fog lifted, we were quite relieved and believed the worst part was behind us. Well, no. A truck broke his front axis driving across a small waterfall and thereby blocked the road both ways for all vehicles. We gathered all our belongings and started walking, which honestly wasn’t too bad. I mean, it’s pretty great to walk through the Himalayas. We spent the night in a tiny village, glad we had bought the sweaters and were luckily picked up by the bus the next morning. It took us 2 days instead of 8 hours to reach Kaza, but we definitely had quite an adventure.
From there on, we were able to completely enjoy the beauty and taste of the Spiti Valley, Tibetan food is so good!
After leaving the Spiti Valley, we had 2 more days in Shimla and lastly took our bus back to Delhi, from where another 2 1/2 days’ journey back to Bangalore, back to home, followed. Looking back, I can only say we had an amazing journey and I’m glad we waited 4 months before starting it. Having adjusted to the Indian culture helped us incredibly. The people treat you differently and with more joy, when they see their traditional clothes and habits. Also, having adapted to the Indian calmness was quite helpful through our bus adventures.
We have learned that in India, truly everything is possible and Himalayan bus drivers and conductors are true heroes for safely navigating hundreds of people every day across the mountains.