Chandigarh and Nainital: rubbish-creations and nylon tights

The road from Dharamsala to Chandigarh was flooded in 3 different places.  Not actually flooded really, more that the local river had just decided on a more practical route, as rivers do.

Adam rode through them, fast.
I strode through purposefully, up to my thighs in murky brown water.  I held my chin high and avoided all eye-contact.  It was embarrassing.

By the evening I had nappy rash from the wet jeans.

Chandigarh, it transpired, was very far away.  Not in terms of kilometres, which was a mere 270kms.  But in terms of sheer effort, and the time those little metres would take, it was far. 

We arrived in the dark. 
It was an unpleasant journey on massively congested roads.  India's consumption of cars has increased dramatically over the past 5 years, but funnily enough, all the money set aside for public use like roadbuilding gets diverted to politician's pockets to, say, buy more cars. 

It was a Sunday, and apparently some sort of holiday. Entire villages waited to get onto packed buses to go to other villages, where one hopes the occupants have at least had the sense to get on other packed buses and go elsewhere. 
I don't know what was going on.  I didn't see any elephants though, so it can't have been Ganpathi.

In Chandigarh we set off to see Mr Ned Chand's Fantasy Rock Garden. We had to make a stop here anyway, and this is Chandigarh's one and only tourist attraction, so it would have been churlish not to. 

It never used to be a tourist attraction, just a little old madman in a shack, making figures out of industrial waste. 

But then the council got wind of it, and as Chandigarh is a planned city, and has little in the way of tourist sites, it adopted Mr Ned Chand.  He got whole sheds full of workers, and a blank cheque, and was told to 'Go mad'.  Which was a shame, as he already had. 

The result is a strange concrete and rock labyrinth with occasional huddles of rubbish-creatures that stare down at you, army-like. 

In the newer bits, when he had the staff, it is exactly the same, but on a much bigger scale.  The rubbish-creatures became life-size.  It was worrying. 

There was a tourist camel with knock knees in the auditorium. 

Indian families strolled around, filming us.  I watched a teenage lad show his mates a close-up of my head. 
(It is a strange thing that we so often seem to become the tourist attraction at tourist attractions in India.  Sometimes I feel like adding a ticket booth to my head.)

Still it was nice enough, and an interesting mad world to stroll around.

The road between Chandigarh and Rishikesh was uneventful.  We arrived in the dark again though, and made it up the hills using our not-very-powerful front headlight (having smashed it in Tehran).

Just before we arrived, an enormous dead buffalo loomed right in front of our faces, and we swerved to avoid the bugger.  It was keeled over in the middle of a narrow hill-road, and we nearly ended up face-down in decaying buffalo intestines. 

Other than that, the usual chaos.  The higher number of private cars now though means that as a bullock cart dawdles up a hill, there will be a large truck overtaking it.  Then beyond that, on the hard shoulder, there will be a jeep overtaking the cart and truck.  Then there will usually be us, on the gravel, accelerating rapidly, overtaking the cart, the truck and the jeep, whilst keeping up a loud persistent beep. 

Its all good fun.

Arriving into Rishikesh is an art-form.  To access the main part you have to squeeze the bike (cars and rickshaws won't fit) over a very narrow suspension bridge, past old Saddhus, monkeys and pilgrims. 

Adam was a pro, and we sailed across and whizzed down the hill.

We spent our Rishikesh day happily wandering around, watching monkeys jump up women's saris to grab their lunch-bags out their hands.  The monkeys around here are quite vicious.  I am not a monkey fan, except from a safe distance, preferably with something sharp and pointy between me and the monkey.

We watched Saddhus bathing, and found a chirpy beggar.  Peddlars sold unidentifiable objects at us.

Rishikesh is where the Beatles came in the '60s to stay at the Maharishi's ashram.  That's what put Rishikesh on the map for all the old hippies, and turned it into a holy tourist spot. 
Then they became disillusioned with the old perv, who took advantage of his status as Yogi by encouraging young ashram girls to engage in some serious Free Love, Yogi-style.

The ashram is hidden away in the jungle behind Rishikesh.  Now it is locked up, but the walls are scaleable...

It has been thoroughly reclaimed by the monkeys now, and you have to clamber through impressive foliage to reach the buildings, but you can still see the little meditation huts and the freaky underground main hall with its altars and disciple seats. 

In the administrative building there are rooms filled with charred paper- the burnt remnants of devotee's donation receipts, some bits of paper governing behaviour in the ashram.

One room had been swept clean this time though, and painted with psychedelic patterns and Beatles lyrics. 

I scratched my way back through the vines, and looked up.  At first all I could see were ginormous hairy paws, and I thought something scary had died up in a tree.  But then it woke up and peered at me.  It was a group of large langur monkeys. 

We left Rishikesh the next day.

We squoze back over the bridge, and zoomed past Haridwar. 

There were cyclist pilgrims on their way somewhere.

We got predictably lost, and ended up in a National Park, where signs warned us of marauding elephants. 

We wound up in a tiny mud town, with ancient-loking alleyways. Everyone gawped at us and ran to bring their friends. 

Then we found a team of American footballers on matching motorbikes.  They were dressed up in all their gear, and had their numbers painted on their helmets.  We variously overtook them and trailed them for miles.

There weren't as many cars on the road now, this was a very rural spot. Generally people were pulled around on bullock carts, or sat in pony traps. 

There were lots of long enforced breaks at train barriers.  For us anyway... I may be a bit gung-ho, but if there is a train barrier down I tend to take note, and stop.  Everyone else however, sees it as a minor obstacle, and throws themself and their vehicle under the barrier as quickly as possible.  A mass scramble ensued.  Cycle-rickshaws were tipped up backwards.  Motorbikes were hurled to the ground. 

We waited, and everyone watched us wait.

We were headed to Nainital, a Raj-era hill station in the foothills.  At an altitude of 2000m, it promised coolness the plains were incapable of. 

The climb was steep, and dusk was falling again.  By the time we made it up the incredible road it was puitchblack.  It was a great ride, even in the dark (possibly especially in the dark), and we pitched precariously into the curves, hugging bends over cliff-edges.  There is no hill Manfred can't handle.  Starting, fair enough, he's rubbish.  Waiting in traffic jams he's not too keen on.  But show him a near-vertical incline and he'll zoom straight up it without even coughing. 

Nainital was bonkers.  All of Delhi had recamped there for the weekend, wearing daft cardigans.

Little boys in Muslim caps ran up the hill to where a massive outdoor party blared out cheerful pop. 

Nainital is a lakeside town, and caters to middle-class city families on weekend breaks, with stalls selling atrocious woolly hats and Nescafe in styrofoam cups.  There are countless restaurants serving inedible quasi-Western snacks like the 'Veg Sandwich' or 'Toast-Butter-Jam' (a delicacy which carefully displays no knowledge of toasting...)

There are incredibly popular stalls selling thick, flesh-coloured, nylon tights.

The local boat-men tout for business from any available standing space-

Man: 'Buy a boat sir?'
Adam: 'Thanks but I really haven't the luggage space.'

The lake is pleasant though, and very green.  The signs warn not to defecate in the water.  Oh drat.  Spoil my fun why don't you.

It was 250Rps fine for anyone that littered.  Somebody somewhere was getting very rich...

After Nainital we really went for it, with a hyper-long journey to Lucknow.  It took 12 long hours.

The first bit was excellent, and we zoomed our way back down the 2000m hill, past lakes and shrines and huge vistas of the plains. 

Then it got a little...challenging.  The smeg caught us and tumbled us about in exhaust fumes and dust.  The air was 90% water and 10% filth.  It tried to rain to clear the air, but it didn't quite manage it.  It half-rained, which was a bit like being spat on.  The camera broke. 

Lucknow was sprawlingly vast.  Really, really big.

All the roadsigns were in Hindi.  I can only remember two Hindi characters, 'L', and 'M'.  Sadly, most of the places in the near vicinity appeared to contain both. 

It got dark.  We asked everyone the way.

A vast proportion of them seemed to vanish as we asked- possibly they were heat mirages, it was that sort of a day. 
Of the ones that remained, half gesticulated vaguely in the direction of 'Away', and the other half explained cheerfully in Hindi that they didn't speak English.  As we had only said one word, and that word was the place-name, in what we considered to be Hindi, this seemed an inauspicious beginning. 
Especially given we were on the main road between Bareilly, a very large town, and Lucknow, the capital of the state. 

Adam likened it to being just outside London, and not understanding when a tourist asked directions to it...
'Lindin?  Luunduun?  Sorry mate, I don't speak Gaargh...'


We found the hotel eventually, and curled up in small foetal positions and passed out.  It had been a very long day.

1 comment:

Say hello. It makes us happy. Ta, Nicky. x

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