I had to be strong and contain myself so as not to cheat. Two months before the scheduled date, I could have opened the website and planned an entire trip. With a click I could have made all the bookings but what grace would it have?
For 48 days, I restrained my impulses, convinced that surprise was one of the best parts of the enriching experience. I want to go on a completely blind date. For my date I only knew that as it was winter, I should have enough protection for it.
The Blind Date ArrivesThe night before, I could hardly sleep. The mind jumped across continents. In Europe, I kept visualising from Portugal to Norway, from France to Italy, from Belgium to Iceland, from Germany to Finland, from Greece to Turkey. In Asia, I kept visualising from Dubai to Tokyo and Beijing to Singapore. In America, it could be from Canada to Argentina, from Chile to the USA, or from Mexico to Brazil.
Which would be the chosen one? I had my preferences, but I was not going to confess it. I glanced at the hour on my smartphone again. It was 2.30 AM. Did I place the umbrella in the backpack? I went back to check the alarm to make sure that the four alarms were set at proper intervals 5:10 AM, 5:20 AM, 5:30 AM and 5:40 AM. I left my smartphone on the bedside table, covered myself with the blanket and tried to sleep.
I jumped out of bed with the first alarm. I walked to the kitchen and put the coffee pot on the fire. I looked for the clothes that I had left ready on the chair, and I began to dress with some awkwardness. I'm not a morning guy. The smell of coffee flooded the house; I poured myself a cup — Black, without sugar. I sat down, still with half eyes-closed and half-dressed in bed, and took a sip. It was still too hot. I looked at the clock, and it was already 5.30.
How is it possible that the minutes in the morning go by so fast? Or am I so slow in those inhospitable hours! I put the coffee aside, and I finished dressing. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and teeth, even knowing that I didn't finish my coffee, but there was no time to wait. I put more cold water around the eyes to make them look more open. I took a couple of more sips of coffee in the bathroom because the cup comes with me wherever I go.
The time had come to unveil the great mystery. The heart began to beat faster, and the hands became wet. I picked up the phone, opened Google Earth and clicked on the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button to get the random destination that I will go. I looked at the large blue screen with white letters and scanned all the destinations with my eyes. What would be waiting for me? What would be my blind date?
My hands were shaking. And there that marker appeared with the information of my appointment. It was Pulga! I checked on the map where this place was located. It was somewhere in Himachal Pradesh. I scanned the map to spot the destination and the only known place was Manali. Automatically a chink appeared on my face.
I put one more sweater in my backpack, closed it, took a last sip of coffee and went out of the door. The early morning of that Delhi winter was freezing. I almost did not cross anyone in the streets until I walked to the auto-rickshaw stand. I was lucky, and I did not wait more than 5 minutes. Sitting on that yellow coach, I fiddled with the idea of my blind date and imagined the qualities of the chosen one from food to culture, art, and elegance.
I arrived at the bus station at 7.15 am. I was nervous, in the best sense of the word, and somewhat anxious. At 8.30 AM with many illusions I take an old rickety bus that in about 14 hours, I think, will take me to the first step towards Pulga. I only know that a valley in the middle of the Himalayas has to be amazing. I kept looking at the Google Maps to try to discover the possible destination. I did not succeed.
I could not sleep all the way, a little because of the discomfort of the seat, another bit because I did not want to miss anything that I saw through the window. The dense jungles after entering Himachal never appeared to end with sounds of strange birds and animals.
As my mind goes in disarray, my new friend sitting beside me starts narrating the legend of the place. From there, the unique and spiritual nature of the place emerges. Knowing the history, the legends and the reason of the names of the places gives an extra charm.
In the late evening the bus stopped. Most passengers were asleep, but not me. The sky was totally clear, the smell of nature pervaded the place, and the strange and diverse noises that came from the bowels of the jungle made me shudder.
After a 14 hour long ride, we arrived at Bhuntar, where I took a taxi to Parvati Valley. As I reached the Valley, I was able to revel in the magic of the place. Seeing nature in all its magnitude surprised me with huge mountains separated by the force of the river. The Parvati Valley gathers a series of towns and villages, places even prettier than the other. Not all connected by roads.
Kasol was the first in the series. It had an entrance door. And for the first time I felt foreign in my homeland. It was an Israelite land. If Manali, was the small Tel Aviv, this Kasol is Tel Aviv directly. Many there spoke to me in Hebrew! Although Kasol is full of tall, green pine trees, it is also full of cars, trucks and restaurants.
The Road To Pulga and BeyondThe morning woke me with a scorching sun and a blue sky with few clouds. I looked at the sky and smiled. Thanks for receiving me like that, with your best face and your best sun. I thought, but I did not say it out loud because I was still walking with surprise at every step. The adventure had just begun from Kasol to Pulga.
I left for Manikaran without knowing where I would end. It is the most "Indian" village in the Valley, so to speak and I had the feeling of returning to the deep interiors of India after a long time. In Manikaran there were no amenities for tourists, nor there were good places to stay. But it has what India has, the mysticism of rural life.
The next town that I came across was Flea near Kalga, and near Barsheni. Already more in the Valley, and no routes to get there, Flea fascinated me. The slow walk gradually led to Pulga. It is a peasant village, with some guest-houses lost among crops. Women harvest crops with the sickle, while men carry sheep and goats to graze. I saw a beautiful view of the Valley that I hope will stay with me for a long time.
I walked along paths that cross innumerable streams around the village, lie down and observe the different forms of the mountains according to the light that reaches them or the amount of clouds that accompany me that day with rain and many chillums!
I then discovered the paths that lead to Kheer Ganga, the hippie paradise of the Valley that also has hot springs. I did not see homes, only guest-houses and restaurants, all prepared to receive people. Khir Ganga lends itself to contemplate nature.
Here I learnt about the Rainbow Gathering. Which was a movement that was born at the end of the '60s with the idea to camp and live in community with collective cooking, shared music and a little meditation among other herbs (literally). The idea is that everyone can learn what they want and teach what they know.
In Khirganga there is nothing, or there is much. It's an amazing place, as the mountains have extra energy. Hopefully, it has infected me a little. Hashish is everywhere. Even on the roads. To understand a bit how life works here, I will give you three words that define in some way what surrounds life up here that is Chillum, Charas and Chai.
I live in the house of a local. In that house there are several rooms. My room consists of a bed and nothing else. One of the best things about travel is that it helps you meet new people. However, there are always a few language problems, although I'm sure that after a few drinks, those barriers are broken. It is always good to meet new people.
An Israelite wearing necklace in which the main part is a stone or crystal spends the day smoking in the adjoining room. The owner starts preparing a fire to cook something hot at 6 PM. It is a pleasure to lie there a while and look at the mountains and surroundings. The magic of the place is in the river, or at least I find it in the river. The colossal river, does not stop surprising me with the power and intensity. And brims with force in its stillness.
The water flows near me and splashes. While the shore, stones, earth and the mountains are perennial, static and immobile. Is it a metaphor for life? Some things, emotions flow as fast as the river while the others are always at a static end. In this contrast, I live and feel, seek and balance. Or at least I try.
And after this experience I will again go on a mysterious trip, for this trip was filled with adventure, fun and thrill that we seek to accumulate on a journey.