Isn’t it wonderful, all the varied folk who share this Earth with us, each with their own unique customs.
In part one we explored Outer Mongolia and Tibet .. now we are about to travel further south and west along the Himalayas.
Arunachal Pradesh, in the far NE corner of India, is an amazing land, very different to the lowlands, whose people still maintain their ancestral values and way of life.
To explore it, I jump on a local bus bound for an intriguing town called Tawang, from where you could throw a stone over into Bhutan.
The locals are great, friendly and helpful .. but oh oh .. here it is yet again, a crazy bus driver ! I know Indian bus drivers are something I go on about .. but ohh man. People talk of the Andes, booff, I’ve been there, on their solid roads, and rarely worried .. and have done some reasonably adventurous things .. but the BIG difference is, if’n you are for instance skydiving. ultimately it’s in your own control.
This is not so when you are in a bus driving up a narrow road with a sheer 500m drop off on one side, enveloped in thick cloud, and a driver who persists in passing trucks through this cloud, on blind corners !
That’s why, when we finally reached Sela Pass, all the passengers were smiling and laughing, not so much about where we were, just happy to be still alive.
Anyway, Tawang is a very special place .. where, (in contrast to much of lowland India), the locals all turn out every Saturday morning, to sweep their streets meticulously clean.
Slightly west, Bhutan still lives independently .. to visit here costs an arm and a leg .. but good on them. Tis their country, and they have no wish to be swamped by Western values. There is no way into Bhutan from Tawang, and to avoid another crazed bus driver I elect to pay up and leave by chopper .. but it has engine failure on the way in .. so it’s another bus trip, this time to the fabled land of Sikkim.
Now the nation of India has more different cultures than any other on Earth. No one can ever just say India is this, or India is that. Some things however are universal, such as friendliness and spirituality.
Sikkim very much embodies this. Tis such a green clean land, with elegant, quietly dignified hill folk, who invite even travellers to their special occasions.
.. yet one of the great things about travelling, is to actually arrive in places we read about as children. Moscow, Lake Titicaca, or now Darjeeling, famous for the tea that Mum and our Aunties always drank.
On this note, a little skew wiff .. I know my sketches are pretty hopeless, and sense of humour is in about the same league .. but just can’t resist chucking these in ..
It always amazes me to suddenly be in a far flung, fabled place .. and how ?
Maybe, (I have two daughters I love dearly, Shar and Kim), it works like this ..
Further west is the beautiful land of Nepal, and if Mongolians cleaned up armies left right and centre, they never really took on Nepalese Gurkha’s. These blokes are renowned as the best soldiers on Earth, so I wouldn’t like to front them in a fair dinkum fight, yet if you smile and show a little respect, they can’t do enough to help a traveler .. while their children are as full of fun as village kids the earth over.
The capitol city, Kathmandu, was once renowned as a Hippy nirvana, The destination for drug smoking new age travelers .. but after several years the locals kicked them all out, Now days it is a bustling, chaotic, noisy, fun filled city.
The west beckons, so I board a bus headed that way. There are some hot springs on this route which I intend to visit .. but my Guardian Angel ensures bus timetables don’t click in .. as a flash flood came down that very day and drowned 10 tourists!
The next destination, of Pokara, on a beautiful lake, is superb .. definitely a place to visit .. yet tis the High Hills which beckon, so I board a local bus, aptly named “no fear”, and venture north.
A huge rock, half the size of the bus, lands right behind us, but further on it’s a 4WD drive up into Mustang itself.
Mustang is such an astonishing land .. towering Mountain peaks; barren hills; green fertile river valleys .. and yes .. terrific people. I was supremely lucky to find just the best local Guesthouse, “The Red House”. The folk who own it are Tibetan, who cheerfully look after trekkers staggering in on their last legs .. and after but a few days, invited me to share their own private kitchen.
From here it was a fairly easy walk up into the hills, then quite an eye opener to visit a Temple, revered by both Hindus and Buddhists.
.. yes, it was very appealing to stay at “The Red House” for years .. so for now .. in my mind, I’d like to linger here, in this room, a little longer ..
PS Part three of the “High Hills” tales, will be posted shortly, and, if you like, we’ll explore Himchal, the Spitti Valley, Leh ladekh, and Kashmir.