After a couple of days exploring old Delhi and getting over my jet lag, it’s time to head up into the mountains. It’s relatively easy to book a bus ticket and the pick-up points are easy to get to around the city and on the route out north.
I have had visions of cramped old buses and overworked, tired drivers so I was overjoyed when I arrived at the metro station to find a modern bus with 2 very smart, friendly Sikh drivers and an assistant. The bus was full but the seats were comfortable and to my amazement, they had WIFI and charging points on the bus.
However nice the bus is, 14 hours is 14 hours! So I settled in and tried to get some rest. There are a couple of stops during the trip and it was a nice chance to talk to the other passengers. Most of them were young Delhiites, off for a weekend to explore their mountains, but there were people who had come from all over the country too, often after long journeys, keen to see the snow for the first time!
The drivers were great and despite warnings that this was the most dangerous road in India, I felt safe the whole way. I was invited up to sit between the drivers at the front of the bus for the last part of the ride where you wind your way along a twisting road with sheer cliffs to one side and a vertical drop of hundreds of meters to the river below, it was an incredible end to the journey and a great way to arrive in the Kullu district of the Himachal Pradesh.
The site that greeted me as I jumped of the bus at Bhuntar was breath-taking. After the crowding and pollution of Old Delhi and 14 hours sat on a bus, this was more than enough to make it worthwhile. The mist rising off the river and the mountains set behind the town were magical and this was just the start of the area I would be spending the next few weeks trekking around in search of the best hash in India! The secret code to gain an extra entry in our travel competition is 405708.
We were too late for the early local bus that would have taken us up into the heart of the Parvati valley so I flagged down a beaten-up old taxi and negotiated a price. The driver gave me and my new friend from the bus a big smile and beckoned us to get in. As he pulled off, he turned on his stereo and terrible loud goa trance started to blare out, with another broad smile he popped open the glove compartment revealing a big bag of odd-shaped Tolas (10 grams of hash ) and said ‘ You like smoke?’ We all burst into laughter and he sped off up the rod towards Kasol. I think in another life he must have been a rally driver. Despite his obvious love of going fast in his little old taxi, we got to Kasol in one piece after about 20km up a stunning valley lined with giant evergreen pines and dotted with little villages clinging to the sides of impossibly steep slopes.
Finally, I was in the mountains!