Wednesday, April 14, 2010

08. Hangin’ with the locals

Manali, India

So far on this trip I’ve been spending all my time hanging out with Bruce and his friends. He has a lot of local Indian friends and also a bunch of expat friends who’ve been living here for years. Most of his circle is connected with the paragliding scene. Many of the foreigners live in India doing nothing for half the year, and spend the other half of the year doing tandem paragliding for $$ (oops, €€) in Europe.

One afternoon we had a great impromptu drinking and smoking session at a local pizza place. Everyone is always very inviting and pleased to meet me, and if they’re a local almost every time they’ll start going on about how Bruce was the first to paraglide in the region and how he helped so many of them get started, either by teaching them or lending them an old paraglider to train with, or even just by doing it and they learnt from observation and copying him.

Manali - 13 - Matt Florian Vinay Bruce
Drunken afternoon at a pizza place. The quiet gangsta dude at the back with his sunglasses on was the Mayor

At the end of the session one of the dudes drove us home. “I always drive drunk”, he told us. I guess catching drunk drivers isn’t a priority for the local police.

More hangin’

Near Manali in the village of Vashisht are a bunch of natural hot springs, which Bhagtu offered to take me to one morning. The pools are emptied daily at 3am so the sooner you can get there the cleaner the water is. We arranged to get there at 7am.

Well, it wasn’t what I expected and out of respect for privacy I didn’t take any photos so you’ll have to make do with my description.

There was a separate men’s and women’s bath. It was quite small, only about ten metres square, and crammed inside were dozens of Indian men, all in their underwear. So I stripped down to my boxers and in I went. It was actually quite relaxing, and when an old grey-haired dreadlocked holy man came in for a dip and started chanting it was even more relaxing. It was quite a “this is India” experience.

Manali - 08 - Hot springs

Outside the hot baths, hot spring water flowed into the street and local village women gathered there to wash their clothes and dishes.

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