You'll have to wait for the long version, but we are currently in Manali, arriving via Mandi (daytrip to Rewalsar Lake), after leaving Shimla. Shimla's highlight was probably the Hanuman Temple, either that or the dance-party which we attended, representing 4 of the 10 people in attendance. We have been traveling with a Brazilian, Flavio, in addition to Reannon, of course, whom we met on the miniature train (100 tunnels in as many km) up to Shimla. We've been learning all sorts of interesting things about Brazil! The train actually broke down on the way up the mountain, resulting in a few hours spent roasting in the hills outside Kalka. In both Shimla and Manali we have stayed in extremely large, and nice, hotel rooms, due to it currently being the off season. So we've gotten mid-level hotels (usually 800-1400 Rs/room) for 150-200 Rs/room. Nice to have some deluxe amenities for low budget pricing. Manali is beautifully set up in the mountains, Anderson took a small day trek up to a pair of temples in the hills today, one made entirely of wood, the other itself a tree...
We have decided to go to Leh, in Ladakh, despite the fact we'll be on a tight time schedule by doing so, but Manali is rather rainy and all the outdoor activities we'd like to try aren't available: rafting, horse-back riding, etc. So we leave tonight, at 2 am, and will spend 18 hours aboard a taxi, up to a few 5000 meter passes, before arriving in Leh around 8 pm tomorrow night. The views should be amazing, though the ride a bit long. We are having lots of fun with Reannon, and all three of us are excited to get so far up in the mountains. It will be a whirlwind tour, but a high elevation and high excitement one, too. We plan on exiting via Kashmir, a day or two in Srinagar aboard a house boat, before finally swinging down to Dharamsala to pick up our luggage, some of which now we really wish we'd brought with us!
Internet access is slow and overpriced so far north, so we may be out of contact for a few days, but so long as we can avoid altitude sickness, all will be wonderful.
Apples are in season here, so they are sold everywhere, and hang on all the trees, plus there are fresh apple pastries, juices, and jam - all delicious. Back in Delhi we had an American evening, eating at McDonald's and going to a movie premiere. Food and service at the Golden Arches were much better than in the States - the worker's were actually cheerful, and then the movie, Cash, was a big, confusing, dumb action movie, but rather enjoyable nonetheless, with a highly hummable theme song: "Cash to the front of me, cash to the back of me, cash to the left of me, cash to the right of me..." Eaten some Western pizzas in the last few days, as well, Pizza Hut and Domino's - sounds like our stomachs are a bit homesick, must have been the Cool Ranch Doritos Reannon brought! The Domino's actually came back up on the twisting bus ride from Shimla to Mandi, a stomach-settling shame, really. More food news: had some great fresh lake trout the past two meals, first cooked in a tandoori, and then made into a spicy curry. Head, tail, and skin all included, not to mention the ocean of bones swirling around in the midst of the succulent meat.
Sorry about the random rambling, not too much time to type, but we'll try and post from Leh if possible, otherwise it may be a week or longer until we even check our email - we shall see.
Hope all is well,
(Robert - we're jealous of your houseboat!)
Peace & Love
Anderson & Liz