Tuesday, 7 March 2017

First day in Bandipur

Not the best start to the day, as not the best sleep. After spending ages choosing a room we had chosen a dud! The room was nice enough, the balcony and the view were great, and the price tag was low. The bed however was hard, far too hard. It was like someone had stretched a bed sheet over a block of wood, with a smaller block of wood for the pillow. I got some sleep, but Michael was up for much of the night. Our second mistake was thinking that a squat toilet would be ok. It wasn't. And with Michael's giardia lingering it really wasn't ideal. We wander down the vehicle-free streets to the sweet shop with the donuts, took a bar style table overlooking the table, and had aloo puri for two. Over breakfast we discussed our options and then Michael's stomach decided it was time he was back in the bathroom.

While Michael was busy being unwell, I went on the hunt for a new room, my main criteria being a soft bed, a western toilet, and hot water. Many rooms had the right toilet and/or the hot water, but the  soft bed was much harder to find. I must have sat on ten different beds, all of which were rock hard. Finally in my second attempt to find someone at the Hotel Red Rose, a girl appears and shows me a room that ticked all three boxes. On top of that, there was a full height window with a view of the valley.I went back to find Michael, then we paid our bill, explaining why we were checking out early, and moved to the new room. Luckily Michael approved of my choice, and he rested there for a couple of hours until he felt better.

Out for a short walk through the villiage to Tundikhel, an open area of land where on a clear day you can see the Himalayan Range. Today is not a clear day, and we only got to glimpse the mountain tops through the clouds. A rest on a concrete seat and a chat with some giggling little girls, who cheekily ask for chocolate then money.

Back to the villiage and a stop for a drink in one of the many restaurants, and we watch a couple of dogs wait patiently outside a shop while a woman chops up a chicken with a huge knife she has just sharpened. Michael counts as the black dog gets 4 tidbits but the brown headed dog isn't quick enough and only gets two. It also explains why they black dog can always be found asleep in the street outside this shop. Bandipur is incredibly clean, and it is so nice to be somewhere that is peaceful and traffic free. In fact, once you step off the buss, you have to climb over a huge step in the road designed to stop vehicles passing further into the village. After a quick rest in the room we head out for our second walk, this time up to Thani Mai. Up many, many stairs to get there, hard work in the afternoon heat. Pausing to rest many times, each time thinking we just have to get to the next ridge, which then reveals that the path goes further up still. At the top there are a couple of people meditating and a couple of people just taking in the view. And while it is stunning it would, no doubt, be more spectacular on a day with less haze.

We are a bit early for sunset, but don't want to wait as we don't want to walk down in the dark, so back down, which is considerably easier than the climb up.

In the evening there is a power cut in the village when we head out for dinner. We have to use Michael's flash light to read the menu, and select too much food. First to arrive is my choice, the samosa chat. It's a crunched up samosa covered in sauces and spices and vegetables and it is really good. Michael chose the dal bhat, and by the time we finished that we didn't have any room for the chowmein that arrived next; it was a kind of last minute panic order and we didn't need it. A chat with the friendly owner and I tell him that they do the best food in the village. He explains, in broken English, that they are expanding the restaurant into a hotel, with a yoga area out the back. We laugh about how good the donuts are and how many they sell in a day, and we assure him we will be back tomorrow for more. Power back up so it's back to the room for a warm shower and I finally wash my hair for the first time since Varanasi.