Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

A gate to the Himalayas... well, almost.

The two cutest puppies since Laem Pom. Living behind this dumpster and...

These palm trees only grow in the Himalayan foothills. The British brought...

Even stairwells get a touch of light for Dewali.

Our breakfast nook at the Hotel Broadway. Some of the best chai...



The brisk air of Mussoorie, a.k.a "The Queen of the Hill Stations" was cause to dig deep into the botton of our packs for our lonely hats and mittens. Not since our chilly nights in our van in New Zealand had we needed them, and it was actually quite nice. There resides a tinge of "Mainer" in both of us still. Our nearly non-existent cold-weather wardrobes had to suffice for four Mussoorie days. We have become very accustomed to wearing the same things for days upon end, so this was still no problem.

With our hats, a new scarf, thin fleeces and my three-quarter length pants we beared the chilly yet beautiful autumn-like days in Mussoorie. It is an amazing little town, resting nearly 6000m above sea level, balancing itself firmly (we hope) atop glorious rolling hills at the foot of the himalayas. We don't like to say that we came here solely to sneak a peak at the majestic snow-peaked mountains, but, well, we did sort of. We had hoped to see them in Hardiwar, then planned to go to Nainantal for that reason, but chose Mussoorie for its relative proximity and traveling ease.

After a rickety cable car ride up to Mussorie's highest peak, we did manage to catch the faintest glimpse of them... no wait, was that the clouds? or maybe the smog is creating an illusion. We think we saw them, and if anything, we were satisfied at the town we had chosen to experience a bit of life in Uttaranchal, one of the supposed 'unspoilt', peaceful and picturesque states of the country. Perhaps Mussorie was a fair representative of this, as it was clean, quaint, relatively quiet and a big tourist destination. There are over 300 hotels in the small town, and it is a very popular spot for Indians on their honeymoon.

A "tourist town" in India does not mean what it may mean in say, Thailand. We realized this after seeing maybe 3 or 4 western tourists in all our days there. Instead, it appeals to foreign and national tourists alike. Many Indians (of the upper classes, of course,) travel here.

It also happened that we arrived during the auspicious Hindu holiday of Diwali, so many Indians had come to celebrate here. It is a festival of lights, so all the small shops, residences and restaurants line themselves with fairy lights, tinsel, and at nighttime, candles. Beautiful, yet not striking, (although the flourescent red palm tree was something quite bizarre).

A further element of this holiday is the incessant and highly annoying firecrackers that can explode at any time, and at any distance from oneself. Instead of keeping an eye out for cow paddies to avoid on the streets, I was constantly looking to make sure the giggling kids in the alley were not giggling because the funny-looking white lady was about to step on a fire bomb they had just set. We saw it happen, several times, and people were not happy. These firecrackers lasted for days, at all hours, and the streets became littered with their remnants. It was a 10-year-old boys dream.

At night, in our cozy Broadway room (that had wall to wall carpet!!! ... I know Jon already mentioned it, but it's worth mentioning it again because it was so exciting) instead of the peaceful breeze, and the sound of (is it possible in India?... QUIET) we heard the loud echoes of fireworks, firecrackers, drums and blasts.

We don't regret going to Mussoorie when we did, and experiencing the noise and lights of Diwali, but we do wonder about and crave the peace that could have prevailed in such a hill town.

So, most of our days were spent wandering, taking long walks along Camel Back Road, drinking Chai at Broadway and listening to the small man with the amazing mustache produce even more amazing belches, eating Dahl.. because we didn't know what else to eat, exploring the tiny roads and antiquated shops, and peering out over the lovely hills in hopes of a glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of the grand Himalayas.

Life is certainly different up there- as I can now compare it to other parts of India. I think it is amazing how much weather and temperature influence a lifestyle, people and a town. I have always thought that cold brings people together- families huddle in houses, people gather around warm drinks, couples link arms and walk a little closer to one another. Somehow it creates a nice warmth that is hard to replicate. I don't feel it now, in the desert of Rajastan... and I look forward to it in only weeks when we return home to family and the snows of Maine.

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