Welcome To Manali
We arrived to New Manali at 7 AM, August 9. Joel, the LA attorney had vanished and and most of the other passengers also managed to fade away. I found myself standing in the mud with my flip-flops and all of my luggage on me, trying my best not to slip. ‘Awesome, Jane, best decision you ever made, wearing those damned flip-flops.’ I congratulated myself.
I was looking for a taxi to take me to Old Manali. As part of my “go with the flow” attitude that I chose to embrace prior to my trip, I didn’t know the difference between the two parts of the city, I just knew where everybody else was going.
Sharon and the girl with the names issue were there with me, and also four other backpackers I didn’t know yet. Their names were Michael, Daria, Orlin, and Tammy. Apparently Tammy was the brave girl that shouted at the porter and his manager on the bus. ‘Better not to piss her off.’
We got a lift from a jeep that took us to Old Manali in just a few minutes’ ride. Since none of us knew exactly where we wanted to go, the driver dropped us at some random spot. Standing there puzzled for a few moments, somehow we managed to notice a small sign in Hebrew that said “To the Israeli House”.
Traditional house in Old Manali (Image by www.mapsofindia.com)
It turned out to be a place run by an Israeli woman who went by the nickname “Tziki.” Its purpose was to help Israelis that travel in the area, but they had an ‘open door’ policy for everybody that came through the gates. Since we were all Jewish, and some of the group were Israelis, it only seemed right to start there.
Inside, they had a restaurant were we stopped to get some breakfast. I ordered Muesli (finally some liquid food!) which Sharon help me finished since she didn’t like the local dish she got.
After breakfast we left our big backpacks at the Israeli House and went to look for a guest house. The sun came out, the weather was fantastic, and the view was insane. It was nothing like Delhi. They might call it a city but it felt like a small village. All around us there were huge mountains covered with trees. Everywhere you went you could pick golden apples from the trees.
Mountains covered with trees (Image by Orly Abugov)
The thing that came a s shock to me was the enormous wild fields of cannabis growth. Wasn’t that stuff supposed to be illegal here as well?! As we were leaving the Israeli House I bent over to “smell the flowers.” Tziki saw me and rushed to mention that these plants belonged to her ‘local neighbors’ and that we mustn't try to pick any. No worries Tziki. Even if I would have tried to pick some, just like the chunk of Charas in Delhi, I had no idea what to do with it back then.
belongs to the neighbors
In the search for a guest house it was really important for the new four members of the group to be close to ‘Chabad house’, a center for disseminating traditional Judaism by the Chabad Movement. I didn’t understand it at the time. We were all Jewish but none of them seemed to be religious. I thought that maybe it was an Israeli thing, made them feel closer to home. Who knows?
Sharon and the girl with the name issue got a room in a well-known guest house called ‘Paradise Hotel.’ From some reason I decided to join Michael, Daria, Orlin, and Tammy in the quest to find a guest house and left Sharon and the girl that I will never know her name.
I said goodbye to the girls and started following this new group of people I’d just met. It was the third time I was changing my travel companions in such a short time – only a day and half. It is amazing how swiftly you can connect to people and move along when you travel by yourself.
Beside their need to be close to ‘Chabad house’, they also wanted to stay away from the commotion of the main tourists area. From some reason it came across to me as a logical thing to do.
The main street with shops on both sides at Old Manali (Image by www.mapsofindia.com)
We went as far we could from all the guest houses, shops, and restaurants, until we spotted a small place with humble rooms that looked really nice and decided to stay there.
A thing I was going to deeply regret later on.