Again I was faced with a change in my plans but I was delighted to discover that by now I was taking every disappointment and delay in my stride. Spiti Valley (at this point) was too dangerous and even riding in a group would still be risky. Listen up people! I'm adventurous, not reckless. I would retreat back to Shimla and formulate a new plan. Fahad and the boys would accompany me back to Shimla from where they would head back to Delhi. When we got to Shimla and were saying our goodbyes they were absolutely beaming at me and Himanshu was wagging his head so vigorously that I thought it might fall off but the feeling was entirely mutual. I'd grown very fond of these boys in a very short time and we promised each other a reunion when I got back to Delhi.
Back in Shimla, booked into a cheap (dodgy) hotel it started to rain and didn't stop for 2 days. Shimla is the kind of place where you could easily sink into glorious boredom but I was anxious to get going as soon as possible. Refusing to acknowledge the television in my room and armed with a pink umbrella, I went for endless walks everyday in the rain, had gallons of chai while learning new Hindi phrases and made a serious dent in Anna Karenina but the hours dragged on.
When, eventually, the sun showed up I wasted no time, packed up and gunned it to Manali, North Shimla. I needed to get to the dry parts up North and riding straight up to Manali, skipping Spiti Valley seemed like the wise choice.
To get to Manali you need only follow the mighty river Beas for half a day and then arrive in a beautiful little village that sits snugly in a thick forest of giant Deodar trees and apple orchards. The guesthouse I booked into was a lovely old farmhouse surrounded by apple trees and my room had wooden floors and two large windows that overlooked the orchards but no television. Perfect. After I had a long, hot shower (a necessity after a day on the road, believe me) I, ironically, went in search of a television. It was the World Cup Final and I was determined not to miss it. As it happened I watched the game with the owner of my guesthouse, Mano, on his tiny little black and white television but as the game only started at 12am, Mano faded just before half-time, leaving me all alone. At 3am I woke up and Spain had won the World Cup. I'd fallen asleep and missed the whole thing.
The next morning I woke up feeling like death had come to visit and had all the dreaded symptoms of an upset stomach. Crap, so to speak. I spent the next two days in bed on a diet of fresh apples, mineral water and vitamins until I felt up to venturing outside and explore Manali. Down at the market I discovered that Manali, apart from its exquisite natural beauty was overpopulated by a colony of hippies complete with dreadlocks, psychedelic lukin t-shirts and all stoned out of their minds. Not wanting to spend the day in Hippie Village I rode to the next town, Naggar, to visit the world famous Roerich art gallery. Nicolas Roerich was a Russian artist, mystic, philosopher and photographer who lived in Naggar and claime to draw his inspiration from the Himalayas. It was a nice ride through the orchards and the gallery certainly was impressive and I slowly started to feel like myself again.
When I got back to Manali I was starving and looked for a safe-looking dhaba to have dinner at. It’s amazing how paranoid a stomach bug can make you. I found 2 close to my guesthouse, one on the left side of the road and the other on the right. I picked the one on the right and had an egg roll and a cup of chai. Later that night, twisting in agony, I asked myself over and over again, why oh why didn't I pick the dhaba on the left?