Initially Almorra was a bit of a disappointment. The main drag, the Mall, is very busy and noisy, but above it is a more peaceful pedestrian-only bazaar which has some wonderful old wooden buildings with carved facades. At one end of the bazaar we found an old temple with women chanting inside. But the major disappointment was learning that at this time of year there’s often a lot of haze and the mountains are obscured. Our first view of the Himalayas was thwarted.
We met quite an interesting traveler, a Dutchman living in Russia A bear of a man with a voracious appetite, he teaches yoga and meditation teacher in the summer in Siberia and spends his winters in India. After spending time in this area he helped us plan our route onwards. An exercise that has continued over the next few days as, having gone so far afield, the guidebook is now rendered useless. Like many we’ve met he is more interested in talking about his own journey than asking us about ours, But after a while the conversation became more two way. I warmed up to him more once he called his Russian wife a “sweet heart.” And we were very surprised when we told him about our spiritual Master and he responded, “Oh yes, I know Kirpal Singh. He had very powerful eyes.” He’s another person we may run into again as we’re headed in the same direction – Khumb Mela in Haridwar.
After two nights in Almorra we pushed off by shared jeep tyo Kausani. Unlike the previous ride, our young driver was excellent. His cautious driving enabled us to enjoy spectacular terraced landscape. And I was reassured when he rang a little bell on his dashboard and touched his forehead and heart, each time we passed a shrine or temple – of which there were many.
Kausani is a very simple mountain village with a spectacular view across the valley with the snow capped Himalayas rising in the distance. But again at this time of year the mist often rolls in and spoils the view. But there are wonderful alpine walks to even smaller villages. Above the town is a peaceful Ghandi ashram with a small museum displaying many photographs chronicling his life. Ghandi lived here while he wrote the Bhavad Gita Treaties. We went up and sat in meditation in the prayer hall
We have entered the world of Indian tourists. Our conversations are short and easily misconstrued with Indians not speaking much English and our inability to understand theirs. But we still manage to have friendly encounters. Our hotel is peaceful only until mid afternoon when the Indian tourists arrive. The beauty is they don’t hang around—they roll into town to watch the sunset, eat, and move on in the morning. First they gather on the balcony with me to watch the sunrise. But Indians always have so much to say about anything. Just before the sun appears, the mountains are at their clearest – a black silhouette on the horizon, with white accents appearing as the sun rises.
The occasional western tourist drifts through and Gerard wastes no time asking them where they’ve come from, where they’re going and do they have any information about our journey. He remarks, “This is the way it was forty years ago before guidebooks…” when you had to continually ask fellow travelers for details of the destination ahead. After many discussions we think we know the best route to move west through the mountains.