Back on the road.
More droning ride. Until we all stop. A real tangle on a thin rural road becomes three trucks wide and as far ahead as we can see. Motor bikes are weaving through whatever space they can find. Then we get waved back. A great unorderly but efficient reversing of the line. Vikrant suddenly turns on to what is little more than a foot path to me. We’re now in a small Sheikh village in Punjab blowing the horn and missing kids as they leave school in their uniforms and turbans.
For a brief while after, Vikrant drives determinedly onto another rural route. More like a state highway. We stop for gas. Vikrant is in animated conversation with the gas station folks. It is obvious that he is completely lost and getting directions. From what I can make out, opinions about directions in India are as varied and as passionately held as religious beliefs.
We drive on and in a while we are in the hills. We cross the dam of a large lake and stop for more tea. Vikrant helpfully explains about the lake, but I am completely wiped out by this point. I smile a lot.
We do go thru a number of town gates on the way. These seem to be especially favored in Punjab and in lower Himachal Pradesh. Some are quite ornate and lifted high enough for busses topped by extra riders to easily clear.
A couple of police stops to check the driver’s papers and licenses in this area. Dharamasala is near a military base, I’ll discover later on.
We head up into McLoed Ganj. It’s a bustling and confusing, to me at first arrival, town hanging on the hills. After some navigation around the crowds, Israeli and German backpackers mostly, and livestock, mostly cattle and horses, and dogs, we get up to the Pema Thang. Even at dusk, the view is lovely. The Pema is full and we have to negotiate a bit to get my name understood. Everyone in the office is amused that my middle name on my passport is McDonald. They make hamburger jokes to each other and occasionally to me. I can’t hardly convince them that the next line on the passport, “Jones,” is my last name and that there is is more or less in their book too as “Johns” I too share fault as I can’t pronounce Phunsok’s name. The “ph” sound here is not that of an “f” but a kind of hard “p.”
The Pema also has a nice little restaurant despite the plaque that reads “A Paradise for Pizza and Salad.” They have the foods that Tibetans like. And I get a tray of 8 Tibetan treats