The Long Haul to Ladakh

To cover the amazing distance between Mumbai and Ladakh, and to do it ASAP before Ladakh's roads close for the season, had me envisioning an epic struggle and journey of an almost biblical magnitude - this notion was fed by an Israeli girl's account of the horrors of her 2 day bus trip to Ladakh, which she had recounted with sick relish while we moonlighted as extras on the Bollywood set in Mumbai. Fortunately, existance decided instead not to allow me to wallow in such drama.

First was the 28 hour train ride from Mumbai to Delhi. That was much more comfortable than it sounded! The sleeper class on the trains have a nice firm, straight backrest that's perfect for meditation, and I was in meditation pretty often throughout the journey.

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Next was the 12 hour bus trip to Manali. This was cake as well after I found the counter in Delhi's bus terminal to get the ticket. And the departure time on the bus gave me the opportunity to shop for warm clothes in Delhi.. I got a taste of Delhi's awesome metro subway, its almost like Singapore's! Oh and the McDonald's in India has McVeggie Burger which I wish Singapore's McDonalds had as well 8(.

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The bus-ride to Manali was comfortable as bus-rides go. I occured to me during the trip, early at dawn while the bus was still a ways from Manali, that I have been the happiest during the times where I've been travelling from destination to destination, more so that when I am doing the touristy thing in the destination itself.

"Getting there is half the fun"? Sure seems like it to me.

When I was a kid I used to be fetched around by my parents, fetched to school, fetched back home. This carried on even when my peers were old enough to be taking the public transport themselves. It was much to my consternation as I would be the butt of their teasing, that I had to be babied back and forth that way.

I remember that when I finally did get the chance to take the public transport, it had been such a catharsis that for many years one of my favorite pastimes would be to take the bus for no reason at all except for the purpose of riding that bus from terminal to terminal.

Even in my University days when I was embroiled in the architecture course, and needing a few hours of sleep between classes, instead of sleeping in the perfectly comnfortable bed of my dormitary, I would instead head for the terminal and hop on a bus, and fall asleep at the back seat. Only to be awaken with a jolt when the bus reached the other end-terminal, crossing the characteristic hump that all terminals seemed to have. Depending on my sleep requirements, I'd either take the bus back to the original terminal and resume my slumber, or take it back to classes.

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Travelling on buses, trains and even planes must be a strong vasana in me. Its the landscape whizzing by and the wind in your face, if you manage to get the window open. When the eyes relax the scenes fall into a comfortable, hypnotic blurr that I can relax into. Its the regular motions, the rocking, the bumping. The people that hop on and off. The cramp in your legs, the rude/ friendly/ non-chalant conductor, the amazing places that buses take you for pit-stops...

Something in me just wants to go and go and go, and this something really appreciates the distances involved between my Indian destinations.

And when the sun rose this morning, we had reached the Kullu Valley. And as the amazing landscape of impossibly steep hills and icy clear streams on round pebbly boulders became illuminated I remembered a meditation exercise mentioned by Osho...

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Don't allow any words to come into your inner space the next time you see something amazing.. don't think "It's beautiful" or "It's awesome" don't verbalise. Try to stop the flow of words and just be in the experience.

So I stopped the flow best I could. But in its place my tears flowed instead. It was such an intense experience, to be in that valley at that moment in time, that moment never happening again, never being able to be reproduced in memory or words. I don't know what I felt except that it felt very positive and overflowing. I have nothing but gratitude to have gone through that experience.

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Here in Manali I have another day's wait for the next bus that will be the last leg of my journey to Leh. I expected hell but existance decided something altogether different. In the beauty of this place it is very easy to always be in awareness of my blessings.

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