I was a bit sad to bid farewell to McLeod Ganj. But most of all I was sad leaving the spectacular snow-capped mountains. We made our way winding down into the Kangra valley. Pradeep stopped at the impressive looking Kangra Fort. It is of particular significance for me (I studied Classics while at University) because it was first mentioned in Alexander the Great’s war records in the 4th century BCE!
The ford was built by the Royal Family of Kangra who can trace their origins to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharata Epic. So far it’s believed to be the oldest surviving fort in India. Situated on top of a steep hill, the fort looks out over the valley, the snow-capped mountains and the Banganga and Majhi rivers.
We pretty much had the whole fort to ourselves, aside from the very friendly man sweeping the leaves in front of the temple and a curious monkey. The day was already getting quite hot, a big difference after the coolness of McLeod Ganj. We hopped back into the car to make our way to the small village of Pragpur.
Pragpur is a heritage village and the buildings are quite unique. We arrived at our very nice hotel for a bit of a rest and some lunch before Pradeep went to show us the country side. Children were walking home from school as we drove along the incredibly narrow village road.
We decided to explore a bit of the village on foot when we returned to our hotel. Armed with our cameras, we were transported to a place which looks unlike anywhere we’ve been in India. Some parts almost look like it could be in Europe. A cobble street took us past wheat fields, beautiful houses, temples and of course, lush bushes of marijuana. Two girls were sitting on a balcony, enjoying the afternoon sun and spotted us. They immediately shouted hello and waved. The people are so beautiful and so incredibly friendly.
We returned to our hotel where Hubby cooled down with a quick dip in the tiny but deep swimming pool while I wrote about the day’s events in my diary. Hubby mentioned he wasn’t feeling 100% but thought it was probably nothing. On our way to dinner he realised things weren’t going well and we arrived back in our room just in time. He clearly picked up a stomach bug and was throwing up like it was an Olympic sport. I couldn’t believe a single person could throw up as much as he did that night. Luckily by midnight the worst was over. The meds the doctor gave me in McLeod Ganj were working its magic and he managed to get some sleep. Me on the other hand stayed awake, worried he might get sick again. By the morning he was feeling still a bit worse for wear, but much better.
After a quick breakfast, Pradeep picked us up and stopped at a shed / pharmacy where Hubby could replenish our medical stock. We left the beautiful little town of Pragpur behind and drove towards Mandi. The roads became increasingly worse. After the winter snow there have been quite a few rock falls. The roads were also being broadened and will eventually be tarred. At the moment though, it was mostly single lane, dirt road through mountains. Every now and then I had to close my eyes and pray to the gods as we inched past a truck, hoping we don’t fall down the cliff into the valley below. At one point we had to stop completely as they were actually busy blasting a road through the rocks.
The one advantage of being off the beaten track is you get to see the small villages. All along the mountain valleys, people farm using terraces. In one village, we passed a band as yet another wedding was taking place.
We arrived in Mandi exhausted after having our lives flash in front of our eyes several times during the journey. Our driver, Pradeep, became my hero, conquering impassable roads, squeezing past trucks in the tiniest of spaces and having the fastest reflexes I have ever seen.
The weather was closing in and it was drizzling by the time we settled into our room. Hubby, still recovering from the vomit sessions of the night before, decided to have a nap. I settled on the balcony overlooking the Beas River and watched the storm roll into the valley. Thunder bounced off the mountains and a torrential downpour soon sent kids scrambling home from the school across the valley. Hubby woke up (having missed most of the storm) and announced he was feeling much better. Trying to dodge the rain but failing miserably, we got to the restaurant and had a rather average tasting dinner. The kids at the table next to us found us very interesting and kept walking past our table.
We returned to our room, freezing. Sadly we couldn’t find the switch to our aircon / heater (the switch was located the next day, outside on the balcony!), neither did we have any hot water, so we had to make do with piling on the few warm clothes we brought with and diving under the blankets. We ended up watching Ultimate Survivor on Discovery Channel, in Hindi!