One night sleeping in the car and another in a parachute tent in the middle of nowhere was different but I enjoyed the warm bed and shower last night. We’re still listening to the news and asking agents about a return to Leh but I don’t know when it will be possible. I heard on the news it could be tomorrow but the agents here say they aren’t expecting it for weeks. After the scary mess on the muddy pass into Manali, I think I know their position.
We spent much of the day wandering around Manali, eating, reading, resting and talking with other travelers. We are amazed to find marijuana growing along the sides of the roads and in several gardens. It turns out that this hippie town in not only famous as a honeymoon destination for Indians but also it has been a hippie hangout since Vietnam War days. Every store sells bongs, pipes and rolling papers.
We managed to find wi-fi that worked and I sent the attached message by Facebook to my family:
Well maybe I was right. Neither India nor I will be the same again. If you didn’t hear the news, an estimated 500 people in Leh and Choglamsar died in a flash flood (later confirmed officially as 255 people dead, 29 missing, 400 critically injured but “up to 600 potential total deaths”) while we were out of town at Tsomoriri helping at an eye clinic for the nomads. We could not get back to Leh so we spent 54 hours driving to Manali. We had to clear the roads of landslides in a few places, push cars out of the mud in many places and we even built a road over one hill to get through. We slept one night in the car and the next night in a yurt parachute tent with 12 other people including six really cute Israeli girls. Having fun so far but I am happy to be finally wearing clean underwear. We’re hanging out in old Manali trying to figure out what to do next.
Just to clarify, we had to clear the roads, push the cars out of the mud and build the road so that we could move forward. If we didn’t, we would have to wait for the army or someone else to do it and they were already busy on many other more major roads. Sleeping in the car or a tent in freezing wet weather was not the best alternative and we thought that could be a possibility for at least another week.
Incidentally, a “major” road in Ladakh is described as a one lane, two direction, normally black-topped road. A normal road is 3/4’s of a lane, two directions, mountainous dirt track between towns with populations below 10,000. We were usually on the normal road.