30.10.2009 - 30.10.2009 20 °C
So now for something completely different...... Fresh air, mountains, trekking ahhhhhhhhhhh what a relief. There was a jeep waiting to pick us up at the train station, where we met our driver who's name sounded like 'Punto' as in Fiat Punto, so that is what we called him. We were to spend quite a bit of time with Punto over the next week, he drove us around the Himalayan foothills, sometimes to some very remote places and he slept in his car overnight. What a dude. First stop was a roadside cafe for breakfast and what an experience, cue more giggles. OK, so we had slept for only 2 hours, no shower, Jo was still shitting her pants, monkeys were shagging on the roof of the cafe, guy came out to serve us had the most incredible lego MULLET (you know, like lego, looked kind of modular like an accessory you can remove) and we were served white bread with a streak of black something or other with a hint of chilli that was apparently called toast. This was too much for me, the moment got to me. Beautiful setting though, and I didn't get the impression many travellers stop here judging by more paparazzi moments, them taking our photo, firstly trying to do it sneakily then given in and just asking! I just felt pure happiness, not sure why. If I lose my job thinking i could do some kind of laughter therapy make a bit of cash and travel the world.
Beautiful drive through mountain scenery, nice fresh morning, a bit chilly maybe. Soon warmed up though on a trek up to Cheena peak for views over Nainital and the peaks of the Himalayas. I am sure it wasn't meant to be an overly strenuous trek but after so little sleep, no food, change in air etc. this was actually quite a challenge. Half of the group dropped out, the rest of us wearily made it to the top and was so worth it for the views. Had the place to ourselves, didn't seem to be anyone else around for miles :-)
Drove into the hillstation town of Nainital for lunch and sighteseeing. What a glorious place, so peaceful and idyllic, felt like a Swiss mountain retreat. Hardly got hassled in the streets, just a few locals asking 'are you not cold?'. We were in t shirts, it was 22 degress or something but all the locals were in jumpers, hats, scarves! When we said we were from England they seemed to understand perfectly! We walked round the lake, watched some langur monkeys playing, then watched some cricket being played outside the Government House, a large impressive white gothic building.
Back in the car, Punto asked us if we would like some music on. This was really the start of something as we had a vibrant Punjabi Bhangra soundtrack for our exhilerating but picturesque drive along the cliff edges of the Himalayas to our next destination, the tiny village of Betalghat, seriously seriously in the middle of nowhere. There were some interesting tunes, lyrics were sometimes in Hindi and sometimes in English and quite, shall we say racy! Didn't expect this hmmm interesting. The same CD got replayed a few times so we started to pick up some lyrics. Rob just looked horrified and was starting to get fed up with our little singalongs. Hehe.
The village of Betalghat is somewhere in between Nainital and Corbett park, on a steep mountainside above the banks of the river Kosi. Finally get some rest hopefully, this place was just gorgeous. We stayed in a lodge run by a few little funny men in safari suits, which i thought initially were army uniform! They just couldn't do enough for us, made us feel so welcome and looked after. Got a log fire going in the evenings, cooked us fantastic meals, made us hot water bottles even put them in our beds to warm up, got us a beer or a chai whenever we wanted. I didn't want to leave this place. Slept like I have never slept before, partly because this place was so comfortable but maybe also due to just spending over 40 hours on the road!