What's that all about? Well, firstly we're in the bustling town of Mandi, just below the Kullu valley, where we've been staying in Manali after having to return the same way from Spiti due to the landslides mentioned by Steve in his last. (By the way, when he said we had problems getting back down the Rohtang Pass, he didn't mentioned the military style operation,headed by Dave, that was required to get us past the 2 lanes of stationary oncoming lorries blocking our way, (on what is only just a 2 way road at the best of times!) due to a blockage caused by a steepbit of muddy roadwhich the overladen lorries were getting stuck on. Using handsets and willpower (and by simply standing in their way), Dave stunned the oncoming lorry diveres into submission and wove us a path past the jam - only took 2 hours. We were greeted like old friends at the Mayflower hotel - they have even set out all our room keys in anticipation, even though we hadn't actually told them we were coming back. So a comfortable night and another chance for fabulous trout at Johnsons cafe-bar (and some interesting and very acceptable Indian red wine)and then we had a day sightseeing at Nagar Fort and the Roerech Gallery. David and Mary, if you read this, it's all a bit deja vu. The only other time I've ever been to India, we stayed in Daramashala (which we visited this time for about 1 hour due to time contraints), Manali (which has grown enormously and has better hotels than it did) stayed at Nagar Fort (which has now been restored to within an inch of its life and really best for its view and not much else, but does a good cup of tea,) visited the Roerech Gallery - (which was far better than I remembered but strangely made no reference to Theosophy - which I'm sure it did last time) and stopped in Mandi for lunch at the Raj Mahal- an old Mahararah's palace, very much falling apart but worth seeing. Well, guess where we stayed last night! Yes, restored (to a degree!) full of character and numerous muskets and strange paintings, it is now worth staying at. The food last night was excellent - I think the best so far in India and the place a haven of tranquillity in the noisy and noisome mess that is Mandi - can't say I'd recommend Mandi for anything else!
So today we move on to Shimla and there the female contingent of the party are left to make their way to delhi to get flights home (that includes me) and the chaps continue through Rajistan to Mumbai and the macho delights of getting the vehicles through customs.
Sooo looking forward to seeing my family - the hardest part of this trip - in fact the only real hard part has been missing them. They will have to come with me next time!
And happy birthday to my lovely Jo who is 15 tomorrow!)