Head in the Clouds
Vashisht, the tiny town just above Manali where we are staying, is perched about 400 meters above the river valley and looks down on the whole town of Manali. It’s dwarfed by the Himalaya on all sides – the peaks of which are generally hidden in mist.
Today we walked down into town – it was a nice 40 minute walk, and we made plenty of stops along the way. We ran into an artist with a small shop along the Manali road selling “Chitri Pothi” – inscribed palm leaves. Tito is his name, and typically, the palm scrolls depict scenes from the Upanishads or other Hindu myth cycles. The technique is amazing – it’s similar to making a tattoo on a plant. He uses a heavy iron needle with a tiny point to etch the images into the palm, then the leaves are treated with an ink wash, which settles into the cuts, but wipes right off the surface. After this step, he either colors the images using natural dyes or moves on to the final step – carving relief figures and patterns all around the story. We intend to buy one, even though they aren’t the cheapest trinkets on the block, and Tito has agreed to star in a video tomorrow, so I’ll post that on YouTube when we get back.
Been reading “The Way of the White Clouds” and enjoying it immensely. It was written by a Buddhist monk from Ceylon who ended up traveling in Tibet for most of his life, and I’m not even sure if it’s in print anymore. Just finished the chapter on “Lung-gam-po”, which translates to something like “sky walker” – a special sect of monks who seclude themselves for years in tiny huts in order to overcome the physical laws of the world. The author realized the root “seed” of this state during one of his treks through Tibet. He describes a desperate walk back to his camp after a day spent painting and the instinctive, zombie-like trance he found himself in after he realized that it was growing dark and he might have been lost. He ran over boulders and over scree without missing a step, as though floating. Much in the Lonely Planet guide borrows from this book, I think.
Manali and Vashisht, where we are staying, are famous for the apples they grow. They’re sweet little green guys, similar to the ones Bara’s grandfather always has in Balaton.
Some Israeli kids were wandering around today putting up posters for one of their friends, who’s gone missing. They say his bike, bag and passport were left just on the other side of the new Manali bridge. There’s plenty of seedy business going on here, but haven’t noticed anyone who looked capable of disappearing a kid straight out of his IDF service, even if he was stoned, which many of them seem to be… All I could think of was the heat, and the unfortunate possibility that the guy thought he could manage a swim in the river. The current, especially after the afternoon melt tide, is strong enough to tear a bus apart…