Windy roads, Kullu and huge outdoor market
We arrived in the Himalayas, armed with flip flops, flowy pants, flowering tops and all sorts of f-ing stuff that provides no apparent benefit to walking around butt naked. We knew we were in trouble, but stepping off the bus into the big fridge called outside, we knew we were in trouble.
Two days later, we were in a jeep taxi on our way to Kullu – 2 hours down hair-raising cliff roads – in search of warmth.
You will hear this again, but I really dont like those rides, although the views are always making up for it. Always.
After two hours, a few teeth loosened up, and warmed up by the sun and lower elevation, we were there. The action packed city of a bit over 100,000 is one of the big ones around here and you can find most creature comforts here, but what we were after were clothes, and luckily it was the once a year market that lasts until Diwali.
The market is huge.
The lower section is taken up by tables with overflowing jackets, pants, tops and people screaming at the top of their lungs the set price for their goodies. Each table, each pile, one price, varying between less than a buck to a whooping $4-$5.
We did need some warm clothes, but who in the world can look through all this!
Still fresh from our chilly introduction to the area, we jump in and start digging, just like everyone else. There is a more orderly part of the market, where clothes have sizes, colors and options, but its “expensive” as Gopi, our taxi driver informed us. Having in mind that our budget would make even middle class Indians cringe, we dig deeper.
The sun is burning a hole through my head, my ears are burning from the screaming and my head is burning trying to remember all the essentials we need – pants for all the kids, socks for this kid, but not for the other, jackets, but maybe not full, rather sleeveless, tops for who the hell knows.
Table after table, I am presented with the widest array of badly sewn clothing, fancy Italian jackets, fluffy second hand tops, ex-trekking western attire and on and on and on. I quickly picked up a few jackets for me and the kids. A few more tables and I was armed with pants and who knows what.
After what seemed like my whole life baking in the now quite annoying sun, I was ready to move on. Mr.Blab on the other hand, still had not managed to find a jacket for himself, because he doesnt really care what he wears. Are you seeing my exaggerated rolling eyes over there?
Thankfully, Dodman needed to go to the toilet, so we headed out to the building that smelled like a fermented excrement plant before we even saw it.
The city is just like any other we have seen so far in India – full of people, who seem to be everywhere be it up, down sideways or any other ways, the badly kept streets with all kinds of vehicles buzzing over potholes, and more “Blow your horn” than Bali and Vietnam put together. In fact honking is so important to the livelihood of the locals, that trucks have to put signs on their backs to remind you to do it. Quiet streets = deadly! Now you know.
There is nothing shiny around, bar the few shops too small for the piled up pots and pans, some of them a size suitable for cannibal feasts. Everything else is a dusty cloud of glimpses of the past… when pharmacies were just a hole in the wall with boxes piled to the top and only the owner knows where to find that itchy cream you are looking for…
…when food was cooked in pots caked in old oil, and hygiene was not invented. But it tasted so good, nobody cared…
..when people from the neighboring hills would come down to the dust and spread their colorful bounty right there, decorating the street and tempting the senses…
…when in the bustle of the street, fighting to not be dragged the wrong way, a smile can brighten up our day, because even though its loud, dirty and hectic, life is simple and real, permeating the hot skin all the way to the gut.
And I loved it.
Loaded with insanely cheap warm clothes, bellies full of late lunch of mutter paneer, buttery naan, pea and cumin rice and refreshing Kingfisher beer, we left Kullu behind and headed back to the still somewhat serene Banjar valley.
Thank goodness the views are worth it, because the roads are too much like a dusty post card from the past.