Wednesday, November 18, 2015

India - Going green in Dharmsala

When somebody sent us an e-mail asking if we would go to Dharmsala, my first thought was 'Is there something worth seeing?' Mike looked it up and found it's the residence of the Dalai Lama... Notwithstanding what the man stands for, that by itself is not a reason for us to go there. We don't feel the need to peep through anyones windows, as we're not on a Grand Designs tour... Still, it's a 'green' area on the map, so we went to see what we would find there in natural beauty. The green colour was something of a forebode of things to come...

The wheels of the bus didn't go round and round anymore...
instead they fell off... so they are putting them back on!
Leaving Amritsar went in a way only possible in India (I hope anyway...). The sign had said 'road improvement work in progress', Indian humour I suppose as there was no road left, no improvements being done, and as no-one was working: no progress... We have seen quite a few strange road users around the world but seeing an elephant on the road in a city was new to us. Mike found the traffic in India hard to deal with. To be honest I had thought I would be the one having problems with it, but so far it doesn't bother me. which is weird as Mike is right: it is a dangerous chaotic mess here. Yet what bothers me more is the filthy streets, where everyone just dumps whatever they want on the roads. It's like riding through the tip and it stinks too.

And yet the people in India seem so friendly. When we stopped for a drink for instance, and only bought a bottle of Coca Cola, the boy selling it immediately pulled out a huge industrial fan to give us some cooling. When we wanted to drink straight from the bottle, he gave us two glasses... So friendly and thoughtful. Yet when they climb aboard whatever it is they are riding, you will find the same boy on the wrong side of the road, overtaking dangerously and on the horn everywhere. It really is a strange country.

No this isn't a wreckers yard, they recondition engines here! Don't worry about the dust... 
India's own cola brand... made by
Coca Cola India but tastes like Pepsi... yuk!
The Dalai Lama wasn't home but Dharmsala did give us something else, which was related to the 'green' on the map: salmonella poisoning! Dharmsala is a touristy place with thus quite a few restaurants. The one we chose looked good enough but obviously had some dodgy kitchen practises as we both ended up with salmonella food poisoning... Looking at our options to prevent this, we came to the conclusion that we can't... Meat isn't eaten in most of India, we don't like the taste of lamb and thus have two options: chicken or vegetarian. Chicken is well known to be problematic with salmonella but when properly cooked it shouldn't be a problem. It was properly cooked, so there must have been some contamination between raw and cooked food. Keeping that in mind, the same could happen with vegetarian food (ie cross contamination with uncooked chicken as it's processed and cooked in the same kitchen). There have also been problems with food stored in fridges getting contaminated and apparently some fruits can have it as well. So, despite our best efforts and intentions, we can't prevent it nor let you know how to prevent it. It was rather striking that the very small pharmacy in Dharmsala had huge boxes of antibiotics on the shelf... Even with antibiotics it took Mike all in all 6 days to recover to a state where he could ride again, but we couldn't have been in better hands than where we were. The guys at the Moonlight hotel took care of us with food to our room and suggestions on what to eat because of our stomachs... even though the Salmonella poisoning didn't come from their restaurant.

Walking through Dharmsala I found myself surrounded by hazy semi-hippy types. I'm sure they have a much more fancy name for themselves but let's be honest here; they must be under the influence of something to behave the way they do. Pants are invariably of the floppy baggy type, which gave us the feeling we probably aren't the only ones with bowl problems. That most restaurants offer vegetarian foods, only reinforced that feeling. Mind you we have nothing whatsoever against vegetarians but lets face it the results on human exhaust pressures from eating lots of beans are known worldwide... something our noses can testify to too. I can vividly remember Tasmanian Peter Murfet's assessment of vegetarian customers he had in his VW shop when he animated described the problem with working on their car... 'You can smell them coming down the street and I have to vent the car for 24 hrs before I can safely work on it...!' Peter doesn't like veggies... :-)  As we were stuck to our room most of the time while overcoming the salmonella, we tried to update the blog, sort through our photos and upload some video... Well, we tried anyway. For a country which claims to be high in IT, the bandwidth offered at hotels so far has been pretty dismal to say the least. In Dharmsala it was bordering on being unusable. Uploading photos was thus not an option, let alone video. We had problems enough getting simple e-mails through. As we go further north from here, where at least on the map towns are smaller, it will probably not improve in the days to come either.


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