Lack of appetite! Nausea! Vomiting! Fatigue or weakness! Dizziness or lightheadedness! Insomnia! Pins and needles! Shortness of breath! Nosebleed! Drowsiness! General malaise! Peripheral edema! Diarrhea!
To which my reply is usually, "Ok, then can we cuddle instead?"
Coincidentally it turns out, these are all symptoms of altitude sickness. Delhi was seventeen hours behind me and the first thing you notice is doing the smallest bit of exercise takes so much more effort than usual. Manali sits at 6600 feet but it was ten times more evident on a snowboarding trek to 11,000 in the mountains. The entire place is a complete contrast from Delhi, being 20 degrees cooler, infinitely less busy and with the most picturesque scenery that mountains have to offer. It felt more like Italy than India, with snowcapped peaks, leaking waterfalls and lush greenery. Our guide, Cashew, took the six of us on a 3 hour hike (following an hours drive) straight up, to get to base-camp which was looked after by a guy called Manny and two dogs, Julie and Baloo.
The view from the tent was incredible and we were fed before taking a jaunt up the hill with our boards, followed by an assurance that I will never, ever take ski lifts for granted again. I was in pretty bad shape by the time we got to the top and if my dad had found me, I would have been treated like any of my sickly (or not, in a couple of cases) childhood pets: taken to the bottom of the garden and finished off with a spade.
As it turned out the snow was pretty plentiful, but in terrible condition. We made the most of it and headed back before the storm came in. The rain and wind battered the tents for most of the night, at some point during which I had to eventually venture outside for a toilet trip. With the unrelenting thunder and forked lightning streaking across the sky, I can safely say that I will be unlikely to have a more dramatic crap in my life.
With Jobbiepocalypse behind me and back in the tent, temperatures got below zero and despite being in two sleeping bags and lying on several rugs I was colder than i've ever been camping. The next day was a write-off due to a mild smattering of symptoms from the start of this post. I had literally no energy, felt like throwing up constantly and had a pounding headache. The rest of the group were fine and headed up the hill and it took a full day for me to recover. All was back to normal on day three.
The trouble with Manali is that its populated with pretentious pricks. With dreadlocks, piercings and with clothes that appear to be fashioned from Tesco's 'Bags for Life', these walking cliches spend a couple weeks sitting about smoking hash, playing didgeridoos or banging incessantly on drums before presumably heading back to Swindon, a middle class life and call centre job with o2.
Anyway, I headed back to Delhi on a bus that broke down after 20 miles. We waited for eight hours by the road, until another bus arrived. I was then removed and put in a taxi with two other families. The driver for the first leg of the journey (around sixty kms) I later learned was drunk, who then handed over to a second driver who overtook exclusively on blind corners at 60 miles an hour, all the way down the mountains. He wanted to get back as soon as possible and as I was in the front seat, wouldn't let me sleep for fear he would nod off as well. For fifteen hours. Every time I shut down, he would slap my thigh to wake me and swear at me angrily in Hindi.
By the time we all arrived in Delhi, 23 hours after we left Manali and 37 without so much as a nappity nap, I was repeatedly hallucinating the entire 'pink elephants on parade' scene from Dumbo.
Being back in Delhi was about as welcome as a urinary infection so I quickly booked the rest of the trip. I was going to leave to stay a night before leaving for Agra and the Taj Mahal in the morning. The hotel was the typical fucking disgrace i've come to expect with Delhi, with filthy walls, floors and bed, and a door so badly warped I could close it and still wave to passers-by on the stairs. I left for Agra in the morning in a booked car with two English girls, Nina and Naomi, both very nice and having just arrived in the country the night before. We all spent the next three days checking out the Taj Mahal, Jaipur and various temples along the way (highlights were the palace in Jaipur, handling a Cobra and watching said Cobra shit on Naomi).
My one goal in India was to see wildlife, in particular Tigers, and so far nothing. In the desperation of trying and fix this I reluctantly went along to Jaipur Zoo. Every creature was either dead (or sleeping, whatever.), absent from their cages or like a particularly depressed Himalayan black bear, staring at me wondering what we are both doing outside in 45 degree heat.
In fact, the Baba's themselves get to live a pretty basic but lively existence as various guys sit in the circle and he pulls out a selection of increasing harder drugs from a manbag. Rav himself went straight to the top, taking a finger full of a reddish powdery substance called, I discovered, "Aphee", washed down with some water. When I asked what it was, he said (in between puffs from a spliff) "Like opium, but better".
About thirty minutes later, I asked Rav if there were any tigers in this area.
He replied, "It's my mother-in-law's birthday next week."