There’s only one reason to go to Dharamsala and that’s to get a bus straight to McLeodGanj. Fact. And the best way to get there from Amritsar is to bus it to Pathankot first and change buses there, and it was there I realised that I was sans phone. Ohhhh fuck. I mean, it wasn’t expensive or anything, and I didn’t really use it for photos on account of the fact I’d owned disposable cameras in the 90’s that take a better picture, but suddenly I had no Maps.me anymore. It was only then I realised how much I’d come to rely on it. Bugger. Not the end of the world though ay. Onwards and upwards to the home of the Dalai Lama; McLeodGanj! The bus wound it’s way up the hill as I pressed my greasy little face against the window, taking in the stunning scenery, aaaaaand gridlock. Oh. Well. I’m sure it’d get through eventually, right?
Nope. Apparently this is peak holiday season for foreign backpackers and Punjabi tourists visiting the region because the heat on the plains was starting to make everyone sweat in an unpleasant manner. Traffic literally couldn’t move either way. Vehicles moving up the hill had managed to block vehicles moving down the hill and no fucker was going anywhere anytime soon. Without the benefit of Maps.me I had no idea how far up the hill we were or how long I’d have to walk for, but most people were starting to get off the bus. Fuck it. It seemed my current choices were walk up the hill and sod the distance, I could do with walking off the several packets of Lays I’d consumed at the three bus stations I’d visited that day anyway, or spend what would probably feel like the rest of my life on this fucking bus staring at the same tree. I sighed, strapped on my bags and began the walk which was harder than it sounds. Weaving through tuk tuks, cars, buses and motorcycles whose drivers seemed to have no concept of lanes is pretty tight. Turns out we weren’t that far away anyway so I found a cafe with WiFi, booted up Facebook and located Jess (of Cherrapunji fame) and her friend, Theo.
Jess and Theo both wanted to do some manner of yoga course here and I said I was up for it despite the fact the couple of times I’ve done it at home it just hurt lots and bored me a little bit, because in about ten years time when I’m a hippy meditating in my van that I live in in a field whilst wearing my flowy purple trousers I got from Oxfam, I will bitterly regret not doing any yoga in India. The issue being there are about a million yogis here in McLeod Ganj and it turned out that MG is not the chilled out paradise you’re lead to believe. I thought it’d be this funky little hippy place but in reality it’s a hectic tourist hell hole in permanent gridlock. Dharamkot and Bhagsu however, now they’re how I thought McLeod Ganj would be. Little, laid back cafes, cool little guesthouses. So tomorrow we’ll be dragging our bags the 20 minutes up the hill in order to relocate somewhere with macrame classes, wood carving workshops and a thousand different types of yoga/ways to cause yourself physical pain, but first we figured we’d find a place here to contort our bodies into shapes I wasn’t sure my skeleton would approve of. Universal Yoga Centre is well known and popular. We signed up for a drop in session there because it was at a reasonable hour, for all levels, and didn’t require any manner of pre-breakfast functioning.
So I learned a few things today. I learned that you can intone “Om” out of tune. I didn’t think it was possible but I totes managed it today. I also learned that Hatha Flow (basically a combination of Hatha and Vinyasa) yoga fucking hurts! It’s more like a fucking workout than the relaxed stretching I was expecting. I also learned that I can’t do deep breathing and yoga at the same time. I can do one or I can do the other. I cannot do both. Throughout the whole thing he was telling us to hold poses and breathe deeply and all of my basic motor functions went, “Fuck you! Choose one!” Several times we were holding poses that made me shake with effort and he’d say, “If you’re still comfortable…” then proceed to suggest some further form of systematic torture. Comfortable? Still fucking comfortable?? How can anyone still be comfortable when all of their muscles are begging for mercy?? Who the actual fuck is comfortable right now?! And the coordination involved was actually quite intense, it was like trying to follow Ikea instructions without the correct allen key. He kept telling us to “look towards the departing spirit.” What does that even mean? What?! Look up? Look down? Closely study your own genitals for a moment? I don’t understand! At one point I had no idea what twisty type things were meant to be happening but I got butt cramp. Is that meant to happen? Is butt cramp an integral part of yoga? Is this a thing? If it’s a thing then you can keep it, and just when I thought I was about to die he got us to move into the plank position. The plank? Are you shitting me?! And it turned out that whatever core muscles I thought I had when I left the UK had been systematically replaced with samosas and momos over the last eight months. I held the pose in 10 second bursts and promised my stomach I’d reward it with chowmein and beer at the earliest opportunity. And finally. The final poses. Apparently this is meant to be a hand stand, or a head stand, whatever you’re comfortable with. No. Absolutely not. Jessica and Theo were both rocking the head stands but my final pose will basically involve me lying on the floor and trying not to cry. I mean, yoga is an incredibly spiritual thing. It’s what the yogis do to prepare their body for meditation. At this point I felt about as spiritual as a spanner.