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  • Louisa

Yak Pack United

On Monday morning, at 6am, the two halves of the Yak Pack were united in Chandigagh. We are sharing the journey to Manali together, finally heading for those distant hills we can see on the horizon. It was so exciting to meet up here, and it feels as if the Project is coming alive now! We hugged each other and bundled onto the bus, bagging seats and swapping stories of our journeys so far.

Watch a clip on our facebook page:

We’ve hired a 12-seater minibus which is a slightly bigger version of the 9-seater taking us to Spiti later this week. Our combined luggage was stuffed into the back….it’s starting to reach an unwieldy crescendo as it now includes 2 collapsible garment rails, a drum, and a box of beautifully printed resource packs. They read in Hindi one way, or turn it over for the English version.

The journey took 13 hours in total, including a pause for a mechanic to checkout some unspecified problem (they promised it wasn’t the brakes), various road-works and diversions, numerous pee-breaks and food stops. At one mountain road we were stopped by a rope across the road whilst a bulldozer broke off chunks of the cliff above to tumble down onto the road, to be scraped into the river below by a waiting tractor. Luckily what our driver called an ‘unlimited delay’ turned out to be only about half an hour.

The driver let us plug into his speakers so we blasted out our Yak Pack playlist for the whole journey - we have all contributed 10 songs to the playlist so it’s quite an eclectic mixture (!!!). Alfs musical choices, based around Russian thrash metal aren’t to be found on the likes of Spotify, so we paused the playlist for Alfie music time after lunch….quite an experience!

As we climbed up through the Kullu Valley towards Manali, we slowed right down to weave though huge boulders and mud piled up on the road. This area suffered a monsoon cloudburst a week ago, triggering landslides which washed away 6 cars, thankfully no lives lost according the (rather scary) reports on national TV. The steep hillside had deep gouges clawed down through the trees and undergrowth, where rivers of mud and rocks had carved ravines. It must have been terrifying to live in one of the houses on the hillside or be driving along the road at the time. The road is open again but it’s obvious that the considerable damage will take a long time to repair.

On reaching Manali we learnt that our bus was too big to make it up the narrow twisting lane to Old Manali where we’re staying. We de-bussed into a convoy of tuk-tuks for the final leg, backpacks and instruments and Yak Packers squeezed in for the final mile, so loaded up that as the lane wound steeply uphill it felt like the tuk-tuks would topple over backwards like up-ended beetles, wheels in the sky and engines still wailing.

As our tuk-tuk convoy arrived in Old Manali, we passed a beautiful white yak at the side of the road. It felt like a good omen for the weeks ahead.

There is a blog on the Yak Pack website if you'd like to follow the project as it unfolds:

With love from The Yak Pack x

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