First of all, in case someone was wondering, we made it into Rajastan in one piece!
We had another amazing send-off at the bus station. Seven friends, including four monks, actually turned up to say goodbye (with the result that we got on the bus with another round of blessing scarves around our necks... The were extremely sweet- insisting on checking whether our seats were ok, and one (the who wrote us a letter) even brought us cold lemonade for the journey... And Gig (or 'Thailand' how the other monks call him), ever taking pictures, gave me a letter too- which included the advice to cover myself with a blanket if the weather got cold .
And then we were off! Leaving McLeod Ganj for good... (at least for the time being). We had some doubts about the bus before setting off. It looked fairly rickety and some workers were also using it as platform to repaint the ceiling of the bus station while it was waiting to set off- but in the end it was absolutely fine. We even managed to get some sleep once we had made it down the mountains after a couple of hours. It got a little exciting once, when about 2 hours into the journey (on a dark narrow mountain lain) smoke started rising from the front. For a moment I was worried there was a problem with the motor, but it turned out that only one of the drivers (there were five guys in the drivers cabin) had dropped his cigarette or something and one of the seats had started smoking... They had it under control within a minute and on we went. At around 10 there was a short break for supper - which was also when we saw what turned out to be the last toilet for the next 15 hours...
We made it to Delhi by 6.30 in the morning- and had to find a taxi to get us from where the bus arrived to the train station at the other end of town from where we had a train to Jaipur. The journey was fine, although we probably got ripped off a bit (but at the time we just were so glad that the guy took us to the right station without any further issues...)
The train journey went fine (except for the fact that we were pretty thirsty because we didn't want to drink anything because we still hadn't found another toilet...) With the help of a nice Indian guy we managed to get off at the right station (although we were convinced for a couple of minutes we hadn't quite understood him and missed it).
Once at the station, we called the hostel we had booked to get them to pick us up. Even before we got to make that call, the stream of rickshaw drivers (as promised by the guide book) started pouring in. They were quite friendly though- and kind of more funny than annoyingly insistent so it was ok. They're approach ran along the lines- "hello, need a cheap ride to a hotel? Ah, you're already being picked up? Ok, ok, we're friends. But just in case- if your taxi doesn't turn up, I just so happen to be a driver myself, and my rickshaw just so happens to be just over here..." Once of them even gave us his card, offering us an amazingly cheap rate if we wanted to hire him for a whole day at some point... (we might actually take him up on that, as this place had proven to be pretty big and anything but pleasant to navigate on foot...). One particularly funny guy waved at us from his motorbike- we just started laughing because that would have actually just been physically impossible with our backpacks... But he didn't give up and came driving past again - 'new bike- new people!'. Eventually he got it and left...
Our driver did eventually arrive (much to the disappointment of the ten or so guys still hovering in the background). Identifying himself, as promised in an email, with a "Pearl Palace Pink Paper" with our names on it, we set off for our first rickshaw (or "tuck tuck"- yes they really call it that) ride. Shaakir, as he is called, is a hopeless charmer ('Which place in the world is suffering right now?'- to ask where we're from). But again, it was more in a fun than annoying way, and he turned out to be a really nice guy. He's studying history and French (which bizarrely enough we ended up speaking for part of the journey...) We've hired him as our tour guide tomorrow- I'm sure he'll provide for many more fun stories. The hostel is amazing too- the staff are really friendly (but not too friendly) and our room is beautifully decorated. It even has a small cushioned corner which looks like the perfect place to read. AND there's the first clean western toilet since we've arrived in India! Oh, and there's beautiful rooftop restaurant - we're about to go there for supper in a couple of minutes. The town itself sounds extremely hectic- but I guess we'll deal with that tomorrow.