Back from six months travelling around South America and India, my brother sat in Café Rouge for his welcome home supper relaying his adventures. He spoke of glaciers in Patagonia, steak in Buenos Aires, a cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, a Hindu burial in Varanasi and of what he deemed to be the most terrifying experience of his life – a mini-bus journey from Manali to Leh through the Himalayas. I was hooked.
Three weeks later I was on a plane to Mumbai and a month after that I was in Manali putting down my deposit for the same mini-bus journey. The thing about my brother is: he’s a bit of a hypochondriac – he frightens easily and then has a tendency to warp situations to explain his overreactions. ‘His straps were lose and he nearly fell out’ – that’s why he cried on Oblivion at Alton Towers, ‘the moth was the size of a bat, had fangs and went for his face’ – that’s why he squealed and hid behind a sofa for an hour in France.
So, as my alarm sounded at one a.m. and I trudged through the streets of Old Manali to meet the mini-bus, I wasn’t expecting the 22 hours of near death experiences he promised – I was expecting a beautiful journey through the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. I would get both.