Tisa > Chamba
In our trip plan, this was an easy day - sliding "down" the foothills of the Himalaya to the regional capital Chamba, except there's no such thing as "down" around here. But, in comparison to the previous 48 hours, a nasty kick up to a sub-pass before Chamba simply made the destination more enjoyable. As ever, the hospitality of the Indian people shone through - stopping to pick up ice creams at a convenience store 10km or so from Chamba, chairs were immediately bought out for us and telephone calls made so the shop owner's daughter back home could practice her English with a Western woman - a great day all around. Bright sunshine, not-stupidly-big-hills and the promise of a hotel room and Star TV kept us all in happy mode. It was a bit strange being back in traffic after a week or so in the boonies, but after a vicious hill climb in Chamba we were able to relax with the untold luxury of an actual hotel room with a bathroom!
It sits on a large plateau-like ledge just up from the river Ravi, and part of the town extends into the hills behind, giving some steep streets. The flat area is called The Chowgan, a large, flat, green space which is the centre of community life and festivals.
After getting clean, it was great to wander around a busy town and become a tourist again. You are definitely NOT in traveller land though - the concept of streetside cafes with seats outside didn't apply in Chamba, so we went from shop to shop, stuffing our faces most of the time. All day cycling in big hills means eat what you want, so fried potato cakes with lentil and onion dip and a big box of indian sweets each, chased down with an ice cream set us up nicely for dinner. Just before closing I popped into an Internet Cafe to try and find some info on trains to and from Amritsar. The owner helped me to find exactly what I wanted, gave me some extra advice on booking trains in India, and then refused to let me pay for the Internet use - that's India for you.