Shangri-Hah! [Hall of Infamy]


Here, I can be at peace with the Universe!

Here, I can finally be at peace with the Universe.

Here’s another classic narcotouristic misadventure by our friend Kevin Fedarko, in which he travels to a remote hell-hole in the Indian Himalayas called Malana renowned for its potent local vegetation and “good vibes”. Enjoy! — CDB

During any extended rainstorm in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas—the kind of biblical-grade deluge that pounds so hard and so long that the sky itself seems saturated with despair—you eventually reach a point where your wheels, both real and metaphysical, start to come off. Your parka suffers catastrophic failure. Your skin takes on the color of uncooked tripe. And the molecules of your brain seem to liquefy, slide down your spine, and collect at your tailbone in a pool of ooze.

I call this the I’d-Rather-Be-Dead Moment.

My five companions and I weren’t sure when exactly we’d hit this point. It may have been during our wretched struggle up the 12,000-foot pass—an ordeal that took most of a late winter’s week to complete. Or maybe it was on our hellish descent down a 45-degree avalanche chute on the pass’s opposite side. Or perhaps it had crept up on us amid the tempest of hail laced with snow peppered with freezing rain that we’d endured the previous night…

Yeah, it was probably then.

In any event, our pod of unlikely traveling companions—a Hindu guide, two porters (one from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the other a Nepali), an Israeli army veteran, a half-Japanese/half-Irish photographer, and me—had penetrated a torpid realm of misery by the time we finally achieved our destination: Malana, a collection of leaky cottages in a cheerless alpine valley that exuded all the warmth and appeal of a wet sock. Though no one said a word, I could sense my friends’ thoughts plainly enough: Wow. What a shithole.

Clearly, the situation called for strong medicine—a reminder of the luminous vision that had driven us over the pass to begin with. “So, Raja,” I inquired, turning to the Himachal half of our porter duo, “where’s the hashish this place is so famous for?”

“Why, here is the charas,” Raja replied, invoking the Hindi term for the strain of hand-rubbed Cannabis indica that supposedly qualified this hidden Shangri-La as earth’s ultimate stoner paradise. He pointed vaguely in the direction of a field full of dead plants and half-frozen dirt clods.

“Over there is the charas,” Raja continued, flapping his hands toward a terraced hill on the far side of the settlement’s main thoroughfare—a gutter, really—that looked to be awash in a turgid broth of cow and sheep turds, litter, and gelatinized mud.

“Everywhere is the charas!” Raja declared, flinging out his arms. “This is the Valley of the charas, and they are growing too much charas here!”

Raja’s rekindled enthusiasm only hinted at the reverence this village evokes among cannabis connoisseurs, who whisper its name in hushed tones wherever potheads huddle.

“And have you tried this charas?” I asked.

“Oh, yes, many times.”

“Did you like the charas?”

“Oh, yes, I am liking it too much! Perhaps tonight we will smoke some?”

Let me pause here to state that I normally don’t condone hallucinogens and, like any law-abiding square, I play by the rules. 

But right then? 

Right then I’d have shot my own dog to get the damn charas.



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