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India is crazy

It’s time to play catch-up.  We have only posted twice about India since we’ve been here, and we will be departing a little more than a week from now to come home.  We are obviously excited to come home and see everyone, and we’re ready for the comforts that come with being at home.  In fact, we’re really ready for those.  But when we take a step back and think about everything, it’s really weird to think that this journey is coming to a close.  But let’s save that for another post, because we’re not home, yet, and we still have plenty to share.

India.  Oh God, India.  We started off by doing a few “easy” things (at least “easy“ as far as traveling in India goes).  Trekking and yoga.  They were both great, and while they are both tiny parts of India and what India is all about, I am afraid that we haven’t really given you an accurate depiction of what this country is really like. Before we came here, everyone we talked to who had been here before agreed on a few things, whether they loved or hated India.

“It’s crazy.”

“It’s mad.”

“It’s intense.”

“It’s unlike anywhere you have ever been.”

Crazy?  Check.  Mad?  Uh-huh.  Intense?  Yep.  Unlike anywhere we have ever been?  You betcha.  It’s actually difficult to really describe India.  Upside down crazy would be my best short description.  But since I’m, well, me, I’m also going to describe it a little more, shall we say, descriptively.  Also, I’m going to let everyone know a bit of what we’ve been up to this last month in India, our last destination, and what we’ll be doing until we fly back home to St. Louis on October 8.

Just to let everyone know, we are going to devote more, longer posts to many of these, complete with photos, when we get home and have a better internet connection.  After leaving Rishikesh after the trekking and yoga, we headed back down to Delhi, the capital and probably most upside down crazy place we’ve been in India.  It’s the most intense of all India when taking into account all the wacky things about this country (all of the following wacky things occur in every city we‘ve been in, to varying degrees).

It’s really dirty.  Seriously, there’s just trash everywhere, which I frankly just haven’t gotten used to.  There’s lots of cows everywhere.  I’m talking in the middle of major roads in a city of, according to Megan, 375 jillion people (actually it’s about 14 million, but it sure seems like 375 jillion sometimes).  They like their cows here, and I truly believe, no, I don’t just believe, I know, that if me and a cow were walking down  the same street (which happens often), and a car was coming towards us, he or she would most definitely hit me before the cow.  Kinda sucks.  There are some “interesting” smells everywhere (I’m going to let you use your imagination here).  And the people, well, yeah, there’s lots of them.  And they like vying for the attention of western tourists.    All the time.

“Yes!!!  Sir, come look my shop!!”

“Sir, where you from?”

“What you looking for?”

“You need sarong?”

“You need cushions?”

“You need hash?”

“You need bedspread?”

“You need t-shirt?”

“You need water?”

“You need chai?”

“You have good Indian hair.”

I know it sounds kinda bad, and a lot of the times, it can get pretty tiresome, but sometimes it can lead to awesome experiences.  And yes, the last one is absolutely true.  In fact, I have been told, several times, by men, straight Indian men, that I have great hair or that they like my hair, which is well…..kinda weird…..and, well……honestly…..kinda cool?

We didn’t stay in Delhi long, and we headed south to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, one of the coolest man made monuments we have seen, and home to the Red Fort, which was stunning in it’s own right but overshadowed by the Taj.  Unfortunately both are in one of the most wretched and horrible cities we have seen (all of which will be the topic of another post).  After Agra was Rajasthan, a state in India where we initially planned on spending most of the rest of our time.  Rajasthan draws the most tourists in India, both Indian and western.  Which has its upsides and downsides.  While we really liked one of the places (Jodhpur–where one of the coolest experiences we’ve had on the trip occurred–another topic for its own post), we also really disliked one (Jaipur, just ugh, not a good  place–maybe a topic for its own post), and we were a bit ambivalent towards another (Udaipur–we liked it, it was nice, the people were fine, we took an awesome cooking class there, but it was just kind of “meh”).

With only a matter of weeks left in the trip, we were torn on what to do.  We liked India, but I have to admit, its chaos was taking its toll on us.  In hindsight, and if we had to do it over, we probably would have not saved India until last.  We are just kind of exhausted from traveling.  I know it sounds weird saying traveling can be exhausting, but trust me, after this long on the road, everything that goes wrong just seems magnified.  We know how to deal with it, but we’re sick of dealing with it.  And saying that things go wrong or traveling can be difficult in India is a vast understatement.

Looking back on many of our experiences here can actually be quite funny because it’s just so weird here.  We have both said, on many occasions, that it seems like it’s always “Backwards Day” here in India.  And logic, as we know it, forget about it.  India makes the DMV a worry free, smooth running machine.  Take this encounter at the Jodhpur bus station for example:

Megan and I, going up to the “Enquiries” counter at the bus station:  “Hello, we want tickets to Udaipur.”

Attendant:  “Yes.”

Us:  “We want to go tomorrow.”

Him:  “Yes.”

Us:  “What time do buses go.”

Him:  “5:30”

Us:  “5:30?”

Him:  “Yes.”

Us:  “Any other times?”

Him:  “Yes,  7, and 8, and 9, and 10:30, and 1, and 2, and 3.”

Us:  “Great, can we get tickets for the 8 o’clock bus.”

Him:  “Yes.”

Us:  “Here?”

Him: At this point he points over to a building across the parking lot and says,

“Advance booking over there.”

Us:  “Over there, in that building over there”  We point.  He nods.

We walk over there and go to the one window that someone is standing behind.  He’s counting money, with two glasses of chai on his desk in front of him.  We walk up and stand there, and he completely ignores us and continues counting his money.  I walk to a different window and finally Megan gets his attention after saying “Hello” a few times.

Megan:  “Hello, we need tickets to Udaipur at 8 tomorrow morning.”

Him:  “Chai?”

Megan (bewildered):  “No, no, I couldn’t possibly.”

Him:  “Chai?”

Megan (guessing that she wouldn’t get an answer to her question until she accepted his chai, accepts his chai):  “Thank you.  We’re trying to get to Udaipur tomorrow morning at 8.  Can we buy tickets here?”

Him:  “No, over there.”  He points back across the parking lot in the vicinity of three buildings, one of which is the building we came from  “New building.”

Us, to each other:  “None of those three buildings look new.”

Us, to him:  “Thanks”

We take the chai and walk back across to the first building we were at.  We go to another window, not the “Enquiries” window.

Us:  “Hello, we’re trying to get to Udaipur tomorrow morning.”

Attendant:  “You need to go to the window down there.”  He points to a window at the other end of the building, right next to the very first window, “Enquiries”.  So we go there.

Us:  “Hello, we’re trying to go to Udaipur tomorrow at 8.”

Attendant:  “You need to go next door, to that window.”  He points at the “Enquiries” window, of course.

We knew that was going to be the case, so we go next door, to the very first guy we talked to.

Us:  “Hello, we want to go to Udaipur tomorrow at 8, and the guy next door said we need to talk to you about purchasing tickets.”

Him (mind you, the first guy we talked to, only about 10 minutes prior to this):  You can only buy advance tickets to the 5:30 bus.  If you want to go on the 8 bus, come here at 7:30 tomorrow morning.  You can buy tickets then.”

Us (shaking our heads in disbelief, muttering):  “Thanks.”
We walk away, me throwing out a few choice words while just shaking my head back and forth, Megan just kind of chuckling.  And that’s the best description of this crazy ass country that I can give.  As I said, it can be quite maddening here.  And while I wasn’t exactly having the time of my life during the above ordeal, I was laughing at it shortly afterwards as we were recounting to each other and then shaking our heads while saying, “India.”  That one word has been our explanation for many things over the course of this past month.  Or it’s variation, “It’s India.”

So we decided that we wanted to make the best of the rest of our time here.  We had many more places to see and things we had in mind, but we (me, in particular) were just kind of done being tourists and seeing touristy things.  So we thought long and hard about it, and we decided to head down to Goa, India’s most popular beach area, for the last two weeks of our trip.

And that’s where we’ve been for the past week, and where we’ll be for the next week.  It’s still India, but it’s India light.  Still crazy, still mad, still intense, and still unlike any other place we’ve been, but just on a lighter scale.  We’ve been spending our time around the pool and riding motorbikes around from town to town, mainly just relaxing and taking a vacation from the trip before we come home.  After this we have a few more days in Mumbai before flying home next Thursday.  I truly can’t believe that it’s only a little more than a week away.  It’s almost surreal to think about.  I’m not 100% sure that we will be updating anymore before we get home, but there will be lots more posts after we get back, so make sure to keep visiting even after October 8.

Until next time…

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We have now been in India for about a week and a half.  It’s an interesting place to say the least.  At times maddening and overwhelming, at times beautiful and exciting, which are exactly the emotions emitted during my recent trek in the Himalayas.

We arrived in Delhi, the insanely busy and chaotic capital of India before heading north to Rishikesh, the so-called yoga capital of the world.  Megan was excited about staying at an ashram doing yoga all day long, which isn’t really my thing, so I decided to take advantage of our proximity to the Himalayas and go on a trek.

Luckily I found Red Chilli Adventures, which I cannot say enough grea things about.  They are based in Rishikesh, and they were absolutely amazing from my first email contact to them through the trek and until the very end when we arrived back at their office.  Top notch company from top to bottom and start to finish.  I can’t recommend them enough.

So we took off last Sunday and were gone until Friday night.  I decided, for the first time in my life, that I would keep a journal on this adventure since I was by myself (there were two other men in  my group, Mike and Vick, both Americans, who were awesome; we had a fantastic time together) in my own tent and without Megan for the first time in over 10 months.  I wrote in my journal immediately after getting in the tent after each day of hiking to express my thoughts on the day, and I thought it might be cool to copy those thoughts, with plenty of pictures of course, into the next two blog posts.  I will add some “author’s notes” along the way.

Mike, Vick, and me at the beginning of the trek

Mike, Vick, and me at the beginning of the trek

Started off on the trail about noon.  The first hour or so was a really steep ascent, starting from about 2000 meters (about 6500 feet).  Lots of lush green around.  Saw the very top of my first 7000 meter peak.

You can barely see the very top right in the center of the picture.  Don't worry, there will be more to come.

You can barely see the very top right in the center of the picture. Don't worry, there will be more to come.

Very cloudy-great temperature though.  Stopped for tea and eventually entered a forest.  Came upon a small, Hindu temple and a crowd around it.  Women and children sitting off to the side dressed in brightly colored clothing.  They were very curious.  Men were off to the side cooking chapati and rice.  There was a lamb off to the side.  Found out later he was to be sacrificed, cooked, and eaten.

Small Hindu temple in the forest

Small Hindu temple in the forest

Local women and children

Local women and children

Kept walking up and out of the forest  a beautiful meadow, very much like New Zealand.  Had lunch there.  We continued going up and down, then through some shady areas.  Very muddy and slippery with long drop offs to one side.  Rained off and on; not that bad and temperature was find, so it was no big deal.

(Author’s note:  The rain did become a factor as the days went on, and it did become a big deal at times)

Hike-day 1

Hike-day 1

Another company's camp

Another company's camp

Hike-Day 1 (1)

Hike-Day 1 (2)

(Author’s note:   We had some difficulty finding our first camp because we got separated from our cook, porters, and mules.  There was a mule injury that prevented them from overtaking us and beating us to camp.  It got a little scary because it was starting to get dark and they had all the tents, food, and the bulk of our stuff.  We eventually met up and made camp elsewhere, not in the forest as originally planned.  As you will see in the pictures, it worked out to our advantage)

We set up camp somewhere else and the sun was setting and sky clearing to reveal a horizon of snow covered peaks, ribbons of clouds, and lush green grass in the foreground.  Wouldn’t have seen it if we camped in the forest like we were supposed to.

View from our camp-night 1

View from our camp-night 1

Sunset-Day 1 (1)

Sunset-Day 1 (2)

Sunset-Day 1 (3)

Sunset-Day 1 (4)

Sunset-Day 1 (5)

Sunset-Day 1 (6)

Two guys I’m with are great.  Super cool guys both working for the government in the field of geology.  Megan would love chatting with them about all the rocks.  Both are very well traveled and have tons of stories.  Should be a great few days (please Pachamama, no rain, my feet can’t take it).  “Easy” day tomorrow.  Going from 3000 to 3500 meters tomorrow.  Wednesday’s the tough one.  Up to the top of a 5000 meter peak.  Thursday back down.

Miss Meg, wish she was here with me.  Looking forward to the next few days but can’t wait to see her again Friday.

Oh yeah, I’m in the F’N HIMALAYAS right now, and that’s pretty awesome.

Day 2

Nice, leisurely morning.  Good breakfast (author’s note:  The food was AWESOME all week long; they did a fabulous job).  All after a good night’s sleep; kinda loud with dogs barking and mules’ bells ringing, but OK overall.

Started hiking at 9:30.  First part was through a forest, probably about an hour or so.  Temperature was nice; sky was very  foggy though, so we couldn’t see anything.  Once we came out of the forest, we came into a meadow and hiked up for a while until we were on a ridge.  The clouds were moving really quickly and it provided some good photos.  It was very mystical, and the scenery was literally changing by the second.  The sun would  come out and move some of the clouds away, then as quickly as that happened, it would start raining again.

We hiked on the ridge for another hour and a half or so, and it was a beautiful hike.  Lush green everywhere,  big trees, rocky outcrops as  we were nearing the tree line.  I had my ipod on, and it was a very nice, beautiful, peaceful walk.

Hike-Day 2

Hike-Day 2 (1)

Hike-Day 2 (2)

Hike-Day 2 (3)

Hike-Day 2 (4)

Hike-Day 2 (5)

Hike-Day 2 (6)

Hike-Day 2 (7)

Hike-Day 2 (8)

Hike-Day 2 (9)

This dog, whom we named Jackie, joined up with us on day 1 and followed us the entire trek, including to the summit of the mountain and all the way into town the last day.  She was awesome.

This dog, whom we named Jackie, joined up with us on day 1 and followed us the entire trek, including to the summit of the mountain and all the way into town the last day. She was awesome.

Me during hike-day 2

We stopped about ten minutes shy of where we were supposed to be  camping to wait for the mules.  We were in a nice spot, so we decided to eat lunch.  No sooner did we get everything out than it started to rain.  We ate quickly.  Mike, Vick, Bobby (our guide), and I all under Vick’s one umbrella.  Soon after the mules showed up, and we hiked the rest of the way to camp.

It was raining pretty hard as Bobby, the cook, our other guide, and porters quickly set up the “kitchen” and” dining room”.  Then suddenly the sun came out, and it stopped raining.  We scramble to get our three tents up, so we could put our packs in before it started raining again.  We made it just in time.  We have the rest of the afternoon (it’s only 2:30), but the weather is quite unpredictable, so I doubt we’ll do much.   Hopefully it clears up at some point because it’s one of, if not the prettiest place, I’ve ever camped.  If we could get some views of the peaks, it will be amazing.

Dining and kitchen tent at camp

Dining and kitchen tent at camp

Dining tent at camp

Dining tent at camp

View from camp

View from camp

Me in my tent

Me in my tent

Tomorrow’s the tough day.  Hiking up to 5000 meters (16,400 feet).  Easily higher than I have ever been.  I’m praying for good weather, but if not, what can you do?  We are in the Himalayas at the tail end of monsoon season, and we’ve been pretty damn lucky with weather on this trip.

I guess I’ll rest and read as I’m lonely, missing the wife, and there’s really not much else to do in the rain.

(Author’s note:  I’ll continue with the next two days in my next post.  We hope everyone is having a great Labor Day weekend.  We’re currently back in Delhi and leave Monday morning for Agra and the Taj Mahal before heading into th Rajasthan area.  Our time on the trip is really winding down.  For those of you who haven’t heard yet, we officially booked our flight home for October 8.  Back to St. Louis just in time for the arrival of our niece and some playoff baseball.  We are super excited and can’t wait to be back home and see everyone again.)

So until next time…

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