Sunday, June 22, 2008

Adventures in India: Gravestones in the Himalaya

Well I definitely have a cold now, but it isn't too bad. The sore throat is gone, and now I'm blowing my nose. I hope it won't turn into two weeks of coughing like it usually does. I figure that I would probably have a cold anyway if I was back home, and I seem to get one on every trip. I'm still suffering from jet lag even though I am sleeping better. I still want to go to bed in the afternoon and get up in the middle of the night. The cooler air has really helped, but unfortunately my immune system was probably down.

The train was a 2nd class reserved sleeping car. It first glance it looked pretty gross and decrepit, but it was actually quite clean and was just fine. It just doesn't look brand new like everything in the US. Three bunks on each side of a compartment with a 2" foam pad. Everything else is painted metal. The compartments are not enclosed, so theft is a problem. I locked my bags to the railing and slept with my head against them. I have heard stories of bag snatching on trains from people who have traveled here a long time. It was comfortable and quiet, but I still didn't sleep. The train ride took about 11 hours, plus a taxi ride before and a bus ride after for a total of about 17 hours of travel. It definitely takes a while to move around here - probably the biggest hassle. I am not going to be able to see as much as I would like.

Took it easy today and hung around Mussoorie. Had spicy curried stuffed potatoes for lunch. It cleared up yesterday afternoon and it is sunny and warm with blue skies today. The mountain backdrop is stunning. I've never seen anything like it. The town is at the top of a peak looking over two very steep lush green valleys. I just had to stare for a while when the clouds first parted. Outstanding!

Mussoorie is a very charming town. It really is about perfect. It has all the amenities, but little congestion or touts; beautiful, serene and peaceful. Maybe not as fun as a bigger tourist town, but well worth a relaxing stay.

The best part is a 2 1/2-mile walkway that leads around the town and overlooks the valley. It is gravel with a railing, and is well maintained. No vehicles! It's just for walking and they rent ponies. I couldn't imagine a better place for a walk. Who says India has to be intense and hectic? It passes an overgrown but beautiful cemetery from the English colonial days. The weathered Christian tombstones lie in a pine forest on the side of the mountain, overlooking the Dun valley - a somber reminder of India's tumultuous colonial era. I could only imagine the stories behind each grave. I handed out baseball cards to a group of boys playing cricket in front of the cemetery. They were very friendly and practiced their English by asking me lots of questions.

I will head to Rishikesh tomorrow by bus. Hopefully, I'll be able to go trekking soon. I should be able to write for the next few days.

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