Sunday, June 22, 2008

Adventures in India: Thunder and Lightning

If you're wondering how I can send and receive e-mail in India, here's how it works: shady looking guys with turbans come up to you in the street and say "Sir, you need money, girls, booze, or... Internet?" Actually, very professional Internet cafes are everywhere. I didn't think that I would find one in this town (Mussoorie), as it's quite a ways up in the mountains, but they seem to be everywhere. There's no escaping it. It's very clean place that serves drinks and snacks with classic rock on the stereo; Hotel California is now playing - will this hell never end?

The taxi ride to the train station yesterday was completely out of control. Imagine two full lanes (each) of cars, trucks, bikes, push-carts, taxis, pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, and animals - then cram them all into the same two lane road. Now imagine everyone trying to go as fast as possible, honking their horns, continuously changing lanes, and trying to squeeze ahead of everyone else. No one seems to obey the stoplights and it's every vehicle for themselves. I was more surreal than frightening. We even passed someone riding a huge elephant down this busy street (at least I think that is what I saw; I could have been hallucinating from the fumes). Travelling like this in the dark of night, it seems more like a waking dream than reality. I hopefully shouldn't have to do this sort of thing very often.

The train station was a bit scary at first (especially after that ride), but it was really very safe. Lots of regular Indians and families travelling. The electricity went out a couple times while I was waiting for the train. That was kind of eerie. But I caught the train without a problem. I shared a sleeping compartment with Simon and Peter from England, an Indian couple, and an older Indian man. Had a great time talking to everyone. At 10:00, we folded down the bunk beds and climbed in. I didn't sleep all night (I've still had no more than an hour of sleep so far). We drank hot chai in the morning. Chai is a thick tea made with lots of cream and sugar. It tastes more like hot-chocolate than tea. Very refreshing. The chai-wallahs walk up and down the platforms shouting "Chai, Chai," and hand small cups (made by mixing red sand with water and drying in the sun) of piping-hot chai through the train windows. Each cup is 2 rupees, or about 5 cents. The cups are thrown out the window when the chai is gone.

About 9:00 in the morning (two hours late), I got off in Dehra Dun and caught the next bus to Mussoorie. I met two Indian teenagers who were going to a soccer tournament in Mussoorie. They were very nice and happy to talk to me. I gave them some of my soccer cards that I brought from home. It took a while to get them to understand that I was just giving the cards to them. But man, were they happy. "You are a good man," they said. They wanted me to come and stay with the team at their hotel.

At noon (still no breakfast) I got in to town. I got lost, and it took a while to find the hotel, but it was worth it. Finally, a huge room with a king sized bed, my own bath, desk, mirror, chair, and shelves. All for about $2 per night. No shower, but they deliver buckets of steaming hot water upon request. It is chilly up here (2000m) and fog rolled through town as I arrived. Mussoorie clings to a steep mountain side, and you seem to look straight down into a lush green valley. This town is very popular with Indian tourists, especially newlyweds on their honeymoon. The fog soon became so thick that nothing could be seen. When it is clear, you can see a ring of snow capped mountains surrounding the valley.

I got some lunch (an excellent and tasty meal of dal and bread, with yogurt), and slept until 7:30 at night (finally). I had some dinner at the hotel (an omelet) and slept most of the night.

Today, I was planning to hike on paths in the valley near the town, but it is pouring rain. Unfortunately, the cool temps and the rain has given me a cold. I talked all morning with a guy from Holland who is also looking to go further up in the mountains, but must wait for the rain to end. If it clears up tomorrow and I'm feeling better, then we will go together. If not, I might go to another town for a few days before trying again. The monsoon was a month late this year, so it will still rain off and on for the next couple weeks (bad luck for us trekkers).

There may be Internet cafes further up in the mountains, but possibly not. If I head up for a trek tomorrow, it might be a few days before I can write.

You would really love the food. It is really good. I've had all vegetarian food so far. I think it is too chaotic for you though. I'm sure you could handle it, but you might not really enjoy it. Nepal sounds much better.

I miss you and kitty real much! Almost a week already! It will go fast. Love you and talk to you soon.

No comments: