Friday, February 3, 2012

You Gonna Go Crazy For This


A great many days have passed since I started this journey. I am finally coming up to the end of it; a mere 9 hours remain for me in Bharat. Jordan and I will do a combination post soon as we discuss dealing with the idiosyncrasies and fervor of Indian travel. But for now, I write my last narrative:

I left you last in the clutches of Margao, Goa. We arrived in Hampi amidst a great argument between a cheating passenger and the bus fare conductor. The bus was late and packed, something we're quite accustomed with. We found the hotel Vanessa stayed at and spent a few days roaming around Hampi on rented bicycles. I was able to boulder but only for a day as a foolhardy leap around the waterfalls had given me a sore heel. I was eager to have Jordan join me in a little rock wrestling. Hampi was as pathetically touristy as Rishikesh: dry, veg, and inflated prices ruin an otherwise scenic region. No harm, however, as we vacated several days later and headed to meet Donald in Raipur. We took a series of trains, eager to return to them, booked under waitlist and RAC status, that would cause us several social agonies.

Sharing under the RAC status is one of the crucial rules not clearly explained on any Indian rail sites. It's what happens when the trains are fully booked with confirmed passengers and their corresponding berth yet still allows you to board the train and somehow share those berths with existing passengers. The conductors will designate these seats and notify you at the last minute as the charts are prepared for the trains' seating arrangements. It's all very confusing, a feeling compounded by snarky women we argued with about sharing seats. In theory, we were incorrect but enough refusals and talking to English speakers earned us a place to sleep for our 30 hour ride to Delhi.

Jordan has an explanation of our voyage in Chattisgarh with Donald written much better than I could as she delivers an ego-driven retelling of the stomach bug that was.

Lastly, Delhi, as mentioned before, is the bane of this trip. Perhaps one day I'll see it differently (like a visit to India decades later) but for now, it rests among my least favorite locations on the earth. I didn't even bother charging either of my camera batteries for the stay. We bought our gifts for family and friends on the last day, even having tea with a jeweler and weaver in their shop after adoring their wares. It was only upon Jordan's departure eve that I decided to live in IGI Airport instead of spending two days solo in Delhi. I hit up reddit to relieve myself of boredom.

In all, this trip has been worthwhile and sentimental. I feel more connected to my ideals than ever before and only when I get to practice them again at home will I truly feel integral.

Thanks for reading along with me all these months! Stay tuned for the mini-guide and be well, wherever you are.

Slogging through banana plantations, Hampi.

The slogging leads us to a clearing where water falls rest in the background, Hampi.

Carved sandstone temple, Hampi.  Inhabited by Chipmunks, Pigeons, and Macaques.

Aforementioned Macacques and modern electricity wires contrasting the ancient temple, Hampi.

Cow, tickling her rectum with a coiled tail and staring at baked goods, Hampi.

Handwashing, Hospet.

En route to Hyderabad.

One of many bellies, Raipur.

A lake few venture to visit, possibly because of the mosquito curtains, Chhatisgarh.

Bulls on parade, Chhatisgarh.

Jordan fashioning earplugs, Chhatisgarh.

Handmade earthenware, Bastar.

Dal for all, Bastar.

Red ants for sale at the market, used in Red Ant chutney, Bastar.

Forested waterway, Bastar.

I'll miss these fellows.

A fantastic waterfall, Chhatisgarh.

Jordan and the gosling, Chhatisgarh.

Thirsty cuties, Chhatisgarh.

Train fellows and victims of a marauding shoe-shiner, Delhi.

Reddit, IGI Airport.

I finally tasted a chicken burger, IGI Airport.

My holdout, IGI Airport.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Whisker Tits (Biscuit Chips)


I've got a mosquito bite on my ass. I have furiously looped hair from the humidity. The further North we move, the less I have to deal with these maddening digs into my being. We're in Goa, once home to queer hippies and the "party scene", both of which have dwindled alongside people's disposable travel incomes. We were warned about colossal expenditures in Goa but we're finding no real challenge to our budgets, though we're a good 6 Km away from any beach. After house-boating, flopping aimlessly in the Arabian Sea, and having Indians gawk at us for daring to swim on the beaches, we're venturing back towards our original inclination. Mountains, waterfalls, and hot springs await us again.

It's also well beyond the period in which I was in awe of India. I'm far less impressed with the suspenseful ambiguity and much more peeved with staleness that was imminent on such a long, now monotone journey. I've become homesick but not in relation to a single place, rather I'm fixated on our move to Albuquerque and getting back more of my familiar experiences that I can't recreate here like beer, running, and gardening. I made the mistake of counting the days down last week, like an assembly line worker staring at a watch mid-shift. I've a bit over two weeks left. I look forward to seeing everyone and getting things done.

With that said, I feel as if I have grasped my Indian adventure by this point. I've grown to love a wonderful woman in the process of dealing with a three month assault on the senses and in the most peculiar, nonsensical landscape. I feel as if most people would have been at each others windpipes, but we just grew closer. We skipped working at the farm and paying more than our daily budget in addition to our free labor. Our trip to the Solan distillery was a no-go and our stay in the town soured our memories further. I never fully established a regimented exercise schedule; the stress of being present all the time leaves little room for the constant pull of the physical. But instead, I learned new ways to eat and have less reservation about social mores being dropped amongst strangers. I found that I'm more than capable of guidebook-less backpacking, working a really simple, dependable method to get around on my own terms. I bargain really well and balance my budget even in a place where frugality isn't essential. I chucked things rather than acquired, unlike the travelers we spotted weighing down their packs with extraneous chatchkis.

We're on our way to Hampi and Raipur. Our trains are booked and we just await seating arrangements. To venture more than a thousand miles, it cost us $18. I can't praise the train and bus systems more.; they're so effective once you know the system and how to ask strangers for advice on routes. I don't see myself returning to India again but I've closure on a mysterious location which I entered without assumptions and much knowledge. I regret nothing.

Ever elusive since his presidency, Georgie now caters to tourist scum in Goa.

Meows heard deep in a brick pile.  We meowed back and forth for 10 minutes.

My friend, the trash bin animal.

Frightening looking dolls; watch them scheme bloody murder.

Sunrise in Margao.

Who thought this would make for appealing advertising?

We just drank papaya lassies so we glow.

Spent mussels underwater in Kannur.

A tamer beachside than in Alleppey, Kannur.

There are 16 people looking at us, minimum.

There are a lot of churches in the South.

Sunset and catamarans in Alleppey.

Hammerhead and Tuna, snuggling to stay warm.

Communist rally rappers, dig it?

Communist rally parade; no one seemed to know why they were in line, waving flags.

A little AZ love for y'all in Alleppey.

Rice paddy technicolors, Kerala.

A fisherman's bounty, Kerala.

My sole shot of the houseboat we cruised on, Kerala.

Underwater and under the influence of diesel byproducts, Kerala.

Felix and Noga mumbling underwater, Kerala.

A grumpy navigator, Kerala.

Moving towards tourists in stride, Fortcochin.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Same Same But Different

It's not malaria.

I bring you this update from the South. On numerous occasions, I felt the urge to write and provide the accounts of our trip but instead traveling took over as our modus operandi. I'm also getting chances to write postcards to those who requested them, although they got soaked in what was known as the “big blank” when we were in Kodaikanal.

I wanted to emphasize the grit of India after reading White Tiger but after living through the cleansing mist storms up at 6600 feet in Kodaikanal, I quickly forgot what it was to be disgusted. You see, the mountains were covered in completely opaque rain and fog for nearly two days and it suddenly became too hard to remember the filth while the world was washing us clean. And to emphasize how clean it should become, it conspired with our laundry and travel mission. We had a soaked bucket of dirty, sooty clothing for a few days, as we were too sick from that week's temporary influenza to deal with them, when clouds moved in and ruined any opportunity to dry the attire. Jordan and I were bedewed and cold for the two days before New Year's, unable to put on our then-sudsy longer layers. I'd improvised a clothesline in the toilet room but the moist, chilled air prevented anything from drying. Remarkably, the clouds dissipated in time for our ten second countdown and we spent a half hour sometime in the early morning drunkenly awing at the now seeable sky. It was as if the mist and rain of the past days had washed away the shit year I'd had and was now allowing us to proceed with a tabula rasa.

I'm not sure if it was the numbing of the Northern cold that clouded our minds enough to distract from the filth, but venturing South exposed a number of unpleasant layers we'd deal with soon. Holiday travelers had booked many of the trains we researched and previously relied upon, changing our viable transport to buses. The bumbling shit-carriages are surprisingly convenient, what with their constant departures, opportunistic rest stops, and cheap fares. We were avoiding their locomotion because we read about expensive pricing but found silly fares in place of those written in books and the web. For instance, in Pondicherry, we used a local bus to get to and from town for, wait for it... six cents a head. Longer tours ran from a buck to four. Snagging one wasn't ever really an issue except at late hours and we saved a bunch of money by not eating for long stretches, instead focusing on reading and looking out the windows.

Gone are the days of worrying about hot water heaters working and the efficiency of our woolen layers to keep us warm. Though we've stayed at higher elevations, which are a joyous anomaly in the swelter of the south, we're going to slowly acclimatize to being sticky, finding relief in cold showers. We've also tacked on a group of globetrotters, a new dynamic to our regular solo method of travel. A couple from Australia, Pete and Vanessa, were met couch-surfing in Pondicherry and later met up with us for New Year's to join us and our other new friends, Felix from Germany; and Noga and Michelle from Israel. It's festive to be in a group but coordinating for 7 people is quite cumbersome so we split up and relay travel plans to meet up. In a couple of hours, we'll be together on a houseboat, navigating the Keralan backwaters. We're eating well and sleeping well, if we can deal with the mosquitoes effectively.