Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bodhgaya


It's the journey, not the destination ...

The train ride was horrible again. As always we sat with our luggage near the washrooms because the rest of the wagon suitable for human occupation was completely over packed. We were constantly bitten by something and itching all over the place. People were staring at me again, and I had nowhere to hide. I was reading my lonely planet. I put it down, said something to Andy, turned around, and someone was already flipping through it! GRRRRR !!! I snatched it back. Give it back to me I growled, it's not yours!!! When it was time to get out, it was a war. 10s of people jumped into the still moving train, and it felt like I needed to put boxing gloves on, and punch everybody who was on my way. And it really is a war, because sometimes the train stops only for a minute at the station, and you don't have the time to wait for all the morons to get in first.
While Andy was getting the tickets, I found out where all the bites came from. My suitcase was attacked by ants, and there were literally 1000s of them running around it, and inside of it. There were big ants and small ants, and flying ants, and most of them were carrying food, and it looked like they were going into one of the pockets. It was horrible, and I had no tools and nothing to remove them with. I took the few Kleenex napkins that I had, and smashed them with it. I killed hundreds and hundreds of them, but I had to get to the source. I unzipped the pocket, and it was like out of the horror movie, a black river of ants poured out of it. They built a nest in there. You couldn't distinguish the things in the pocket, because it was all covered with a thick layer of ants. The pocket was tight, and I had to put all my hand inside of it to squish them. I tried to press on the pocket from outside as well. Then I remembered that I have a mosquito spray inside. I opened the luggage and took it out. They died in the first second the spray touched them (think how good it is on your skin. A whole living creature dies, how many cells die when you put it on your skin, and how many more die when it's absorbed into your blood, and goes through your body??!!). I then found another nest on the outside between the buckles ...
We couldn't get out of the ticket space to get to a restaurant across the street. The rickshaw drivers didn't give us any space to move, as everyone who saw us run to us and started to drag us to their rickshaw, I really lost it, and yelled at them to get the hell out of my way. We were both very tired and luckily we found very clean and cool restaurant nearby. The food was excellent, but when I ordered lemon tea; lemon tea - ok! and 5 minutes later I asked where is my lemon tea, and I got a surprised look in response ... lemon tea???? I had to hold myself from exploding again. Now it was Andy's turn to calm me down.
Back at the train station we fight through the rickshaw mob again, go to the station master to find our platform. We get into the train, and as always people talk to us and ask us where we're going. They start talking between themselves, and something doesn't seem to be right. They tell us that it's the wrong train, and pointed to another train through the open door, the train that was just moving out of the platform. There was no way of calming Andy down this time around, he just lost it. He was going on the platform shouting at people and hitting everything on the way. People jumped out of his way and some said "What's wrong with YOU?"... How many f#*#^* people do you have to ask to get on the right train???????? There is no train number/name/time/platform nothing on the ticket, how are you supposed to know?? We go to the station master, he said sorry they changed the platform. Sorry? No sorry! We have no way to get to Patna, and it means that we lose the ticket for our overnight train. He tells us to take the bus, but of course there is no bus. The way to the "bus" was again through a tuk-tuk stand, and when one guy run up Andy to take the tuk-tuk, Andy put his hand on the guy's shoulder and pushed him as hard as he could such that the guy flew back to the road where he came from. There were no other brave souls who dared to bother us after that. I was laughing watching from the back, but I was keeping my distance.
Back at the ticket office spot, we've lost our next train tickets, but we still could cancel the night train. I was watching over the luggage while Andy waited for half an hour in the line. When he finally got there, the agent gave him a cancelation form and told him to get out of the line. Nobody would wait for him to fill it out. So he comes all angry to where I was sitting, and with a shaking hand fills out the form. He goes back to the line, but thinking that he already waited his turn, he gets to the side of the line. People yell at him telling him to go to the end of the line, but he pushes his way to the window, all the hands are at him trying to push him away, but he wrestles with them, and 5 minutes later he gets to the agent who just gives him the money back and says "Next". Andy: no, no. I need the same tickets for tomorrow. The agent just looks at him and does nothing. Andy storms back, and he was like an enraged bull, he was seeing all red, and if he had a weapon of any kind with him, I swear he would've killed someone. I understand, but not really at the same time his reaction. Yes, we've missed the train, and yes the agent is an a$$hole, but this is India, and this is travelling, anything can happen, and besides we were contemplating on staying in Bodhgaya anyway for a day. I couldn't send him back there. I took the form and went to the agent, again from the side. The guys (it's all guys) were telling me to go to the back, I said that we already waited in line and besides I'm a girl, I can go without a queue, and I remembered what they have told me many times themselves. I'm a guest in their country so I have the right of way. But they have been waiting in this queue forever, it seems that this agent is working like a snail. Ok they told me, if you're a girl, it's 1 girl for 3 men, so 1, 2, 3, and then you. No, I don't think so I say, and I shoved the form with the money through the little hole when the guy who just got his tickets got out. I had a better positional advantage from the side, and I took it! Ha! I wonder how you feel now!!! How many times did I have to fight them when they did the same thing? I'm learning, and I'm learning fast!
On our tuk-tuk drive to the hotel, the driver asked us if we have reservations. I said no. Andy asked me, "Why does he care?", I said because he'll take us to a different hotel (either friends or relatives or somewhere where he'll get commission) ... and yep, he did. The hotel was nice, but it was very very hot, and AC rooms were crazy prices. I didn't sleep the whole night, and I must have taken 10 showers to cool myself down.
In the morning I woke up sick :( We also woke up early to sight see before it got too hot. But when I opened my suitcase, I discovered another ant nest in between my cloths. Aaaghhhhhhh!!!! And it was much harder to get rid of them like that. I took my cloths to the bathroom, and tried to spray them again. In the result, I was bitten all over my body with ant bites, and I ruined a few cloths with the spray. But I think I got rid of all of them, and the ant nightmare was over.
The town was small, and it was easy to get around by foot. The problem was, that it was one of the hottest places we've ever been at. We drank liters upon litters of water, and absolutely nothing was coming out. We could've gone the whole day without going to the washroom once.
This IS the place where Buddha got enlightened under the tree, and it's one of the most sacred places for Buddhists. The main temple where the tree is (well, the actual tree is in Sri Lanka, and they moved a branch of the real tree to its original place) is very nice and different from all the other temples we've seen. There are a bunch of bells and small stupas, people meditating, but most importantly it's clean and quiet! It's also free, and it's a world heritage site. Buddhists don't charge money to enter temples ... and I don't think anybody should. It's sooo hot !! I haven't sweat that much in my life. I looked like I just stepped out of the shower with all my clothes on. The sweat was dripping off my nose and ears and chin. I couldn't even wipe it with the pants or a shirt because they were soaking wet. And even though we didn't need to, we went to an internet cafe for 2 hours with a nice cool fan. We then did a circle around the street that seemed to have every monastery around the world. There was Thai and Chinese and Japanese ... some more, but I don't know what country they belonged too. Inside, on some images, the women are portrayed as evil. There is this Buddha sitting, and a holy circle around him past which nobody can pass. There are demons that try to attack him, and there are women who try to seduce him. A few of the Buddha images are shown like meditating skeletons. They meditate so long, that it looks like they starve themselves to death, but they don't feel the pain or hunger, and they die peacefully.
Back at the station, things don't seem to be that bad. We got tickets quickly, ate at the same very good restaurant and got to the RIGHT train. We went back to the station master, and I asked him which platform. He said that it's not yet confirmed. I said that I'm not leaving his office until he tells me 100% where to go. He made a few phone calls and gave me the platform. Apparently there is a choice between 4 platforms, and before the train comes, there is an announcement ... in Hindi of course! It was funny how we were the only ones waiting at the empty platform. Then an announcement came and thousands of people jumped down on the tracks to cross them.
When the train stopped at the station, we were frozen at our feet watching what was happening. 10s of people were jumping in each door, they were elbowing each other, punching each other, grabbing at shirts and pulling each other out to get into the train first. People on the train didn't even have a chance to get out yet, and I saw one man furious like a caged animal pushing his way through the mob. One guy just jumped on the train, and the next second he was shoved so hard back that he flew to the platform concrete. It was like a scene out of a movie when a group of people were roaming in the jungle for a week without food or water, and then somehow magically were given enough food for only quarter of them, they would kill each other to get that piece of chicken! We couldn't even attempt to board the train with the luggage, we only had to wait until everybody else got in. There wasn't any space at all. We were all jammed there like a bunch of sardines if not worse. Then a hand came in grabbing my arm. I couldn't even see where the person who this hand belonged to was. "Come here! Come come quick! There is a seat for you!". I left Andy with the luggage ... (poor Andy), and went to share a bench too small for 2 people with 2 other people. I had maybe enough space for one of my butt cheeks and it was hard to balance without stepping on someone on the isle. I couldn’t change position or stretch, and my body felt like needles were piercing through it, and then it went numb. Nevertheless, it was much much better than standing for long, horrible 3.5 hours!
Our waiting list tickets for the night train didn't get confirmed :( I went to the TTE (the important guy in a black coat) and asked him to confirm it. He shook his head. So sorry madam, the train is overfilled. We went to a cabin that seemed to have the least amount of people and sat at a random bench. The guys who occupied these seats obviously started talking to us and when they found out that we don't have seats, they offered me one of their beds, while 2 of them cramped into 1 bed. I tried to object but they wouldn't listen. No, no, no, this is not our culture. You have the bed!
Andy on the other hand slept on the aisle. I wouldn't call it sleeping. In the morning he told me that a bottle from an upper bunk fell on his head, he was stepped on throughout the night sometimes with urine covered shoes and someone threw up on him ... wasn't very fun night.
In the morning 3 transvestites came. They loudly clap their hands together and present their open palm to the passenger faces. People in fear scramble through their pockets trying to find some change. People across from me, gave them 10 rps each! Then more transvestites came. They clapped their hands, but the guy was sitting there frozen. The transvestite run his hand through the hair, and petted him on the shoulder and his thigh. The man was sweating cold sweat. He finally admitted that he has no small change, that he gave it to the other transvestite. No problem, they have change. So he gave them 100, and got 90 back :) When the transvestite clapped his hands near my face, I just laughed at him and waved him off. We had so much bad luck in the last 48 hours that I don't think it could get any worse! :)
When we arrived at the station, they charged a stupid price for the jeep. We knew it isn't the right price, and took a tuk-tu to nearby town where the normal jeeps will leave from. There is no information anywhere. Nobody is helping us at all, everybody we talk to give us different information. We go to places where people point their fingers at only to be pointed a finger in the direction we just came from. There should be a bus. We went to a bus station, and just got a response, "no bus" that's it, no alternative options, no nothing. We found 3 more backpackers, and were standing on the road for an hour waiting for I don't know what. I got tired of waiting, and after hearing a few more rumors about the bus, I went back to the bus station again to get a response "no bus", but thankfully there was a guy standing right there who overheard me, and took me to a location where the jeeps leave from. Finally!! But why are there no signs and nobody knows where the jeeps are?? I waited in line, but when it was my turn at the ticket counter, the agent told me that there are no more jeeps for Darjeeling (the next place we were going to). He didn't give me a ticket, and told me to sit and wait. We wait, but what are we waiting for???? Why is he not telling me anything?? I was thinking, and I was thinking right, that there are no more jeeps going to Darjeeling that day. I sent Andy to buy the tickets, and I told him, do not leave the counter until he got the tickets! There is another town in between, so if anything buy tickets to go there. He returned with 2 tickets. The ride wasn't bad, we changed 2 jeeps but we were finally there. We arrived at the dark in Darjeeling.
(There will be a separate blog on Darjeeling ... I just want to finish the hell part of the journey)
It took us half an hour with heavy bags in thin air to get from the non touristic jeep parking area, to the very touristic area which is all the way up hill taking 100s of steps to get there. All the hotels were full, and we were walking back and forth in the starting rain to find just about anything. We finally found 1 room, it was pricey, but it was the best bed and blanket and pillow ever! And it was very refreshing to wrap myself in a duvet blanket, after the oven hot Bodhgaya ... and all the previous weeks combined.
This is the dirtiest I've ever felt in my life. Imagine sweating and being wet all day long with all the dirt and dust getting glued to you. If you scratch your face or your arm, all the fingernails turn completely black. Some people walk with constantly black fingernails, but even though I can't get the dirt off from my feet, I clean my fingernails every time I take a shower, and I take many showers every day. We checked out of the hotel early in the morning, and went through a dirty and sweaty day, followed by a dirty train station, followed by 10s of equally if not more dirty and sweating people brushing against us on the train, followed by a dirty bed at the train and 2 dirty jeep rides. The cloths didn't resemble their original color at all, and I felt disgusted and disgusting! I couldn't wait to take a shower and maybe burn my cloths, but the water was still freezing and it needed at least half an hour to warm up. There was no time to wait, as we had to find something to eat. But when he hit the streets, and it was already after 9, we found out that all the restaurants close at 9, and nobody let us in. We were starving! The last time we ate was at 5pm the day before. I know how to deal with hunger pretty well. I know that from the moment I start to feel hungry, it will get worse for a few hours ... maybe 3, but then the hunger will go away. I think the brain gets the message! There won't be any food for a while now, so stop bothering me!
We found one posh restaurant that was half open. They didn’t let us in, by they agreed to make the food to go. The food wasn't good though, and the portions were small :(
Next day Andy and me that a huge fight. We both snapped, we both did things we regretted doing, we both spent the day pissed off and separate from each other. When I came back to the hotel at night, Andy informed me that he will be moving to a different hotel the next day. We continued to read quietly, testing each others stubbornness. We travelled for almost a month together, and even though I was still mad at him, we had good times together, he's a good person, and it's not a nice way to say goodbye. I came over and apologized, and just like there was a cue, we both started crying. In the last 3 days we've been through hell and back and we need each other’s support more than anything else. I told him that it's difficult because not knowing anything about each other, we spend all the time together, every minute of every day, and we travel through probably the most difficult country in the world. We have to know how to deal with what India throws at us, and we have to know how to deal with each other, how to manage our mood swings, and differences of opinions. He said, and he's right, that because of it we have to be even stronger and fight India together, and not it ripping us apart. We promised each other to be nicer from now on, and it worked. We started to get along much better. Of course we still had mild irritations and days apart followed by "GGRRRRRRR", but there were no doors slammed, and we knew that everything will be fine in the evening.
We went to have dinner in a Tibetan restaurant. Back at the hotel Andy started getting sick, I don't know what it was, food poisoning, or reaction to high altitude, but he got really sick. Most of the time in Darjeeling he spent lying in a crunched position in the bed. His condition was ranging between bad and worst with occasional "happy" moments in between when he could get out of bed, and have something small to eat. Cloths were hanging off of him, sometimes he looked as white as a ghost, and it started hurting him to ride on jeeps/buses/trains because there was no fat left on him to cushion his butt. He lost about 10kgs. He was sick on and off for a month.
Now if that wasn't a curse, I don't know what it was.

I found 2 links of youtube that show train rides. Of course they never seem as bad as they actually are. And boarding the train link doesn't even stand in comparison to how we boarded it in Bodhgaya.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Utb2AgvNx0E - boarding the train

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usrHJMWoERY - riding in general class

pix are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Bodhgaya

7 comments:

  1. I get goosebumps just thinking about the helljourney.

    May we never get cursed again!

    Andy

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  2. Another great blog.
    Thanks Yana

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  3. Ant nests-so disgusting. how did you manage.. i mean emotionally?

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    1. Ants nests were definitely nerve-raking, especially that I had nothing to remove them with. but i've been through so much, and so many cockroaches landing on me, that of course it's still hard, but i know that i can do it.
      The thing is also, is that there is nobody to ask for help most of the time. So there is no choice, I have to do it on my own!
      Yana

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    2. You have overcome so many thing since you started backpacking. good for you. you have a lot of strengths! I would not be able to do it.

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  4. Very interesting, as always! Did you find the source for the ants? Were you carrying food in the suitcase? How do Indian transvestites look like?:) Maybe like evnux?
    Larisa

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  5. Я даже не хочу комментировать на блог: нормальных слов у меня нет, а грубые ты не любишь:)
    и зачем ты мне говорила читать шантарам? никакие книги не описывают Индию так, как ты.

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