On our way to town I was carrying a bag of bananas that served as snacks on an overnight train. I saw a monkey uh-uh-ah-ah-ing and climbing down the roof in my direction. I knew it was for me, there was no point of running away or hiding in the nearby garbage dump, so I threw the bag at it. There, hope you're happy!
After sleeping till 1 to balance out the sleepless night train, we sat out for a walk of Rishikesh. Our friends recommended us this guest house, but it was in the middle of nowhere. It's a 20 minute walk till the nearest restaurant, and the variety of all 4 restaurants in the area was just mind boggling.
Otherwise, Rishikesh is a very nice spiritual town, with too many Sadhus to count, it's surprisingly hassle free, it's green and clean, and was a good place to spend the majority of time that was left for me in India. This is also the place where most of the ashrams are, as Rishikesh is the world's capital of yoga, but when I got there, I wasn't sure that I was up for it. I always imagined an ashram somewhere in a surreal and remote location surrounded by a jungle, where the only sounds that disturb your peace are the chirping crickets, and not the endless convoy of beeping jeeps too big to pass in these small streets. For lunch we went to a dirty but very good local Ganesh restaurant, sitting through the meal drenched in sweat since the electricity went off again, but during dinner we compensated going to a nice Italian restaurant where I had a French soup and wished I had a sweater to warm me up in the arctic cold AC dining room. Strange enough, the dirty local Indian joints and the very nicely decorated Western style restaurants, almost have the same price, well maybe only 20% more, but 100% more worth it!
I'm at a yoga capital, and I made Andy go to a yoga class with me, with supposedly one of the best instructors ever! The class was ok, I would say more basic than the most basic yoga I ever took before, but at least with every pose, he went from student to student fixing their postures. At the end he gave us a philosophical talk on going back to life in nature, and we were let go with ideas on re-evaluating our life priorities. This yoga was not for me, and I found another studio, but I got there in a wrong time, and the only option I had was to take a private lesson which I gladly took for $4/1.5 hours. The instructor looked kinda bored and disinterested, and I gave up on my spirituality pursuit of Rishikesh.
We move! I know that Andy doesn't mind where we stay, but I do, and we walked for an hour to the center in the morning heat looking for hotels, then we went back, and then we went back with our luggage yet again, that was quite a work-out, on par with yoga I'd say.
I love the new area, the restaurants are amazing, they actually know how to cook western food and that includes not putting lettuce and carrots on a pizza. The service, food, variety, views and prices are unbelievable, and we were glued to the free movies every evening returning to the hotel at pitch black dark.
Andy and me signed up for a jewelry class, at first I didn't want to take it, but a $2 plus materials for a private 7 hour class was definitely worth it, and at the end, yes it was! I did my initials from silver (Andy thought it was a little bit modest of me :) ). I broke the saw twice in the first 5 minutes, but after he told me that each saw is $1, miraculously they stopped breaking :) I screwed up a few times, and these screw ups are irreversible, and I was a bit upset, but hey, it's my first time, so what can I do. Some screw ups were actually due to inaccurate drawing which I drew! grrr ! I then sandpaper-ed it, and polished it, and the instructor carved the skin of the snake, which I made "S" to be, even though I don't consider myself to be a snake :)
Andy had more interesting tasks of melting the silver into rings and then gluing them around the stones. But I prefer my stones without a borderline. At first I had no idea what to do with the initials, but while waiting I looked around, and found a black stone that I liked. I put my initials on it, and it looked good :) After waiting a little bit longer, I started looking at smaller stones, and I found a blue stone that I liked, which I put on top of the black one :) The instructor said that it's very original and nobody has ever done it that way, and that's exactly the way I decided to go with :) He cut the hook(?) which the necklace would go through. I wanted a small one, but he said it wouldn't hold the weight, so he cut a huge chunk. It looks good, but my letters weigh 1.2 grams, and the hook piece was 3.5 grams! I then glued the stones and the initials which needed a few hours to dry. The black stone wasn't flat and the blue stone shifted all the time. I held it in place and he said that he would check on it in half an hour. Well next day when I came to pick it up, he didn't check, and the blue stone slid from the center :( I wanted to cry :(( Andy tried to calm me down saying that the black stone is in a weird shape anyway, and it's not very noticeable ... well I notice it !! :(
On the way to the jewelry class, I passed an astrology place. I've heard that astrologers are good in India, and decided to give it a try. Andy came with me, and the astrologer said something " ... and a friend of yours ..." (referring to Andy). Hm, he didn't say "husband" as all Indians did, it's a good start!
He did palm reading first saying that I'm blessed with long, happy, healthy, prosperous life. Nothing bad at all, and I'll be in politics one day! I didn't know my time of birth for him to generate my astrology chart, but he put the rest of the details in, and was playing with the "time of birth" numbers, nope, that's not you, no, not this one, no, no, oh that looks like you. You were born around 10am! I told him that I'll email my mom and will come back tomorrow. My mom said that I was born at 10:41am, close enough! :) He gave me an astrology chart for all my life. Here you'll buy a house, here you'll need to work on your relationships, here is a good time to open your business. He said that I'll meet my soul mate between July and November of this year, will get married the next year, and have 2 babies in the following years. I wonder who'll be the lucky guy! :) I told him that when I'll come back to Canada I'll want to open a business first, but he said that I'm already 31, and I really need to concentrate on my private life first. He said that in the past I had problems with my bf's mothers, he said that I should be more daughter like, ask her how she's doing/feeling, if she remembered to take her medicine ... I don't know ... I'm not really good at sucking up :S And that I should bring my husband tea/coffee and make him dinner when he comes from work, without him asking for it. What??? I'll be working too, why won't he make dinner for me??? This is Canada, everything's 50-50. He shook his head in a no ... no, no, no 50-50 is not good, ok 60-40. Well if I'll cook him dinners 60-40, I'd better be working 40-60 :)
But in all seriousness, I have no idea how I'll meet my soul mate during travels. There are already problems meeting someone my age (travelling that is), and who knows which continent he'll be from, and besides all these details, I find absolutely unable to attach to anybody while travelling. How can I open up if I know that I'll never see him again?? I also thought that I already met my soul mate, but as it turned out, he didn't think the same :(
The town of Rishikesh is split into 2 parts on both sides of the river. There is a bridge crossing the river, but every time we had to cross it, we had to pray to god to give us a lot of patience. I hope when they built it, they buffered in some extra weight, because this bridge in impassable. Besides way too many people on it, Indians have a what looks to be like a bridge fetish, and they always stop on it, take countless number of photos, keep moving people, you're blocking the whole bridge!, besides these, cows make their way to it ( I personally think they like the attention ), bikes zip through, honking like crazy and driving on people's feet, and on top of all of it, monkeys look out for people with any signs of food and mercilessly jump on them to get a treat. While walking on it, I saw one monkey which I didn't like, I didn't have any food on me, but it still jumped on my head, scratched my arm and run off! Bustard!!
On our "another day off from each other" I stumbled into Alex whom I met in Udaipur, and her friend Nirvana. We talked for a bit, he got very excited by my energy, and asked me for the secret of my happiness. I thought about it, and I guess that you have to go through hell to find heaven; also, I follow my heart, do what makes me happy, and don't listen to what anybody says. "Are you crazy? What are you thinking? You shouldn't quit, you shouldn't buy, you shouldn't wear/eat/go ..." but why listen to anybody? How do they know what's right for me? I know that there are social norms, but sometimes, they don't suit me either!
We talked and talked, and before I knew it, I was almost naked on his bed getting a massage ( a spiritual massage that is :) ). Sometimes he got very close to some parts, but he said that our views are completely off. There are some points, and it has absolutely no sexual meaning to massaging them. Anyway, I was worried for a bit, but then decided to relax and to trust him, since he didn't really pass any limits and to enjoy probably the best massage that I've got in my life! 2 hours later, and I'm contemplating on importing him to Toronto, and hiring him as a personal masseuse :)
Andy and I went rafting the next day. The rapids weren't big, but it was still fun, and super cheap! $8/half a day. We were cheering when we passed the rapids, and screaming "Rama Rama blah blah blah, Ganga Ganga super star" :) The water was freezing, and the current was super strong. In the middle of the trip we stopped for snacks, and then 2 people joined us who didn't want to go through the more dangerous rapids. The guide just sat them at the middle of the boat, and they sat there, holding on to nothing, with pretty much no balance and without the safety of the safety rope in case the boat will flip. Not something smart to do, but Indians are not very renowned in it. We were passing level 2 rapids, which from above don't look like anything at all, and from below neither. But there was some under current, and the boat got stuck in a water hole. We were all paddling hard, but the boat didn't move. Suddenly the water rushing in from below filling all the boat, and I sensed that it's gonna flip, the guide yells faster faster, and we finally make it out, 3 meters later we get stuck in yet another hole, with not much energy to paddle out of it.
I was happy that we got to do the rafting in Ganga, that way I got to raft and to get blessed by the river. But it was definitely in the plan to get back to the hotel and to take some antibiotics in case I swallowed some water by mistake.
3 guys from the rafting wanted to go out with us. We agreed to go to a restaurant. One of them didn't speak much English, the other most of the time was reading a newspaper or chatting on his phone, and the other one got offended at everything I asked him.
Me - Are these prayer beads?
Him - Nooooo !!! It's just a Rishikesh thing
Me - Do you cook food at home the way they cook it in restaurants?
Him - We need to enjoy life, I love pizza and burgers! (What does that have to do with my question, and where did he find offence in that?? ... just trying to look non Indian in our eyes)
If he's reacting this way, I'm not asking anything more ... so needless to say the dinner was very interesting! When it was finally over, they insisted on paying for it saying that we're their guests and if they'll come to England or Canada and we'll go out, you'll pay for us! ... yeah ... right!
Then they wanted to go drinking in the next town 30 kms away (Why??), they asked Andy first, do you want to go? He said "sure". They didn't ask me, and Andy didn't ask me if I want to go. Going in a car with 4 guys, with 3 of them who don't know how to handle alcohol and driving on an edge of a valley, is something that sounds like a suicide to me. When I told Andy that I'm not coming, he got upset with me that I set him up. How did I set him up, he didn't ask me, he said "sure", so if he wants to go, he should go!
I went to see Alex and Nirvana. He proposed that we'll do some chanting, and since I've never done chanting before, and since according to my own religion of trying new stuff, I agreed. And so we chanted:
"Ooooooooooom, heriiiiiiim, seriiiiiim, sriiii, lolitaaaa, trepusundarie, namon! naman! swaaahaaaaaaaan" and like that 108 times (btw, that's what the prayer beads are for, there are 108 of them). At first slow, then faster, faster. "Ooooooooooom, heriiiiiiim, seriiiiiim, sriiii, lolitaaaa, trepusundarie, namon! naman! swaaahaaaaaaaan". Ooooooooooom, heriiiiiiim, (oh my god I'm so bored) seriiiiiim, sriiii, lolitaaaa, trepusundarie, namon! naman! swaaahaaaaaaaan". I started to bend fingers to count the number of iterations at some point. When will this end???? But in the last 4 iterations when he slowed down especially at OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM we were 3 people, and I swear it wasn't the sound of 3 voices. It was so powerful, with so much energy, it actually didn't sound human at all. "Om" is actually considered to be the most perfect sound. It's the sound with which universe was created, and when you chant it or play it on any instrument, it has the most perfect vibrations. It was unbelievable. At that point, I couldn't wait to do more and more and more. Aahhhh ... why did it have to end?? I wonder if it's possible to do just the last 4 iterations, or you won't feel anything without doing it 104 times? Is it another case of finding yourself in heaven after going through hell?
But I don't know. Mantra chanting is not for me. Although yoga wasn't for me either when I first tried it. We then did different point stimulations (3rd eye, temples, a point above the 3rd eye). So much energy! When he said to open our eyes, I couldn't open them. We tried different kinds of breathing/not breathing techniques, and at that time my legs fell asleep and it hurt so much. Nirvana was teaching Alex his knowledge for the past few weeks, and they quickly quickly laid me down and did something for it to stop. After than Alex left, and Nirvana continued to do 2 hours of reiki on me. I didn't take antibiotics when I came back to the hotel, I thought that after 2 hours of reiki I should be alright :)
When Andy came back, he told me that how much this one guy tried to prove me that he's not an Indian, and the first thing he did when he got inside his car is bless his dashboard god.
We went hiking in the Himalayas, hoping yet again to see them. The drive there was peaceful. Our driver didn't honk, didn't race, gently took the curves, I didn't even need motion sickness pills. But it worried me a little, because I figured that he droves so slowly because he's not a very good driver. We hiked up a small hill, and set out tents in a beautiful natural location with a lake in the middle (the deepest lake in the world!) and mountain views. We had a bon fire at night, and had the locals singing and dancing. Very good food was just coming and coming, my tummy was pleased :) We had to throw out a few gigantic mosquitoes from our tents, and other than that the night was peaceful. Next day the mountain disappeared in the fog, but the hike was in the middle on the forest without views anyway. We walked for 14 kms, but in reality it couldn't been so much more. They had no idea at which altitude we were, when they said 2 kms, we walked about 6, and 500 meters turned into about 2kms. How can you not know?? You come to this location all the time! We took a shower in a freezing glacier waterfall. I just swam, but the Indian guys, used soap and shampoo. That's why I'm scared of drinking stream water, you never know who did what upstream.
Andy thought he saw a leopard, but I only saw birds flying away. Our guide said that there are no leopards in this area, but with his knowledge of altitude and distance, I couldn't rely on his knowledge of local fauna. Since then I was freaked out, and was walking constantly observing my surrounding. Then a cow almost attacked me. It was looking right at me, and I was scared to pass her. Then she slowly took a step towards me, when I took a step away from it, and another step and another, it suddenly started running, and I squeaked and franticly run to hide behind a tree. What a mad cow!
The summit which we were to conquer in the morning is actually a paved path which leads to a temple. Someone wanted to find Shiva, but he disguised himself as a buffalo, after a long fight buffalo’s leg fell on earth where this temple is now constructed and is one of the holiest temples in India. I didn't have that information before (we were just told that we'll see a temple on the way). That means that the path is covered with pilgrims, there is no natural trail and we were not in a natural environment, but rather in some guest house which sat right on the road beside the honking cars! There were many dressed up donkeys in the area which were used to take the tourists up, and a bunch of dog with neck protectors made out of steel and spikes running around … guess what these are for? For leopards of course!!
The room was damp, the sheets, blankets and pillows were grey and not washed for I don't know how long, it was disgusting. What more disgusting were the 100s of mosquitoes (not actually mosquitoes, but giant looking mosquito things) which were attracted to the light, huge spiders which made their way out of their hiding places to munch on these stupid mosquitoes which were flying in all the directions and quite a few times in our faces. At the restaurant, there was a single light on the table, and I don't even know how many hundreds of these mosquitoes around it. You couldn't really put a head light on, cause they were attracted to it immediately. There was so much buzzing in the room because of them, and the buzzing has stopped in an instant when the lights were switched off. This evening it started raining very hard, and it rained for 2 days nonstop. At night Andy got sick again. In the morning we tried to make it up to the summit, but after a short walk, Andy turned white and was shaking like crazy. We've returned to the guest house where he spent 40 hours in bed ... with no food!
The fun hasn't stopped there. We saw 2 leeches crawling their way up on the ceiling. We looked up, held each other in our arms and 1, 2, 3, screeeeam AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Of course by the time we stopped screaming one of them has disappeared into some hole, and Andy banged the hell out of the other one. After banging it with a shoe with all force again and again and again, it was still moving! What the hell those things are made out of?? In the late evening drunk Indians were shouting next door, yelling "I LOOOOOVEE YOOOUUU LINDAAAAA!!!!", burping, shouting some more. I've had enough, opened the door, pointed at my watch, and yelled at them to go to sleep! Which after 5 minutes they miraculously did. At night there was something crawling in a plastic bag and something chewing something/one of the roof, Andy had leeches nightmares, in short it was a great night! I can't have Indian food anymore. In cities, I can eat mild Tibetan food, or soups or sometimes Western food to break the Indians spices, but in the middle of nowhere you don't have many options, and we were served the same thing for every meal. The food was good, but I just couldn't eat it anymore. At one dinner we were served 2 curries and chapatis, and I barely ate half a chapati, Andy didn't eat anything at all. On the last 2 days I was surviving on chocolate and instant noodles.
It rained so hard already, when it started raining horizontally, the shutters didn't help, and a bunch of water got inside the room right on the beds. That night Andy slept in a regular position on the bed that wasn't near the windows, and I slept horizontally on 2 beds on the sides further away from the windows. Next morning it cleared a little bit, and we started our ascend. It wasn't particularly interesting as everything around us was completely white. We made it to the temple into which I didn't even go, and then we had an argument with the guy who organized the tour. I asked him if we can stay another day, maybe it will clear up after the hard rains and we'll be able to see the Himalayas in the morning. He said it's not a problem, but we have to pay additional 25% of the cost of the tour. How can it be 25%? Majority of the cost goes for the car, gasoline and the driver, which will not be in use for this extra day. We don't need a guide, and for food and guest house we can pay by ourselves. He didn't agree, and I hated his stubbornness. We went back only to find out that the car has broken and now they're fixing it. It took them a while to fix it, and by the time they were back, it started raining heavily yet again. The driver said that it's dangerous to drive and that we have to stay here another night! I would be damned if I have to pay for that !! We slept in 1 room, me, 4 guys and a snoring dog! 5:30am wake up, and there is finally a clear view ... well, what do you know! I wanted to hike up again, but Andy didn't, and I got very grumpy. What's the point of coming to this hike if you see nothing, and when it's finally clear it's time to go back?
Back in Rishikesh we did nothing for the whole day, but we did discover some great value breakfast which I don't know how we missed before ... might as well, cause otherwise it would be another few pounds which I'd have to lose. It included any kind of tea, any fresh fruit shake, any style eggs, cornflakes with milk, 2 pieces of brown toast with humus, all that for $2 (only juice and eggs cost that much)! Oooh man !!!
Next day we couldn't leave because I had to do laundry since we were moving again to a cool climate with a short 1 day stop in another city. So we spent an entire day just for that purpose, but that was worth it, after all, it's Rishikesh with best food and best movies :)
When it was time to leave it started to rain very hard and my suitcase got all drenched by the time we got to the tuk-tuk station. I thought that was bad, but when we actually sat in the tuk-tuk, it rained like I never thought it could. The street turned into a river with all the garbage floating on it. We had to wait an hour because nobody would be that crazy to go anywhere in such a rain. When it finally calmed down, the tuk-tuk filled up, but we've already missed our train. The side alleys got completely flooded with water levels higher than knee deep. The ride was bumpy, and we were all shivering because we were soaking wet, plus Andy's bum hurt because he has lost so much weight.
We left our luggage in a restaurant and went for a walk through the never ending market to one of the holiest places for pooja on Ganga. There were 1000s of people around a river suitable for white water rafting. Many bridges crossing the river with chains hanging off of them in case the worshipers would be taken by the current. Indeed a few people have drowned in here, but no surprise, as Indians don't really know how to swim. Everybody is using candy wrapper sheet to sit on, or to cover under the rain ... I wonder from which factory they were stolen from. There were all kinds of wrappers M&Ms, Hershey’s, Cadbury's, Skittles .. mnyam mnyam. It was a sight as though a chocolate factory has exploded. Specially uniformed people were walking around asking for a donation and giving a receipt, again, especially us. Why us? As though we look Hindu, although skeleton looking Andy started to resemble some. We then found the best place in the city to drink Lassi (a yogurt drink). The place has no empty chairs, and just 1 kind of drink, the waiters are running and there is a chaotic feel to the place, but it's so dirty, the walls are more grey than pink, I'm sure Health Canada won't approve of it. Why if they have so much money (I'm assuming) won't they take a day break and paint it?? I loved the lassi, but it made Andy feel sick again :(