A journal of India, starting NOW!
By Wazen. Created on Sep 11th, 2012. Last updated on Oct 25th, 2012.
A journal by Wazen, one of our own IndiaMikers. Wazen had kept an ongoing journal of his travels around India, which we promoted to an article. Enjoy!
Posted on January 15th, 2006.
My dreads speak to me... they tell me two things....
First, dont get lice, because the poverty and dirt is overwhelming.. Second, we gota keep them knotty dread locks dancing!...
After 24 hours by plane, and 48 hours without sleep, I wander alone into the New Delhi Airport... Prepared with the LP and IM’s good advice, it takes only 10 minutes before almost getting ripped off!!!
First mistake: I almost changed my money for a 2.5% surcharge! Second Mistake: I almost paid double at the wrong pre-paid taxi booth! Stick to the LP as the official ones are listed...
Well I get my cab, and the driver wants my reciept right off the bat! I know better than to hand him over his pay BEFORE we get there, but it turns out he really needed it for the checkpoint leaving the airport.. Okay.
So there are two people in the front seat, and we excahnge laughs and conversation for about 20 minutes of the 1 hour journey to my hotel (310rs). Suddenly he tries pulling the classic "Majnu ka tilla to far, not in Delhi", and im like "I paid for it, please take me there"...
So a few minutes later the two men in the front seat are like "we are lost, lets go to this information center".. Already I know BULL$HIT!!!!!
So I say "whatever you need to do", smile, and play the game...
At 12 am we pull into a side street that looks like something from "City Of God".. There were NO people, dirt roads, a BON FIRE in the middle of the road!!! I head two gun shots from the distance.. it could have been a backfire, and the two men assure me its "A Hindu Festival"...
They step out of the cab, im ready to throw down if they try to jack me. He asks me to step out of the car, and leave my bag in the car.. I didnt want to, but I just wanted SLEEP. They were both out of teh car, so I figgured no big deal, they cant have the time to hop in the taxi and run away with my stuff..
I WONT enter the office.. Im keeping an eye on the Taxi. After 10 minutes and some conversation, it appears he really was lost. The office manager hops in the car and actually escorts the cab driver to help direct him! When we get there, we wander the back roads of Majnu Ka Tilla looking for the Guuest House.. There were No people, dark alleys, and a little sketchy.
He refused to come into the hotel. I take it was a good sign, he wasnt trying to get commision! I thank him, and try to offer him some Rupees for a tip. He kindly refuses many times, and insists that he visits me tomorow with his own car!! At precicely 9:00 AM.
I found a new friend..
The hotel didnt have my single room for 250rs. They had a double for 350rs. Great, whatever, an extra $2..... I took it anyway..
A nice man, who is another IMer who wishes to remain annonymous for some reason (but mentioned me yesterday!) was sitting in the waitign room. With long hair and a beard I didnt hesitate to talk to him...We agreed to meet for breakfast downstairs in the morning..
I found another new friend!
That night I didnt know how to work the showers, the lights didnt work, I took a cold shower in a dark bathroom and fell asleep.
Breakfast is served, and it was good and cheap. My "information office indian friend" shows up to greet us a little late. We talk, and my new friend and I follow the man into his car, where he takes us for a drive. After stoping at his office, and waitng around for a while, he finnaly takes us for the MAIN REASON we agreed upon.... To "keep them knotty dread locks jumping" If you know what I mean
So I finnaly get my head straight!!!! Praise Jah!
He was trying to make an honest buck, and befriend us into a deal, but there was no pressure, and he was really cool. We end up parting ways with a smile and a handshake...
I almost died five times on the Rickshaw back... My "annonymous" friend and I are laughing the whole ride at the sheeer excitement of almost hitting everyone and everything!!!
Really, in Delhi, Road lines mean nothing, its all about the horn. Horns take precedent over road lines....3 lanes are somehow 5-6, and somehow it actually works out!! I cant get it!
This is great. We get some good lunch, and take a little walk, taking it easy for my first day. Food here is so cheap. I am eating GREAT FOOD for $1-2 a meal!! Its amazing!
After lunch some guy in an alley approaches me and asks if I wana buy some Hash... I am sketchy about it, and actually ended up getting ripped off for 50rs!!! It wasnt real, it was like, gummy bears and tar... hehehe.. Whatever, I lost a buck! HAH!
The offers for Hash and weed here are HORRIBLE. People are trying to sell me actual grass/weeds calling it marijuana! Its so pathetic, yet funny to see packaged weeds from the side of the road!..
My frist day ended wonderfully, after a brief call home for 5rs a minute, and a nice conversation with my friend, I hit the sack. That was day 1 in India!!
Day 2 is here, and im getting the hang of it. I LOVE IT HERE! I kept with my friend most of the time, and we didnt yet see any real "tourists sites" like the Red Fort, etc... But rather enjoyed eachothers company and indulged into the culture that was more interesting than a mere "tourist attraction"....
Walking around lost in Delhi is FUN!! We walk all over Counaught Place, eating at cool places, checking out the scene. We see only a handful of westerners. Some homeless, legless man gets dragged down the road by his torn ratty clothes, I wonder what he did to deserve that.. Cows, Pigs, Monkeys, Goats, Dogs, MANY DOGS, homless and wandering puppies out number the people who live on the street. The poverty is disguesting, and yet its so in your face, its amazing.
Touts and Begging are not as bad as played out. A few here and there... I roll up my sleeve and expose my tattooed arm. I simple raised hand, with my tattooed arm, is a better "NO" than saying "NO" a thousand times. My tattoos are truely the intimidation that keeps them away. And also the facination that keeps people staring at you with interest. My Pierced cheeks trip everyone out, yet a simple smile usually draws one from those who stare (everyone). People are very friendly and interested. The true meaning of Irezume is perpetuated here in India, as it is in Japan.
Today I sit here at 6pm at an internet cafe, with my "annonymous"(sp?) friend from IM, and finnaly get to express my thoughts the best way I know how.. Writing!!!
I still dotn know what to do, where to go, where I am going to sleep tomorow! But I know deep in my heart that everything is cool.
Posted on January 16th, 2006.
A short trip into Old Delhi started with a little dissapointment today, as the Red Fort is closed on mondays!!
Since I was in Old Delhi, a little walk around the narrow back alleys seemed like a great idea.......Oh man........ About two hours went by and I called it quits. It was a maze of chaos, for lack of a better expression...Thousands of people moving along with mopeds, shops with fuel generators out side thier store, polluting with exhaust that cant escape the narrow walkways between the buildings of Old Delhi... I had to hold my stomach from throwing up when the exhaust fumes hit me like taking a drag off a nasty stail ciggerette made of oil...
Barginging is half the fun!! My annonymous friend told me yesterday "Its your turn to get us a rickshaw for 50rs", when everyone wanted atleast 100rs. It wasnt easy, but it was great training for my solo adventure into Old Delhi. We parted ways today, as he is going up north where its freezing cold! It took quite a while to figgure out what I want to do with my 3-5 months here, though as of 6:00am tomorow, im off to Fathepur Sikri!! (sp?)....
The pollution and noise tore this hawaiian-country side boy apart. After four nights and three days in Delhi, I can really start to appreciate the Majnu Ka Tilla section of Delhi, especially the mellow Tibetian Collony, and my Wongdhen House which was nice enough to keep accomadating me day after unplanned day! One cool thing about this Hotel is that payment is based on the "honor system"... I didnt pay a dime for three nights, until I finnaly offered to make good!
The food here in great and cheap. I fell in love with the Mango Lassi’s and the Vegetarian Spring Rolls. All meals are great, fullfiling, tasty and exotic... Tibetian food is similar to Chineese, yet apparently different in its own way that you must experince your self! I have yet to pay $2 or more for an entire meal!
Well today I down graded my room to 200rs for a double with shared bathrom and no TV. I accidentally blew up thier surge protector with the wrong voltage, and luckily, my brand spankin new IPod ($400) survived. Offering to pay for the damage, they just kept smiling and declining my offer... What nice people!
The train to Agra leaves at 7:15, about 30 minutes away from my hotel. I needed something a little more quiet than Delhi, and it definately aint Agra, so Fathepur Sikri is my new home for 2 days. First day I will walk around the place, check out the old ruins, etc.... Second day I will head East, only 1 hour by bus, into the Rajasthan Boarder town that starts with the letter "B" (sorry guys). After the second night in Fathepur Sikri, its an early morning trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and then BOOKIT FAST by train down to Gwalior...
Seems like I will just end up winging it after all. Though I did call a guest house in Fathepur Skiri a day in advanced to make sure..(10rs at an internet phone booth, 3rs per minute). Alone with a sence of adventure, this place has a grip on my heart that piviots between excitement and uncertainty.
Posted on January 22nd, 2006.
Aloha Everyone!! Namaste!!
Its been almost a week since my last post, India has me trapped within all her chaos and beauty...
About $10usd got me from my hotel in Delhi to my new hotel in Fathepur Sikiri. And my new home? Hotel Ajay!
Fathepur Sikri was just what I wanted, but I had to search hard for it, and what I found was very special. Ariving around noon or so, Ajay was waiting at the bus stand to greet all the new comers to his town. Showing me a decent room for 100rs a night, it was a bargin and a half, private bathroom and hot water ina bucket.. Not to mention the roof top views of the ancient ruins and fort that towers above the town...
Time to get dirty and walk around! Touts coming from each direction surrounding the main enterance to the ruins, I quickly found a side path and went on my own little adventure! Walking behind the ruins was incredible, and without paying a single ruppe to visit only *one* out of many ruins, there was still so muc exploring to do, for free!! It seeme silly to charge an enterance fee for a single ruin, when there was MUCH more you can explore for free... After a mile of walking around this ancient place, some construction workers hailed me from the path, and offered me my first Bidi! (an Indian Ciggerete made from rolled up leaves). None could speak english well, though the many workers understood a simple smile and Namaste gesture, so we instantly became friends. After my ciggerete burned down, they went back to work, so I continued my exploration.. Soon a small kid came across my path and I offered 10rs to take me on a tour of this little town on the outskirts of the city... Suddenly I realized that I have found REAL India...
Apparently, Fathepur is the ruins, and the sprawling streets that law below are nothing more than a bazzar. Sikri is the little town that lay 1 mile away from Fathepur, on the outskirts of the ruins. This is where the kid took me. It seemed rarely a single tourist every comes to thier town. The stench of fecies and urine had yet to overwhelm the excitement of finding something off the beaten path. Soon enough there were about 20 children of all ages following this "strange looking westerner".. Some of the adults started to brag about something that slaped me with a reality check..
"look!! Light! Electricity! 11,000 watts! We have light!" This small, poor village of Sikri was so proud of thier new electrical lines, it was apparent that until a few months ago, this old town was in the dark ages..
My 10 year old guide can speak fluent english and Hindi. Not only that, he could undermine your typical used car sales man with his money making antics! For such a young kid to be so ambitious, I was amazed, envious, and startled when our adventure came to an end and he said "so now you give me ruppes!"... I was like " I just gave you 10rs!"... "No, they took it from me (his brothers/friends)"....... A look into my wallet revealed my situation with only a 50rs note.. After a sigh and another reality check, I handed him the 50, thinking how for the last hour, a smile never left my face, and this kid surely deserved a single dollar! "alright kid, here you go, Namaste!"
Man I am tired after walking all those miles, its time to retire on the roof-top resturant of Hotel Ajay.... The menu is handed down, and something catches my eye.... "Special Lassi??"... oh yeah! "please sir, make it weak, I dont wana throw up"... An hour later I was floored, and ready to crash, but not before a good meal and a nice conversation with the 100th Australian to cross my path since Delhi..
My butt is sooo Sore after renting a crappy bicycle for 25rs to peddle around the park. The chain fell off 5 times, and it became more of a hassle to have this pice of junk between my legs. While peddling around, I came across a nice Indian boy around my age, who offered me some wild berries. They were exotic and tasty, and after a conversation, he escorted me to find a python, which was amazing to find in the wild! Looking for a good time more than money, he took me to his village that lay betyond the 5 foot walls boarding the Bird Sanctuary. Then off to a temple where some old men take care of the stray park animals. A young Antelope was among the many animals there, and kept licking the salt from my sweaty shins. "Hungry" he says, as a bottle of milk was handed to me. Feeding a wild Antelope was pertty cool!
Five hours of adventuring through this massive place, it was time to call it a day. Ariving back at Fathepur Sikri, I decided to walk the bazzar and check out the scene. Suddenly a man working behind the counters of his store stopped me, like everyone does, in fascination of my cheek piercings, and strange hat used to hold my long dreads. I asked him what kind of buisness he runs, and he replied "chemist".. "do you have anything to help with sleep??" He handed me 2x 10mg Diazepam and asked for 5rs!! What a deal. Being invited behind the counter for some chai, Bidi’s, and a conversation, the next 2 hours were awsome.
And then it hit me as it still does: Indians see the world as I do! That god is everything, and nothing seperates us, we are all brother and sister. Never before in my life, have I found someone who understands exactly what I belive. And whats even more amazing, every indian who converses with me about god, feels the same way. No wonder how everyone lives in harmony, within the chaos that is India! It was now time to eat, and I had to part with my chemist friend. A short trip bck to the roof top of Hotel Ajay for some dinner, another Special Lassi, and my new sleep aids brought me to the a state of tranquility which allowed me to marvel at the ruins above, for hours!!!
For the second night in this wonderful town, I again heard some strange chanting coming from somewhere within the Bazzar.. I HAD to find out what it was, and where it was coming from. The night was late, around 9:00pm and the streets relatively calm... My tranquil state forced me to roam the streets in search of this chanting... Soon about 20 young men, of all ages, approached me. They took me within the Temple and showed me how to pay my respects. Walking down some stairs, a group of 5 or so devotees were chanting and banging on thier musical instruments.. Supprised to see a foriegn face, the greeted me with smiles, and soon I was handed some religios food, rice-like sweets made for the temple. It tasted sweet and delicious.
After exiting the temple, we sat on a curb across the street, still surrounded by 20 young men who couldent get over this "stange looking traveler". They gave me a pack a Bidi’s as a present, and after smoking a few something wierd happened...
Two men on a motorcycle pull up fast and smack one kid in the head. The entire crowd runs in every direction heading down the dark alleys. I am left standing alone after a few seconds, no good byes. The men on the motorcycle look at me, point to my hotel and say "go now". I was later told by a kid, the men were police.
Posted on January 22nd, 2006
Well its time to part with Fathepur Sikri, and head to Agra for a day to see the Taj Mahal, the most cliche attraction any India-traveler could over pay for...
A small Hotel called the Shanti guest house offered AWSOME rooftop views of the Taj. I regret paying the $20 to get into the Taj, because the rooftop views were actually more amazing than admiring this creation from up close. Well you cant come to India and not see the Taj Mahal.... I stood inline for 10 minutes and was turned away for having an IPOD!!! Can you believe that!? I had to run back to my hotel and put it somewhere safe! Well, the Taj was closed tomorow, and closed for half the day today, so you could imagine the build up of tourists!! Honestly, there were so many tourists, the stench of feet overwhelmed the beauty of the Taj, that is until sunset when the crowd dispersed, and I was left alone, infront of the Taj, staring at it for hours... I couldent help to wonder one thing... How could any piece of A$$ be so good?!?!
On the way back to my hotel, a man approached me with another question reguarding my dreads. He said "come visit my head shop" ... For the first time I followed a tout. It was a cool little place with jewelry and some Indian pipes. Suddenly the man puts on the counter, many different types of hash and opium. I wont go into any more detial, but for ther record, Bob Marley is more my Idol than Kurt Cobain, get my drift??
Everything worked out wonderfully, meeting many travelers from all over the world, many cool locals and decent over-priced Agra food. A good nights sleep and then its off to Gwalior!!!
Again, without booking in advanced, I showed up in Gwalior and found a nice hotel for $9 a day.. The day was late, too late to visit the fort, so I wandered alone the streets of Gwalior... Suddenly two men on a motorcycle pull up and ask, "you want ride??".. I reply "no rupees"... "Free ride, come!". I agree knowing they will take me to thier uncles or mothers shop for some overpriced stuff I dont want, but what the heck!
Turns out I was wrong! They were delievery boys just wanting to show me a good time. Three of us on a tiny motorcycle, we weave in and out of cars through the less-traveled parts of Gwalior. I was the ONLY westerner there for the next 2 days, so you can understand when they pull over at some side street and yet another crowd of 20 people surround me, silently, with interest. One man says to me "Some people no good, they tease you, you should go". "I dont speak Hindi so I dont care! Its okay though everyone is my brother and sister". He relays the message to the crowd and they lighten up a little.. After parting ways with the crowd, and another hour of riding on the back of this small bike making deliveries, its time to go back to the hotel and rest.
The second day in Gwalior, and I decide to lighten my 48L bag a little, to start the day. First I had to find a store who sells a cloth-bag, then I had to find a shoe-polliser with a needle and thread to sew it up, THEN I had to fidn another store to seal the seams with wax as a security issue!! Luckily, a nice man who had his own motorcycle took me around for free, just to help me out! He knew I spoke no Hindi, and felt bad, so for the next hour he took his time to help. So much Aloha, so much love...And wanted nothing in return, not even lunch!
After an hour of going from shop to shop, just to properly pack my mail, the grand total to ship back two pant and two shirts: 1,300 rupees!! After all that hard work and time, we all decided it was better to just carry it around with me after all... ARGH! I just hope this Marmot can handle three more months of being stuffed to the max, I swear it looks like its going to pop or tear, and that wouldent be good!
Well we got half the day left, time to check out the fort! A quick rickshaw there and immediately I was in awe. It was so beautiful. The museum offered 1000+ year old rock sculptures everywhere. So incredible, so intriguing, especially a particular buddhist carving dating back into the B.C. era. Just amazing.
The journey from the museum to the top of the fort was a long up hill walk, zig-zagging through the face of the cliffs that rest below the ancient building. Some men, again about 20, stop and surround me with interest.. They ask me to join them in a circle and hand me a pipe filled with tobacco and ganja. Watching the way they smoke is interesting. Their lips NEVER touch the pipe, instead they make a chamber with thier hands, tight enough to draw BIG hits. After a few tokes, and many smiles, it was time to contuine my adventure! Within 100 paces I almost died from the sheer beauty of the fort resting upon the cliff. Climbing to the top some young teens ask me for a ciggerete, and I was scolded when the man who smoked the Ganja with me pulled up and said "NO, too young!" I applogised and shook my finger at them, we all laugh and continue our little personal trips. "ooops!"
Walking around the fort was easy. A long road journeys abouit a mile around the place, and soon I came across a Sikh Temple. A man with a long beard and a red turban approaches me and asks if I would like to stay a few nights for free, with free food, to learn about thier religion. We converse for a few hours, share some chai, and learn much from eachother. He tells me the Sikh religion is about three things: Brotherhood, Equality and Harmony. It was apparent the connection between buddhism and Sikhism, and we both agreed, again, on the same matter: Each and every living thing shares the same soul, an ant, an Elephapnt, a cow, a human, we are all the same, from the same god, and for that reason we must alwayts recognize the ever-persence of our universal connection. Brotherhood, equality and harmony.
At this time I knew, in a past life, I was born in India.
That night, yesterday actually, I drank some chai with ice cubes, and ate a slice of raw carrot. It was a night full of vomit and sickness. I couldent even make it to the bathroom, so I put a towel on the floor and dry heaved all night long. Even water couldent be held down. After a small sip I would toss it back up. I was in hell, and worried about dysentery. This morning, however, I amazingly felt a little better, and actually handled the 3 hour bumpy buss ride to my new home, Orcha! Still yet, I can only stomach Bananas, and have yet to eat a real meal although its now 8:30pm... We’ll see where tomorow takes us, and thanks for reading my posts everyone!
Posted January 27th, 2006.
Aloha everyone, Thank you for all the replies. I dont know where to start....
India demands like no other time or place in my life, a positive attitude, but most of all, Inda demands letting go... All attachents to cleanliness I once had needed to die here, in order for me to survive. Money, time, life it self, India will face you with... And now where to start...
After gwalior, a nice change of pace at Orcha was great. A little cheaper and laid back, beautiful scenery, your typical little country town... During my 3 nights there, at the Gapati guest house, the battle between fun and sickness went on throughout the early mornings and late nights. Besides the temples, a few nice conversations with various people, and yes even your typical just "bullshitting" at times with others, one thing that stood out was the concept of our famous "love hate relationship" with India.
Love for the food, culture, history, although at times the food was played out (curried out), the temples became just another building, and all that your left with is yourself, standing alone wondering what am I doing here in this world, let alone India... Love for always having somone to talk to, and hating never being alone when you want to... Love and Hate is an understatement: India surfaces every emotion, overwhelming the sences with its glory, and its pain.
Loneliness stoodout in my mind, in Orcha. One day I went for a walk, escaped all elements with my music, and found a beautiful river laced with massive marble rocks, a picture perfect natural beauty. takinga shirt off, alone and secluded, a nice rock made a perfect bed for a mid-day nap. A little ciggerate, a little smoke, and it was nice... Although a lack of food, delhi belly, and an upset stomach was my main concern, perhaps the adventurous sprit within gave the strength to get away that very morning... Sharing a ride with another pair of tourists into jansi, the ultimate destination Kajuraho was still another 5 hours away. Packed full wth people, and unable to even lay back in my own chair from the overload of standing passengers, for a while it was hell...Hands holding my face, Ipod about to die, the few extra Diazepams given away like candy didnt even help for this sepcial occasion....Until his point, leaving india was the main thought flowing through my mind, and it was about to get worse.... A family sitting next to me was as plesant as my fresh change of pants after 2 weeks, that is until thier baby threw up on my legs. Nice baby throw up on my fresh pants and shoes, packed into a buss of hell, rocking violently with a upset stomach, this non-tobacco smoker chainsmoked 2 ciggeretes right then and there. To top it off, the mother had no appologetic gesture, or care. (buying cheap ciggeretes are good friend makers).
By the time the buss landed in Kajuraho, A hound of touts, unprecedented, the most crazy wolfpack I ever dealt with, was Indias cruel joke.
A thousand "what can I do for you" touts, could only arouse sarcasm from my tired mind... Aloud after a pause "Give me a gun so I can shoot my self in the head". Within sight a toustis couple seemed like refuge, so I ran to them, with lies to the unrelenting touts "im with them, we have a hotel, we KNOW how to walk there". The couple, understandably, was cool about it...
Hotel Surya was my refuge after that ordeal. THough within an hour and lunch (yes with the same pants), the journey REALLY began...
A local man around 24, tall and medium build approached me. At the time his antics were not understandable, and yet two days later, i sit here, wondering where the last 2 days went, why I spent so much money, and what does this all mean...
Apparently now, he was a buiness man, whos encounter was like no other. Wating and hanging out through lunch with my new tourist couple-friends from the bus, I gave him the respect to hang out once the meal was over. Back to his friends shop, where we hung out for hours smoking chillums. They present me with free dinner, eating wild goat for the first time, lots of smoke, and lots of chai.
"Tomorow is Independance day, lets meet at 8:00 am, I have a car, Ill take you around to the school and we can see a parade in the old town, just pay for gas"...
"why not"...I replied..
Up early and he was waiting outside the hotel. The parade was a few miles away, and very cute to watch the school children march and yell. From there to a school where the dance was cancled becasue someone stole thier sound stystem the night before. We hung out with the teachers for a while, smoked some chillums on the roof and ate some sepcial Independance day sweets. Everything was cool and accepted, as the children were not around. After, the dancing instructors, and a few beautiful women started to dance with what speakers they had left, just a small party between the 15 of us there at the time... The dancing went on for an hour, the music exotic and the movements naturally Indian. It was nice
Later that day he offered to help me out a little. Knowing my budget, and my situation, I splurged and bought a personal gift of decent quality from him, for a VERY tourist price (1000rs). Then my friend, two others and I drove to a distant place, to a beautiful mountain where the villagers farm fruit growing from a huge lake, fruit which I have never seen... Old homely boats roamed the lake, and only a few souls were insight. We sat on some rocks overlooking the nature before us, and passed around the chillum for a while, enjoying the scenery.... Later going out to Dabbas that no tourist would ever find, back road joints with home style cooking, a personal gesture was to buy drinks and food for the four of us, my 400rs gift to them, from the land of aloha. Also another 200rs for some gass My heart felt big, but my wallet much lighter. None but the gass was asked from me, at this point. When night came, and knowing my hotel had no hot water this late, they made a bucket for me, and let me use their small toilet room to bathe.
After about 5 more chillum sessions, we called it a night, and I returned to a closed hotel at 12:00am. "oh nooooo"..... Waking up the owner with an unrelenting doorbell for 5 minutes, and after one hundred "im very sorry", it was time to crash, knowing somehow, I managed to spend 1600rs for the entire day, yet experienced something unexplainable....
The next day we agreed to meet up again, walk to some temples, have some fun... starting the day with a nice chillum session at his "uncles house", he gave me another offer for a more greener present, as the first one was purely black. Not a bad deal, infact a great deal by Hawaiian standards, I was happy at the 350rs price of this "green gift".. Although the quality was compareable to some "good yet mexican" insense, it was still the best looking present I came across in India... (not that it matters but so far, from this man, I have spent 1950rs!!!!)
The times were great, I was having blast and didnt think about the cost. This style of touring around was PERFECT. Everyone knew this man who I walk with, everyone who hears his name from my lips shows me respect, instantly, when he is not around. Touts become friends at the mention of his name. We walked through the backroads, the country side, through some beautiful untouched scenery, behind the old villages, and found temples through paths never-walked by tourists. Avoiding all the hassle in the city, jsut seeing only a few temples here in Kajuraho was good enough, as the experience of it all was even greater...
A shrine to the monkey god was along this path, and we met an old priest whom we smoked many chillums with. BOOM SHIVA!! Sitting on his straw mat, his life was that of a homeless man. My *personal* presents which costed 1350rs where cut in half and shared with all of them, almost as if it didnt belong to me but everyone, and shared even with the man who sold it to me. Many villagers came, we smoked many of my good chillums, and I listened to his religious knowledge through an old book, although he only spoke Hindi. This priestly man who had next to nothing, nothing at all, gave me his Chillum, along with the special rock, formed perfectly as a natural screen, as a present... Something I wanted to cherriesh for life... This was a TRUE chillum, and learning to smoke the real indian way is something that touched my soul...
He took his thumb, put it in the ash, and touched my forhead between my eyes, and said a prayer. When it came time to part ways, I handed him a meals worth for my self, for his temple, dandivan, namaste, words from my heart.
"Salawa"..."(lets go)".. My local friend said. Only a few temples were visited, but each second of this time appreciated, and there was no need for anymore "sight seeing", for being one with many in India has a greater power than any guide book can teach....
As the night approached, it seemed many people of the town knew me, although I didnt know them.. Some on motor bikes would come up..."Your **** friend!, I heard about you!!"... ... the man with the pierced cheeks...
By this time, I needed to be alone and unravel in thought. Although a promise to meet my friend for a last Chillum needed to be fullfilled. I thought of the good times, the pleasure, the fun, the money that I spent, the people I met and thier ways, the poverty, the value of life, the value of a smile and all that lay inbetween. Then it was apparent. It was time to leave Kajuraho, for in my heart I found what I needed, although there the temptation to stay is strong...So the decision to leave 7 hours from now, at 6 am to varanasi, is the right thing
A last good bye, a last chillum, a last meal with my friend, everything is cool.
Now I sit here, reflecting, and it seems there is an unspoken understanding. He is a buisness man, and his profession is to hang out, meet tourists, show them a good time, and by doing so, he probably made 1000rs profit. At the same time, he has shown me much hospitality, a great time, and on a personal and spiritual level, I know we connected. On a superficial level, I knew he made from me a months wage....
So what does it matter?... I sit here and wonder, and one of the hardest questions everyone faces in life. What is money when you are happy? What is money when you are poor? but most of all... what is life really worth??...
Posted on January 30th, 2006
Varanasi is crazy, but today, the second day here was pretty chilled...
I think back to Kajuraho, and remember how my friend walked me through the village and explained how cow shit is smeared around the enterence to every house for two reasons. One was to keep mozzies away.. Thinking back to smoking with the old man at the Hanyuman(sp?) temple...The way he somked was trippy... He didnt use a match or lighter.. He would take a piece of burning wood and place it on the packed chillum to get the cherry started..I remember hating the fact that I was inhaling some crap, and worried to death about gettign lice from him, and his friends there... That night when packing up to leave to Varanasi at 5:30 am, I broke the chillum he gave me. But it did the trick for the first night here...
Man I havent had a hot shower in days. Last night I took a freezing cold shower because, that seems to be the norm when its too late for a bucket of hot water..Although all hotels but two had hot water for far I havent used toilet paper except for the first few days in Delhi.. Getting used to it...
Bartering at 10:30 pm for a room to sleep in worked a little, for a nice introduction to Varanasi. Claiming it was late and Check out is in like 13 hours the price droped 70rs but, again, no hot water as promised after a nice interegation with emphasis on hot water raining down from the shower head.... God I miss that. heh...
The next day I walked from the bustation area to the ghats, got my bearings straight, and before fidning a hotel got a massage for an hour... The hard wood bech and dirty mat wasnt so bad, and the man cracked my back in ways I didnt know possible.. It was alright, so I gave him only 160rs for it all...Kinda forced me into it but, maybe he could tell I really needed it... It was cool that we didnt negotiate the proce before hand, so the barter was a little more fair...maybe...?
Evenntually found the Alka hotel and they had a basic room which im staying at for 200rs a night.... I ran half naked at 12:00 am into the downstairs shared showers and took a nice cold one, thinking back and lying to myself that im at Ehukai beach, taking a cold shower after a nice bodysurfing session... After im done typing this, I think ill have another cold one
Waking up in the morning and the touts still had me half-dead. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE HERE, will tout for one thing, and one thing only: DRUGS. Its so crazy I hate it with all my heart. I would think a person like myself would find it rather pleasant, but actually, its to a point where its scarry...On the second night after watching the nightly dancing/chanting ritual on the ghat down the riverside walkway, a man offered a five minute conversation and then some chai, so I said "sure"... Thinking it would be a nice conversation, it turned out to be, first, a silk shop... Then after saying no, he preseed me like a police officer making a bust, but just the opposite intention, to sell me drugs! Im like "NO I HATE DRUGS HASH IS BAD"....And he kept saying "just look, just look"....
.. I ran. I mean I really just booked it down the alley at full speed. It was just too F**king much for me.
That night, I asked the hotel manager if I could stay out a little later.. he was cool with it... I went alone to the burning ghats at around 10:30pm, and was beforehand warned many times by many people that "its dangerous at night"..etc... I got my strength, so it was all good.
Within moments, I was 7 paces away from a burning body. Walkign up slowly, with prayer in my heart and remembering my reason for coming to india: To return to the homeland of the Buddha. Over a bent rail, there was a cement ledge where a few were sitting. I asked a man sitting there if I could sit next to him. He nodded, and watched my eyes closely, staring at me, as I was fixed on the body burning infront of me. The heat and smoke was almost tasteable, and actually plesant, as one would think the stench of birning flesh is horrible, but the wood makes it actually as plesant as insence..
In the morning a solo travler shared breakfast with me and we decided to check out the university down the road as a peaceful escape. It was pretty cool, and we bargined a cycle-rickshaw for 25rs from the hotel area!
We walked to a botanical garden like place in the university and found a remote pond, where we smoked a few and kicked back, talk story, etc...Found a cool temple and zoned out on the ambience and chanting from the second story.. Ate some Malasa Dosa, a pepsi, and beleive it or not, after four hours, our cycle rickshaw actually waited, against our will and knowledge, to take us back! heh..... Alright, not to bad
Tonight, a few new people and a nice walk to the burning ghats... I was not showed the same respect, nor able to get close to the fire this time. It was because four other were with me. We were banned to climb the building above, and observe only fropm this place. It was a different feeling from above, and I realized how traveling alone can be really damn lonely, but even more special. The kid who took everones attention as if to "guide" and explain to us what we watch, and the man who claimed his father was being burned, got donations from the other three. I stood there in meditation and chanted from my heart, a sutra from my church. I knew in my heart not to give money, but to offer prayers, siltently, in respect and awe for the deseaced. This is the real gift to coming to varranasi, to pay respects from the heart, and not from the wallet. I dont know how to explain it. But I feel like sitting there all night until sunrise, chanting for thier souls, because it was very peaceful at heart.
Time for the cold shower and a smoke. I wana say it does suck to have my journal questioned, but I can give a f**k less, honestly, for what you think. Just like the touting hahaha.. But much respect to all, and much love
Posted on February 2nd, 2006
Varanasi Hardcore he was dubbed. The craziest rickshaw driver we ever had the pleasure of escaping death with... Never in my life have we hit people and drove off, scraped cycle-wallahs and drove with a trigger happy road-rage. It was f**king cool man. Although he got a fat deal from us, and made out well, he was paying off policemen at a few corners. This is only part of the darkside merely mentioned in the guidebook...and just a taste of whats to come...
Reaching Saranath, with my 3 day travel buddy Simon from Denmark, we made our way around the old ruins, temple and stupa.. Three bows are a symbolic gesture for this pilgramage, as tought by the buddhist church familiar in Japan and Hawaii. Perhaps Simon was a little tripped out, though theres nothing like cheap Masala-Dosa’s and a Coke to chillout with afterward!.. Great food for 25rs, cant help to LOVE it!
An hour late to meet Mr. Varanasi Hardcore, our trip back was twice the fun, and twice the craziness.. Afternoon Rushhour and this dude is tweaking out like a child with a new toy, a rollcoaster ride like no other, you cant help to love the rush! I wouldent pay an extra rupee, and later found out we got a little ripped off..
Getting lost between the narrow buildings at night can be pretty intense, besides the pushing of every type of dope imaginable infront of policemen, and unnoticeable cowshit waiting to shine that nice shoe of yours, we found hevan within a small resturant. Special Lassi? "sure".. Not to bad, with a little fried rice and a wonderful walk back to the hotel...
Simon was crashed out and a few travelers were chilling out so I joined them for a little more to eat.. man the munchies got me! Luckily the food is always good and cheap!.. Laid back, a few overpriced Kingfishers costing more than my room!, and it was time to check out the balcony overlooking the Ghats... Two couples were playing music, smoking a coulple chillums and having a blast, and as many travlers are open to any invitation, a seat was offered. The night was getting late, and the chillums burning low.. One beautiful girl, traveling the world for a year to improve her music style, starting singing with one of the most heart-hitting voices to echo across the silent ghats of Varanasi’s night... Unexplainable, sudden to overwhelm my sences, the moment was nothing less than a trance like state...Eyes closed, perma-grinned, nodding away to the ambience of this crazy place...The experience was unreal, and like all things in life, too quick to end.
Supprisingly, the table behind had six other travlers, up and awake in the early morning, 1:00am. People from all over, of all ages.. A samoan traveler around 24, a few men over 40, an Israeli woman, and a few others. Pictureperfect in India, how everything and everyone seems to loose thier boundries of who they are, and adapt as one into the lifestyle: India. As different as we are, knowing moments like this at home wouldent exist with typical stigma of western culture.. We smoked a chillum, some of them partaking for the first time in years, and as the silent moment progessed into the high, the moment was nothing less than perfect.. Jokes and talking for another hour and it was time to end another day in Varanasi....
The next day, Simon and I went to the train station to book a ticket out of here. I was told to just show up at 5:15 by two of the LP listed official agencies, and the ticket will be free and unreserved...? An hour wait, we booked it out of there into the chaos, again, only to stumble across the same Hole-in-The-Wall style bhang Lassi shop, found the second day here... Pulling up to the place, picture this: A cross-eyed gay man, with an uneven face, dressed in female-worn down clothing, fully drag queen style, was dancing infront of the shop! High out of her mind, everyone was just cracking up with laughter, it was the funniest thing in India yet!! I had to throw down two rupees.. to I handed it to her as she danced infront of me... Then suddenly she turned around insulted, swore at me in Hindi, handed me about 20rs in change, and walked off like a woman with a vegance!! Non stop laughter, I had to drop into the Bhang lassi seat and take my order.. Handed the crazy queen her rupees back, and told the shop owner "make it strong this time, really, really strong".. and watched the procedure..
Two HUGE scoops of green goop, this 5th Bhang Lassi in India was unbearable! It was that strong, but I drank the whole thing... and from here it gets nuts....
An hour later Simon and I browsed around from some supplies, and got lost in the dark alleys. The afternoon was getting cold, and clothes were thin. Soon a clean cut man presented me with an offer, and it was very very sketchy. Running back and forth, "wait here, wait!" with evil eyes, it was the worst buisness deal in history, so we booked it down the alley infront of a resturant.. Running after us, Simons tailor from a silk shop, an honest man, rushed us inside after watching the situation. Luckily he was standing there in that alley, away from his shop.
The Bhang was getting heavy, an the effect was going up, and up...
"that man" he said, "He wil sell you stuff, then turn you into the police, then the police bribe you, and they split the profit"...
.... And Im still going up an up...
"the only real buisness men deal in thier homes, or shop, not on the street".
I didnt care already, I was barely able to speak, and not able to finish the food I just orderd. Telling both of them, "Varanasi is NEVER the place I will trust with this buisness, its too insane and dangeous. It shouldent be like this, its really just, for lack of a better phrase "f**ked up". And insisted over and over..
But this tailer, besides trying to sell silk from his shop thats far away, then pushed me to buy hash from him!! I couldent even say no.. I just ignored him. Simon spoke for me, and the man knew I was flying high, so he kept on with his touting, for silk, for drugs, as I tried to eat and keep calm... "Are you okay? Are you okay?" He kept asking me, only making my experience THAT much worse. "come buy from me, no police".. Then and there it was settled, I love Varanasi in many ways, but im leaving the day after tomorow....And even the soft-drug scene here is just NOT WORTH ANY OF YOUR TIME IN VARANASI.
Though the Tailor offered to escort us back to the hotel, and took us through the most vile, insane, unworldy tunnel through a building between the Ghats. I couldent even breath this small tunnel, barely 6 feet high, and a few feet wide.. There was a cow in there, and an old lady who looked like she had leprosy.. The air was so horrible, it was like raw sewage, not oxygen... Simon had to take a picture, and as I tried to bare with him, egged him to go after one shot... Dryheaving on the way out, never will I forget that moment, or that place..
It was 6:00pm and I wasnt there anymore. Up to my room, straighty to bed, no cold shower, and when the morning came to rise, the time was 9:00AM.
Today is the day to just chill out. Simon left early in the morning, so I walked the ghats, and hung out alone for a while. No one seeemed to really hound me, as it feels like touts and begging are just rolling off my shoulder for the first time. Sometimes a simple look and they know already to not even start with the "HELLO SIR", and it seems im getting the hang of this place..
Funny how India will open your heart, and make you colder than ever at the same time.
After visiting a chemist for the same sleeping aid as mentioned above, for the best price so far 10 x 10mg for 25rs, I can sleep well for the next few days, and my wallet is happy. Good thing to have for traveling endlessly by bus and train! But first 5 chemist turned me down. Later on a boat ride and a beer, and eventually I came across a buisness man on a boat who I am proud to say, haggled on par with my newbie tactics, and I didnt get TOO ripped off this time. (first present: 2000rs!, second present: 900rs!, This present: 350rs!) Quality of my new personal present is questionable, and im not that thrilled. But its good enough, and I give thanks to Jah, for Jah did provide when I finnaly gave up. For now, and for much time to come, im leaving the scene alone, for it has taken too much effort, risk, and MOST of all, I have enough to share with new friends!!!
The lifestyle of traveling alone in India, has changed my perspective on life, even after this short time. Besides Delhi, I havent had a real hot shower or any toilet paper. The squating is becoming more routine than effort, and even though I live much more poor than back home, its still luxury compared to those on the street: Bathing, swimming, and yes even drinking the Ganges water, sleeping on dirt, barely a meal to eat... I am grateful for what India has taught me, and what I have given up for being in India.
Well its an all nighter till 4:00am when I leave for the train station, then to Gorakaphur, and transfer straight to Kushingar where Buddha died. (sorry for the spelling). And now the Spritual journey really starts, for half of this adventure is actually a pilgramage!
Bihar is next, and many have warned against Bihar right now. Some locals straight up told me "Forget it, its too dangerous at the moment".. But Faith and Goodwill prevails in my heart, and as India keeps teaching me, "let go, dont worry, everything is cool".
Posted on February 13th, 2006
Inernet access has been minimal during the last 10 days since posting. Inda is tightening its grip around my heart and daily life, more and more as the time passes by all to quickly. For this, my only regeret is not posting sooner, as the experences are beyond the boundries of description, detailed memories fleeting as each day passes, remarkably, leaving an everlasting impression on my soul. As if the hand of India touched my heart, and its fingerprint permanently consecrated through our coupled virtue. (It is a pilgrimage after all!) At the moment three hours of typing are paid for...now where to begin!
An all nighter over the ghats of varanasi was a perfect gooddbye. Alone with the silent night, resting on the balcony overlooking the ghats, the smell of the burning dead and its sweet perfume scented wood, A chillum and only 4 hours until 4:00 am... The night was beautiful, monkeys joined me from the railing above, and soon started throwing a little poo at me, hissing to scare away my peaceful presence. Laughing siltently and switching chairs, they soon fell asleep, and as time passed by quickly, the hotel staff was woken up and forced to unlock the front doors, hesitantly, to let me into the dark alleys of Varanasi’s city...
Electricity in part of the city was down. Without a flashlight, finding the main road, and avoiding cow shit would be impossible. Knowing the dark energy thats everpresent in Varanasi’s ghat-side, I was prepared for a little excitement around every corner! Releif struck to find the main road with 1 and 1/2 hours till train departure, a safe time incase I need to walk the distance.. At this earrly hour, the main road was empty.. Off in the distance, a Chai Stand where many cycle rickshaw drivers were gathering for a morning tea. "who want to take me to the train station for 30rs?" (3x the normal price!) Everyone was hesitant.. But one old man agreed, on the condition that we drink chai first. Amen for Breakfast!
Without street lights, how could this old man even see the road that he peddled me through? The air was cold, pitchblack with an erie atmosphere, potholes unseen and the journey rough. The man detures into some alleys, and it seems that he may be drunk, or lost, or going the wrong way. This surely wasnt the straight path to the station... He kept looking back and smiling, until we came to halt for a HUGE truck blocking the path, in the middle of these tiny alleys! The driver argues for 10 minutes for the truck to move, and ends up turning back... The alleys got denser and darker, seemingly further away from the train station. I was getting worried, as now 30 minutes past.. So I busted out my flashlight and lit the way a little...
Suddenly a pack of stray dogs woke up and were really angry at the moving light and the rickshaws squeeky sound.. They started to run after us, barking violently and growling, attacking both of us!! The old man starts peedling his ass off as the dogs try to snap at his moving legs and my feet. "AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!" We screamed bloody murder together as the pack grew into atleast 7 dogs, trying to ward them away with our yelling. Kicked into high gear, human instinct taking our voices to another level, we barely escaped the hungry pack!!!! Laugter filled the air as we busted out with excitement, hollering at the wild night, grins ear to ear, happy to have made it out okay...Our energy connected. Soon we were at the train station, arriving with a nice tip for our adventure, and time to hit up Kushinagar, where the great Buddah died!
The train station was like a homeless shelter. Walking over hundereds of bodies that sleep on the cold cement floor was like playing leap frog. The train, naturally, was late, and by the time we departed, the sun was up and shining. Dont know, dont care what class I am in, the lack of sleep had me wasted. The first cart seen was therefor the best option! With metal seats, and metal-bar racks above for luggage, I did a little gettoh action and slept above on the luggage racks for the 5-6 hours to Gorakapur. Just my luck, some before hand converstion with locals, thankfully, was my alarm clock, as I would have slept the whole way back to Varanasi!
It didnt take long to find a bus to Kushinagar. A few hours later the fully packed buss stoped at the front gate of this very small village, and following my instincts, proceeded down the most well-trodden road by foot. Checked out a few places to sleep, and ended up at the Chineese temple, first and most obvious, for 200rs a night. Their garden was beautiful, peaceful, and the town quiet with only 2 resturants. A very small village it was, and easy to navigate with the little daylight left to spare. Walking to the Reclining Buddha statue, the most symbolic representation to our Japaneese temple(!), was filled with Pilgrims from all ovr the world. Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, but no tourists at all...Everyone here was a pilgrim, the town emanating with an unexplainable energy, Kushinagar is a magical place! Walking a little futher, soon appeared a simple man with a Chai stand, situtated infront of the temple he cares for alone. Some Cahi, conversation, smiles and laughs, within minutes his vibe was a good one... "Lets meet tomorow"...... "okay!"
Waking up early to start the day, walking past his chai stand with hours to spare, an old home with endess sugarcane feilds had thier family working hard to make raw, brown sugar sweets... The scenery reminded me of my roots and past: From Japan to Hawaii my great grandmother traveled alone in 1897, looking for work in the sugar cane feilds, which eventually brought me into budhism through family tradition. "HELLO, COME!!" waving me to join them, offering a seat infront of three big tubs, dug into the ground, where the process of converting freshly cut sugar cane into raw sugar takes place. Each hole contained a different color of sugar extract, and the end product was suggar balls, gifted to me by the handfull! The sweetest, freshest sugar I ever had in my life!! So much to eat, but disrespectful to do otherwise, I chowed it all down, and that much sugar in the morning isnt easy to stomach!
"Ciggerette??" "Jee!".... Handing away to five adults at this home, some expensive goldflake ciggerettes, which a pack cost half a days wage, but 50 cents to me! Although I dont smoke tobacco much, and actually dont like it remember this in India: YOU WILL come into situations with nothing to give in return for great amounts of generousity (but money, which isnt cool). Ciggerettes are always appreciated by most!!
Continuing down the road, a huge stupa appeared in a grassy feild, far from the hotel. This is where Buddha was cremated. Words do no justice for the graditude and love that instantly took control. Walking around the stupa, with prayer in my heart, three bows are offered and tears are held back. The Mahaparinvirana Sutra, my beliefs, are held withing this land. Praise to god and the love of all living thigs.
Walking back toward to Chai stand to meet my new friend, some Indian college students kindly diverted my into thier home, and offered me, again, a handful of Raw Sugar.. Accepting this gift, grateful to the love of this land and its people, our time was limited and our experience buffered by our language barrier. Leaving with a smile and hands in Namaste, the experience was wonderful. For the first time, people of India opened up thier heart to me. Hating to admit this, it was hard to accept and understand at the time, the heart of sharing with barely anything to give at all, especially after all the touts and being taken advantage of many times, over and over...
And as time went on, my travels only revealed the purity that India contains, when acts like these go beyond anything experienced in life, which will change my life and perspective forever..
Making it to the Chai shop on time, my friend brewed some tasty chai, made with fresh Buffalo Milk(!) from his very own buffalos! Sipping on a new tasty treat, in the holiest of land, these small things makes life grand, and in India, this train of thought is a way of life.
"Get on, sit!" as my new friend and his brother hop on thier motor cycle. Three of us drive through the country side, not knowing where we are going, and it really didnt matter to me! Riding for an hour, passing a buring body on the side of a small bridge where a rural family is mourning, we enter an off-the-map town in search of his chemist, but first some Samosa’s and Chai!A quick stop at your typical clay stove, wood fire, dirt floor, straw hut Chai Stand on the side of the road. This is where the BEST chai, and food is found! Ridng arund on the country side was unreal. It was easy to imagine buddah walking the same path, and the streches of feilds and forest are majestic with low laying fog, a veil over the distant trees.
Returning to Kushinagar in the afternoon to his temple/chai stand, my friend wants to show me something special. A real cutting from the bodhi tree off the beaten path. A short 5 minute walk through the mustard feilds filled with sweet fresh air and a quiet ambience. Then it hit me.... That familiar smell! I looked around, and leading to the Bodhi tree was wild Cannabis plants everywhere! So unbelieveable! From then on, there was an awareness of how Cannabis grows wild everywhere between Kushinagar to Vaishali!!! However being early season, they were not flowering, and those that were, are either male or hermie, or the hemp variety.
My friend can speak 5 languages, and proved his Japanese the next day, as a guide for some Japan tourists. A smart educated man, living poor as a temple care taker / chai maker, he also claimed to be a buddhist priest, after all he did live in the ONE and only room at the small temple. But he wasnt like most monks/priests. He was your normal man, and an example of the Mahaparinirvana sutra: Buddhas last teaching. I asked him about smoking Ganja, as it is in violation on the five vows, and the only one I dont follow... He was cool with it, and shared his knowledge of Hindu belief, and his own. So I packed a chillum for us.... "BOOM SHANKAR!!!!!"
Time to retire, and meet again the next day...Tonight luck was on my side, for tap water was waiting for me at the hotel, the first time in 3 days!!! It was hot water too! Praise Jah, for even cold tap water is luxury in India, as most bathe in dirty brown lakes and filthy ponds. Then it was apparent, the Indian lifestyle is embracing my once western values and spoiled way of life.. I feel this is a gift from the Buddha, a wonderful lesson through experience.
The next day at 8 am, a thick fog covered the town. Flowers just paces away were hidden by the mist, it was so beautiful! Onto the main road, two men bigger than me, rididng a motorcycle, approach me through the fog.. With evil eyes, and very bad energy he demanded money. "who are you?" I asked... "GIVE MONEY NOW!"... He was ready to get off the bike and scrap, I could tell. "No money, sorry" and I walked off.. They slowly follow me and circle the main road back and forth, passing by over and over demanding money. Secretly I took out my swiss army knife which has a cork screw pertruding from the thick grip, which makes a hard fist with a corck screw steming between my middle and ring finger. A nice defense, but im so sorry to say, bad karma. After he approaches me one more time, knowing he could do some damage, I sright up tell him to his face "Look boy, you aint getting shit from me you understand?". Back home, that would have been a fight right then and there, but they just took off with an evil look and evil laugh. Never saw them again. I felt so bad, coming on a pilgrimage to the most holy land, and almost busting out a potentially deadly weapon, because of my fear, my karma..
continuing toward the stupa to pray and pay respects, and appologise for my actions, some kids stop me and hand me a stick... "Indian tooth brush!" They were chewing this raw stick until its bristled, then scrubbing thier teeth with it. They cant afford a real tooth brush, so this is prevelent and the best method available. The taste was nasty, but I gladly accepted and gave much thanks. 200 meters later the same kid comes running after me... "Indian toothbrush 10 rupees!!"... I laugh and hand him the stick back with a smile. The kid walks away mad, swearing in Hindi. What a trip!
To the Chai stand to meet my friend, he first takes me to his home, down a tiny dirt road hidden within the felids. Some houses were brick, others straw and claw. Two buffalos whos milk I enjoyed was intoduced, as well as his family, which was typically big, inculding his grandfather who is over 100 years old! His mother serves us some lunch, veg curry with rice and all kinds of side dishes, including FRESH, raw buffalo milk from their land! Real home style indian food is priceless, and sooooo goood. Afterwards, we take a 1 hour journey to his "brothers sister’s house" in the middle of no where!! Riding down narow dirt roads between mustard and vegetable feilds, Cannabis everywhere in huge patches, it was the most beautiful country side I have yet to see in India. Weaving between old straw and brick houses, it was an extremely rurual part of India. A pure country lifestyle with a population of about 300. Surrounded by 20 people at first, staring with bank looks and no english, is the common greeting for me, so im used to it by now. Soon after a beautiful Indian girl, my age, presented me with chai after chai, crackers, cookies, Indian sweets, sugar cane, more Indian sweets, overfeeding me with hospitality!... The only bad thing? Out here, there is no bottled water. Even in the surrounding towns of Kushinagar of decent size, there is no bottled water. Soon my friend left me for "just a litte while", and took off with his motorcycle, leaving me alone with his family, who spoke no english, for 3 hours!!! Thirsty, scared to drink the tap water, mental and physical exhaustion, the day was turining into night, and the situation got a little intimidating. But I kept good faith, lots of smiles, and soon my friend returned with a present!! A FRESH GREEN PRESENT!!! Only 100rs for a handful, it was a cool, straight up deal, and Jah provided when I was almost out of my presents! AchaGanjah, Praise Jah!
We smoked a ciggertte full, it was really mellow and happy, and I patiently waited until the sun set to leave. But then things got sketchy!! Somehow under the muffled influence of happiness-induced natural mystic, the words "American Green Card", "Visa", "marrage", and "you like this girl?"...
Letting the converstion flow until a respetful amount of silence was que for the big question... "Can you please take me to my hotel?".. He agreed, and we both enjoyed the long journey back heading into an Indian Orange sunset.
Reaching his chai stand, and owed 400 Rupees change from the Personal Gift he sold me, he was hesitant to honor our agreement it seemed. After asking 4 times, telling him "just 300rupees, keep 100 for Petrol", he handed me what I wanted. But I stil had an obligation to have dinner all the way back at the rural village we just departed. Not knowing what to think or feel, the thin line between genuinity and buisness was too thin to comprehend. Another mispoken truth was his "bother owned my hotel, so my 8pm cerfew didnt matter". I returned to freshen up at the hotel, while my friend waited outside. Thinking hard about the situation and walking to the street where he was stadning, my heart told him that I was very very tired, havent slept in a long time, and would like to just go to sleep. He seemed very sad, and I asked 3 times if I offended him, with the same "yes" reply to each question. I felt bad, but was intimadated by the situation, and needed to decline. I promised to meet him early the net day at his temple, before leaving this town of Kushinagar. Later that night, after he left, I asked the management if his brother owned the hotel.. "This place is owned by a woman from America" he replied.....
I wanted to get out of the town, but I felt I owed the respect to atleast say goodbye to this man, and respectfully call him on his assumed bullshit. When arriving at his chai stand, another westerner traveling alone was sharing some tea. A little later I decided to visit the home of Chunda, who gave the last offering to buddha, since I couldent leave the town today. My friend insisted he come with me, although I was already feeling like he was a fake. He walked me to the bus stand to help me out with the directions, and actually escort me to the village. Soon the westerner met earlier today showed up, so we invited him along. Into a little village off the map, sharing some fish and samosas with chai, we were ready to walk to the escavation site. Wasnt anything special at first look, but spiritually, it was amazing. Muslim women in a trance like state sat around the ruins chanting and moving like under a spell. It was a trip to watch.. After an hour we retired to an expensive beer, treated our Indian friend to one, and he got wasted like nothing!. A bus was needed to return, and there was no room for us inside the first bus leaving to Kushinagar... .... Then my dream came true... WE GOT TO RIDE ON THE ROOF OF AN INDIAN BUS!! 10 feet climbing up the parked buss, and my camera falls down!! OH MY GOD!! Praise the lord, it took the abuse, and still works perfectly! Its as if the Karma of this pilgramage is watching over my soul. The bus ride back was one long smile. We were like the kings of a parade as the bus slowly drove down the paved road. Villagers waving to us from all over, some waved at by us only to stare with blank looks in return, followed by laughter shared between we solo travelers. Ending the ride early, we walked through a short cut in the green feilds, our drunken indian friend as our happy guide, until we came to a small, shallow river that flows behind the cremation site of Buddha. It was said Buddha took his last bath and drank his last sips of water from this river, which was very clean and clear. Taking our shoes and socks off, we walked across this sacred, unknown river with our barefeet, knowing how lucky, how precious it is, to have walked the same path as the world honored one. Smoking a Bidi and letting our feet dry, within 5 minutes we made it back to the Temple/Chai stand. A chilum was passed around between the three of us, my westerner friend partaking for the first time in years (what is it about people not smoking for years, then meeting me and ASKING to smoke??) The night was young, but our strength drained. Dinner time was soon, so we all ate a last meal together at the best (1 of 2) resturants in the town. Sadly, I hate to admit this, but my Indian friends integrity was resting on his own bill. To my amazement, he paid for hiself, as we all did, and at that moment I knew he was a cool person. I prased him, gave him my love and thanks, hands in Namaste, and wished them both well...
Time to get up and catch the 8:00am buss to Kesyria, where the #2 largets buddhist stupa is!!(sp?)
Posted on February 13th, 2006
Kushinagar to Kesariya!
Not wanting to bactrack, and with lack of advice from even the TOURIST INFO CNTER in Kushinagr, I took my Indian friends advice and caught a bus into a place off the Lonely Planet map yet again, into a place called Gopalganj. The bus ride sucked, I stood the entire 3 hours, and when I reached this town to transfer busses, there was NO bottled water anywhere in this seemingly large town. I guess no tourists ever come here. Man I need some food... So the first Dabba looked best. "Veg Curry, no Chicken, please" He makes me a plate of chicken curry, spicy, good, and served with some tap water. At this moment I broke two rules. Eating the chicken in India, and drinkng the tap water! However, eating with obvious dirty hands, scooping the food into my mouth with filthy fingers, has become more routine than disgusting. Infact I wil NEVER eat Indian food with utensils again!! The right hand is more efficient and easier! Soon as the meal was done, the transfer bus was leaving toward Kesariya’s enterance, again off the map, an unknown second way to reach Kesariya... The locals had a certain name for the village, perhaps there is two names and the LP lists only one name....? A tempo to the town tok me only so far, so I walked about 2 miles until a huge stupa appeared in the middle of nowhere. I still had no botted water, no food, and it was too late to get a bus ride out! Not only that, Kesariya has NO hotels at all. Time to rough it and camp under the stars!!! Climbing the tall stupa and finding a flat area was like hevan. Above the danger, alone with India, it was everthing I wanted, but not what god had planned for me... God needed to teach me a lesson... Some of the attendants of the deserted monument wouldent leave me alone. "YOU CANT SLEEP HERE". But I had no where to sleep or go, and only a bed tent and blanket. They offered me a room at the office to crach, and I gladly accepted. Within 5 minutes I was knocked out. The sun was barely setting and the night young. Soon they woke me up with samosas and crackers for some food. I was so grateful to have food and shelter. But I couldent stay there, for it was a problem against government policy. They took me to the police station, and I was afraid. The police took all my information, questioned me about everything, and fell short of searching my bags, thank the gods! The head cheif knew my situation, and told me "You can sleep at my house tonight". Next to his bedroom was a little waiting room. Some officers moved in a old ply-wood bench with a blanket covering its hard surface, this was my bed. Then they brought me food, lots of food, and I couldent even finish it all. The water again was tap water, and being forced to survive off the ground water in India was a little scarry, as dysentery kept pestering my conscience.. The head chief sat withme and talked about his life... He had barely anything, worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week, on call, and could only visit his dying wife in Patna (100km away) once a month. He had children, but can rarely see them becuase he must work so hard to support them. His life was simple, and his bed not much better than mine. He makes roughly $15USD for 24 hours of work per day. So little did he own, yet so much to give, he was the most genuine person I have met in India. All he asked was that I make Puja (prayers) for his wife. That night I offered prayers from the monk-only chapter of my prayer book, for his wife. Graditude toward his kind heart, the buddah, and the little he had to give made tears run down my face.. In the morning, I awoke to breakfast and warm fresh milk. We had a nice conversation, and were about to part ways, for I must continue to Vaishali and the bus departs within 30 minutes. Looking him in his eyes I spoke from the heart, and my words were a reflection of his heart, in praise for his blessings... Loading up onto the bus, its time to travel through the dirt, pot-holed roads to Vaishali, where the journey penetrates deeper into the mystery that India has planned for me. From here on, the pigramage is insane! 5 hours and 150 ruppes later, I am ony half way done with my journal of the last 10 days. Forgive the delay! Aloha
Posted on February 13th, 2006
Kesariya to Vaishali!
Buddha spent some time here, preaching his knowledge! Feeling partially enlightened after encountering whole hearted acts of a buddha nature, the worse road ever traveled still brought and endless smile to my face. The bus traveled through the back roads, which was one gigantic pot hole. Little Cannabis plants boarderd the road side everywhere. The sweet smell of Ganja, urine, vegetable feilds, cows, wooden stoves and spices filled the air as we travled through the most country part of India seen yet.
Straw huts, remote villages, clear skies and palm trees emerging from the tall grasslands brings day dreams of wild tigers lurking, the exotic india known in old movies.. The scenery was beautiful, and only estinguished when the normal happens: Indians cant help to start a conversation with a foriegner, even if you have earphones on! Its almost impossible to listen to an entire song without being forced into a barely unerstandable, 30 minute conversation about god knows what!
But this bus trip wasnt too bad, and a few cd’s worth of music went undisturbed, though looking at the passangers every so often, I could tell they were itchen to talk to me! Ariving at Vaishali, the first thought was "HUH?, this cant be Vaihali!" This town is the smallest place I ever been to. Not one resturant! Only samosa’s, crackers, and botted water. The first and best hotel in the small area was the Shri Lanka guest house, by donation only. The LP listed hotel, the only one, was practiclly deserted. Got a sweet private bath, 2 beds, cold water showers, and CLEAN standards. Food is free here too!
My next 2 days in Vaishali, I lived off of $1.50, plus a nice donation!
First priority was water, so I made the treck in search of something in a bottle... A huge crowd stood in the middle of a dirt feild, and called me over to join them. It was a musical Movie in action! THE MOST SEXY, BEAUTIFUL Indian girl I have ever layed eyes on, dressed in a sexy purple Indian dress, belly button flat and exposed, I fell inlove instantly. Hard work for them all, cut! cut! cut! No good! An hour was spent fogeting about thirst, and imagining what it would be like to have such a woman. She was dancing with grace, shaking her hips, flowing arm and hand movements to Indian music, nothing like I have ever seen before. I was in love Soon the director stopped and greeted me, proud to have a new guest! Everyone, hundreds of villagers surrounded me in awe of a wierd foriegn face..
Ofcourse, Indian hospitaity is formost in Bihar, so it seems, although it is "the most lawless state". Offerd lunch that I cant refuse. Teaching me how to eat with my hands the proper Indian way, using the thumb topush the food into your mouth, they wanted me to feed the beautiful girl from my hand!! I declined to be polite, but later found it was a customary to feed someone with your hand, atleast in this town.. The whole movie set gang took me to thier studio, fed me lunch, sang for me, took 20 pictures, and made me sing American songs! I busted out with some Bob Marley and Sublime tunes known by heart, and they werent impressed, for Indians have amazing voices. After hours of hanging out, and a little caution/suspicion from my side, everything worked out perfectly, and they left before nighttime to finish thier work.
That night I met an Indian guide from Ladakh, my age, and we shared hours of religious conversation. We opened up to eachother, told things that no one else knows about. Of course, being born and raised in Jammu area, I had to ask about the hash there! He hasnt smoked in years, gave it up, but after our conversation, he asked me to smoke him out with my chillum! We got so stoned, shook hands, parted ways to remember our good times together, forever..
The next day was even crazier!! MY GOD! But I gota go now, its been 6 hours of typing! Im so broke! hahaha!! Right now I am in Bohdgaya, and have many places to talk about.... Aloha everyone!
Posted on February 14th, 2006
Vaishali to Nalanda to Rajgir!
Thinking back to arriving in Vaishali, the small paved road leading to the important sites were boarderd by the poorest people, everyone living in straw huts. A beautiful young girl about 19, dressed in colorful rags, was sitting in the hot black road, molding fresh cowshit into flat patties used for fire. The children were extremely dirty and poor, yet thier culture and appreciation for life was apparent through thier endless smiles, interest and laughter.
The ShriLanka temple by donation only was a god send, with an 8pm cerfew, understandably. Remembering back to the moments before dusk,a nice walk toward the main road to explore the place hit the spot. Within seconds of passing the same straw huts and happy children, an elderly man offered me a ciggerette and chai. Its hard to believe such a small gift is a nice chunk of his daily wage, probably 10% or more. He was happy to give, although I had to part ways early, for Puja was at 6:00pm. Just making it back in time, the monk was waiting for me! We sat together infront of a golden sitting Buddha shrine, offered our bows with a different form and gesture, and soon the rythmatic tibetian style chanting filled the hotel. Hands together, in meditation, feelings of graditude for all the blessings recieved flowed through my body, the chanting vibrating within, flowing together like a crystal clear river.. Words cannot describe. Ending the chanting with a sincere thankyou, we smiled together as he gestured allowance to begin my chanting. Although he did not attend another Puja, his kind heart was busy making dinner for us all! Along with the aformentioned guide from Lahdak were a few South Korean tourists, whos country coicidentally seems to dominate the tourist economy in India. The free meal was simple, filled with watery rice, seaweed, fruits, potato, and with simple Korean style dinner elements it was a refreshing taste of home! (Hawaii has a big Korean population). After dinner and a smoke, the next day awaited me with an intense, unexpected advenure through the "off the map" villages of Bihar!
Waking into the late morning, washing socks before eating, the day started with another walk around the small lake that the village surrounds. A few straw-hut style chai & snack stands dot the perimeter of the dirty water, in which the locals bathe. Looking everywhere for food, it takes an hour before finding some Samosas and water, infront of the beautiful white marble Japanese temple. A group of elders in thier 40’s and 50’s sat around the normal 20 person crowd attending the rare sight of this wierd foriegn face. But eventually settling down as the fresh food was presented, the older crowd offered me to smoke some Chillum. Though the temple attendand forcefully declined thier offer for me, and that was understandable... One of the men keeps feeding me sweets with his hand, which by this time, wasnt suprising... They would walk up to me, bow down and touch my feet, and raise with thier hands together in Namaste. A very high sign of respect, for as many Indians have told me: "In india we say Guest is like God".
Bill?... Handed him the charge and took off a few paces when the elders stopped me for a quick conversation, and then to escort me into the temple which was decorated beautifully. Three bows, a small donation, and a sudden offer to tag along in thier Jeep, heading to the Asoka pillar 3km away, which I was about to walk to! Right on! About 8 men squeezed into this tiny jeep, and passed the turn off to the Pillar...! Keeping silently happy, not having a clue where we are going or how far they will drive me, accepting "going with the flow" was too easy by now...Kicked back, one of the men sitting next to me who barely spoke english sang the whole way with a huge grin, staring at me, singing to me in HIndi... He was a fat man in his 40’s, gold and rotten teeth, jolly and filled with laughter...
Within 20 minutes we arrived somewhere unknown..
It was the birthplace of the founder of Jain religion. 2500 yaers old. These men were also on a pilgramage from far away towns in Bihar, some where from local villages who were only friends. Only one man spoke english, a short indian man about 60, who sported a long grey beard. He explained a little about this sacred place, and gave deep thoughts reguarding the holy history of this regions soil. Soon we were off in the jeep again, arriving at the Asoka Pillar!! No need for an enterance fee, although it was written at the offical booth. These men got me in for free, and later I found out who they claimed to be... (Important village people who can smoke ganja everywhere and have respect everywhere, one a head master of his village, perhaps with a little excissive power in this part of Bihar..) The old man explained a little history not in the guide books. Around the stupa and Lion-Pillar rests 99 mini stupas, each a grave for Emporer Ashokas 99 brothers whom died at his hands! The bloodshed of Ashokas wars, killing his 99 brothers is unthinkable... Yet he still retianed a Buddha nature, like every human being, and was able to dedicate the rest of his life in repentance and love for the teachings of Buddha. This moment was a reflection, as I secretly wipped my eyes, for the realization that every human no matter how messsed up, is cappable of a love-centered-life...
Back into the jeep with deep thoughts, we drove for half an hour into a small town, something like "Lallganj"... Stopping at a Dabba, we sat in a circle and orderd a few snacks, including some soft white creamy sweets never tasted before. Then some whiskey was whipped out! Oh no.... The whiskey was poured into many glasses for all, and boy did they make me drink! Even mixing the Whiskey with tap water, I couldent decline thier gift, and again prayed that I wont get dysentery from the tap water! Something about this soft white screamy sweet and whiskey that just hit the spot... Kicking back, enjoying the moment, the men were getting wasted off thier @sses! The fat man sitting next to me kept feeding me with his right hand, and soon the double-hand-symbol for "lets smoke some chillum" dropped the conversation. Buzzed, full and happy, I was first to bust out my pre-packed chillum!! Thier eyes lit up with thier faces... BOOM SHANKAR!!!! Puffing and passing, across the table sat an elderly man, a Hannyuman Baba, with a Grocery Bag full of ganja! Must have been a quater pounder! His eyes were red and wide open with a stare as if he can see through existance itself. He sat silently, re-packed my chillum full, and we continued our wodnerful session of whiskey and smoke.... Content and relaxed, my momentary demeaner was my only salvation for the next suprise... "I LOVE YOU FRIEND".. The fat, 40ish year old man with rotten teeth was getting very emotional and loud. He kept telling mw how much he loved me, and they all started telling me " I LOVE YOOOUUUU"... *man do Indians get drunk fast!* So the jolly fat man with rotten teeth grabbed my head, and thinking he was going to give a "Italian Style" cheek kisss, stuck his nasty tounge out and french kissed my mouth!!!!! I threw his head back and quickly wipped my face, short of getting violent.... Everyone laughing hysterically, and it took a minute to regain my posture. That was so sick and not cool. Though as my happiness came with the territory at the time, the situation rolled off my shoulder with a semi-laugh, and from that point everything was cool...
Soon one of the important, richer men in the town showed up, and invited us to his new home, where his son’s birthday celebration was going on... Taking a tour of his house, he was proud to show me his up-scale life style, for his house was made of brick, and the dirt floor had semi- new furniture. He was one of the richest people in town. Sitting on his bed with the best treatment, being introduced to his family, so many sweets were presented. Respectfully forced to chow down an unimaginable amount of sweets, the thin line between graditude and sickness had nearly vanished... Then it was time for lunch!! Sitting in a circle with 15 other men on thier large dirt porch, the women stayed together in the house, as we found comfert on the floor buffered with a thin rag mat. So much home style cooking was poured on my plate!! So much curries, all different styles of authentic Indian food, the dinner was an unforgetable one. "when in rome"..... None of us washed our hands, and ate with our dirty fingers, naturally, without hesitation. Tap water was presented, as bottle water was FAR away. Again having no other choise, I drank down two cups of obviously cloudy ground water!! But man is the food good and spicy!
After the meal, we settled down and soon I knew, it was time to make the transition into "leaving"...Knowing if I stayed any longer, an uncomfertable situation would arrise when they WILL offer me a place to sleep at thier house, which will be hard to decline respectfully...The time was 4:30, and I gave them the best reason I could find without lying... "At 6pm we have Puja, I need to be at my hotel by 6pm!"... They understood, but didnt take me back with the Jeep!! I was on my own! Walking me across the street, they hailed a tempo back to Vaishali. We said our goodbyes, exchanged information, touching my feet and bowing with respect, only to have the same expression mirrored back at them. This is a good thing to learn in India.. How to show respect to beggars, touts, all people, by touching thier feet, bowing with Namaste gesture.
On the Tempo ride home, I wondered about the erspect they showed me...
Many times I have been called a Sadhu. With dreadlocks like shiva, aesthetic practices of body piercing, alone on a pilgramage to find god, without marrige or a woman, smoking Ganja religiously, and at all times filled with love. "American Sadhu". "Buddhua Sadhu". "Sadhu Baba". These phrases are often spoken infront of me, indirectly between locals, refering to this strange forienger before them. Many times has my hair alone gained mutual respect from the locals.
But the tempo stopped in a little town inbetween the house I jsut left, and Vaishali. NO ONE here spoke english, it was a town nonexistant to tourists. This place was raw and real. The people have a rougher attitude, a meaner look, a more agressive behavior and I could tell this is one tough place to live. "Vaishali?"...YES! Finnaly found an overcrowded jeep that took an HOUR to get back. By the time I hit the enterence to Vaishali, it was night time and Puja was over. Chanting alone, prostrated infront of the hotels shrine, grateful for the experiences throughout this holy land, and to have made it back without getting jacked at night, I thanked the Buddha for the blesings recieved today, and prayed for all deceased souls and thier Karma.
After all the excitement, it was now time for dinner! Food at this hotel (guest house actually) was free. And this time, it was AWSOME!!! Some Shri-lankan nuns were ona pilgrimage too, and bought TONS of food for everyone. They invited me to eat outside, sitting on the steps of the garden, munching on a tasty meal, my gut was stuffed at it was soon time for bed... So whats the plan for tomorow? Get out the door by 8am to catch the bus to Patna, then to Bodhgaya! However, this would deduct a few important buddhist sites from my pilgramage, and weighing the pros and cons, I lazily took the latter... Though the Buddha had a different plan for me!!!
Waking up in the morning to a fantastic Wake and Bake, I made it downstairs right on time...Suddenly the head monk walks up and says: "The Shri-lanka nuns are going to Patna today, you can catch a ride!" A GIFT FROM THE GODS! Praise Jah, for the karma accumalated during this pilgrimage is ever so apparent! First class, Air Condidtion, comfertable seats, brand spankin new private bus, I got a front seat with a view so spetacular, I could have been walking the entire way! The windsheild was bigger than any bus seen, so the view was amazing the whole way there! Knowing there is nothing that spetacular in Patna, its used more as a transit point. The Bus was going all the way to Nalanda, an important Buddhist site I would have skipped otherwise! It was far from Patna, and would have cost me atleast another day in booking/traveling/sleeping. The Nuns were more than happy to hitch me a ride all the way to Nalanda! Infact they were going to Bodhgaya that very day! It was a tough decision, but theres no escaping the fact that I am traveling alone, so the moment seemed parting ways at Nalanda was best...
The ancient ruins were really cool. It was quite an experience to explore and treck around. But soon the 48L Marmot Backpack drained enough energy to call it a day, and find a hotel in Rajgir!! But first, a couple bananas for some beggars, who are 99% without any graditude, heh.
Only 6 rupees from Nalanda to Rajgir, but the jeep had no room.. Oh yeah! My seat is on the roof, baby!!! WOOHOO!! Some small rails to hold onto, and rice-sacks to lean back on, I had a first class, Maharaja style gangster lean, on top of the world!! The whole way there was such a blast, and my cheeks are hurting from all the Perma-grining!
Then out of no where, massive and unimaginable, mountian size hills rose almost vertically from the flat plains, demanding nothing less than pure awe. We were now in Rajgir, and what awaits is just another chapter that ultimately changed my life...
Posted on February 14th, 2006
Hopping off the roof of the tempo, excited and overthrilled, my Marmot Pack fell straight into a pile of sewage. Great. Walking around the town searching for a hotel, careless for the Lonely Planet, booking in advanced is now out of the question in my travels. Also I can care less for the LP’s hotel listings. After one month in India, with sufficient clothes and a bed tent, it no longer matters what happens when arriving in a new place. Faith in god only matters now, and keeping a pure heart and frame of mind is all that is needed here, in Great India.
Finding a side street, two hotels face eachother with apparent competition. This is a good sign! Choosing one, happy to find a room with a private bath, and bargain with the owner for 100rs a night! Not bad! Of course, its cold water, squat toilet, and a thin matress thats almost non-existant. After a month in India, I know, this is luxury compared to half the nations life style! Outside my thirdfloor room was a two story house where a poor local family lived, cows right below, cow-dung fire patties by the masses, the stench of fecies didnt phase me, at this point. I was happy to have a roof over my head! Well we got some time before sunset, time to explore the town a little..... After an overpriced lunch down the road, and heading into the backroads of Rajgir, I wanted to leave the next day! This small village was so intense, so real, it reminded me of the coined phrase "Distilled India" in reference to Varanasi. Although Rajgir has a more "raw" element than Varanasi, its not a tourist place, its a holy place, and few travelers stay here, rather passing through for the day. I found a Chemist and got a little mellow, and then let things flow over a cup of chai, from the filthiest stand ever! Soon a heard of atleast 100 cattle comes walking down the street! It was pretty amazing. The Chemist shops have signs posting as "Druggists", heh heh! And in many ways, thats the illegitimately are! This place is such a trip! Wanderd through some back alleys and found out how small this little town is. Its like a mini LosVegas... A small bustling town in the middle of no where, and within a few paces your back into endless feilds and mountain ranges... From the dirt plains behind main road, temples dotting the mountain tops intrigue the sences, and the orange sunset over the golden landscape radiates a feeling of holiness, for this is considered a holy land by 5 different religions!!! The urge to treck hit me like a truck, and the temples on the mountain top looked so inaccessable, I HAD to find a way there! So it was then decided to stay another night in Rajgir, and climb the mountain!! The guidebook says nothing about these temples, other than many exist on 5 hills and you can catch a "cable car" to one of them... HAH!
The first day in Rajgir was turning into night.... On the way back to the hotel I met a kid in the feild who was about 13. Instantly we became friends, he was a cool kid, and a person I will never forget by the time I leave Rajgir!!
Although the hotel owner and staff knew only 10 english words and numbers to barter with, the food they cooked me was the best and cheapest ever. 25rs (50 cents!) for the best dinner dish ever!! Gota love the food here! A meal like this would cost $20usd back home! Later on that night, I got felt adventureous enough to wander the streets of lawless Bihar after dark! Finding a chai shop, the boy brings it from across the way. The usual crowd of 20 people surrounding me silently was again the normal greeting, even at this hour... When I asked "Bill?"... he replies "50rs"... I laughed, but he was serious. The situation paused with an uncomfertable silence.... "no no no... 2 rupees!!" I said with a laugh.. But he insisted on the 50rs! Irie vibes and a smile prevailed, and soon I had them laughing with me, and he gave me the Chai for free! Needing to give someting in return, I bought some Bidi’s from his friend’s stand, who overcharged me 2rs anyway! Then I shared my Bidi’s with them all, and the whole crowd lightened up until it almost became a party, a party like the one about to happen!!!..
Leaving the groupies to retire on the porch of my hotel, music started blasting from far away. A turck carring HUGE speakers, blasting Indian music, rolling along slowly approached the hotel. On the back of the truck was a statue of Hindu god. Many locals were dancing the whole night away, having a blast as the music went on into the late night!! Witnessing such an event was really cool, as it was more of a township ritual! A few great pictures and it was time to rest for the next day, because the mountain top calls out to me!!! Little did I know, the entire next day would take me along a secret, 22km (more like 28km) hike through the mountians, visiting ancient temples so remote, they are left locked and unattended... But that story is for another day!
Posted on February 18th, 2006
Second day in Rajgir
Aloha everyone, namaste Thank you all for the kind replies! Im glad you are all enjoying the journey aswell.
The second day in Rajgir sarted relatively early, as the hotel owner came knocking at my door aruond 8:30am to ask if some breakfast would make me happy. Taking it as a sign, within a few minutes I was dressed and downstairs, only to find the biggest, cheapest breakfast compareable to last nights dinner! The owner also pre-arranged a tempo for my day, without my knowledge, and he waited very patiently, only to find out I was unaware and unwilling!
Walking a few hundred yards down the road, the once bustling city turned into a quiet, desert like retreat. A split in the road leads to seperate mountains, but only the western peak called out with a temple crowning the top. Walking further down the road, with eyes fixed on the mountain slope, a barely noticeable pathway appeared through the dried bush, leading a steep climb to an unknown height. Hit with instant excitement, the path to find the starting point became a mission!
Instincts led the start of this walk through a narrow pathway, behind chai stands and shops which didnt seem like the right path at all. A pink, roofless building stood out where inside a public bath full of dirty water had many villagers bathing in it. Feeling really out of place I looked down and hesitantly continued further behind the bath’s walls. Here was a small community of people like nothing I seen before. It was an extremely busy town of people, all who worked out of and lived in grass shacks, as if the country style way of life was condensed into a small city! Walking past the busy villagers, soon appeared the starting point, slightly hidden behind the crowds of shacks and people. A small stone marking the enterence, and the engravement read the temple atop dates back to 2500bc. The pathway was beautiful, cement-like stone with natural marble inlay, and steps leading up so far, the ending was a secret to be found. Armed with a litter of water, the mid-day sun fried above my head, and this moment only fueled my determination, testing the willpower of adventure, with the seemingly endless climb mocking me with each and every step. The pace grew faster until it was like being back home, walking up scenic dirt roads into the mountains of Oahu, falling quickly into the natural rythum of hiking..
Passing cattle and goats, farmers and villagers, a sence of wonder was nothing less than admiration for thier way of life in this remote area, and the amazement of what cows would be doing this high up the steep stair way...Many of the villagers gathering fire wood from the dried brush, only to carry down loads resting with a perfect ballance upon thier heads. After thousands of stairs, the first small temple made a nice retreat, sharing a bidi and buying some overpriced water! Only a third of the way up the mountain, the jounery continued until, atlast, the temple crowing the mountain top was at my feet! Finnaly! The view was beautiful, and Rajgir looked so far away, pictures taken could barely capture the town! Walking around the temple, the same pathawy was found hidden away, continuing far down the valley slope, and up another, where a simmilar temple stuck out in the distance. "Kilometers?" I asked the temple attendan, pointing at the temple across the valley.. "only 3 or 4". He says.. Sounds good to me!...The walking of endless stairs went on.. Soon it hit me, I was in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no people, a half liter of water, and nothing but mountian sides and wild vegetation... ...The stairs went on and on.. When the temple across the valley was reached, it was time to chill out for a while and relax for a few.... Another temple was a short distance away, and like the once next to it, the temple was so remote that it was unattended and locked up behind bars. A short look around, and I noticed the path continued!! Assessing the situation on water and energy, I chanced the trail leading further into the unknown, with now less than half a liter of water, and nothing but wilderness in sight.. The stairs trailed down and down, and after a few more hours of walking, fear started to set in. I was passed the point of return, and didnt know where I was going to end up, so the best idea was to keep going! While admiring the landscape, although terrified that I could be lost, a small section of the main road appeared about 4 miles away! YES! from then on, the trail was a blast! Knowing I was okay, the hike ended with a chillum under a tree, sitting on a marble rock, still a mile away from the paved, main road. A villager soon appeared from the bush, carring a large knife on a stick, and I offered a seat. He was poor farmer, and had a sack full of grains which he offered a handful of. Villagers like him make barely 50rs a day, for all they do is clear bush and farm in the widnerness. Wanting a little baksheesh, of course, a 10rs note was a nice gesture, and he ungratefully half-smiled as we parted ways.
The day was scorching hot at this time, and while walking down the paved road I noticed the hike just completed went up one side, and came down the other side of the entire mountian, length wise (including the valley inbetween)! A little sunburned, over-heated, I took my shirt off and let it hang around my neck, and let the dreads hang too, as my bandana was soaked with sweat. Always with a sence of love and reality after long walks into unknown wilderness, highest vibes with a feeling of spiritual enlightenment, walking down the road letting the dreads hang had a special effect. Villagers and townspeople were giving me the Namaste gesture with smiles, instead of blank confused looks. Sweaty and dirty with a thousand mile stare, somehow, for some reason, I was getting a lot of respect.
Arrivng back at the starting point, a few villagers confirmed that the entire monestery hike was 19 kilometers! The afternoon was still early, and it was time for lunch.... Dabbas doing road-side buisness can prepare some cheap vegetale curry, and the once chosen had a spetacular view of the second mountian, the one in the east!! Today my energy level was going off the hook, maybe it was the food, but staring at the second mountain gave me that same special feeling all over again! Mocking me, tempting me, calling out to climb it!!.....I gave in
Finding the starting point was very easy, as the hiking trail begins behind the "Hot Springs". A Hindu man approaches me as I pass the famous place, his intentions correctly prejudged. Forcing me to recieve a "blessing", of course for a hidden fee, I couldent say no, or pay him! So I let him do his thing, recite a prayer without much enthusiasum, and the grand total was 500rs! Heh heh! Time to bust out an old trick, but an honest gesture from the heart.
With sincere prayer I looked him in the eyes, and told him my payment is "puja". I bent down, touched his feet, and put my hand together in Namaste, and let a moment of silence pass as I recite a blessing. The man and I both content, walked seperate ways to continue along our own paths in life.
Just like the first mountian, the path has the same stone inlay, same vegetation, but a totally different view! Only a few short Kilometers of an uphil battle between my legs and the stairs, temples finnaly revealed itself, one after another, some unattended and perfect for another chillum while enjoying the scenery all to my self!! Feeling Irie and upbeat, it was time to walk further up the mountain! The only man you can call a tourist wasnt very welcome at the top, as two days in Rajgir showed only a single western couple! The true isolation of these places is something really special for those who love hiking! But at the very top of the mountain, the marble-inlay path ended into a temple which had a family living within its boundries. Walking behind the temple, around the family members, the eldest man ran after me and scolded me in Hindi. Through his warnings, I noticed another path way continuing up the moutain side, but it was a dirt road filled with gigantic boulders to climb over. However, the brush was chopped away and a clear pathway was apparent, although pretty rough! I kept pointing to the pathway, and he kept saying "NO! JUNGLE!" over and over. Insisting that its part of my journey, and unwilling to listen, he waved his backhand while turning away, as if to gesture "go f**k off then, I dont care!"... ....cool! Climbing for an hour up this dirt road, over big rocks and sharp broken pieces of marble, locals passed by without much thought to this alien face, though I noticed something about them... They were dressed a little differently, and all carried bamboo walking sticks, bamboo that I have yet to see growign in this region! Many of the old ladies walking slowly on this path had no shoes at all, and even the men were very small compared to most indians. They looked like a totally different people than the rest of Rajgir.. The climb continued and the path became more of a challenge as it winded higher up the mountain. After atleast 4-5 kilometers of an uphill battle, a group of five villagers approached me.. None could speak much english, but from thier body language and tone of voice, they were telling me to turn back... At this point I couldent! I offered them 1USD to take me further, to the ending of the trail, but they insisted with passion that I not continue. I had no other choice, so I turned back... One man spoke a little english, and knew how to ask my name, and introduce hiself aswell... "Does the trail go to a village??" He says it does. "Whats the village name?" He said "No name!". I asked many times, but he wouldent tell me anything about his hidden, remote village! After returning to the last temple, the elder man who initially warned me, wouldent tell me the village name either! They both kept saying "Village no name"... It was apparent that beyond the valleys of this mountain, lay a secret village that wants to remain untouched and unspoiled by outsiders. A treckers dream to find! I was so close!... And how dissapointing, but oh well, it was getting late by now, and time for a beer and a smoke!
Wandering back to the hotel, a kid I chated with a few times was hanging out on the street corner, so we had a little conversation over a little more walking. This 13 year old kid spoke english very well, and he was an amazing person. For such a young boy, its hard to believe, that the philisophical conversaion that followed rivaled that of many adults! Our religious and cultural views on life layed flat on the table, we could only sit there amazed at eachothers teachings.
Parting ways afer dark, the next day I was to leave for Bodhgaya, so we agreed to meet in the morning. Two hours early, I get a knock on the door, it was the young boy. This kid who lives within a poor family and house which visited ealier, had two presents for me. The night before he wouldent even accept a cup of tea, samosa, even a sweet! He had this much respect and integrity, with barely anything to give, though handed me two brand new farewell cards! On the envelopes he wrote, "I love you Justin". With only a few hours until the bus leaves for Bodhgaya, he wouldent even accept breakfast with me. No matter how much I insisted, he would respectfully decline. Feeling happily obligated to spend my last hours in Rajgir with him, breakfast was skipped, although when taking a quick deture for some chai, my friend had already payed for it, along with sweets and a small meal. Still declining my offers to return the favor, or pay for myself. He must have spent a fortune on these gifts, and had so much love to give. What we learned from eachother, and the wisdom shared, im sure that his life along with mine has been in some small way, changed forever. His last words to me spoke: not to get down or sad when India takes advantage of me, as if he knew my story, or the future of my travels here...
Posted on February 22nd, 2006
Kirmani, internet here cost 30-40 rupees per hour, but even worse, it takes away from your precious time in India. Im trying to go on a budget, but do my best to express whats really going on. Please, try not to waste too much space, okay? Thanks Kirmani
Im waiting alone for breakfast in Gangtok right now, for the hotel has a computer at the empty cafe... and as I sit here without food in my stomach, just the doubts alone make me so sad. I mean I really love to write and share whats going on with my first travel experience. I was a body piercer for years, look at my portfolio, then got hurt,and yeah I am a little batshit crazy, cause I aint at home, and I love to adventure. I gave it up to come here to India and follow my dreams of traveling. I just wana share whats honestly happening. I swear from the heart. Any way brerakfast brb... edit.
Posted on February 23rd, 2006
First Four days in Bodhgaya
Arriving into Bodhgaya on Feb 12th, I was only planning on staying for a few days, but it turned out to be a week, and the biggest cross between chiling out and ending a spiritual pilgrimage! It was also 7 days of truley learning the Indian way of life!!
Entering by tempo close to the Boditree and its temple’s limits, again a new town into wander lost and confused.. Walking over a few steps, a man from America crossed paths as we looked eachother in the eyes. There was no need for an introduction, as that very moment it was like an instant friendship. "Whats going on man?".... and from there the Bodhgaya journey started.
He was dressed in some pretty cool custom indian clothes and was pretty chilled out. And although he was going to the Bodhi Temple, Brad was more than happy to take me far down the road to his hotel, the Sheetal, which had hot showers around the clock! The third floor was the rooftop with a few chairs and a table for hanging out. There were four rooms up there, and each room oppupied by cool guests who partied it out a few nights on our large, open balcony. Little did I know how lucky I was at the time: HIS HOLINESS THE DALI LAMA was at Bodhgaya!! All the rooms in the area could have been booked solid! For 150rs a night, I found it a steal..
The time was early afternoon, so Brad and I went to the temple to hang out with all tibetian monks that flooded the entire place, and eventually found a seat amongst them. Many tibetian monks were gathered along the floor, listening to the chanting being blasted from huge speakers above. A few signs read that it was the 2250(ish) annual festival! Hard to believe we were suddenly part of an ancient tradition, sitting in the middle of it all! There where groups of people from all over, many solo travelers, also more dreadies than I ever seen!
As His Holiness the Dali Lama began to exit the temple, people were CRAWLING over eachother to catch a glimpse, a photo, any kind of memory they can salvage from this moment. Barely able to remove my camera, perhaps it was good karma that gave my feet the sweet spot, and within a few seconds three pictures were taken, one was the moneyshot! A picture to treasure forever His Holiness smiling away in a blisfull state, surrounded by monks wearing different colors, symbolic of thier spiritual elevation. Perfect.
Within a few hours the temple was relatively deserted, and like cattle we left along with the crowds. Soon a 16 year old Indian boy approached Brad and made thier friendship apparent. The boy lived at the town across the river, which was dried into a desert at the moment, about 1km away from Bodgaya. This was the actual river Buddha accepted his first food offering upon ending his ascetic training.
Well the clock definately read beer:thirty, and we just believe it, there was a liquor store right around the corner from the Bodhi temple! Roof top chill out, some cold beer, and a great conversation to start the sunset with! A single "HIT" brand beer cost 85rs a peice, compareable to America’s prices, and while making the purchace some Tibetian monks walked up and intoduced themselves! One minute later the camera was busted out, and a picture taken.....Arms around two monks in robes, infront of a liquor store,! Heh, heh.
Beers getting cold and it time to walk fast to the rooftop. Soon the Indian kid, we shall call him Hommie, had another friend tagging along. Up to the roof top and a happy cheers into a cold fresh beer made a perfect ending to watch the colors in the sky change. Without noticing, a guitar and a Tabala was taken out from brads room! Brad just happened to be a guitar instructor, and Hommie could play the Tabala like a pro. Until dark we jammed out on the roof top, singing and laughing into the early night. When brad busted out with some old school blues, that "at home" feeling ran down my spine, and my love for blues led the way for a rare moment of singing, something I rarely do... Soon it was time for dinner, as Brad promised his friend to meet up at Mohameds Resturant. Tagging along, I cant help to admit, eating around so many tourists and westerners actually made me uncomfertable! After traveling so long into rural Bihar, the transaction back onto the toursit track and eating with utensils was a little odd!
Back to the rooftop for another beer and my LAST chillum, when the guitar played that acustic tune, hours of serenity followed through his fingers, playing the night away, nodding off to the sweet sound...
Brads friend was a tripped out character. He eventually ended up rooming with brad, and taking him to nepal to travel for days, into a remote forest, to meet a holy man that sits alone in long-term, still meditation. His roomate was dressed like a Tibetian monk, and truley aware of his spiritual journey in life, roaming Nepal and India to find god...
The second day Brad was doing an early morning Yoga class, but had time to tell me "Hommie has something for you". First I needed to exchange some money and India State Bank was booked bytourists for HOURS. So I paid a hefty fee and got it over with elsewhere.
Today marked Febuary 13th, exactly one month since I got to INDIA!!!! After all the Personal gifts, over charges, sending my clothes home (yeah I broke down in Orcha), seeing the Taj Hahal, I had exactly 10 rupees left!!!!
TOTAL FOR MONTH # 1 IN INDIA: $500usd
Later meeting up with Hommie to cross the sacred river, a pilgramage, and a sacred walk to find the gift of Parvati Walking across sand was like being back at home, though it was a vast river bed, and the heat made it seem like a true desert. Sweating while entering into your typical Bihar village, away from the tourist path, we came to a store with closed gates... The owner was called from outside and he opened his shop....
Out in the open of this tiny village, his shop had a few items for sale, but everything was old and looked like the cover-operation it really was. A large old scale made of metal, used for weighting pounds of grains, sat on the middle of his counter like the mini shrine it was, for it only weighed the crops which he sold to survive.
I handed him 200rs. He put a large rock on one side, and some of his natural herbs on the other. What will he give me, I wondered, as more than I expected was weighed out perfectly. Totally contet with the deal made, I gave another 200rs. The herbs doubled in size, as did my eyes! Needless to say, we were both, very, very happy! Soon Hommies friend came along and asked if I could smoke with his father. A short walk through the shallow walled-alleys of clay and straw houses, his father appeared through the short door way, lay on a wooden bed with a thin blanket, a typical way of life for majority of rurual bihar. Packed it up fat as Tea was handed over, his father smoked from his chillum happily, as I sat there sipping my tea, and the relatively small family of 7 marveling at me as usual. Like the Hannyuman Baba in Kajuraho, He lit the chillum with burning material used for fire, and just packed it on top, smoking it down to ashes without care. As I left thier home, the father stopped me and asked "you want other drugs?" I can only think of two that are prevelent in India, so I declined, thanked him, and proceeded back across the river..
Hommies friend starts with the story of his father whom I just met. Once he was a rich man with a few hotels in Bodhgaya, but spent all his cash on booze and drugs. No moneys was asked for, and his story a sad reality.
At 3:00 pm I hit the internet until 8 or 9:00pm to write in this journal. I missed the Dali Lama’s speach which was translated in english aswell. (For those who doubt me, think about that!) Although I was dissapointed to miss the Dali Lamas speach, the night was like the one before it, but this time EVERYONE on the third floor partied it out together on our rooftop! Giutar, chillums, beer, the nightime vibe of Bodhgaya, can it be hevan?
The third day in Bodgaya was almost the same as the second. Brad and I got some great food, chilled out at the temple for hours under the Bodhitree, and another few hours on the internet. During the day Hommie took me across the sacred river again, because he was giving me a great deal on personal presents Another 400rs handed over with drive-through antics, and although there was not much to do in Bodhgaya, the hotel, friends, atmosphere all had a grip on me. I love Bodhgaya! When on the Internet that night, A man who found out I was part of Shinnyo-en, and Japan based Buddhist chruch, scouted me out. Word travels FAST in small towns, and soon we’ll find out how things really work here... But amazingly, he was a true follower, one of very few in India, and there is no Temple for the church in India. However, he has home bassed meetings to discuss buddhism, something that Shinnyo-en practices. He treats me to dinner, a little whiskey and pepsi, and we share a good night eating out under the hazy, warm skies.
The fourth day I went back across the river with Hommie and spent another 400rs. I was making the family really happy! Now I had roughly 2 and a half ounces of "Mexiacan-grade" insence to take to the mountians, for $30usd! What a deal! But I had to meet up with my friend from Shinntyo-en, his name is Chotu. Apparently a priest from Japan was arriving in Gaya, and I was asked to tag along, ofcourse after they gave me lunch. I couldent decline. Its just unbelieveable that Shinnyo-en is really just starting out here in India, all through one priest from the main temple! When arriving back into Bodhgaya, together we chanted, and practiced our usual service as if back home. When night fell, it was time to chill out on our rooftop with Brad, so I left my Sangha (spiritual family), only to have one of the best times of my life!!
Cerfew is 10:30 at the hotel, and it was a little past that late hour... Some Indian music in the distance started heading our way, but we werent sure where it was coming from... We ran to the balcony to witness a marriage festival jamming down the streets!!! About 100 locals jamming out, dancing down the road... Huge speakers being pushed by carts, large drums decorated with lights, atleast six of them all carried on the shoulders of niceley dressed men, lights everywhere, and people going crazy! As they passed our hotels second floor balcony, they stopped to jam out with us!! Confinded to our hotel, we danced with them from above, everyone yelling and laughing in a trance, it was a moment I will never forget!... But it passed by all to quickly...
"You wana bother the hotel owner?" "yeah man lets go for it!!"
It was passed crewfew and the owner was very hesitant to let us go out, and roam around in the middle of the night. Eventually he agreed to let us out for one hour! We followed the thier trail until spotted within the dark poor parts of Bodhgaya. Like nothing, we walked up with a smile, and they grabbed us violently! Pulled into the dancing, the whole crowd cheered us on! I never dance unless its moshing or skanking, but danacing to Indian Music is like a cross between the two with Indian flow! No water, exhausted, we let go of ourselfs for what seemed like hours. Only men were allowed, but it was like dancing with brothers, everyone in thier own little trance, but together as one. We were having the time of or lives! Everyone was hugging and grabbing eachothers hands in the air, everyone at that moment was family, including us.
Then the music stopped. We were suddenly asked to leave. Some wanted us to stay, but some apparently didnt like our presence. Most of them were happy to have us there though. Some who had cameras took many pictures, and then we were guided back to our hotel by a man who was being nice, but looked like he wanted to beat us down! From that day foward, the vibe was a little more mellow in Bodhgaya, and we felt a little more accepted into this small town, along with an experience like never before....
Posted on February 23rd, 2006
Day five to Day 7 in Bodhgaya
Day five in Bodhgaya and I needed to do some trecking. There are some caves about 5 miles away, hidden within steep hills that rise out of nowhere. It would be impossible to get lost! Hommie wanted to come along, but tried to sell me a motorcycle ride first! No way Hommie, im walking, and you can come along if ya want! He was happy to join me, and showed me a special pathway through the foothils of the mountians. Trecking through miles of foot-wide pathways between vegetable feilds, then along the base of the hill’s clifs where little villages are hidden away. Lucky to have an Indian guide, he took me through these villages, resting at a few of them along the path. Wanting to smoke a chillum here and there, although Hommie isnt a toker he would ask the villagers if it was cool to smoke here or not. Which is kinda redundant because no one really cares in India, its such a part of thier culture! (although illegal) Soon we were at the base of the caves, and between us a nice long stair case, nothing compared to the ones in Rajgir! Hiking to the top, a little 1meter high enterence into a dark cave where Buddha spent many years in meditation. Many women were in there chanting, and from the body heat and breath, the cave was an unbareable steam room! We didnt spend that long there, and eventually proceeded down the stairs for the nice walk back... Hommie was wasted from being out of shape. He really wanted a rickshaw, but that costs 150rs! No way am I paying that, which is a fair price after all...
"50rs!"... ....."no deal"
I started walking back toward Bodhgaya, and Hommie stood there with a desperate look in his eyes. He couldent bare the walk back home, and with his Hindi tounge, forced the rickshaw driver to accept my offer! Hah!
After ariving back home, I owed a few things to Hommie for hooking me up.
First, a 50rs dictionary for his "upcoming exams", which I scribbled across the cover’s insides "PROPERTY OF HOMMIE, STOLEN FROM HOMME". All over the book! This way he cant sell it, and would actually use it!
Second a mathematical tool kit with rulers, compas, etc... for 33rs.
Third a $1 donation to his school.
Fourth, chicken curry dinner and all he could eat for 150rs!
I understand where he is coming from, and although he pomised me that his reasons were legit, I knew he was just a kid trying to survive in this world. Each day he hooked me up, I gave him a present. And the fourth one was just because I like the kid, after all hes 16 and brilliant, also a great buisness man! I had respect for that, ya know?
The next two days I spent just chilling out at the temple alone, washing clothes, and meeting new people.
However something very unexpected happened, and you may not believe it either! I was initiated into the Indian lifestyle of touting! And also the truth about how everyone gets paid here.... First Hommie was honest with me during our first few days... "I get 10rs commision per person I bring to this hotel" Then the Hotel owner was honest with me the next day... "I give hommie 10rs, per person, per day!" The day I left bodhgaya the Hotel Owner, was really honest: "Actually I give Hommie 20% per person, perday!" "If I dont pay him, he will talk bad about my shop" "If you stay longer, you will get your room for 100rs a day, and Hommie will loose some commision"
Hommie is getting paid 210rs for my 1 week in that hotel only! 150rs from brad’s stay, and without knowing it, more money for the help I gave him, when I truley helped a few tourist find a place to stay! This kid was making bank!!
Then hommie told me on the fifth day: "You are white, and tourist, I want you to help me bring in other white tourists to your hotel because they will trust you and not me! I also want you to help me sell some personal gifts to tourists, and in exchange, I will give you some for free, and also get your hotel price dicounted!"
I was officially offered an Indian Touting Job! And I cant help to wonder, how many wandering lost hippies are out here, doing just that!! Its a trip aint it? But I hope there is a mutual respect between all travelers, and I uphold that above all. So I declined in a nice way, but said when I refer people to our hotel, I will use your name. After all I know he livesa hard life. Bodhgaya tore my soul in two, and faced me with my true self and Karma. When walking the land of the most religious Buddhist site, I spent much of the time smoking out, eating and drinking, and not spending as much time in prayer at the temple as I should have. This is how I really am back home. On the other hand, I had a wonderful time, and after all, life is all about enjoying it
Posted on February 23rd, 2006
Bodhgaya to Jaigon, 26 hours of hell.
Day 7 and my plan to book it to Bhutan for a day was in stone. A bus ride to Patna, three hour layover, and soon I was on the 12 hour train to Siliguri!..The TRAIN RIDE FROM HELL!!!!
Barely making it on the right train, I found myself amongst others without seats. With a general Ticket I was kicked out of each coach until I was in 3 tier, or something like that. My only seat was between four bathroom doors, sitting on the moving metal plates that connect each train cart. The area was so small, in order to lay back, I had to be on two metal plates that move seperately, constantly, on the dirty, sewage covered, bathroom enternce floors. 12 misserable hours. Luckily, I bought two Fifths of whiskey, and had a few Diazepam for special moments like this (thank the gods!). I just sat there, and got wasted the whole way, no sleep, and tried to blank out the living hell from my mind.
Arriving in NJP there was a cute Japansese girl who I HAD to talk to. She was from Texas, so it was a good situation! Without knowing where the bus stand was, nor consulting the LP, I made a quick decision following what instincts I had left over....She was catching a cyclerickshaw to Siliguri, and for somereason I just felt like tagging along! Just my luck, while she was dropped off at the Sikkim Permit office, the bus stand to Jaigon/Bhutan was across the street!! What luck! So I walked her to the office, and along the way I saw a pretty marijauana plant, a beautiful scented flower across a 7 foot high, 5 foot wide drop-down. Within the 7 foot cement trench was the nastiest water you could imagine. Pure sweage water. Jumping across to pick the flower for her was nothing! I was happy to pick a ganja plant for a beautiful girl. But I forgot I had my heavy bag on, and the jump back was a step up!...
I was 3 inches away. 3 inches and my foot slipped. Down into the raw sewage, knee deep, I stood there wanting to cry like a little girl. It was the sickest thing I ever been through. The water was so nasty, it was one of those trenches that you hold your breath while crossing by.... I was knee deep in it, and without my flower for her... Fidning the nearest water pump I washed up and walked around for a few hours until the buss left for Jaigon. My shoes were soaking wet, and for the SECOND TIME, my fresh green pants, the ones the baby threw up on, again got coverd in filth within a day of wearing them!
The people on the buss were not happy. I stunk like Shit, litterally. They kept commenting on how bad I smelt. When the buss stopped, I took my shoes off and put them on the roof to air them out, threw my socks out the window, and tried to relax.... After 26 hours of traveling, I finnaly reached Jaigon, dissapointed to the max....
Posted on February 23rd, 2006
Breaking The Law Into Bhutan, The Lonely Planet is Out Dated
The bus ride there reminded me of Darejeeling pictures. Endless feilds of misty forests and nicely cut tea-like plants. Palm trees became denser and rural house architecture began to change form as we got closer to Jaigon. A fellow traveler around 50 years old was on the same mission, and agreed to find a hotel together, while I wandered the streets of Jaigon bare-foot, smelling like sewage. No coincidence the only LP listed hotel was booked solid, but there are 20 other choices atleast! Walking from place to place, my new friend found his spot close to the boarder, but I liked the first, over-priced one, so I went back and bargained my ass off! I got the room down from 400 to 250, with a color TV and cable, pluss the nicest appearance, inside and out, of all the hotels visited in Jaigon. It was the hotel Devi.
With a few hours of daylight to spare, and surrounded by beautiful hills, the boarder to Bhutan was my first priority! Bassically, the base of the mountain range marks the boarder of Bhutan, and the offical entry point was close by.
BUT I WAS TURNED BACK. THE RULES HAVE CHANGED. THE LP IS OUTDATED!
I couldent get in free for one day, as the LP states! I talked and talked witht the boarder cotrol, offered backsheesh, offered my passport and visa as colateral, and they wouldent budge. MANY other tourists were very dissapointed. Soon four of us approached the same boarder control officer and pleaded our story. They wouldent budge. The only way in, is to wait 3 days to get a visa, then pay $200 PER DAY to enter. F**K That!!!!!
I was so sad and dissapointed. But atleast Jaigon offered one good Bhutan dish, and the women... Oh the women from Bhutan. I am in love. I swear they are so beautiful. A rare sight was an Indian/Bhutan natural beauty, and it made my jaw drop. Some Bhutan girls dress in western clothes, low jeans and a short t-shirt, but nothing TOO flashy. Walking around the town around 10 times, doing nothing, I was ready to leave the next day. Though the night before had me wasted, and I woke up too late to get out of the town in the afternoon, so I was stuck for another day!!! NO!
Around 1:00pm and I just sat alone smoking my chillum. I though about it....and couldent come all the way from Hawaii, catch a train from hell, get within 10 feet of Bhutan and be "nope". That Aint Me!!!!! I wont give up!! I find a Bhutan travel agent and she tells me the same story. The policy has changed, nothing I can do about it, blah blah. A nice woman in her 40’s, I looked her straight in the eyes after pleading my story:
"let me take you on a date. My treat! You can pick any resturant you want in Bhutan, ill spoil you tonight"... She blushed a little, but wouldent budge! Damn it!
Got some food alone, went back to the hotel, smoked another chillum, and it was nearly 3:00pm.. I just stared at the mountains, and felt bad.
But then, as always, that urge came about... You know that same urge when I see a mountain and it begins to mock me.... From the hotel roof top, about a mile away, there was a dirt trail leading up the steep slopes of the Bhutan mountain... But how to get there???
I smoked another chillum and then, as always, said to myself "F**K IT!"
Walking away from Jaigon, away from the city, I kept looking for an entery point to the mountain. The trail was so obvious by now, but there was no way to reach it! Houses, walls, fences, all blocked the foot of the mountain range. I kept walking with high hopes, like a mack truck with a happy attiude, as if to state "im just fine, get out of my f**king way, thank you"
Soon I walked pasted a weilding station that was pretty vast. It was like a junk yard with old busses and villagers working hard. With the million mile stare and hard walking I just stomped in to thier territory like I owned the place. Some stared knowing I didnt belong, while some really just kept thier distance, for I was clearly On A Mission...
.... .....WALLS. Brick walls 7 feet high! There was no opening to the trail this way! I stood there stoned, determined, looking at the wall like I wanted to tear it down with my bare hands. Soon a worker atop a truck caught my eye. He knew what I wanted! He motioned with his hands, to go around the corner of the wall, where I found a stool! I looked back at him, and he gave me the GO!
I knew I was breaking the law, tresspassing into a foriegn country without a visa, but I didnt care. I ran up the trail not caring where it would end up. At this point it didnt matter, and by that time some Indians were yelling at me to come back.... But I was too far away physically and emotionally to hear them... At the top of the high mountain was a building that looked like a temple. But the mountian was so high it was hard to tell. The trail was very narrow, around a foot in diameter, and it was very steep and winding. On either side of the trail was a nice drop off, and at certain points, if I fell, that would be the end. But those moments were rare, and the trail although very rough, was very enjoyable. Much of the time I had to use my instincts to find the correct foot path. It would split here and there, but I eventually reached the top!!! Rising from the hill top were flags of Bhutan. Some kids where playing with fake bow and arrows and wanted a picture for free, unlike in India! Soon a 16 year old Bhutan boy walked up and spoke very good english. I told him the truth, my entire story, and for a second he looked down with dissapointment against my actions. But that lasted only a second, and soon I was invited into his house for some tea, and some Bhutan grains and nuts!! Thier house was made of brick/clay, painted blue, and much more clean than houses in India. Soon I was introduced to his two sisters, mother and father. Only the children spoke english. We had some small talk, and I was again honest about my situation in Bhutan, but they didnt seem to care much! They told me of a temple about 5 minutes up the road, without police check points, so the boy and his sister took me there.
At first I wasnt allowed to enter thier temple. But the girl got me in! Sitting on the right were children dressed in monks clothing, beating traditional drumbs and chanting. Incased in the shrine was the most intricate, beautiful, unbelieveable carved worked I have ever witnessed. About 9 feet tall and 17 feet wide, a statue of a Sitting Buddha in the middle, with two heavenly kings at his side. The detail is beyond description, and although I wanted to take a picture, out of respect I didnt ask or try. Later I was told I couldent have anyway! The temple was so small but amazing. The girl walked alone with me for a while, and her brother kinda dissapeared...
Soon some questions of "American Sponser" etc, came into the conversation, and using what english intellect I have, redirected thier aims respectfully. When the brother shows up, he asks "can I be your brother?".
How do I take this one? Heh.. I think another marrige proposal was in the process, but luckily it was around 5:00pm by now, and time to make it back down the mountain before dark! Saying our goodbyes, we exchanged information and I headed down a different path, much quicker, and leading to an exit point that didnt seem correct. But they were right, a small gate was at the end of the fence boardering the bottom, although it was straight into an Indians family’s back yard!! Ooops! Hands together in Namaste, I just smiled and said "mopkeejay, namaste!" (sorry, hello, etc.). Soon I was in a part of very poor Jaigon, and pretty lost. I had to cut through a couple of yards reach dirt roads that lead somewhere!! These were some gettoh streets away from my hotel, but its a small place so eventually I got back okay!
Making it back to the Devi hotel, I told them my story, and the counter man tells me "You are the first foriegn tresspasser into Bhutan I hear of!!" He was pretty amazed, and so was I, for fidning the strength to do such a thing gave the rush of a life time!
After a warm beer, some food, the hotel staff was overly fasinated with my piercings and tattoo’s. He really wanted to see my piercing below the belt, and I let him take a few pictures! They were so blown away, it was pretty funny! ...
Well the ticket to Rangpo is paid for, shared jeep from Jaigon for 150rs. Time to wake up early for the 6 hour ride all the way to Sikkim!... I will have to go into detail about the journey later...
Right now I am in Gangtok, my second day/first night, and just spent 5 hours typing! Heh, I should be enjoying my 15 day permit, so Ill wait a little to see what India has planned for me next! Right now the beer is so cheap and this place is a cold, wonderful paradise, just like Wahiawa in the winter, for last night I saw my first Indian Rain! For the first time in my life, I have not only reached the Himmalayas, but am nesteled within all its foggy beauty, and a culture between Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. This place is truley a paradise, especially for trecking! Lets see what tomorow brings us...
March 3rd, 2006
Aloha everyone I dont have much time to write, nor the desire at the moment, though I have so much to say.... I just want to say im in Darejeeling and with a really cool chick I met from Ireland, nothing intimate at all, rather a cool travel buddy going in the same direction... To Nepal! The vibes here are prety chilled out, but it sems within three days an influx of tourists have flooded the place. High season has arrived here... ..... Wanting to spend atleast a permits worth, 15 days, the trip got kinda diverted, and within 7 days I was out of Sikkim...But the cool thing is finding the heart of the place, and after being in such a place, with a bunch of really cool travelers, the heavy strain and raw pressure in India seems unbareable. The mountains call out now, and the only place to go is up and up I think I will end up extending my ticket until june 10th, but we shall see... Everything is going great, and the last 10(?) days have been insane! Im alive and well
I hope to get on the internet and type my heart out soon, before going to Nepal... But for now, thank you all for the nice replies, and to leave you all with one last question...
I know this is IndiaMike, But do you want me to continue writing into Nepal, or is that going to far?? Be honest
More coming soon..
Posted on March 9th, 2006
Leaving Bhutan, getting lost and drunk in Gangtok, and heading to Pelling..
In katmandu, and more days have passed than I can recall... Wanting to think back to leaving Bhutan, words will do no justice for the experiene I wish to share. Detailed memories are expelled by more intense situations, new experiences overloading the senses, as each day brings me into a new world...
Shared jeeps are the norm in this part of the world, so it seems that buses could never handle the elevation and winding turns that make passengers throw up in face of such natural beauty. A kind of sick yet funny chiche thats been my life since posting last. It seemed the jeep never left the mountians during the entire journey. Not remembering how long the journey was, perhaps it was the sheer beauty of being faced with my dreams, or the moutnian slopes that rise beyond comprehension, needles to say the specturum of any camera! It could have been the valium that was sold to me, again by a desperate yet compassionate chemist who watched my last minute attempt, darting out of the overly crowded jeep, toward his store..
The water was a shade blue, unknown to my eyes, and like a child, a new sense was weighing heavy upon my soul. The himalayas, a dream come true, a place so seperate from my only impression of india, the seperation and remoteness of its culture is apparent within a few hours. Houses dotting the mountians rising beyond the range of human eyes, hidden trails leading to each one, thousands of meters into the sky... A fairy tale, a picture perfect world, a life style so intriguing and remote to the point of incomprehension of the physical human body, and the mind of those who have lived here for hundreds of centuries. As it was said before, it is a true Shangrila.
The Jeep ticket was good only until Rangpo, for I didnt have a permit to enter Sikkim yet. The permit office, if you can Beleive it, is the CHASHIER of a nice rsturnant, who gladly handed over a permit within seconds. Took it to the offical office across the street and had my Sikkim permit within 10 mintues. It was easier than bargining over a 3rs samosa. Infact, the jeep was still waiting on its bathroom break, so an extra 40rs and I had the same ride, all the way to Gangtok!
Arriving in Gantok, 20 rupees to my name and an hour before the bank closes, it was an uphill battle through roads so winding and steep, its a maze that a 4 days of exploring couldent figgure out. Many people spoke english, and ruppess were handed over in time, along with the new friendship of an English man with tattooed arms. On the same journey, it was my first introduction to the traveler coincidence: Running into the same people over and over, hundres of Kilometers away!
"Man I need a beer..." It was agreed, though I first needed a hotel. He led me across the street to an unlisted place, where I SCORED a private bath, hot presurised shower, TV with the star channel, and a BIG soft bed for 200rs. It was the Potala Hotel The funny thing was, across the street was a LP listed hotel, for the same price you get shit! Faith in the LP is slowly dying...
One of the first things noticed as entering Sikkim was the cleanliness, lack of cows, and endless amounts of cheap alcohol, which since that point I have been getting drunk daily Ganktok, like Jaigon, has the same type of people, slighly different perhaps, but similiar in one obvious way: They are EXTREMELY westernized. I swear, it was like Sanfransisco in many ways. Teenagers wearning Bad Religion shirts, Kurt Kobain is like a god here, jeans and your average american look. Touts were non existant, except for a little hash, but only one or twice. Bakery shops along clean streets, fancy western, starbucks-like decoration, blasting Jack Johnson, it was like a totally differnt world, and I was about to find this out the hard way...
The LP listed hotel did have a decent resturant, and upon telling the waiter Danyivad, he scolded me!... "I AM NOT INDIAN, I AM FROM SIKKIM!!" He was very, very offended, and proceeded to tell me why for the next 10 minutes as I drank some good beer he just served me... funny I got to throw it back at him a minute after he was finnished: "Hawaii? You are from America!" "SAME THING MAN!" And I gave him the same lecture!! Heh, heh Sikkim and Hawaii are much alike in a political sence. The Englishman got me piss drunk, we drank many Indian 22oz’ers (650ml), for 45rs each, then bought some cheap whiskey and watched some cool moovies until there were two enlgish men in sight, and that was que to hit the bed. The next day was like the first, I got stoned, wanderd around, ate great food, sampled the cheap local alcohol and just had a great time. Also, I met a photographer, Torban Huss, and was amazed at his published book of person-photos, one of William Burroughs! What a cool man...
The third day In gangtok at it was time to get dirty. I wandered around and found a hidden little trail down a steep moutain side. half way down, I noticed a few locals cutting herbs and hauling them down the dirt road below. Straw baskets attached to thier back by a strap on thier heads, one lady who was around 60 year old was practically cliff-hanging with her hands, working the ancient ways along an almost vertical, death defying valley. A small pipe line lead the way along this hidden dirt road, a few hundred feet below the main paved road of Ganktok and its cable-car. The vegetation reminded me of Hawaii. It was just like home! Bamboo houses appearded every couple hundred yards, and the remote society of this culture was apparently older than it was accessable. How do such places like this exist in the world? It was a true Eden, a heavan in it own right, so beautiful.... The trail led down a waterfall, and the rocks were silver. The entire path looked like foolsgold, and perhaps it was. A few hours past the waterfal, a nice packed chillum to burn, drinking water was half full so naturally, it was to be a nice walk back...If I could only find the trail!!! I was officially lost in the middle of nowhere! Shit... This aint good. The trail was steeper than I remember, but barely existant. I hiked up the waterfall’s side path until I saw a house and a family, looking at me curiously. Though now I was safe, and entering thier yard with a smile I found the right path back home
The trail led past the initial decent, and to the other part of Gangtok, where a steep flight of stairs led to a hidden resturnat. They served me a cheap beer and a fried rice, made in the shape of a heart! Everyone laughed as I busted out my camera to remember this meal to preciuos to eat...
A Sikkim woman who was very old caught my eye. being a body pierer it was understandable. At 60-70 years old, she was beautiful, a living rights of passage, a temple of her god such as I, with a pierced Septum (bull’s nose ring).. It is a tribal tradition, along with the left nostril pierce. Golden jewelry hung above her upper lip, her dark wrinkled skin and the look in her eyes... I was inlove with her past and cuture, it was love at first sight for her heritage, I have never actually seen a true, tribal practice of exotic body adornment. Poitning to my pierced cheeks, and my camera, perhaps it was a mutual respect, and she gladly let me take a picture of her.. Returning to another night of expensive food and cheap beer, the next day was around the horrizon..
Day four in Gangtok and I was a little bored. I got lost for hours looking for the road to Hannyumans Tok, because I decided to smoke out another Baba. Returning, defeated, around noon, and into the resturnant of my hotel, an Irish girl was on the computer. After a few words being exchanged, she told me shes on her way to Pelling for the Tibetian newyear, and shes leaving in 20 minutes. "wana come?"... It was a quick decision, and the fastet recorded time packing my bags and checking out! I love just going with the flow and being so carefree!!
Meeting up with a two couples, I had the very back seat for the ride there. The jeep ride was the same as always, widing up and down, in and out of endless valleys. At times you realize that your life is on the line. The road usually has no boarders, and beyond the curbless pavement, its a nice 1000ft drop to your death. Never knowing when another jeep is heading your way around the corner, each hairpin turn was intense. So I paked a chillum and secretly smoked out, blowing the smoke out the back, and threw on some Aphex Twin. Nothing hit the spot more than Ambient Works from Aphex Twin, as I enjoyed the senery which wouldent take its grip off my eyes... Then it just began to flow, and I no longer cared that the smoke backdrafeted into the cab, some passengers jealous, some not noticing, and the driver in a trance like state, fixed on the road didnt seem to mind either. It was like flying backwards up the great Himmalayas, and very close to enegery of the world we are from.....
Posted on March 9th, 2006
Pelling, Tibetian New year, Alcohol, good friends, and the heart of Sikkim
Pelling was a cold foggy place, and getting there at 6pm, hotels barely visibale, at this point the group was still heading the same way, but on thier own journey. Some traveled one way, I traveled with the Irish girl out of respect for her Invitation, and some followed far behind. Somehow, 1 hour later, we all found eachother again, infront of a particular hotel, the Alpine. The six of us, practically 3 couples, wandered in hungry and tired and decided to stay together. "wana share a room?" she asked... I didnt mind, so I was first to start the bargaining, and talked him down from 400rs to 250 for a double with hot shower, a TV with cable, and a balcony overlooking a forest which outlines the great MOUNT KHANCHENDZONGA!. Could this be hevan?.. I think the whole trip has been, and it keeps betting better and better! A quiet little town, I could live there for life! That night we got togehter upstairs in a really nice resturant above our rooms, no tourists at all, and got drunk and stoned until the hotel manager came into his resturnat, half asleep, into the foggy haze of ganja, and told us to go to bed! He was really cool about it though! I love Pelling.
The next day we Awoke to a wonderful walk, and on a mission to the Losar festial at the monestary up the road. And guess who was there??? The English man with tattooed arms, and the Japanese girl I fell into Raw Sewage for in Siliguri!! Along with a frech man I will run into in four seperate towns! Going on for 6 hours, it was a cultural event none of us has ever witnessed. Masked dancers, fully decorated, dancing to the beat of drums and brass-dishes clanging together. Around the dancers were Tibetian Jesters, who had funny painted masks and costumes, and while the main event was 6 hours of intensse, meaningful spritual form, the Jesters continued to make fun with the crowd, taking peoples belongings, food, cameras, and acting like complete clowns! It was so symbolic of how we should never take things to seriously, even when practicing an anceint religious event that is the very heart of thier culture. While the ending was symbolic of death and the destrution of the "self", the jesters continued to mock the high priest, who perfomed in deep meditation. To be there is the only way to comprehend what it means. My words do no justice..
Same as always, after a wonderful new day in a new world, It was time to get drunk and full on cheap food and beer! An american student joined us, and he was the coolest cat in town, made us laugh into the early morning, and eventually joined us on the adventure of a life time: Into the HEART of Sikkim!!!
Taking the place of the Austrian couple who had to leave in the morning, we got up late and decided to head to Katchaperry(sp?) lake!.. An English couple, the Irish chick, and the American in a jeep ride to this sacred place.... .... "AH SHIT!" The day was getting a little too late for a big BOULDER in the middle of the road, blocking the path. I was then dubbed the scarry "Dreddie Yetti"... The boulder was pissing me off, and some scrawney Sikkim men couldent move it. I ran out of the jeep within seconds, sleeves rolled up, dreads handing, yelling "COM’N MEN!!" I think I freaked them out a little... (heh, heh) Grabbing one of thier iron poles, I gave all my strength into it, and was screaming at the top of my lungs. The Sikkim men were backing away. I was yelling at the damn boulder " YOUR NOT MAKING ME LATE, I WANA SEE THE LAAAAKKEEE!!!" I was really mad. Soon they realized that I couldent do it alone, so the American and I, coupled with two Sikkim men gave it all we got, and pushed that boulder 2 feet!! Now we can get just barely around it!! Thank the gods!
Katchaperry lake was very peaceful, and little did we know what life was about to show us. Hungry and tired, to late to leave, we settled down for some Thukpa and some special home brew that was like vodka and oatmeal. Asking a few questions, we found out that this little trail to the left, will take us to a monestary, high on the mountain top. They had some rooms for visitors, yet it was a place we never heard of.... We decided to chance it, with an hour of day light left!
The trial was almost vertical and accened atleast 1000- 1500 feet. If the trail was wet, it would have been impossible to climb. Some locals on the trail pointed us to the right direction, and soon we were at the most mystical place on earth...
A small Village, maybe 10 houses, and 3 seperate families, living together at an ancient gompa. It was stepping back a hundred years into a real Lepcha way of life. The head man, a 79 year old Lama, accomadated all of us. His daughter, one of 7 children, gave up her room for me and the Irish girl, for 50rs a night. Food was 50rs per meal, and all you can eat. They also had beer Hiked in from below for 50rs! A special grain-alcohol he called Chong was amazing. It was in a Bamboo container, with a bamboo straw, and the most exotic drink I ever had. It was the clearest alcohol buzz ever! That night I took a shower, standing on a dirt floor, with cold water, and a metal pan with a little hot water from a wooden stove. This place was the true meaning of living off the land. This place was real, it was the living soul of a humans existance with nature.
In the morning, we truley realized where we were. A little Island-like village on the top of a volcano shaped mountain, surrournded by the great himmalayas in every direction. It was like a floating paradise in the cradle of snow peaks and endless hills. A simple way of life, many children grew up with this lifestyle of treckers passing through, and everyone had love for one another. Everyone was treated like family, and no one wanted to leave. We were so remote, so isolated in nature, yet totally taken care of for $4 a day... The children were the most amazing, so cute and full of life. 5 year olds climbing trees 15 feet tall, falling of and bleeding from the nose, the parents just laughing and telling us "its okay". And it really was...They were tough children, mountain people by culture, and a single day there changed my outlook on family forever. The Lama loved to get drunk, perhaps it was new years for him, but he would happily wobble through the feilds, heading to the kitchen, only to bring us the best meat I ever had: REAL YAK! Thats right, YAK! Such an exotic meat, I am no longer a vegetarian, and the yak just melted into my mouth with its spices and sauces that are unforgetable. Then the chong, then some beer, some all you can eat exotic food for 50rs, and wandering aruond the clifsides to get stoned and marvel at our existance in this sacred place.
Funny thing.... There were three dogs in the village. Two of them ate better than we did, and boy we were all jealous. The third dog, well, for somereason, the Lama, who is a Tibetian priest, HATED the poor third dog. With the show peaks in the backround, and the wonderful ambience of this place, there is a drunken happy Lama, kicking the shit out of a poor dog! It dosent stop there, the children would beat the dog with sticks and big rocks! When we tried to stop them, they just didnt understand!...But man, watching a 79 year old Lama kick a dog.....!!! The Lama has taught me well, although as monks we abide to "End the suffering of all living beings", he has taught me the sacred art of graceful dog kicking, which will later come in handy!!
I was inlove with this place, we all were, but we were still paying for our hotel in Pelling. The next day we were so stoned, it took us four huors to decide to leave and gather our things, get our heads straight. The posh hotel was a nice relief from the rural way of life in many ways, but equally wonderful. We all decided to get wasted that night, so I bought 5 beers and a bottle of rum, my stash was down to about an Ounce at this time, (I had SO many lungs puffing on my stash!). We chilled out and ate all night, shared the time of our lifes, and became best friends knowing in the morning, we will never meet again!
A hot shower, and sharing some music with the Irish chick, I somehow managed to get so wasted, I ended up in her bed naked. Kinda took her by suprise, and she actually declined! HAHAH! Oh man, I cant help it, im 23!
The next morning the English couple decided to go back. I was proposed by the American and the Irish chick... The girl was actually cool with the situation, and wanted me to tag along actually! She is really down to earth, 26, and a social worker aswell.
Do I go with the cool American to Gantok and continue through Sikkim? Or do I check out Darjeeling for a few days, then head to Kathmandu in Nepal?
Sure there is more to see in Sikkim, but I honestley feel that we have fuond the heart of the Lepcha/Sikkimese culture....
I decied to stay with the Irish chick
Posted on March 22nd, 2006
Good times in Darjeeling and loosing faith in the Guidebooks.
Its been a while since posting last. Sorry for the long wait. Just got back from the Langtang hike which took 10 days total. The most intense hike ever attempted in my life, which takes you about 7km from the boarder of Tibet...But first we gota start from Darjeeling...
BEFORE THAT I HAVE GREAT NEWS! IM STAYING UNTIL JUNE 10TH! Just extended my ticket for half of the expeected and agreed upon penalty fee! Only $130 to China Air! This journal is going for 5 months baby
Darjeeling was pretty cool, and at first there were not to many tourists. Within 3 or 4 days the whole scene changed. I cant help to notice how the cultures living along the Himmalaya mountain range tend to be so westernized, everyone wears western style clothes and listens to alot of the music played on the college radio back home! Alot of underground sounds too.. There was not a whole lot to do in Darjeeling except for shopping and walking/trecking. Though Nepals free hills called out to us more than Darjeeling’s mandatory fee for a mandatory guide, we decided to chill out here and do some chores like laundry and burning our pictures to cd, etc... In the end, we found loads to do and see...
Barely making it all the way to Darjeeling from Sikkim on the same day, we got lucky whith a bunch of stranded locals at the Sikkim boarder going in the same direction. They quickly spotted us out and from there we had a mission: To find 10 people or the jeep wont go! Since they spoke the local language it seemed like the best idea to drink some tea and sit back for a few hours, letting them do all the work. With luck on our side, 10 people were finnaly grouped into the small jeep and we were off!
The road there was more like a trail, a small narrow dirt road that could barely fit a single car on its path at times! Sometimes it was scarry, this particular road was worse than any road in Sikkim. A misjudgement by 10 inches could mean death during certain passes along the long route there. After 2 months in the East you learn to just trust the drivers, for they are all usually experts at driving in a death-defying way....
Finnaly arriving in Darjeeling to another maze of endless intersecting uphill streets, we had no idea our proposed hotel was so far away, and that geting there would ultimately upset my faith in the Lonely Planet beyond what little faith I have left! While on our way to the hotel we ran into a cool Canadian man, that we will later run into again in Kathmandu and at Langtang village which is miles from no where!! Hotel Andys was suggested by many travelers, not just two prominenet guidebooks, so it was worth the shot. By the time we got there the lady was so anal and stern that we didnt even attempt to bargain with the ridiculous 300rs price for a double with private bath which wasnt all that good to begin with... A few paces down the road to an unlisted hotel, the Morning Dew, and we scored 3 beds seperated by a private bathroom and our own balcony, unlimited hot bucket water that you can make yourself if you dont mind getting electrocuted first! All for just 50rs each a night! Cheapest price in India yet! The water heater was two bare wires and a coil-heater. The first night I went to check the water with my hand, it was a bad mistake. Though because I got zapped with 240v, the owner gave me permission to make hot water as I please, knowing how careful Ill surely be.
---It seems the Guidebook listed hotels and resturants become to hot headed about thier status. They jack up the prices as soon as they are listed, or they start to get lazy and the quality of thier services go down hill. I am really loosing faith in the LP. Keep it real and hook up an unlisted buisness, and you get hooked up---
Finnaly we got them heavy packs off and it was time for dinner. Only one resturant was open in the area for the time was roughly 8pm. Against our instincts to travel all the way back through the main part of town, we just skipped into the resturant near by, and guess who was there? The english man with tattooed arms, and a cool old french man in his 60’s we met in Sikkim! Its such a trip. Of all the places in the world, they happened to be in this tiny little resturant away from the main part of town! Accidentally spilling my drink on the old man, talking about the good ol days (last week), and getting our bellies full, the night was late and time to retire to a soft bed. Perhaps our last good byes, somehow I wonder when, not if, we will meet again....
The best thing about Darjeeling is the 7rs egg sandwiches! They f**king rock! Next to the police station, there is the long road that has endless little stands selling fresh fish, finger foods prepared infront of you, and all the little cool things your mouth cant resist! For 7 rupees, you get a super thick and soft grilled bun buffered with a big fat egg omlette, fresh vegetables, spices, etc... Just 15 cents! Momo, or WonTon as we call it in Hawaii, is 1rs each! just 2 pennies! I swear I could live here like a king for $10 a day. And the food keeps getting better and better.. Just wait until Nepal where I will eat the MOST exotic dishes such as Buffalo Brain, Buffalo Tounge, and bodyparts alike!
Walking back to our hotel after the first day of exploring, and virtually tout free for 2 weeks by now (gasp!), I was again confronted by another hash/weed dealer. The price was so horrible, I just laughed and walked away.. Not that I ever partake in such crimes! As the days passed, the weed/hash touting became unbareable, for my manatality has went limp and soft from the lack of touts in Sikkim. One man woulden leave me alone as Sharene (the Irish chick) and I walk back to the hotel.. He kept following besides us, starting as they all do infront of police or police stations, trying to sell us his drugs.. "What do you want?!" He kept asking over and over like a hawk over my shoulder.... I turned around with a big crazy smile... ...and with a raised voice: "You know what I want? I want to see a woman F**K a donkey. You got that? thats what I want.." And proceeded to go into disgusting detail about what it should look like. Now on the inside I was laughing for two reasons while trying to keep a straight demeaner. Not only was it fun to play with a persitant tout, but he just didnt understand what I was saying and kept asking "So you want hash?"!! Finnaly he got the picture and walked away, and I just busted out laughing like a mad man in the night, while bystandards over-hearing our conversation gave me wierd looks! Poor Sharene...heh,heh.
Darjeeling goes off between the hours of 6 and 8pm. After that the city just shuts down as if under a cerfew. So all the excitement is had during the early hours, except for one night when we deciced to see a real Bollywood movie: Fight Club! Not the original flick, nor anything to do with the masterpiece we know in the west, it was a Hindi movie that seemed a cross between American Pie and Street Fighter.. It was directed so horribly that the only way to appreciate it was completely wasted! Now, for reasons such as I cant understand anything said, coupled with being wasted, I just completely analyzed the flick and came to one conclusion:
Fear that Western Values will slowly chip away at Eastern Culture....
The good Indians had a very western resembleance, fair skin, and a western attitude. The bad Indians were more of your typicall Indian with darker skin and Indian facial features. There was a ton of MTV-like half nudity, violence, expensive life styles and your typical western ways. Two monks dressed in thier robes were laughing along with the movie as I tried to understand how western values could slowly destroy the East’s true wealth (family, culture, heratige), through the modernization and spread of Pop-culture. The movie ended with the uncle killing his mephew, then having a beer and laughing with the good guys at thier new night club the uncle was trying to destroy. Just like that. "Hey I just killed my Mephew a minute ago, but now we’ll sit in a new western club and get drunk on imported beer to laugh about it". Maybe I just dont get it. Maybe I understand it too well...
Besides the great cheap food and western like culture that lingers from colonial times, there was a really cool zoo. As soon as we walked into the zoo, we got to watch a himmalayan Black Bear take a dump and then took a picture of him eating it as the whole crowd busted out laughing!! The zoo was really small, but AWSOME. There were all kinds of exotic birds that I have never seen, some that looked slightly alien like with feather-gills raised around the cheeks. Red Pandas are more like big Racoons, but cute nonetheless. A snow Lepord and clouded lepord were roaming its cages with boredom. Then a Giant tiger whos sheer power can be felt through the cage of its home. To look it in the eyes draws a sence of fear, although in mind your safety is apparent. Such a wonderful creature...
After the zoo and more cheap egg sandwiches we headed down the road to find the Tibet Center and shop for some expensive rugs for my Father (dad im waiting until Delhi!). On the road there we found a road side stair case which lead to small cave-shrines, and a picture of Shiva demanded I pack my chillum right then and there. The forests in this area are so beautiful and this spot so seculded and hidden, the stiar case went on beyond my ability and will, down the endless hills... No others, no locals were anywhere to be seen. After some insence offerings to Shiva, an hour or more of walking down hill, we came across the Tibetian Center only to be dissapointed because they were closed for a week in celebration of Losar! From there it was an uphill battle, a vertical accent through a zigged-zagged foot path, and great training for the mountians to come. Within no time we were back at the center of the town, and thats when it hit me... Through a large crowd of people, a couple of western travlers were playing some music on the side of the road. Within just a few days the amount of travelers staying in Darjeeling doubled. It was a sign that our time in this wonderful place was heading to an end...
Walking back to our last night at the Morning Dew Hotel, some familiar faces and voices atop the backs of horses. It was the Austrian Couple from Sikkim! They were doing a little horse ride, so we made our hello short and sweet and left amazed that the travelers world can be so small.. It really is the Traveler Coincidence!
Getting back to our last night in Darjeeling, the hotel loby was full of drunken Bengali men dancing to Brintney Spears! Dont tell anyone, but it was so f**king funny I had to join them. Everyone gota dance to Britney Spears at least once in thier life i guess... .... (Ill never forgive my self).
The next day, we woke early for a head start to the boarder. Destination Nepal! Little did I know I would be so wasted, they almost denied a visa behind my back, as I was told later by Sharene!...
Barely Crossing the Nepal Boarder
The jeep ride wasnt so bad, actually short in comparrison to the busride across hell to Kathmandu.
Arriving in Siliguri, the transit point, the pressure of Indian touting hit me like a brick. Knowing we had a 14 hour bus ride ahead of us, our first objective was to find a chemist. The touting was unbareable after the calm mountain culture. A few chemists turned me down, which is very uncommon. One chemist handed me some kind of "schedule H" strip of pills. Schedule "H" in India means "To be sold by a registerd physician only". Of course in India and Nepal, the term "perscription" is a technicality. The persciption sold was called Alprazolam. NOT Alazopam which is Xanax. So naturally I was very hestiant until I read "schedule H". It came in the same low dose as xanax, meaning 0.5mg pills, and the name of this perscription was close enough, so I took it as a generic. Infact, I took the whole strip of 10..... Oh no.....
For the first few hours everything was cool. We found an overpriced Jeep to the boarder town of Nepal, and arrived just before the boarder closed! Just enough time for Sharene and I to get something to help us relax for the long bus ride the next day. Since we were still on the Indian side of the boarder, and saw how laced this town was with chemists, the natural response took precident Three different chemists gave us a nice supply of the usual musscle relaxers, and with about 200mg in our pocket we decided to hit the Nepal Visa Office. Little did I know at this very instant the 10 strip of Alprazolam was hitting me like a mack truck. A week later in Kathmandu, Sharene, amazed that I have no recollention of what happened at the boarder, retells the entire story to me as follows:
"You were cool until we got to the Visa office. Then you started wandering around like a drunken maniac, talking loudly about narcotics in general, and how happy you were to have some valium before the long bus ride. There were two police men attending the office enterance, and two behind the counter checking your passport. I had to tell you to shut the f**k up, and then you finnaly sat down, realizing your state. When you werent looking, I smiled and told the policemen that you were crazy. They just laughed and handed us our Nepali Visa’s. It was a cross between dropping you on the spot, and laughing my ass off on the inside".
However I remember getting to the hotel on the Nepali side of the boarder, having something to eat, and waking up in a decent hotel at 6:00am for the busride to Kathmandu. The longest, worst busride I ever had to deal with, even worse than the trainride to Jaigon...
22 hours of living hell. I cant believe it. For some reason the bus stopped for 6 hours following a trail of bumper-bumper traffic. I had taken more of my perscription than ever before. Being a 6’2 man in a Nepali bus is bad enough. There is litterally no leg room for a man my size. During the trip, Sharene was holding on to my arm under a blanket. By the ending of the trip, she started to make out with me. All the locals on the bus were staring at us big time, for public affection is a big no no, but how could I resisit? When we finnaly arrived in Kathmandu the time was 4:30 am. All hotels were closed and I had the worst temper ever. No sleep, coming down, blue balls, and suddenly touts at my ear, I got off the buss with a rage and yelled into the kathmandu night "F*****CCCKKKKKK!!!!* at the top of my lungs. People backed off. Even Sharene was close to leaving me, again, at that instant. Thinking I have to wait in the cold for another few hours just to start looking for a hotel drove me to the point of insanity. Sharene handed me a ciggerete, although I dont smoke tobacco. A little calmness overcame my temper. She finnaly found an over priced taxi to take us to "his" choice of hotel, and I just didnt care as the money was handed over. Luckily, the hotel was only 200rs, which is $1.40 a night each!! With a hot shower and situated in the heart of Thamel, the hotel Deutche was my new home! I guess we got lucky! By the time we hit the bed, she finnaly gave in, for the first time! My first night in Kathmandu I put off the worst vibes ever, but got laid reguardless!! Sleeping in until noon, awaking into a brand new world, it was the start of a new adventure! And so muchmore to come...
The most westernized, commercialized, toursty place since Waikiki in Hawaii. The touts are around, but it only takes one or two "No thank you" to make them go away. In India, it would take five hard "NOOOO!!!" to make a tout find a new person to pester. Things here are much more relaxed compared to India, and even though its a true tourist mecca, its a place I cant help to love. For such a big city, its actually pretty calm! Hash is everywhere, but as always never to be bought off the street. Ganja is non-existant, except for in the hills, as we will soon find out. Everything in Kathmandu is a trip. All the cool travel-style clothes, Tibetians wall hangings, cool little gifts, cheap street food and fresh juice is on every street. Youll buy a glass of OJ, check out a really cool OM t-shirt for 100rs, and then see a 500 year old temple all within a few paces. Everything in this city is so old, yet emenating with commercialism, not to mention cheap. Its such a diverse place, you will find fried rice for 30 rupees at one resturant, and next door its 190 rupees! I have never seen such a coagulation of westerners. There are TOO many travelers here, and to think this is actually a time where tourism is at a low... Its hard to believe the tourist industry here is hurting, for there are more tourists braving the unstable Nepal than played out by the government! I cant recall seeing so many white faces in one area. Another Waikiki, just without the beach!
Right next to the famously overpriced "New Orleans Cafe", our hotel’s alley had it all, including a Newari resturant which served the most exotic dishes. Internet, phone, bakery, tourist info, clothes store, everything a tourist can possibly need right down stairs! The New Orleans Cafe blasts live music all the time, we just open our windows, pack a chillum and lay in bed at night listening to some great cover songs! They seem to play a lot of Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton Life here is grand! I dont know why it took over a day to look at the "Newari" Menu downstairs. When I first layed eyes on thier options, my heart lit up like a hannyuman baba’s chillum. Never in my life have I seen such exotic food! I then had a lonely mission: To try everything on the menu! Loney becasue Sharene was a little disgusted at my tastes! The owner LOVED how interested I was in his cooking. He became an instant friend and so did the staff! Buffalo Tounge, Buffalo Brain, Mutton Head, Mutton Lung, Fried internal organs of Buffalo and Mutton, crispy fried Buffalo Bone Marrow!! The list goes on! One of the special meals was the fried genitals of a buffalo, which I WANTED SO BADLY to try, but they didnt have it I was in Exotic food heavan, and the entire resturant was so intrigued that a westerner would actually be interested in thier food! I have yet to see another traveler dinning next to me! This is what traveling is about!
Somehow we managed to spend about 6 days in Kathmandu before heading to Langtang Valley. During those six days, all I remember is walking around the entire city amazed and stoned off my ass. One of our primary buisness constituants sold me the best soft-black, golden-inside-personal present ever. Four a tourist price of 1000’s, he was getting a deal, and so were we! The best black inscense I ever had! Everyone starts at 2000rs for the normal package, which is roughly ten grams of black inscence, but since we already had previous buisness arrangements for our proposed duration, he was happy to hook his customers up. After all, he was making money daily from us through other, legitamate means.
Going to Patan one day by foot took us through one hell of an adventure. We met some Nepali guys around our age, and they took us to thier favourite resturant where they got us piss drunk for free, not wanting anything in return. We partied it out into the early hour, and then we all caught a taxi back to Thamel where things got a little punchy. One of thier associates was getting a little pushy, wanting to come to our hotel to smoke my stash, and claming we need to buy him more beer at an overpriced pub. This person was not one of the Patan-crew’s friends, rather one of those assholes who always tag along. Drunk, Hungry and tired, I started to bring out my hawaiian-style "Moke" mantality. He quickly backed off, and from that point we had to go our seperate ways. The crew kept saying it was okay, they dont like the guy anyway, but in short its time for us to get some food. I felt so guilty although things were cool. After all since I came to Kathmandu, I had put out some bad vibes in two situations, and have been diverting from my personal path through the sub continent. Nor have I been chanting or practicing my religion since meeting Sharene, rather just having fun all the time.... Perhaps it was time to leave for the mountains and get away from the busy city. The time is soon to come...
To the Langtang trail, into the depths of the Himmalays!!
Barely making it out of Kathmandu, a nation wide bustrike was impending. Supposively starting on the 14th.... Leaving Thamel in Kathmandu, we arrived in Dunche a town right before Sebrybusei which is the start for the "Langtang" treck. After 10 hours of hell on a bus, we arrived just in time to beat the bus strike pulled by the Maoists. It was the 11th of March and around 6pm. The weather was cold and rainy, and because we took too long to get our permits, the buss left without us at Dunche! We were stuck in this town for the night.. crap.
The next day I awoke to the most beautiful scenery of the Himmalayas ever seen. Walking up to the rooftop, the crisp fresh air and views of the Langtang Mountian range made my jaw drop as I fell down the stairs in a rush to wake up Sharene. Packing a chillum and zoning out on the mountians is the meaning of my travels! So inspired, yet dissapointed to find out that the busess are officially on strike as of this morning, the 12th!! So it was decided, we are to walk to Sebrybusei! This marks the start of our 10 day trecking adventure into the remote valley, and my first taste of the inhabbitable Himmalaya peaks.
The Langtang trail accends to 4000m. Starting from warm farmland upon the hill slopes, the land and weather slowly changes day by day as we treck further into the valley. The second day was the worst by far. Sebrybusei to Bamboo lodge was a constant uphill battle along a sketchy little foot path. When we got to the Bamboo lodge, the cut-throat buisness antics of this land were apparent. There were 2 bamboo lodges, as other hotels open up next door with the same name in direct competition! Still yet, they are just old shabby shacks with basic accomadation. Real mountian-man architecture. The river ran straight past my bedroom window, and the flow of water rushing by created a perfect white noise to fall asleep. However, like all of the lodges, all blankets are used and rarely washed... You can smell the feet of a 100 treckers before you while cuddling up in the cold.
The further up you treck, the more expensive things get, for it must be hiked in! A bottle of water maxes out at 100 rupees! Because of the bus strike, the trail was pretty much empty. Although the menu’s were all the same, with the same government official stamp and set prices, all lodges were willing to bargain for our buisness! All prices were bartered down to 50% plus free accomadation!! After a cold night at the check post’s hotels, and bad allergies from the Buffalo roaming around my room, things got a little cheaper... From Bamboo Lodge to the Check post, the trail seems endless. I left half my belongings with the bamboo lodge, so my pack was a lot lighter! Still yet, it was another uphill battle. Soon the trees became a little more scarce, the terrain a little more dry and snow capped peaks were in the near distance. Lama hotel area was the half way point to the check post. There were FIVE Lama hotels! Can you imagine how frustrating that must be for the original owners? Not only that, most of the people who live in the valley seem so miserable. I can understand why, for they are so secluded from any civilization. But what I cant understand is why they all have the "Oh poor me" attitude. They are fed well, have hot water, kids, and a nice mountain life which they seem to hate...
The check post was freezing cold, and the next day we had to walk to Langtang Village at 3500m. By no means is this an easy trail. Its not so dangerous, and you dont really need a guide, but it is physically demanding the whole way. By the time we hit Langtang Village, a bird I have never seen landed behind the first hotel...The bird was too big to be a crow, and too far away to be sure. I ran ahead of Sharene to the first hotel where the owner was staning outside patiently, without anywords. Waiting for a few minutes in hopes of spotting this huge creature, the owner watching us silently knowing a blizzard was about to hit!! Suddenly the BIGGEST bird I have ever seen took off infront of me! Its wing span must have been longer than my entire body! The noise it made was incredible, the loudest "WOOSH!" any bird could make. The owner broke his silence and told me it was an Eagle! Looking at the bird as it flew up near the top of the mountians, over 17,000 feet high, it really was an Eagle, and the first time I ever seen one in the wild. Within seconds my amazement was broken, as blizzard came rushing through! I have never seen snow fall in real life, but man was this amazing. At only 1:00pm we were snowed in at a small little hotel with two rooms and a basic dinning room. The owner prepared us a fire with dried cowdung, and proceeded to make our food. Sharene laughed at my cringing face, knowing our meal will have a little extra protien in it, if you wana call it that!
The next day we awoke to snow everywhere. The path to Kanjin Gompa was nothing more than a muddy foot trail, barely 12 inches wide, and boarderd by endless feilds of snow. My feet sport an old pair of DVS skate shoes, not waterproof at all. But I couldent turn back now! With shoes soaking wet and knowing I could get frost bite, I kept moving fast, keeping my blood flowing and my toes within the reach of sensation.
Finnaly we made it our destination, unprepared, exhausted, and freezing cold. Never have I experienced cold like this... There was no heating in the hotels, for the walls were made of bare wood with cracks between them so wide, snow would fall through the roof! Even though it was only 2:00pm, we slept until the next day. It was WAY to cold for this tropical-climate heart. Though when I awoke the next day, there was this particular mountain that was smiling at me... Its maximum elevation was only 4700m, but it was the most climbable of all the mountains. Well rested, I decided to try the mountain alone! The only others in the Village were group tourists with guides and porters, who told me "what a pitty" when they saw trashbags around my feet, held together with ductape. I dont care if its getto, im going to conquor the mountian!
The trashbags worked, and I followed Team Korea: "Love Mountain Club", about an hour behind, as the hotel owner suggested. However, little did I know they were climbing a higher mountain! After an hour of busting ass I finnaly caught up with them only to learn they were climbing a seperate peak! I had to turn back, for my instincts were telling me "SHIT IM GOING TO DIE". With no real experience with trecking in snow, I followed the same small foot path along a narrow ridge that was the MOST INSANE attempt I ever tried. One little slip, and I would have fallen down a valley between two massive mountains, thousands of feet almost straight down. Though after backtracking 20 paces, guilt hit me hard, and I couldent let it stop me, so I turned back around and proceeded back up the mountain!!! By the time I reached the top of the valley, I could see the mountains which boarder Tibet, only 7KM away! From this point, there was no way I could follow team Korea, or climb up my intended mountain, so I turned back to start over.. With attempt number two, the most obvious path led me to a dead end, and after two hours total of trecking in the snow with trashbags around my feet, I had to call it a day. The second attempt led me to a feild of massive boulders with snow covering the gaps inbetween. I would take one step and be fine. Another step and I’ll fall between the boulders almost waist high. Without knowing when I will fall through the snow over head high and possibly rot till death there, sanity hit, and told me "Justin its time to go back". Defeated, the next two days were spent in bed, staring at the mountain that I couldent climb. Soon the busses were back and running and more package tourists showed up. We spent a total of three nights at Kanjin Gompa before trecking back to Sebrybusei. All but a few travelers had guides, which was kind of sad in many ways. But these were also the people who came prepared and made it to the top of the mountain, which will always haunt me for the rest of my life! That means ill have to go back one day with real snow-boots and finnaly conquor the mountian!
Well Sharene and I were feeling pretty sick at the end of it. Our hotel manager was a little homosexual and would do things like rub my legs while im sitting down, thrusting his body toward mine, and his Tibetian wife looking at him and rolling her eyes. He was a little too friendly, and the cold a little too cold, the crowds were building up and the mountains seemsed a little less "all to ourselfs". It was finnaly time to leave this sacred place...
Never to forget waking up in the middle of the night, the full moon so bright and so close, the snow so white it was as if the sun itself turned blue! The mountians glowing at midnight with a blue-white shine.... The moutains in Langtang are like a fairy tale. All pictures taken seem fake, for the grand scale and beauty of this place is like no other on earth, and still as I sit here they seem beyond human comprehension. It is truley the home of the gods, and a place that will remain within my heart forever.
Needing to make it out of the cold, it took us only 2 days to backtreck to Sebrybusei. Each day we trecked down hill for 7 to 8 hours, a physicall task unlike the accent, and such an obstacle that at the moment Sharene has a bad lung infection
Well we made it back to Thamel in Kathmandu, only to find the tourist population has almost doubled in the last 2 weeks! Its nice returning to so many options, warmth, soft beds, clean sheets, all the different foods that cant fit within a two-page menu, something we were forced to deal with on the Langtang!
Although the last posts may not have been so detailed, they take us to the moment, and I sit here at an Internet Cafe near by my hotel, listening to Jack Johnson blasting on speakers within the same building.. Soon a beer and another chuillum to celebrate:
To Nepal, to the mountains, and to Indiamike: Cheers!!!
Finnal words for today...
Oh since I have a few more minutes before paying for 6 hours of typing, I want to share my next plans, which as we know, usually dont go as you want them to!
Sharene has a friend living in Kathmandu. Like all westerners who end up in Kathmandu, and have yet to travel to India, they think India is just insane! Its kind of funny, but so true, how Nepal is so relaxed compared to India.
If India is an Elephant you can only sit down and watch as it passes you by, Nepal is a smaller Elephant you can sit on and ride for a decent price.
Well, Sharene is going her seperate ways soon, and I have a mission to travel to Lumbini, the last place on my pilgrimage! What I didnt expect was the traveler relationship:
When two people meet on thier travels, knowing they will part ways at any time. Its something im experiencing for the first time, but just as India has taught me, all you can do is sit back and let life flow its course....
After Lumbini, I hope to make it to Pokhra and do the Annapurna circut treck which is 20 days of hiking alone! After that, into Maoist country in the west, all the way to the Indian boarder at Uttaranchal. Then its to Himichal Pradesh, and then kashmir if the weather permits!!!
Posted on June 8th, 2006
Im here in Delhi, I have today and tomorow to wander around this hell hole of insanity baking all living minds into missery. Delhi is an oven, and its bitchen! Sorry everyone for the really long wait. I have so much to write about, but ill save it until I get back home in a few days. In many ways I felt the need to abstain from the internet, price being a small issue. More so it was becasue the India that I call home overcame the self I once knew.. The internet was an escape back to a reality that I no longer cared for, realizing there is no true need for such luxuries in life. Not even toilet papaer for that matter. Happy to report that in 5 months I bought not a single roll of the stuff. Im also shoeless and wandering around delhi, because there is no need for shoes either, only shade. Much more respect comes my way without shoes, and this is the India I come to love, and am sad to leave.
Many crazy things came my way within the last 2 months. But in short, I found paradise in Parvati Valley, where the smoke grows freely, poppies are in full bloom, its a place where time dosent exist. For 50 days I stayed in a single remote village, searching around smaller mountain villages for the best smoke, trecking through the mountians to find real Bagecha (feilds), Junglie, and all the smoke a rasta could dream about. But theres more to it than getting wasted all day and trecking. More than I have time to write about. But soon the journal will be finished, and I promise the crazyness gets more intense. My mind is blown, India took my heart, and all I can say at the moment is... .... ..... BOOOOOOMM BULENATH!
Posted on June 26th, 2006
Last days in Kathmandu, last pilgrimage in Lumbini!
The next few days Sharene and I did some sight seeing, though there seemed to be a underlying feeling of seperation, knowing within a few days our paths are going in different directions. Thamel was filling up with tourists, typicall city pressure along with feeling trapped in traveling relationship seemed to be a shared silent feeling. A typicall fat western man probably from Nebraska, with his family and kids shouted "any yall speak American?" The extent of the tourism was getting to me. But the shit has yet to hit the fan...
We both needed to move on, plus there was something wierd about our hotel that we finnally noticed. It wasnt your typical hotel, there was something going on behind the doors there... But the food and guest rooms were great. Sharene thought the place was a whore house and the owner a junkie.. what can I say?
One night Sharene and her friend hit up the Irish pub, I decided to get some supplies to prepare for Lumbini, as planned. Went to talk to my man in Thamel. "Meet me in the restuant in a few minutes, im going to have a meal". Everything was cool, and the delievery was on the way. The resrturant owner was eating alone so I joined him, he hooked me up with some fried mutton internal organs, his friend joined us, then the owner hit the kitchen. His friend was a pretty big Nepali, wore a black leather jacket, and had this hard stare in his eyes, even when he smiled. We talked a little, but the situation seemed a little ood. Soon he asked if I knew who he was. "Im the chief of police".... I didnt like this situation at all..... ....he handed over his ID.. I took a quick look and he was definately a cop. A few breaths and moments passed when I looked back to see my delievery waiting for me. I was totally f**ked, it was a set up for sure. But the cop didnt seem to know about the situation, or notice for that matter. He was piss drunk, and so was I. Perhaps it was the paranioa that got to me, the smoke in Nepal was very strong after all. Soon it was apparent this man was more wasted than I was! Raksi aafter raksi, this man was getting floored and I just happened to be his drinking buddy this particular night. The deliever boy was always around anyway, so I just sat with the cop and had a few laughs. After about half an hour, he started getting really friendly with me and pretty loud. "You are my best friend!!" "If you need anything at all, you call me, you are my best friend!" He wrote his name and number down and handed me the paper. I couldent believe this was happening. Somehow I managed to respectfully leave the table and get to business. Up to my hotel room with the business man... The delievery was definately good quality, and it was then confirmed the drunken man really was the chief of police. I smoked one to that! Full power.
Went to visit Sharene and her friend and ended up at some touristy place with live music. Everyone in the place was white, full tourists, and suddenly I felt very, very out of place. This isnt right, this isnt my travels, this isnt what I want..... Had a beer, sat for a few songs and hit the bed drunk, confused, and ready to move on.
Sharene was crying the next morning. She didnt expect me to leave for another day. My bags were packed before 5:00 am, ready for the early bus to Lumbini. It was a quick unexpected goodye, but we both knew it was inevitable. I paid my half, got the mini bus, and sat for 12 hours until my destination. A tripped out Japanese kid was on the same journey, wandering into this Bihar style Nepal boarder town that actually had samosa stands! We got the same and only guest house that seemed open, shared a few chillums. The land scape resembled the same flat plains of upper Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar. It was hot as hell too. An American joined us for dinner, had a few beers, and left them on my tab when he took off in the early morning. First and only time another traveler took advantage of me like that, it was pretty sad. Of course I didnt pay, the owner understood. Soon the Japan kid chello, and I was alone to wander the town and absorb the vibes. Half a mile walk through a chilled out forest near a lake lake brought us to the gates of the Lumbini ruins. There were two poor children that followed me only to talk and play. Passing some Nepali police, with a mean tone and quick approachment, they made the two kids run away like being attacked. Cops called me over to thier station, im packing a lilttle smoke, paranoid too, and they question me: "What did the begger children want?" "How much did you give them??"... They seemed mad for no reason at all. Bullshitting for a few moments, they sent me on my merry way to finish my pilgrimage..... Why men who live in this sacred place act in such ways....?
The ruins of Lumbini where lively at the gates with young monks in robes playing cricket on the dirt road. Market full with atleast 20 side-street shops cloging the enterence. ... Though inside the ruins exists a mellow place with the actual birthspot of Buddha. I mean there is a small stone marker stating that this is where he came out of his mother, to the exact inch. Around the small ruins are miles of mansion sized temples belonging to many countries. I spent more time wandering around the backroads filled with new style religious architectre than the ancient home of Buddha. A group of Indian kids from the area quickly befriended me, being personal escorts showing off thier favoirte temples. The chineese shrine was amazing. Hours flew by until the sun was setting fast. Being dinner time we headed back together through this land of peace and beauty, admiring the scenery along the way... Then the one kid who spoke english finnaly asked for some rupees. I stoped, looked him straight in the face, and honestly said... "Aw man, not this, I though we were friends". A little dissapointed, but understanding, we walked back to the ruins together where we went our seperate ways. It was obvious he felt a little guilty after all, but I understand that he has to try... ya know? This understanding comes with time.
Another DalBhat to end the hot day, and an African girl doped up on amphetamines, speed, or just slighly crazy became the only other guest at the house. Needless to say she joined me for dinner, quite an odd experience. Being her second day since leaving home, her birthday, and starting of a year long jourey, she prepaered some exotic african dish for this one time event. A little sketchy to touch, I mean she was after all pretty whacko, but damn she made some good food. The gest house owner wouldent touch the food, understandably, but lately my travel motto has been " F**K IT!". A wet towel as a blanket put me to sleep that night, the electricity was out so there was no fan, mozzies flooded the room so I had to use my travel tent for the third and finnal time. I swore to leave the next day, this place was too hot to breath normally. Up early and ready to hit Pokara, another 12 hour bus journey into a new place, I had my last India favorite/ Nepal rarity Samosa and proper Chai before starting back into the mountains... A new day and a new adventure into the unknown.
Posted on June 26th, 2006
Pokara is hidden within the endless valleys of Nepal’s intricate natural beauty. Suddenly appearing around the corner of a hill side, relief overcame my sore knees and butt as mulitple story buildings created a decent sized city from afar.. It had to be Pokara for sure. Night was slowly taking over what day light was left, the bus stopped in a place that didnt cater to travelers, and I was forced to get off the bus lost and confused. We were somewhere far from Lakeside, and it didnt take long for two taxi wallahs to run after me. Having two taxis at your service when you dont know the actual fare is a great way to save money: Sit back and let them argue thier own prices down!!! "This man says 100rs, you take me for 80rs?" Soon they were fighting over pennies, so I just took a cab already. Turns out the fare was actually an honest deal, the drive wasnt very short aftrer all! "Which place you stay??" "I dont have a hotel yet" (ooops) "I take you to a good one" (shieeet!!) ....He takes me to Lakeside as agreed upon, but drops me off infront of the GhorkaliDhee hotel, which from the outside looked like a $10 a night kind of place. It was definately too rich for my tastes... "I cant afford your commission for this hotel, its to nice, to expensive". .."No commission" he says.. The hotel manager opens my taxi door and invites me in, after again explaining how I cant afford such a nice place.. "My friend, its only 150rs a night, private bath, hot water, television".... I dont believe a word he says, but play along for the sake of it, walk to the first floor and check out the room. NO SHIT! This room was wonderful! Soft bed, clean sheets, quiet fan, large and clean private bathroom with a HOT presurized shower, western toilet, and a color TV with Cable! I cant believe this luck, and honesty! It was a steal for 150rs a night. Infact the best deal I will ever have in my 5 months of traveling! I stayed here for about a week before I could pry myself from the clutches of cable television..
Searching for cheap resturant in a tourst place wasnt easy. Wandering around for some dinner, as usual a drug tout came after me. About 15 years old he grabbed my arm pretty hard and was forceful about getting some cash. Since I was in a good mood, I just let him hold my arm and do his thing, being extremely passive for the person I am. Trying to sell me everything and anything, he asked "what do you want?" "I just want some cheap good food". He pointed me to what will become my favorite place to eat in Pokara. But he still didnt get his "crackers because im poor and hungry". Cant forget this kid, not only does he tout at me daily, but weeks later he will reveal something I will never forget!!! The nexy day I went for a little walk around town, found a small path leading to a secluded bank along the lake. It was a perfect spot for smoke and some scenery. A few hours passed until boredom and some flat sharp rocks had me skipping stones across the water, when a nepali man shows up to take a bath and swim infront of me. First smoking some of his ganja, then being half naked and laughing while wanting to skip rocks with me. He jumps in the water for a few, takes a bath, then escorts me to his favorite dhaba for some chai. An older nepali man shows up drunk and sits infront of me, talking crap and just being annoying. Then he sits a little closer to me, bends over, and just starts to stroke my beard. No words, just stroking my beard. Then starts to ask if I would buy him a bottle of alcohol. A situation that need to be left ditched, I got the hell out of there, but not without paying an overpriced bill first. Ah nepal.
Things get better as the days pass. A nice room and lots of food choices could keep me there for a month, easy. Pokara is cool and chilled out. Buildings are smaller and lower and the streets wider than in Thamel. There is a country vibe that runs through the area, and for a nation’s second largest city it differess incredibly from the first. Walking down the road the next day, the same kid approaches me for third time. Brushing him off, induldging in the german bakeries and cheap food, I thought to my self "I really love having my own space". Though when my eyes looked up form the pavement, guess who was walking right past me... Sharene was in Phokara too. I couldent believe this, but let things flow. We get piss drunk, eat a great dinner and I crash at her hotel that night. The last time. Some day activities, walking, eating, drinking and being merry was cool and all. What else to do? One day Sharene rented a bicycle, and while I caught her riding down the road, that old urge to ride again hit me. Of course, skate parks, or freestyle bmx is unheard in this part of the globe. Quickly rented the best mountian bike I could find, sadly it was a Trek brand, but I wasnt afraid to abuse the shit out of it!
Street riding bmx style on a mountian bike in Pokara was a whole new ball game. Flying it past the lake, finding large flat rocks that lay vertically next to the dirt road made a great wall ride to play on. Riding through the remote villages on the out skirts of Pokara had some third world culture in this sessions abuse. I almost ate shit hard core trying to launch a natural double in the road, did a nose dive and came close to a face plant. Then it was time to sample some of Nepals pavment... When the night got late, I was somehow lost and far away from Lakeside. A new style of riding, it was about not getting hit by the free for all traffic that relentlessly controlls the roads. Throw in the pot hole factor, no street lights, piles of animal crap, stray dogs, speeding fast through it all was like a new game. At one point two busses almost sandwhiched me between them! But there was a dead line on this expensive rental, and almost time for some food. Sharene joined me this night, but we never got together since. Within a day, it would be the last time we will see eachother, and very soon until the Anapurna Circut!
Posted on June 26th, 2006
Besishar to Muktinath, across the land of gods.
By this time the police check posts became a regular occouring reality check. The situation in Nepal finnaly made sence, how each bus suddenly stops, all passengers get off with thier luggage, policeman enters with large rifle straped over his shoulder, does his little search while im left sitting alone. Nepal has a blindfold over its tourists, who all seem to have diplomatic immunity, and while most travelers take advantage of this to the fullest extent, the situation keeps getting worse and worse for the locals. Everyone gets searched and ID’d except for travelers, so the more out of place you look the better.
Reaching Besishar in the early afternoon, this bus didnt take incredibly long compared to most. Ground zero and touts approach from all directions claiming the next village, accessible by foot only, is too far. "Its too late, not enough time".. Though like the Langtang tought us, everyone has a different opinion on walking speed... "Is the village this way?"... "you sure?" A few confirmations and I flew past them to start the journey.
Hitting the trail to find the first town, the mellow walk along an almost flat dirt road gave me the proper head space. No decent map, no guide, no trecking gear, and a tight budget promised to my wallet. This time im prepared to conqer the mountian alone, physically and mentally, yet without proper means. The afternoon beauty always makes trecking a little more difficult. While the sunset can steal your attention for a second, the trail can put you into a painful relaity check floored on the rocky trail. By the time darkness started to roll in, the first village appeared spread out over the cliff sides cut in half by a large river flowing deep below. The first guest house looked the best, and immediately the trecking prices of food hit hard enough to start bargaining, again... Tonight im arming myself, writing down a list, a set eating scedule with a set price. A new plan, it works wonders on the trail, knowing food prices will soon grow into the sky along with the mountian.
The whole trail seems like a dream. Deep inside burns a hate for cold weather and any task taunting before me. Annapurna is another obstacle, a personal challange reducing the natural beauty into mere icing on the cake. Uphill climbs become a mental playground for my will and physical strength, like running naked into a forest I have never felt so free yet so exposed to the uncertain wrath of natures power. Unfortuneately there will be no running around naked, each day unfolds into a landscape more uninhabitable than the world left thousands of feet below. And the cold weather follows, fueling the will to push foward. Before accending into the high crevices of Annapurna’s snow covered mountians, a villager approaches me from his resturant. The town has a vibrant green vibe, lush and overflowing with life. "Namaste!".... .............. A little closer and he asks quietly.... ".......Ganja?".... Taking me into the back of his resturant he hands me a variety which I have never seen. The seeds are ripe with a brown color and black stripes. However they were incredibly small, I have never seen ripe seeds this small. "200 a tola." He tells me... Pushing to sell me two, what can I say, the stuff is, after all, illegal by someones law in a country seperated between the civil war of three parties!
Moving toward Thorong Phedi, it takes seven complete days of trecking before reaching the highest destination, much faster than anticipated. Barely half way to the top, a traveler sitting at a trail side resturant calls me from the path.. Warnings that Maoist encounters will happen soon, "at the next town". A quick conversation about sneaking by and I was prepared to go through the forest, said my goodbyes and continued my short walk through the small village. Eyes focused on the dirt path when a voice calls out to me.... I look back at a small table with a few treckers gathered around it, a few locals handing out papers, and the villagers just going on with daily life... A small Nepali man approaches me, hands me a paper... "We are Maoist, please pay your donation". F*CK! what is this, I barely walked a few minutes! Thinking quickly, I sit down to act like im fully interested in thier cause, reading until the very last line...."Our fight against American Imperialism...."...etc. At the table, a small man was filling out reciepts... "Country?" "Hawaii" I said. "Where are you going?" "Beni"... "1400rs" he tells me! .....I went off and wouldent shut up. "I hate America!" "They took our country from us!" "Im a student, I cant afford 1400rs..." Eventually the man stopped me and agreed to let me pay only 1000r’s, he wrote Discount between some Nepali letters and sent me off with a souvenir receipt. He also wrote I have 10 days to get to Pokara! Some travelers crossing my path recall this very day, explaining what they saw.. The front man I bargained with had a pistol as two others held rifles in the backround. Of course, I didnt see this!
Eventually I had to take a wrong turn. Walking through the forest, another fork appeard in the road, common occourance, though not always simple to find the right path. This time no people were around to ask.. So I wait a few and pack the chillum. ...Not a single soul. Until this point I have been saved by a few villagers, coincidentally passing at the same, remote mountian fork in the trail, saying the main trail has suffered a "rock slide". Sometimes the trail just washes away in these steep, seeminginly inaccessable mountians, as if to constantly defy man’s never ending pursuit of a driveable road around this precious gem. Looking down, studying both paths, one is obviously more trodden, and instincts are forced to be followed. Hours pass by climbing this uphill battle against the mountain, when suddenly a remote village appears in the distance... Walking faster I suddenly come to a steep mountian side where the trail suddenly ends to meet a large wild river flowing below... I took the wrong turn. Destroyed, hitting the floor to sit down, I could only stare at the river which flows at the bottom of a 100m hillside, and the village I could almost touch! Time and thoughts pass as they day grows older... ..If i slide down the hill, I wont be able to climb back up... ....If I turn back I loose a day... ..But there is one point where the river hits some boulders and narrows slightly...I could make it across at this point... ...Though its too far away to accurately guage if I will beable to cross this river....
"F*CK IT!"... Grabbed my bag and strapped in, walked to the edge of the hill and found the best way to get down, sliding on my feet and ass. Got to the bottom in a matter of minutes only to find the boulders are a lot bigger from down here! Finding the most crossable point in the river, it no longer seemed that crossable. The river was pretty wild, and flowing really fast over boulders. But I only have one choice at this point of no return, the hill is way to steep to climb back up! I stripped into my surf shorts on the river bank. A few ziplock baggies to hold some electronics, shoes strapped to the top of my bag, it was time to not die today. Entering the water this horrible idea was instantly deemed stupid. For some reason it didnt occour in time, how this water was freezing cold himmalayan water running from the snow capped peaks which dominate the distant scenery. I had my stick, but the river had me. What was I thinking?! The rapids engulfed me sooner than expected and swept me along with its current, between large smooth rocks that I scratch at helplessly. By some chance, I made it to across the river, soaking wet, shivering, scared shitles and so happy to be alive the numbness didnt bother me. About 10 minutes later, sensation in my toes returned, and when the dry clothes were put on, I crawled into the village through its steep backyard. Around the corner of the village’s exit, I turned back to see a bridge runing across the river that almost killed me, leading from a trail I failed to notice! Oh man...
The last two days before reaching Thorong Phedi, the desolate landscape was very intense visually and physically. Its so amazing how the landscape keeps changing, passing through a dozen unique and seperate worlds truley beyond our imagination. Mountains full with snow standing above every earthtone color that decorates vertical pillars of rock. Eerie holes haunting these natural structures create homes for eagles, and the freezing blue sky always in contrast. By the time I reached Thorong Phedi, snow existed only on surrounding mountian peaks. A few travelers reached the 4300m town, after sealing my set menu deal as the only traveler there, thankfully! Among them a small group with a guide, and a few Jewish cats who are rouhing it solo. Good food, a hot bucket shower, and its time to crash for an early start on the trail... Little did I know the trail wont exist!
The night was freezing cold... I awoke to a dark village coverd in snow. Barely able to crawl into my clothes and get through the door, I needed to get my head straight first... A chillum for good luck and one for the road! When that front door opened, I couldent believe it was the same village. Completely white, still, silent, peaceful, snow falling from the early morning sky. My feet sinking a few inches into every step as I walk toward the kitchen, only to find the guided tour is ready to go! I have my breakfast, pack up and hit the Safe Water Station, where the solo group invites me along to be safe, eventually saving me from defeat or death. ...Time to face one of the scarriest moments in my life, accomplishing a mission beyond my capabilities as one. To conquor Thorong La, a 5400m pass, in a blizzard, without a guide, porter or visible trail, plastic bags to keep my feet dry and regular street clothes to keep warm.
Behind and above the backs of the the village homes, once a brown mountian now completely white, we find sanctuary in a deserted building 20 mintues up. The snowfal is getting heavier and no one knows if we are climbing the right way. Shared thoughts on turning back surface, until one brave man goes solo and finds footprints barely traceable! "The path is this way!!" We all follow at our own pace, im lagging behind a bit.. Soon we reach HighCamp, at 5000m or 16,500 feet. While the group gets thier things together I decide to smoke a chillum and see how it feels at 16,500 feet. In the zone, it was time to move through the snow, without a visible path we were pointed in the right direction. Soon the weather starts to clear up, a decieving yet beautiful hour of sunlight, and pictures were taken as the sun rises above the mountains. Though the path got very very sketchy and the only trail marker was a series of tall poles almost invisble when the snow falls. Across a valley stood out another pole, some vanishing footsteps marking the way along the "U" curve of the path. Getting to that pole was a problem, the path was along a ridge so steep and endless, understandably one slip and your dead. Snow rising above our knees everyone came close to death at somepoint, but we didnt turn back. Finnaly reaching the otherside, the group was now completely at thier own pace. Two took off ahead, and two fell behind. Perhaps it was the comfert in catching up with the guided team after hours of being lost in the snow. But the guided team was too slow so I took off ahead of them, and when an hour passed, it didnt suprise me I was all alone. The addrenaline was pumping through my veins, an hour later I found High Pass, and the two brave ones who ran ahead. Roughly 18,000 feet tall, High Pass is marked by a sign, but mostly some poor desperate man who lives up there, ready to serve you the most expensive tea in all of Nepal. He was obviously so miserable, waiting out there all alone in sub zero blizzards, confined to a little ply-wood shack with a small stove and bedding on the dirt floor. I refused to pay for the expensive tea, and the poor man was so lonely he just handed it over for free... While we waited in the little shack, the snow turned into a blizzard. A Yak rushed me with anger after petting its head, and it was colder than I ever experienced. But time to hit the trail that didnt exist. Through the deep snow the three of us began our decent of 6,600 feet, through the blizzard, barely able to see a few meters infront of us. Pure insanity, the two jewish cats led the way without any fear or hesitation, I was keeping up behind them with a ton of caution. The air was so thin I couldent put a bandana over my mouth, nor could I inhale the cold. We had to guess which way is the correct way, hoping to catch a glimpse of another pole in the distance. And this actually worked! Soon we were out of deep snow, and walking down a steep slipery path of ice with sharp Himmalayan rocks emerging from the surface. Thanks to having some DVS skate shoes that are virtually flat on the bottom, I greeted those sharp rocks with my ass, over and over. It wasnt cool slipping backwards every 10 steps, but I had no other choice. At this point my hands were bleeding and my right knee strained. The walking stick helped a little, but for an hour it was gnarly punishment gettin slammed into the rocks constantly. Eventually the snow led way into dirt, and the trail became a breeze. Through the dark clouds and snow, beyond the hill top below, a large village greets us into its warm embrace. Wandering into a snow covered retreat, the Bob Marley Guest House seemed like the perfect answer. A Dragqueen who is the rock that wont budge shut down every price on my set menu. Time for a hot shower, perhaps some pool, some Nepali beer I never seen, and a nice dinner. Soon everyone shows up at the hotel, one of the treckers very worried after watching me run into the distance alone greets me with relief. A chillum to celebrate and my one jewish friend gets a little too happy, infact paranoid, and drops the que for sleep thinking hes having a flahsback or something...
Seven and a half days since starting the trail and now its all downhill baby!
Posted on July 8th, 2006
Aftermath, recovering from a touch of heaven
What to do...Im stuck, confused, stationary in my life.
Not long ago, I found a true paradise within the Himalayas. More hash than I could smoke, more opium than I could take. And to hear these words muttered from my own consciousness throws me into a downward spiral of metaphysical awakenings, death and rebirth of my own mind. Its too much to understand, and I feel like falling in both directions simultaneously, only if life could be so simple.
What is the dream, I cant tell anymore... Was it a haze of beauty, sinking toward the depths of hevan as the world flips? The endless amounts of drugs so cheap and accessible, the drugs buy me. Food so fresh from the garden, the taste of mint tea complimenting an Italian chillum passed with the soundless Zen that surrounds us. For months I lived within the Goddess Parvati, her beauty is my playground. White plastic chairs become my throne overlooking one of humanities sacred natural kingdoms. Time doesnt exist here, and the familiar self once ever present slowly disintegrates with the setting of each sun.
Four cows graze the village without boundaries and through the surrounding fields a young Nepali boy walks them daily, chops and carries weeds for cattle food so fresh our milk is silently guaranteed. When the Chai takes too long, we know the cows are being milked for our pleasure, and the only problem is packing another chillum to coincide with the coming of our tea. The worst that could happen is a violent gust of wind, taking away the little sticky beads of hash delicately and patiently rolled between your tired fingers....back to the land in which it came from.
Im too sad to finish.. This American life is so grand, yet so dull, alienating, a miserable satire of human desire and the western perception of itself. Materialism rampant within its prominent religions, god is displayed on American currency, and currency the American god itself. I dont know what the fuck to think, to feel, where to go, what to do.. I was faced with a different culture, one of earths poorest, poverty, death, disease, everything we are taught to despise, fear, keep silent, it was in my face, before my eyes, it was life, humanity on another level so incomprehensible I find myself without much pride, ego or desire. Only confusion within the unrelenting thoughts haunting my very existence.
Pure Insanity, drugged up, cold turkey, coming down, wandering, homeless, one with the filth, flies and cowshit. I never felt so comfortable, content with myself and surroundings, living from a bag, a bum, happy to have nothing but the sheer excitement of life and the will to live.
This home in Hawaii reveals all my possessions, toilet paper, electricity, cars, pavement, new clothes, endless amounts of food, money, expensive drugs, family, and most of all opportunity.
A paradise with a one sided perception of itself, the once unique culture that fills this alpha male society with unlimited pride no longer resembles the Hawaii I call home. I no longer pride myself as born from this land, nor can I hide behind the face of localism, because Hawaii is truly polluted beyond the point of return with western values and way of life. The worst part is, the children of Hawaii cant tell the difference, and will continue to believe in something that no longer exists.
Aloha has been reduced to a marketing gimmick. And for the first time in my life, I found the true meaning of Aloha within the culture of India, only to return to a land where this spirit has been buried beneath the depths of modern society.. There is so much I want to say, but I cant finish tonight, there is a chance I can never finish.
One thing I learned in India: Some things in life are meant for your mind only.
Posted on August 22nd, 2006
The next morning I awoke to the most beautiful scenery ever blessed upon my eyes. Beyond expression, the gods were truley smiling down on us from the clear blue sky. Cold fresh air and the sweet smell of breakfast greeted me onto the balcony upstairs... The perfect compliment while sitting in the warm sunlight with a camera in hand, and a cup of chai to start the day with My red eyes looked out beyond the railing, imprisioned by the awe of this timeless dream. Rolling green hills taper gently from the sharp grey mountians, slowly blending into a mixture of colors ranging from gold to dark brown. The smooth hills suddenly drop into a nearly vertical canyon, creating massive walls of dirt sinking for thousands of feet, deeper than I can see, carved with the texture of natures many personalities. Spread out along the landside are a few unique villages captured in a perfect state of arcitectual poetry. Though such momentary bliss was easily broken by the arrival of my breakfast. Dispite the urge to explore, the journey was put on hold, my shoes were slowly drying under the sun above like a cruel joke testing my patience. Killing two birds with one chillum, what better way to pass the time and enhance the view than smoking a few....Except this time I will be alone, my Israeli friends got a head start. Hours passed quickly until the sun was overhead and shoes finnaly dry. I paid the dragqueen that destroyed my bargaining skills, and started the lonely wander down Annapurnas backside.
Its really hard to write about trecking down the Jomson trail at this point. I have never been so isolated within nature, walking alone without passing a soul for half a day at times. Only yourself and nature exist.. Just keep on walking, enjoy the scenery while lost in thought... There is no way to describe this feeling. The early afternoon was spent admiring each village spread along the dirt path, the same villages which faded into a dream while flying on the balcony of the Bob Marley house. Looking back through time while staring at some of the pictures taken, mostly shock and disbelief can be felt for such an experience couldent be real. Tibetian refugees stand out in my mind, thier tables displaying hadicrafts for sale, as does the desperate look in thier eyes. The robe like layers of old winter clothing being worn in picture perfect contast to the Himalayan mountians that seem painted on the backround. Mountian culture homes clustered together create unique villages, no two are alike.
Down the dirt trail the canyon fell away into another valley. A small village surrounded by green fields seemed very out of place in the middle of a high altitude desert. I was suddenly at a fork in the road, one way leading to this village. It had to be mustang valley. Just like turning your head reveals a different landscape when trecking high in the moutnians, this valley had its own character. I wasnt about to pay $700 to treck this route either! Mustang valley is owned by a seperate government, possibly a different king... Thoughts of sneaking by flooded through my mind, after all breaking into Bhutan was a breeze. However, mutiple checkposts were dotted along the Annupurna trail, this one would be no different. As the treck lead on further toward civilization, comfert and decent selections of food, my mind started drifting further from reality... All that mattered was the trail, to keep on moving, disreguard pain push foward until dark. Barely any people were around, the isolation was setting in. Soon I was in the middle of a large river bed of rocks streching into distance. A kilometer wide, dry and cold, an ancient river bed lay dormant until the monsoons. It was the only trail, although invisible, leading further into the depths of nature. A strong feeling stays with me until this very day, as I think back to the moment I paused in what can only be describe as the center of the earth. The energy this place held, it was like walking on the heart of god, a pure and holy place that exsisted alone with my eyes. In my life time, this moment claims my entire being like never before. Alone in the heart of our world.
Smooth river bed rocks under each step create pain throughout my swollen feet and legs. Though I was numb with awe, with love, pain, isolation, and perhaps a little insanity. This endless skeleton of a river didnt lead into any visible trail, only a single wadering soul after hours of painfully walking over stones. This person, a woman walking alone gave me hope as we passed eachother in the distance. To far to speak, yet close enough to secretly smile with relief. As the hours fell away into the mid-afternoon, Johmsom village appaeard miles ahead. The vast river bed began to narrow as Johmom grew closer, revealing small streams of water running through the heart of the village. To the left, a visible trail appeared under the hieghts of the mountains towering above, making way into the village enterence, but it was much to far, and painful to reach. Small streams of water grew into larger ones as the once seemingly dry river came to life. Soon I was stuck between knee deep streams flowing past the village and forced to play leapfrog to stay dry. Just by luck, a few large dry boulders made decent stepping stones leading me from this maze of rocks and water, and into my first taste of civilization after countless hours of painfully trecking down my own path.
Johmsom Village was rather large and seemed out of place in the remote vastness of this land. Spoting a small airport, too many guesthouses and resturants to discover, it lacked that mountain charm of being isolated within the high Himalayas. Navigating through the village wasnt easy, becasue of its size. "Where does the trail start?"... A man pointed me in the direction of a bridge. Looking down and over the metal beneath my feet, small streams of water joined together forming a rushing river below, as the bridge led into Johmson’s right half. "Jimi Hendrix once slept in this guest house, you should stay here". Many were trying to convince me not to push on any further, including my feet and legs.
But the will to push foward burned inside, and my momentum was unprecedented. Hailing me from the stone- laced dirt roads, a police man forced me to backtrack and sign in at his checkpost. "You dont have enough time to make it to the next village, you should stay here"... I wouldent listen, I didnt care. Although the day was slowly fading into dark, I told him "im going for it"... Right before exiting the village, a small chemist shop interegated me for the pain relief being sought. A few Valiums fueled the fire and soon I was, at last, rushing down a proper dirt road in search of the next village miles ahead.
Dark clouds drizzled cold water from above as the sun started to set, but the gods were looking after me. Thununder cracking in the distance, the cold setting in, within a few hours of power walking the destination was in reach! This small village had the character and charm that Johmsom lacked. Stone houses topped with piles of wood proclaimed its historical sence, while new, painted buildings emerged between these ancient looking homes. Though the night was dark, and todays exploration needed to end. One new style building made a perfect home for the evening, after half an hour of bargaining over mere pennies! The thunder shook us hard enough to make a hot shower intimidating, though just to have a hot shower was a god send in itself!..
Up early the next morning for another long day of trecking, the rooftop made a perfect spot for pictures of a life time. Though it was so cold and bitter.... Hitting the trail after breakfast, little did I know how demanding my will could be.... Scenic beauty surrounds and takes hold of the six sences, decending back into the greenery that seemed a fleeting memory since conquoring the desert-like heights of Annapurna. Hours passing by led this wandering soul into another vast, dry river bed made mostly of dirt and sand. The wind was blowing so hard, I could barely light my chillum when needed. Sand and dirt whipped across my face demanding the use of sunglasses and a bandana over my mouth in order to face foward. Throughout todays jouney, life led me though villages that could only exist in dreams... ...If only the stuborn will of my manhood would allow such time to truley appreciate, rather than conquor. Of course, the time was taken to capture a few beautiful pictures when my heart cried out.
Along the footpath, a few old homes clustered into a small group lined the trail side. One house was nearly destroyed by a fire, though it made a perfect shelter for a group of Sadhus on a pilgrimage from Naggar, Himichal Pradesh. As they sat on the stone steps infront of thier shelter, one hails me from the path... "BABA! COME! SIT!" Must be the dreads, for all baba’s have knotty dreads like Shiva! An old sadhu with four of his friends were smoking out of the biggest chillum I ever seen, and called me to join them. How could I resist? One had a pet monkey who kept climbing all over my face, as I sat there laughing at such a moment.
Unable to hold such a large Chillum I gripped it like a throttle and hit that fatty the best way I could... "No,no,no... You dont have Shiva Baba Style!!" He exclaims! Naggar Baba grips the Chillum with two hands and shows me the proper way... I try to copy, but cant seem to perfect the technique, so he holds the chillum for me and laughs aloud as I smoke hit after hit from his holy hands. Then he asks if I would like some Ganja, but I decline respectfully. Reaching into his bag, he pulls out a dream come true within his grip! "This is Malana Charas!" ...I think back to my research on Parvati Hash.. ....Naggar village shares the same valley as Malana village! This is the real deal! I cant belive its true, my whole life I wanted to try Malana Charas! He packs chillum after chillum, and I match each one! Soon we were all flying high, when an unexpented visitor shows up... A police man with a rifle strapped around his shoulder appears out of no where... ..At the same time the chillum was passed over to me... But the Police didnt seem to care, for he apparently respected this sacred ritual! I smoked from the chillum infront of the police man with no bad vibes at all!
Stories and laughter was shared until it was nearly time to leave my Sadhu friends. Of course, like all sadhu’s they were poor men, beggers, living from the land. Though they didnt seem like fake baba’s at all, for they were truley living very poorly.. "Baba, do you have Rupees for Chapati and rice?" I handed them a 100rs note, about $1.40 "Ahh 100 rupees is good gift for Shiva baba" He reaches into his bag and hands me a shiva bead with a smile upon his face... Then I ask.. "Naggar Baba, I give you 100 more Rupees for some Ganja?" He smiles and hands me a HANDFULL! Soon we were both on our merry way, happy and stoned like a rasta.
The trail began its decent back into the tropical surroundings once left behind. Sometimes I would take obvious short cuts across riverbeds, rolling the dice that a mile away, the brown structure is infact a bridge leading over this large river. Luck was on my side, and when a tripple fork appeared before me, some locals called me back fromt the wrong trail.... "THIS WAY!!!".. ...Wondering what would become of me, had they not been there.
Because of never ending road construction, sometimes I was forced to defy death and vertically climb up a steep forest hill to find the trail again. Clinging on to trees and using my arms to treck these areas, a single slip wouldent result in a few broken bones for sure. The only reassurance was the deep muddy impressions of donkey feet, used to transport food to and from the mountain tops. It seems the road will never be completed, as many locals will agree. Annapurna is too wild and steep for mans greed and lust over cars. God will not allow such beauty to be destroyed. Passing locals constructing these dirt roads, wierd looks seem to exclaim "why the f**k would someone walk this trail for fun?". Its easy to understand how man takes for granted such gifts when they are handed to you throghout your life.
When the dark rolled in, I was already at a village, but decided to do a little night trecking, bad, bad idea. A flashlight became my guide and savior, navigating through large steep rocks, and high step-downs. Around 8:00pm and a mile away, lights shine in the distance. A village for sure, that safe feeling flowed through my veins. Without falling once, I wanderd alone into this seemingly deserted village, surrounded by a lush tropical landscape hidden behind the darkness of night. All guest houses and resturants seemed non-existant or not open. Fear took over as I quickly walked down the dark village path way...
"JUSTIN!!!" They spoted me first, my Israeli friends called me in from the cold! Sitting outside, eating dinner, smoking joints out in the open, drinking overpriced beer, it was one happy reunion! "We have one room left"... It sucked big time, but there were no other options. I hesitently took the room with walls so poorly constructed, you could see through your neighbors privacy at all times. But it was cool, as were my friends, and the night was one I can never forget! Chillum after Chillum, joints and beer, Dhal Bhat!! Oh man! Laughter and chatting all night, falling asleep late, again I awoke alone, as my friends always seem to leave very early!
The next day marks the last and final steps on the Annapurna, but not the treck itself! Little did I know what the Maoists have planned for me! And little did I know what my body was truley capable of!! Although this adventure took me through impossible dreams unimaginable, cultures and landscapes mere words are unworthy of, Nepal was about to show me her true side....
Another long treck through a relatively easy trail led me into Beni.. Ah yes, the finnal desination! Across another metal bridge suspended over a raging river, my Israeli friends called out from the balcony of the first guest house to appear. "Come stay with us!"... ....Of course! "So this is Beni, eh?".... All the signs on the buildings read "Beni", this must be the very ending, atlast! We celebrated as usual, a dejavu of last night, though I was in severe pain. Scored a really nice room for cheap, right next to my chilled out friends, but the pain was killing me. My knee was still strained, my feet raw, and legs falling apart. "I need to find a chemist"...
While the sun started to set, an almost closed chemist shop was the only existing one in town. The chemist understood my situation, and handed me roughly 500MG’s of pure codine, for about $5.00 I have never seen pure codine tablets before, rated at 15mgs each. I took a few with my beer during our dinner, and had that particular glow throughout the warm, low elevation night. That night I slept like a baby, of course, but when I awoke, I could barely walk, and my knees were buckling beneath each step. As agreed, we woke up to share breakfast and walk to the bus station together.. A wonderful morning it was.
But there was a small problem. The bus station is at the "other Beni", about 2-3 miles down the road! Oh man, this is not what I wanted to hear! We all kept pace and eventually landed at the bus station, only to fall hard into a major dissapointment........
Posted on August 23rd, 2006
The longest trek ever, back to Pokara in the midst of insanity
Damn Maoists pulled ANOTHER bus strike! No one ever knows how long these strikes last. Nor did we want to accept this hassle and treck back to the Guest house! A few other treckers who have been stranded for days joined up with us. So did many locals who wanted to get back to Pokara. We were all very desperate and wanted OUT. Hours passed until the late morning came around, and the general word was: "If we can get 30 people together, and pay 1,000rs each, there is a bus driver that will take us to Pokara!" A ridiculous fee, as it was 10 times the normal cost! But we were all desperate and willing to pay. Stuck on stupid, sitting and hoping for a way out, a head count revealed we needed just 2 more willing people!! We thought about everyone we met, and then it hit us... Four treckers have wandered off! If we can just find two of them...!! We roamed the village and found a rather large police station... Inside, a pair of couples were negotiating with the Police to hire an Ambulance for a large amount of cash. The only way to get past the road blocks! We barged into the room and pleaded our story to both couples. Luckily, we convinced an old german couple to fill the last two seats, and within an hour we were on a bus back to Pokara!
Finnaly! Cable TV, Hot showers, german pasteries, Pizza, all the different types of food and comfert! Though I was in so much pain, I ate abot 400MG’s of Pure Codine on the buss, and a took about 50MG’s of valium. Not just to celebrate for the long bus ride back to civilization, but my body was destroyed. No longer capable walking or moving whatsoever. I just completed the ENTIRE Annapurna Circut in 10-1/2 days! It was supposed to be a 20 day treck! ...Ahh yes, the little bumps in the road rocked me into a nice Nod and soon I was glowing and Pain-free. Just as I began to close my eyes and smile, the bus suddenly stops. Infront of us, large boulders blocking the road to Pokara!... We finnaly hit the Maoist Road Block. We figgured for each person, 100rs goes to the bus driver, And the other 900rs was to bribe the Maoist. A FAT pay off indeed. But the Maoist wouldent budge, and wouldent accept the bribe. We were two days walking distance from Pokara, and because of the amount of medication I just took, I was PISSED. Everyone was forced to get off the bus, so I wabbled down into the chaos that just began. Luckily, a few Dhabbas lined the road side. I stocked up on water and crackers, and searched for my Israeli friends who were just standing around, seperated and confused. Suddenly, some horny Israelis with a GREAT idea came riding by on motorcycles. I guess motorbikes were allowed, just not cars or busses. They knew about the bus strike, and rented bikes to "rescue stranded tourists" Of course, it didnt suprise me that they rescued only the two hottest chicks abord the bus!!.... Ahhh....
F**K THIS BULL S**T!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Bus driver DEMANDED that each and every passenger pay 500rs for "Half the distance". The old German couple was bitching to all of us young folks, yelling "JUST PAY THE MAN!" Understandably, they were a little mad, after all we convinced them to follow us into this unforseen trap.
I was so F**Ked up on meds, so out of it, that I just walked passed the bus driver while everyone was paying up. And I mean everyone!! Even the Israeli folks were lining up to pay!! The bus driver ran after me, passing a Maoist holding a pistol, who didnt seem to care what I was doing. I wouldent pay a damn rupee to the man, I was SO MAD, and dopped up. The bus driver was pissed, but I just didnt look back, and if he tried to touch me, I was wasted enough to beat the sh*t out of him. Im sure the Maoist was just laughing on the inside, and so was I, in a wierd, cocky sorta way. A few locals were ahead of me, walking down the road, and knew that I wasnt going to pay... They were totally cool with my decision, and told me: "Friend, take the foot paths through the mountain trails, it will be twice as fast!"
As everyone walked down the paved roads toward Pokara, I took the foot paths, trecking up tall mountian sides through remote and rural Nepal. Little did I know this was my first TRUE taste of Nepal culture! Before the paved roads ever existed, these small, ancient foot paths leading through remote tiny villages and large farms were the only way to get around. For the first time, I was off the tourist track in Nepal, and on a real adventure!
Passing a few locals here and there, I would simply ask "Pokara?" And they would just point me up the little foot paths that cut a straight line through the weaving pavement. A few lonely treckers were passed here and there, and each one would tell me: "Pokara is WAY to far to reach today, we were trecking for 2-3 days from Pokara!" I didnt know how far Pokara was, nor did I know where I could find food, water or shelter. But I was so wasted I didnt care. I went totally ape sh*t,
Hours passed by, and a few remote guest houses were passed as I pushed further over countless mountains and valleys. But all I wanted was my Pokara... All I could see and feel was my soft bed, hot showers and cable TV.
As the mid-day sun rose above our heads, miles and hours away from the Road Block, a voice yells out to me from the distance.... "THEIF!!! THEIF!!!" Little kids running infront of a mad bus driver were rushing after me from a road-side home... I couldent believe that they actually tracked me down! By now, I was really far away from the road block, walking down a paved road in search for the next foot path.... "YOU PAY 500rs!!!" He yelled with a vengence. But I just gave him the look of death and ignored his attempt, kept pushing foward until they finnaly were off my back. I guess he knew not to f**k with me at that moment
Up and down over a raging sea of mountain sides beneath my feet, the sun started to fade away beyond the hills, and the late afternoon was approaching. Over the top of a single valley, across a large body of water, Pokara was in sight, about 10 miles away! The chances of me reaching Pokara before dark were slim, yet my body and mind broke all barriers set over 23 years of life on this earth. The only pain I could feel was the rage inside forcing me to move foward. The pain of this obstacle in my way. Nothing can or will stop me now! Leading me down the valley, a small foot path made way to Sarangkot, the village above Pokara. As locals were passed and qucikly questioned, many had to throw in "its impossible, you cant make it today, stay in this village." Nothing I wanted to hear.... Though as the destination grew closer, and pace faster, locals began to give me hope... "You can make it if you run!" ....So I did. I power walked my ass off, half running, knowing that I can and will accomplish the impossible. Soon the sun was about to set, and one of the most beautiful sunsets burned into my memroy was caught on camera. The first and only break during this 10 hour march.
Sarangkot was before my feet sooner than anticipated. Looking down at the glowing lights along the lakeside gave me hope, but it was now pitch black. Pokara was still a few miles away, not only that, it was far far below a steep trail. A sign near a foot path suggested the correct direction, although the trail weaved through the large yards of local residents. Luckily, I was armed with my flashlight which made trecking down a steep mountian side a little easier. At times, the trail would simply dissapear, and I was forced cut through the private land of small poor homes. A man calls out from the dark, asking what am doing here this late. He suggests I stay with him for the evening, food and room for less than $1. He was being very kind, but he was also diverting me from the mission. I kindly declined his offer, and he pointed me down the right pathway. Nepals soil was nearly tasteable, coming close to face planting on the dark rocky trail. Soon the path led way to endless grass feilds, fire flies lighting up the durg-induced romance while flirting with danger... The last step took me by supprise, as pavement could be felt beneath my feet. It was the flat, paved road to Pokara that I mountain biked weeks before! Atlast! I did it! Pokara is just a mile away!!!
Posted on August 23rd, 2006
Civil War and the truth behind Nepals situation
Reaching Pokara at night, limping, physically destroyed yet mentally stonger than ever before, my first warm greeting was a road block set on fire by children. This really didnt phase me, for I was beyond the capablity of comprehension, a zen like state of numbness, no thoughts, no feelings, only the moment existed. A small juice bar offerd a seat and some strength was regained over a glass of fresh juice... While sitting alone, the two hot Israeli girls spotted me.... "Justin! How did you make it back today???" ..."I walked my ass off".... They were in total disbelief.... ..."Justin, the road block was over 35 kilometers from Pokara, we were saved by two angels on motorcycles, they were angels" I was too tired to feel a little jealous. And they were too sane to believe I walked here in one day...
Limping back to the GorkhaliDhee Hotel, the same room was waiting for me with the same price! Never in my life have I felt so accomplished, so exhausted, as if I was crowned king while in a hospital bed. The next day I awoke to the most massive legs I ever seen on my body. I was totaly amped, yet could barely walk. Wandering the streets to find my favorite resturant for some breakfast, the same young Nepali Begger Boy spotted me like the target I am. We talked a little, mostly about getting him some cash.... "My friend, I have ganja, hash, heroin, whatever you want.... I am very hungry, could you by me crackers...Just a few ruppees.." Ofcourse he didnt get jack from me...but he has yet to reveal the big suprise....!
Breakfast with my favorite Tibetian Refugee Family resturant seemed best, and upon entering they greeted me like an old friend. An elderly family member, around 50 years old approaches me for some small talk. Like many Tibetian refugees in Nepal, she was selling handicrafts to tourists to survive. I asked her if she could make my Shiva bead into a necklace, the bead gifted from Naggar Baba during the Annapurna treck. Taking her time, she made me a beautiful necklace with many wooden beads decorated around my Shiva Bead. All she wanted was 30 Rupees, barely 50 cents! I was very happy and greatful, and from the look in her eyes, so was she.
Later on the in the afternoon, my Israeli friends made it back to town. They could barely believe I trecked back in one day. Niether could I.... We chilled out together, went to the Busy Bee for some good Pizza, and hit up some cheap Dabbas at night... While at the Dabba, a foreigner was sitting along the roadside table smoking a fat joint of "Pollen". That is, just the Trichomes or "crystals" of a Ganja plant compressed into a powdery like rock. We sampled eachothers smoke, and obviously, this foreigner knew his Nepali smoke better than I did... "Friend, I would like to buy some of this..." After a few Tea’s and Smoke, he took me down the road to a small home hidden behind many guesthouses dottoed around the lakeside. First walking through a small resturant, then through the backdoor, and into a large hidden feild of poor, rundown homes. A old Nepali man was introduced, and at that moment, the foreigner took off. My Israeli friends had a "bad feeling" about this, for no reason at all. Everything was cool, so I did the deal for my friends. The old Nepali man dug through the dirt beneath his garden, and pulled out a bag of Pollen weighing about a pound. "Just a tola"... We bargained a little, of course, but I eventually got it for less than $9. A decent deal by tourist standards. Except he didnt make me any chai, like most in India would do after a deal!...
A hotel owner I dealt with before approached me later that night, and I bought a couple more Tolas for a really cheap price. Now I am well prepared for the future!
As they days went on, and my strength slowly regained, the situation in Nepal was getting worse, and now sh*t was really about to "hit the fan". Every afternoon, there would be MASSIVE protests and demonstrations by the locals. Many hippies were collecting funds to help aid Nepali citizens hospitalized from police interaction. Around sunset, a hundred or so locals would carry torches, marching down lakeside’s tourist center, yelling and chanting for democracy in Nepal. The torches would be pilled up in the middle of the street, creating a huge bonfire. At this point, police were cool enough to let them protest, and let the fire burn for a little while. No one was being beaten or harrassed by the cops, as far as I could see. These demonstrations seemed rather peaceful, and gave a false sence of security....
Soon all buisnesses were forced to close 24/7. This was a very touchy situation in the tourist area. Many stores would close thier metal doors half way, to act closed, but if you REALLY needed something, you could crawl into thier shop and get your supplies. Some were too scared to open shop at all, and claimed Maoists could shoot thier place up for staying open. Locals also claimed on the outskirts of Pokara, Police were strictly enforcing this rule, to the point of brutality. Of course, this was kept away from Nepal’s true income: The toursts and thier false sence of security.
The following day: ..."There is going to be a 8:00am to 8:00pm cerfew for everyone in Nepal, the airplanes are short on fuel becasue of the road blocks and the pilots are going on strike very soon".... This seemed to be the gerneral word on the street. My Israeli friends and I decided the best Idea would be to catch a plane to the Sinuali boarder town near Lumbini the very next day, and walk into India. We paid about $70.00 each!! DAMN MAOISTS!!!... So its to be our very last night in Nepal....
How to celebrate? Anyone up for Pizza? "Fellas, we gota get rid of all this smoke we are packing!" So the plan finnaly came through, and a celebration it was!! Everyone was unloading thier hash and pollen because they were leaving the next day. People were just handing it out for free on the streets, because of airport security risks. We took about 10 papers and rolled the fattest joint I ever seen in my life. "Im gona meet you guys at the Busy Bee Resturant in an hour"... Everything is cool.
While walking back to my hotel to freshen up, the Nepali Begger Boy came after me one last time, with the same sad stroy. My answer was still "NO". .... ...He puts his hand out to shake my hand, looks me straight in the eyes... "My friend, you are a very smart man." ... and he just walks away.
Meeting up at the Busy Bee resturant, one of the more expensive tourist places in Nepal, my friends were a little late to greet me. Perhaps it was becasue I offended my short, skinny Israeli friend when he showed me a picture of his girlfriend full on embraced with another girl, making out. "Damn thats cool man, your chick digs on girls too, lucky guy!"..... "Thats me in the picture..." (Sh*t) It was an awkward silence, though that fat joint, beer, and pizza cleared our heads... In the middle of the packed resturant, live music playing, we light that joint up with no hesitation. No one seemed to care, except for the jealous souls drooling for a tasty hit.
Suddenly, through the enterence, the young Nepali Begger Boy shows up at this expensive resturant. Normally, any begger would be immediately kicked out of such an expensive place... But not in this case... He looks over at me and smiles, while shaking the hands of all the local workers, and sits down to order food!! I cant believe it! I KNEW his begging was all just an act. Our eyes caught for what seemed a long silent moment, and at that point we both knew the truth behind his tactics. He wasnt poor, he just made a fat living from begging! We had to laugh and smile together, knowing how things really work around here! It was the very last time I would see him, though he is someone I can never forget!
I think my friends couldent handle all the food, smoke and beer. So they took of for a good nights sleep. It was only the three of us, not the 7 or 8 that completed the treck together, as the others were no where to be found. Soon a whole group of French cats showed up and sat down at my table, as I sit alone with a beer and joint. I hand over some hash for free, roll thier party a couple fat joints, and said my goodbyes. ...Ah the lovely world of backpacking! Back to the hotel for an early morning wake up, the cerfew starts at 8:00am tomorow!
In the morning my friends greeted me onto a nearly deserted road with 20 minutes until cerfew. A police car drove by to escort stranded tourists to the airport, just our luck! Little did I know, in the following days, the U.S Government would send officials to rescue stranded Americans!
The plane ride was calm and security low. I smuggled most of my hash with me, because I am a Shiva baba after all Thanks to ducktape and testicles! We all arived safely at the boarder town airport, and dozens of cycle-rickshaws where waiting for us like a hungry pack of wolves. I just took a seat and let my Israeli friends do the bargaining! They are truley masters of the art! As we were peddled through the large town on Nepal’s boarder, I swear a tumble weed rolled across the street. The true extent of this civil war was apparent on our last day in Nepal. EVERY shop was closed, no one was on the streets, it was like living in a true western ghost town... Nepal’s dependency on tourism, and the blindfold pulled over thier visitor’s eyes, was a livivng chaos before us. Outside the tourist areas, this civil war was the real deal. Im glad to get out safe, and back into the struggle thats India!
Posted on August 23rd, 2006
Changing my life forever, a dream come true.
Hopping on the next bus to Ghorakpur, where the nearest trainstation was, the entire Annapurna crew just happened to be there too! They all decided to stick together and catch the next train to Rishikesh. What to do.... I gota keep it real fellas... "Justin come with us to Rishikesh!" ...I had to think about this decision for a while....After all I travel alone for the most part. While waiting at the station for the night train to Hardiwar, a town near Rishikesh, I met an old french man who has been living in Manali for decades. They were catching the same train as everyone else, and proposed that I follow them on the road past Parvati! ...Well guys, Parvati valley and the stories of Charas were my ORIGINAL inspiration for discovering India. (Viva O.G.!) ...We all had dinner together, caught the train to Hardiwar, and when we woke up in the early morning, a decision had to be made... "Guys, ill never forget you, but i’m on my own journey to Parvati Valley!" We had a very sad goodbye, my Israeli friends continued on to Rishikesh, and I stuck with my new friends as we ventured out into the sacred city of Hardiwar..
"The bus to Chandigarh dosent leave for a few more hours, we are going to swim in the Ganges" ...How could I say no? "Dont worry, the Ganges here is much cleaner than in Varanasi." We left our luggage with a friend of his who owned a storage shop, and caught a rickshaw to the Gangas... Shoes were removed, and they stripped down into thier underwear, though I was afraid and unwilling... I dont wear underwear so swiming naked is out of the picture, and I was a little intimidated by the pollution. They were having a blast though, so I just looked after thier clothes, and dipped my sore, blistered feet into the river and said a prayer. I guess the sacredness overwhelmed my hesitation. There were so many Baba’s, Sadhu’s wandering around. Decorated and dressed up like no Sadhu I ever seen before. I looked at my watch and checked the date... Oh my god.... Its April 20th!! Not only the day I was supposed to go home, but also a sacred day for us Ganja smokers! We had to celebrate! My friends dried off, and continued back toward the main road when an old lady selling 2rs clay chillums caught my eye! "Wait guys, I need a new chillum, and we should go have a smoke!" We walked over a bridge and found a mellow spot near the riverside. Soon a Shiva baba came over to join us, and packed a fat chillum for us to smoke. Then he took out this exotic fruit I have never seen or tasted before. The french man translated his words: "He says its a Shiva fruit, a very sacred fruit", as the baba washes and slices it in the Ganga water! He hands us each a piece of this fruit, and it was very very tasty. Little did I know I just did two very unhealthy things.... Soon it was time to say our good byes, and we headed back to get our luggage. My legs were still very sore, so another chemist gave me a little more pure codine to keep the pain at bay. While my friends packed up, I drank some tap water to wash down my medication. Third big mistake. Aboard the bus and it was a long journey into the early morning of Chandigargh!
Man was I hungry, and not totally clear headed, so when we arrived at Chandigarh those Samosa’s sitting out at 2:00am looked really tasty. Mistake number four! "You shouldent be eating those Justin, youll get sick for sure"... Little did I know that little parasite named Dysentery was already making home sweet home in my gut.... I threw the left over Samosa’s away, but it was too late for me now....
The last and Final bus to Manali had just enough seats left for all of us, but no more. We got lucky! A nice long journey all the way to Bhuntar, and the bus pulls over in this large mountian town. "This is the start Parvati valley, you can catch a bus to Jari from here" We said our goodbyes and I wanderd alone into a new world nestled within these sacred mountains, the wife of Lord Shiva! This marks the beggining of the most intense, mind blowing experience I have ever lived. The very last entries to my journal follow, but will have to wait for now. All I can say is the next fifty days changed my perspective on life forever, and even months after returning from India, Parvati calls out to my heart, for my return, for her love. I dont know if I went insane in Parvati valley because I found the closest thing to Hevan while searching for my heart within her endless beauty. Or maybe I found who I truley am, and being back in this western world is too much to handle. All I know is that someting changed my life forever.
Posted on October 3rd, 2006
Entering the Garden of Eden
Before the bus stopped at Bhuntar, a nameless town surrounded by small rolling hills appeared down the dirt road. Rising early morning sunrays pierced the sleeping eyes of passengers, slowly they awaken into the new day. Two passengers at each side kept using my shoulders as a head rest. The Codeine and Valium taken was unprecedented, sleep was minimal. Needless to say, grumpy would be an understatement, and sore would be my hands after punching a tree to ease the anger. "Have a cigarette" My friend said... "No I don’t want one"... "You really should have a smoke"... Handing one over with fire, the first drag flowed through my tension, exhaling thick breath-filled smoke into the cold morning air. ..As reality and sanity followed today’s awakening, so did the realization that I finally over did the dope. Eyes on the dirt road, feet pacing back and forth, the bus unloaded in the distance along with my bad attitude. It’s been over two days without sleep. Two days confined to a slave ship of overcrowded Indian travel and downing like Cobain. Though the break was short as the last moments to Parvati will be.
The road weaved through Himalayan Mountains like no other, timeless and sacred, the Garden of Eden existing before my very eyes. Feelings beyond words speak to my heart, though I have yet to realize the true beauty of God’s throne. Once were dreams, now within the vertical valleys of Parvati the unimaginable has been achieved. A new chapter begins, unfolding into the unknown, an ending to this journey of a lifetime.
Time for our goodbyes came quicker than anticipated. The bus pulls over at a small mountain village, marking the entrance into a sacred natural kingdom where time does not exist. Parvati before my feet, her beautiful mountains an artwork of god, like the welcoming arms of love at first sight.
"Bus to Jari?" ...Within minutes a seat was taken. Its time to follow my dreams.
Sheer vertical cliffs drop into a river thousands of feet below. The slow and tedious journey traveled up a dirt road with no boundaries, barely big enough for two cars. On coming busses are a problem that risk everyone’s life. Barely scraping by the edge of death, the dirt road disappeared from the view of my window seat. And under my sight, far below, an old rusted bus marks the truth of such obvious nightmares. Falling to their doom, creating large tombstones, unreachable. Unrelenting thoughts of death upon each glance was a common occurrence. More than one bus lay destroyed at the bottom of Parvati.
Nothing was asked. The bus approached a remote town within the hour long journey, for sure it was Jari. Insomnia and excessive dope was tearing this mind apart, without care for the disappointment of the shithole now under my feet. Loud horns raging over countless cars. Never parting clouds of dirt mist the town like a thick fog. A single guest house along the road wasn’t very appealing, and leaving this town within the first few minutes seemed best.
Between two dirty buildings on a slope, worn pavement boarderd by a small trench of sewage water. Cow shit and old narrow water pipes lead to a small, barely noticeable sign. Painted red words read "Village guest house", with an arrow pointing to no where. Following a small footpath lined with head-high ganja plants, the walk seemed more like trespassing, for it was leading through clusters of local residents. Five minutes and numerous forks later, doubt started to sink in. Not only was I lost, but no way could a guest house exist up here, far above Jari in the middle of nowhere. ..A quick break for a smoke when a middle aged white man came walking down the path. "Namaste!"... "Is there a guest house up here?" Speaking with a strong European accent, in a slow calm voice: ..."My guest house is full. Stay at the first one in the village, just follow the foot path." It seemed odd that a foreigner owns a guest house. Perhaps the stories of tripped out westerners forever lost in Parvati may be true... The path lead further up a steep hill, far above the dirt clouds of Jari, until car horns could no longer be heard. Stone steps make way to a large grassy field boarderd by a small village. Towering above the rooftops stand snow capped peaks carved with a sharp, jagged texture. Three worn down signs advertise for three remote guest houses. Time to do some exploring! Finding the end of the village, a small guest house with a single visitor appeared. Without introduction, I sit next to this old guest and pack some Nepali Pollen as a nice gesture. Small talk along with today’s first bake, the ambience of this place was starting to sink in. "I live here every winter, that’s when Charas are best and cheapest." "But I can’t make Charas"...The old man shows his disfigured hands. Luckily he could still hold the chillum!
Earlier conversation with the European man, along with flying high, encouraged me to look around a little more. ...To the first guest house of the village! Backtracking along a muddy foot path led way to an instant decision, for as soon as Village Guest House appeared, I found my new home. Little did I know for the next fifty days Parvati would take my heart. And for the first time during the adventure it was time to settle down and live!
Down a secluded dirt path, white walls and new architecture proclaim comfort. A rather large farm house with modern day looks lay hidden behind an overgrown garden. Plastic lawn chairs and wooden tables create perfect spots to smoke charas and eat home style cooking! A two story building stands out with enough space for seven rooms. On the balcony, two soft, clean couches overlook the beautiful mountains that stand guard to Malana. Indescribable beauty, three mountain peaks with slanted stripes of green trees break into the sky. A natural monument in the name of great Parvati, jarring, bold, like the statues of god they are.
A middle aged woman dressed in brightly colored Indian attire guides a tour of available rooms. Papers are signed, bags unpacked, barely awake it was time to meet my new friends. Every visitor sitting around, stoned, happy, listening to music and talking story. Some guests rarely emerge from their cave, too stoned to move they sleep all day. At this point, the quality of Parvati charas has yet to be experienced. Besides, I have some potent Nepal goodies that keep me happy!
Fully grown beard upon his young face, an Israeli man seems immobile and happy. With a dragged out stoned voice, he calls out to his care takers... "Anjeeee, Thaliii melegaaaaaa? No 30 minutes Anjeeee, im very hungry, nooo 30 minutes Aaaanjeeeee." It was too funny to catch any hint of a demanding, rude tone. After some small talk, he shares with me inspiration needed for the future.. With an Israeli accent, his voice enhanced by the chillum passed in a circle: "I just sit here and do nothing. I don’t want to do anything, just to sit and be bored. I have been sitting here for 10 days." Too stoned to walk down a story of steps, he can only call for his food, and hide away in his room doing nothing at all. At first, staying in a village for 10 days seemed strange. But Parvati has yet to embrace my soul with her timeless existence.
After two sleepless nights on the road, tonight’s rest was a good one. When the sun rose to start the morning, a new visitor was hanging around. It was amazing that, like many who travel to Parvati, this visitor knew nothing of the chara production! Stories of India’s best hash unloaded from what mind I had left, working both of us into a severe craving for smoke. "So do you have any?"... "Not from Parvati, but from Nepal" I replied as the chillum was loaded. Instant friendship built over a natural mystic started the day. ..."Wana check out the waterfall?" Who couldn’t say no? The dirt foot path turned down a small valley near the village ending. At the trail’s bottom, a stream of water ran through a lush green forest with tree tops tunneling overhead. Teenage Indian girls washing their clothes in the river spot us up stream. While walking back, they call to us.."Hello!!" as they giggle and speak softly in Hindi. Some of them looking straight into our eyes, teasing us, barely respecting the boundaries of culture, as we all silently understand there is no chance. Words repeat from remembered conversations with my French friend from Manali: "A friend who was living here once told me, never have sex with village girls. It’s okay in the city, but in villages, everyone knows what is going on. Some girls will have sex with you, then go to the doctor and claim rape. Then they demand marriage for an American Visa, or your going to jail." ...We just smiled with respect and waved.
The early afternoon moved in, though for some reason I wasn’t hungry. The medication I took two days ago still had me wasted. For some reason I wasn’t feeling well, it must be the pills during the bus ride. Perhaps taking a nap would be best...
My eyes opened into pitch black, not a sound from outside. The night was late, everyone asleep. Within seconds a vomiting feeling gripped my stomach with horrible pain. Laying there, hoping the pain would subside, the sickness got worse. Suddenly I needed to take a dump, badly. The bathroom was 20 paces away, outside. But my ass was throbbing uncontrollably. It was so bad, I could barely get shoes on my feet... ...Fu*k this I cant hold it!.. I grabbed a sarong and wrapped it around my waist, darted out the door and ran toward the bathroom. ...But it was too late. Half way to the toilet, my ass exploded vile, stinky, curry smelling diarrhea all over the walkway. ..All over my shoes and sarong, dripping down my leg, covering my lower half with a nightmare. It was like a nuke bomb exploded out my ass. Minutes passed under the silent darkness of night, standing still, confused, wanting to cry yet petrified by shock. Covered in my own feces, I squatted over the toilet and finished the job. Long dreads brushed against my legs, soaking up the filth like a mop, only to paint an invisible stench over my back and arms... Though the pain overwhelmed this self imposed moment of fecofelia and shattered the cringing over filth when blood was seen dripping into the toilet. Left hand brought into sight finger tips covered in red, liquid shit mixed with blood from my own bowels. This is not good. Not good at all.
Posted on May 3rd, 2007
I can start at the begining of Parvati, the middle adventres, the departure of New Delhi. However, no story is more painful, uncomfertable, stressful, anxiety ridden and over all unplesant, that thinking about the last year since I returned from India on June 10, 2006. These many feelings, hidden behind what will remain concealed for now, have made finishing my journal seemingly impossible, leaving a lingering feeling of depression always overwhelming the memories of my good times in India.
Since returning to America, I havent felt the same. Not to be another cliche of our famous "back packer fallacy" thread; with all my heart I can say that my life hasn’t been the same since returning to this society.
Many of you may know who I am, but I feel the need to be completely honest, and as usual not to give a f*ck (about the following confessions).
You ever seen a dirty, bum like man sitting in the back of a new pick up truck, his hands in namaste and a smile from ear to ear? My first three days of lay-over back home in Hawaii didn’t seem to exist at all. What hit me that hardest was not just the cleanliness, but how close the houses were built toether, and within a few minutes the biggest culture-shock-wave crashed hard into my reality. There were cars everywhere.
Three short days of layover and I flew straight to Shinagawa, Tyokyo to attend a very importnat consecration of what seems to the biggest, most modern, futuristic buddhist temple I have ever seen. The realization that I just went from one of the poorest cities on Earth, to the most expensive on Earth didn’t quite phase me. What bothered me the most was that the church was paying for everyones hotel, at $200.00usd per person, per night. Three days ago I was barganing over fifty cents for a room and I didnt even have toilet paper for five months... So very slowly the confusion suddenly started to sink in.
During the first week back in Hawaii, life was grand. The over all impresion of looking through a new picture for the first time radiated smiles that caught the attention of complete strangers who wanted to share my cloud nine.
But the smiles didnt last long and that unstopable momentum of motivation suddenly died on me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t happy here on the land home to my family. I was torn directly in half between departing to India with every penny I have, or staying home for a year to think it over...
I decided to stay home for a year and absorb everything that happened to me. During this readjustment I sold my pick up truck because the amount of cars in this society over whelemd me. I decided to catch the bus instead, parially to get back to real society becase I was feeling so disconnected with the world. At this point in my life, I have never been so alone. Because I no loger had a car, my friends rarely make the drive out to the country to visit me, and the skate park is far away. I see my parents a few hours a week as they work early, but mostly I spend my spare time with my grandmtoher who is practiaclly waiting to die, as she tells me when we are alone.
Soon after returning from India, my elderly grandmother who can no longer take care of her self came to live with us. She is 84, blind, mostly deaf, unable to walk alone, and has severe anxiety.
Its very interesting going from never being alone and always in the nature of India, to staying inside all day with a dying old woman with chroinic anxiety and no friends.
During the time I am not watching my grandmother, I decided to give college a try for the first time, and am happy to report that today was my last day, im looking to get a 4.0! One of the courses I am taking is intensive writing (but spelling dosen’t count cause I aint got spell check on this laptop). Thank you guys for all the kind words and support, for together it gave me the motivation to become a better writer with less grammer mistakes so I signed up for the writing class!
... So since today was the last day of school, and` my year is almost up, Its time to start making plans. One will be to finish the journal for sure. The other is to finnaly follow my heart back to the east and live out there for 2 years, possibly 3 years.
I love my home, my parents, my grandmother, and my life here. I have all the creature comferts I could want, school and medical for free, room and board for free, all just for the small share they ask for in return. I have a golden opportunity to stay home and live a perfect life, look foward to a bright future, and most importantly, save way more money so I can travel even longer and better!
But I am not happy here. I cant see myself living happy out come in Hawaii, not just yet. For this reason, I will go through any lengths to cover the pain of not followin my heart. ANY lengths. Even if this means spending a large portion of my travel savigs to ease the pain... Anything to ease the pain... (it should be in a zoo by now, my back is sore)
I have been reducend to tears over my love for India, and how much love I her. I think of her every day, the good and the bad... I dont know what it is about India that makes me feel so comfertable...
I do, however, rememver two things, before I go to bed in a second...
I asked a French friend from Manali who has been living in India for decades. "why did you come to live in India?".... He looks down for a thoughtful pause, then half smiles with a million thoughts flowing throgh his mind which I could see through his hollow eyes.... He says slowly, and very carefully: "Its because....I.....I never felt like myself back home...". ...and we left it at that..
The second time it happened, and by "it" I mean the short conversation that haunts me ntil this very day..... My Japanese friend lived next door to me for 50 days. He became my best friend, and was a long term traveler who always comes back to the guest house often, usually for a few months out of each year. He told me something Iwill never forget as we smoke a chillum alone one night.... I asked "how long do you plan on staying in India?".... ...."I dont know" he says... ..."whens your return ticket?"..... ....."I don’t have one, I will live whenever.".. ....he looks me straight in the eyes with a very serious, almost intimidated look... ..."you know... when I go home.. to Japan...There is too much confusion.... too many problems"... ....I didnt say anything or ask anything else...
But I always gave a lot of thought to what these two people ment....and only after a near year since retrning do I finnaly understand what they mean....
The reason why this journal hasnt finished is because my life is begining a new....My journal of India isnt over. This one year lay over is nothing less than a continuation of my jounry through India. India has never left my mind, my heart, my desire, my words, my life.....India is the most beautiful place I have ever been to, and the jouney has only begun.
The next destination is going to be Delhi between July 30 and Aug 10. I plan to meet my good friend from Ireland, Shirine, just for a week or so. We decided not to travel together this time as she is going to West Africa and Ladahk. After a week or two of settling into the chaos of Delhi, I will make it up to Pakistan starting in Lahore, then Islamabad, the preshwar and the NWFP, Chiiral, Kalasha, Hindu Kush (And yes im bringing back some pure Indica genetics baby!!)
Well there is soo much more I should type. I coiuld spend 20 hours right now typing my heart out but the sun is almost up so I need to hit the bed. Anyway, Just wanted to stop in and say hello. Im glad people are still diging the journal! It will get better from here. I just hope that IndiaMike and its memmbers, who were cool enough to let me write about going into Nepal, will let me share my Pakistan-Chian(Kashgar) and possibly Afghanistan;/Iran adventures.