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Drive Safely – India

Drive Safely
India

October 3
I eventually made it to Rishikesh via Hardiwar. I was talking to an Indian woman on the train trip to Hardiwar. She says she doesn’t like traveling or food so she gave me hers. Upon arriving in Hardiwar, I eventually made it to the bus station. The buses don’t have set times it’s just when there is enough people to go. There was a man selling pills on the bus, I’m not sure what they were for but I didn’t buy any. I got the impression that he wasn’t a doctor. I heard of a person that was given antibiotics that were too strong and he ended up with half his face paralyzed for a week. The bus driver drove horribly, but the only thing he hit was a “Drive Safely” sign on the side of road. I moved to the back of the bus. The actual bus was in decent shape and was colorful because it was decorated with Hindu Gods.

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The arati ceremony includes floating a small coconut with flowers, sugar and incense down the Ganges River
I stayed at the Green Hotel which was nice. It had a real door lock with a key as opposed to a door closed with a Master lock. I had to walk across a bridge to get there because a large vehicle would not make it. I went to the arati. This ceremony includes buying a small coconut float with flowers, sugar and incense. Then it is lit and put in the Ganges River where it drifts down the Ganges. This represents your soul floating down to the holy city of Varanasi. When it gets dark and there are the lit floats heading down the river – it is an attractive scene.

October 4
Today I went to Sivananda Ramesh Music School for a sitar and drums lesson. The sitar player was good but he was kind of a jerk. I was going to give him a contribution as I left. He said he gets paid $60 for a half-hour, which I knew was a lie. I told him Barbara Streisand doesn’t make that much and gave him less than I would have if he hadn’t lied to me.

The second footbridge that covers the Ganges at Rishikesh is farther north. It’s much quieter here and there are area several temples to visit. Returning to the center, I had an hour-long oil massage. They massage everything, even the back of your ears. For an hour I felt relaxed in this chaotic country.

October 5
I was able to enjoy another arati ceremony in Hardiwar. Another drunk bus driver, this one had to stop and throw up half-way there. My first stop before the ceremony was a temple that overlooked Hardiwar.

The ceremony was much more elaborate and religious in nature. I was warned about two things in Hardiwar. That people at the ceremony would come up to me with a fake badge and ask for money. This did happen. The second is that I would get robbed on the overnight train. The German on the top bunk next to me said there are two options. The first is to put the big backpack on the ground in the train and worry about getting it stolen and thus get no sleep. The second is to sleep with both backpacks in my bunk, which is a tight fit and thus get no sleep. I went with the second and made it through.

October 6

Our guide takes a short nap on top of an elephant
Our guide takes a short nap on top of an elephant
Back down to Delhi, I stayed in New Delhi this time and stayed in a hotel that was built into an old mosque. I visited a couple attractions I hadn’t seen the first I was in Delhi. The Red Fort was a fairly average place for me. The Jama Masjid was nearby and was worth the trip.

In a more peaceful part of town is Raj Ghat. This is the monument for Mahatma Gandhi. It’s a simple black marble structure with marigolds placed around it. Many people were visiting this area, which is located in a park. Indira Gandhi has a memorial close by also.

I ventured around an area that was supposed to be a bazaar. This is Old Delhi were you can see chickens’ heads getting chopped off and all types of animals running around. I definitely stood out here. I met a couple of Danish girls and we stood out together and eventually shared a tuk tuk back to the hotel area.

October 7
One last look at India from the Delhi airport. I enjoyed it here but things seem to be deteriorating on the safety scene. They had a terrorist attack in Kashmir this week. They installed metal detectors at the train station but no one goes through them and the police don’t enforce it. Katmandu, Nepal, was my next stop. The first thing I did was book my trip to Chitwan Reserve. I then walked around Katmandu and it was at least 20 degrees cooler. There is much more of a Chinese and Buddhist influence. It is more organized as people walk on the sidewalk here and there are overpasses for pedestrians. I believe it is a poorer country than India but it doesn’t seem that way because there are fewer people and it’s less intense.

October 8
I made it to Chitwan Reserve, which used to be the hunting grounds for the royal families but is now open to all. There were many people at the bus stop who offered me accommodations but I had booked a tour. I was in a hut and it had a decent bed. We went to the nearby local village and saw the people in their grass huts. Many of the women had tattoos, which apparently is done to prove they are not a ghost when they die.

The elephant breeding ground is nearby. We took a short walk and saw some plants and small animals such as a millipede, or “Indian train” as they’re called here. Also, we saw a plant that shrivels up when you touch it; apparently a defense mechanism. We returned to camp and had some wine with a bad aftertaste made by the tribe next to us.

October 9

People pay their respects to Gandhi at Raj Ghat
People pay their respects to Gandhi at Raj Ghat
The jungle walk started with a canoe ride (the canoe took water and we had to periodically bail it out) into the reserve. Unlike Kenya, there are no jeeps instead there is a lot of walking and a short ride on an elephant. It was hot today. We did not see a lot of animals; the main one was a rhino. Our guide had instructed us on the animals. If we saw a rhino hide behind a tree, a bear make a lot of noise and a tiger stay quiet and pray. But tigers are a fairly timid animal. We did see some spotted deer and a variety of insects.

I felt safe on the elephant ride, as nothing would attack the elephant. We had to walk up a set of stairs and then mount the animal that way. My left leg was a little cramped but not too bad of a ride.

The native dance show just ended at camp. A lot of dancing with sticks and flamingo feathers. One thing to note is that a lot of the dancing replicates fighting as the dancers twirl and hit the next person with their stick while their dance partner blocks with their stick. Then they got the tourists out to dance, which is always painful to watch. Tomorrow will be my last day in Chitwan.

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