Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1:22 AM
New Delhi > Goa, India
And now for some excitement! Oh my goodness, India is fun! The last few days have been way interesting.
Two days ago we went on one last jaunt as a full group, into the mountains North of Chandigarh to Kalka. Boy, was it a full day! We woke at 6:30, or more accurately Bonnie and I drank booze till 6AM and then took a power-nap (for 30min) before arising for the Jeep ride of champions. We soared into the beautiful mountains like hell on wheels, stopping off for juice (and buying the fun fruity wines) at the numerous roadside stands along the way, barely clinging to the narrow winding roads all the way up to an Air base atop the mountain (which we got denied access to cuz we didn’t even know where we were going or that we needed our passports — note: many of the sights are government owned and managed, hence military personnel with heavy artillery are watching your every move at your leisure, which never fails to seem a bit hardcore — but being denied to the base wasn’t a big deal as much as the sweet views all around. We stopped for lunch in a picturesque village where monkeys the size of small children lurked (and hid) around every corner, all too fast for my camera-hand). We checked out a church here – The Christ’s Church of England – and usually I’m not all that enthralled with churches (save for Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia) but this one was awesome! First, it stood out a bunch. There are little temples everywhere around here but my camera just loved this place, but moreover it was so fun in there as it was totally Indian-ified! We took our shoes, walked down the carpeted aisle which was still decked out for Christmas with sparkling colored garlands, a Christmas tree, a nativity of elaborate construction which resembled a 5-foot tall dirt mountain manger cum-cave, but best of all was the super fun Hindi music blaring… which induced spontaneous uncontrollable grooving and butt-shaking. Soon we were flying back down the mountain, and it was only 1pm but we were all loopy from all the activity and mountain Jeep driving insanity, and Jamey and I filmed the 13 minute 80km/hr descent with our laughter/rollercoaster-schrieks as the soundtrack.
This was about all the fun we could handle, but we had 3 more stops to go on this day journey before we would lay our heads down at home! (Little did I know I wouldn’t lay my head down again that night either… which makes 4 all-nighters in 1 week?! AP!!!) Next stop was a hotel resort on top of another mountain peak, accessible only by cable car. Cab, understandably tired from the hair-raising ride he gave us, snoozed in the Jeep while we explored. The whole place was immaculate and decorated for a 25th wedding anniversary party, with flowers and vibrant flowing material draped everywhere, including the exterior of cable car itself. We strolled, played badminton (haha we just found a birdie in the yard and played handball-style for 30 minutes until we were tired and our palms hurt), enjoyed the view, sat around with the giggles in the lobby lounge… it was chill. On our way back down in the cable car, Jamey pulled a prank by setting a sneak-attack with the iFart program on my iPhone (which I opposed at first but caved-in when they offered to pay for it — my first paid App was iFart – that’s one for the books!) Imagine riding down a mountain in a nice, flowery, fancy octagonal cable car full of nice, formally dressed Indians, and then the Predator erupts in a gruesome 15-second solo for all to hear… I only lasted another 15 seconds before I couldn’t contain my laughter and tears anymore. It was bad. At least the couple next to me bursted out laughing, too.
Next stop was the Pinjore Gardens – which if you crave “a quaint story” involving “coolie women” and “goitres” you can read this Wikipedia entry – which was also pretty. At sunset it was the epitome of romantic. Next Cab wanted to take us to a lake nestled between some gorgeous mountains, 25km past Chandigarh in the opposite direction, but we were all quite content with our full day and we went home. We wanted to get some rest as we were leaving at 4am to head back into New Delhi to drop Bonnie off at the airport (who is being an African-American in Morocco now!) As this was our last night with our respective drinking buddies, we did what only came naturally… drank whiskey and ran out at 11pm for more, her riding on my rear bike rack. 4:30 came around, we were still awake and a bit tipsy, and we packed into the Jeep, bound once more for the nation’s capitol.
It rained cats and dogs. I could barely hold my head up, nor did I want to as I’d have to look at the smear in front of us. Jamey could barely hold his stomach tight. Bonnie couldn’t snooze in the back-middle seat… zing! Some hours later we were back at Cab’s New Delhi flat, and we had no key… so we busted the lock with a brick. (Never a dull moment.) I napped till 3, we took a walk and got lost till just before Bonnie’s airport cab arrived, Jamey & I accompanied her, we cried. We cried hard. (Just kidding.) But we have all talked or chatted with her more than the number of days we’ve been apart. Funny to think how less than 4 months ago we were at the travel doctor together, getting shot-up, barely acquaintances, and now we miss each other so much. And just like with my peeps back home, it’s in the best possible way.
New Delhi has been mostly a crossroads for all of us on this trip, and I feel that my friends had such hectic, stressful experiences here the month before I arrived, that they tried to spare me of it completely in my two quick visits. And that, they did. We barely ventured out in our total of 3 or 4 days in the city. Today, we went out, and it was blur of excitement! Ready? [ Deep breath… ] First, Jamey & I relocated to another friend’s house, that of Navneet & Priya, as we were splitting ways from Cara and Cab. It was a second sweet & sad good-bye in 24 hours – Cara was bound for her yoga training in the south for a month, after a week more touring around the North with Cab in Rajasthan. We’ll meet her down there on our bikes circa March 8. Navneet & Priya’s place is swank! We chilled with the adorable cat who meowed at the screen door all morning, researched the trains while our laundry spun, the cat helped us hang our stuff out to dry on N&P’s private rooftop, and then we had a little adventure of crossing town to buy tickets at the train station. We took an auto-rickshaw pretty far, like 20km, and it cost 150 rupees, which Jamey assured me was nearly double the price we should’ve paid, but to me $3 was a steal. I just don’t know any better. (It took nearly 30 min, man!) I loved it! We got to zoom around town at 30km/hr (I bike faster), experience the synergistic flow of the Delhi traffic patterns from our little put-put which felt like a go-cart without seat-belts or doors, we did some shopping in a huge commercial center – I got a McVeggie @ McDonalds, whose variations comprise 3/4 of the menu, meaning NO BEEF in McIndia – Imagine that! We had a painless visit to the Tourist Office at the railway station, and made our reservations on Indian Railways’ finest locomotive, The Rajdhani Express, which would whisk us 26-hours away to Goa… We walked part of the way back home, spent an unprecedented 1000 rupees each eating avocado sushi at a swanky japanese restaurant in a hotel, called Bonsai Garden, looked over the S. India maps we just bought, came home, packed our bags, welcomed Priya & Navneet home to their own house from a funeral, ate funeral leftovers, emailed Goan CouchSurfing hosts in a last-minute effort to line something up, I downloaded the latest 6 episodes of SouthPark, and of course pulled yet ANOTHER all-nighter.
At 6:30am the meowing kitten helped us with our bags and bikes down the 4 flights of stairs, and we were off in the foggy early morning half-light to bike the 20km to the railway station. This may seem early to catch an 11am train, but we had to find this place (different than where we bought the tickets) and check-in our bikes at the parcel office. In India you need to assume things will never go as planned. Of course we started off in the wrong direction and didn’t figure it out for 5km. We saw some cool sights, even cooler on no sleep and in morning rush-hour traffic, like an elephant, the sky-pass being built, an ancient and behemoth domed temple made of stone. The people at the parcel office told us to come back in 2 hours, so we ventured out for breakfast, encountered what seemed like half the good people of the Nizamuddin district. All was going pretty well, until we checked our bikes in at the office and the friggin’ man wrote all over the stems of our pretty green bikes with permanent black marker! I was friggin’ pissed. Every time since that I’ve thought of it, fumes pour from my ears. Like upon our reuniting with them in Goa, finding spiffy tags bearing all that same useless information tied onto the handlebar…
So now we’re in Goa. And I’m home again. It’s crazy, but Jamey and I both said today that we never want to leave. I never feel like that! After all the fun that got us here, I sincerely feel that the fun has only just begun. THIS is what everything has been leading up to. I can’t even get into my first day in Goa, yet. Much goodness to speak of. I personally saw at least a dozen beaches today on my way here. But now I must stop. I’m worried I won’t make time to write… but my obligation to my memoirs will have me here again soon I’m sure, at 5am typing away. Nighttime is my bonus time. I earned it. No sleep till Goa!!!