Friday, October 17, 2008

Road Trip for the senses (Hrishikesh)

Its 4.45am and I’m lugging our bags down stairs to check out. Today we leave Vrindavan at 5am for Hrishikesa where the Ganga (Ganges) leaves the Himalaya Mountains and starts its journey onto and through the plains of India and into the Bay of Bengal. We have a taxi booked to drive us the 400 kilometers (another death ride and Rodeo show) then drive us back to Delhi in 3 days. Only in India could this happen… the driver has to sleep and stay in his car while we live in a hotel. But we need the driver to be tough for the drive back to Delhi so we don’t offer to let him stay with us…LOL. (Oh and the cost for this 650 k total trip with driver waiting 2 days, all up $158.06 and we will see if he gets a tip!)

It’s 5.19am and still no taxi… its India and nothing ever seems to go smoothly. Calls are made to the different taxi companies to find out what is up! But no one has a record of this trip… It’s looking bad and our room has already been let out to others.

5.23am and lights appear up the road and the compound guards are telling me this is him. Sure enough the taxi arrives (Nandu Taxi service) and Jagat is complaining to him about being late. He shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders dismissively and starts loading our bags. 5.37am we hit the road… but wait! The guards are telling him that he has a flat tire, so there is a 5 man staring conference at a flat tire on the car. I get out to even up the numbers to 6 and yes it looks flat. A kick from the driver and a nod of his head and he seems to think maybe we won’t go the 400k like this.

We still drive off and he makes a call… Just a short trip and there appearing out of the darkness on the side of the road is a little guy sitting on a wheel complete with tire. Tools come out and the car is being jacked up, all in the dark so I get my flash light and put a little light on the subject. They are amazed and get to work quickly (now that they can bloody see!). Another kick of the replacement tire and shake of the head and we are good to go.

The Sun comes up as we head north to Delhi. The sunrises are very colorful due to the pollution I guess. It seems to defuse the colors thus changing the hue so it always looks interesting. Another colorful seen is the people crapping and peeing on the side of the road, in the fields and yes I even saw one pooping off a building in a field. The three S’s apply here too just it’s all in public!

We hit Delhi the second largest city in India purported to be home to over 17 million, compare that with North Carolina with a total population if 8.75 million. The traffic is chaotic the people are everywhere and then add in the wondering cows and dogs as we and thousands of others jostle for a way through. The sound

alone is enough from the diesel cars and trucks and the putt putt of the 3 wheeled motorized rickshaws, motorbikes, scooters… and the HORNS blearing nonstop. It an amusement park ride with a combination dodgem, merry go round, roller coaster ride all rolled into one as you ride over the potholes.

It takes as long to get though Delhi going north as it does to drive the 150ks from Vrindavan. The heat of the day is upon us and the A/C is on (you pay extra for A/C car) and Jagat is asleep while I stand guard for the head-on collision that must happen or just hold her from flying across the back seat from the swerving and hard braking that never ends. But somehow it all seems normal as everyone is doing the same thing… so I just go with the flow and take in the scenery. I’m not sure but I think I have figured out the horn blowing etiquette if you can call it that! The horn is used in a number of ways… firstly it is a warning for those that can see you that you are coming through (sometimes combined with flashing headlights)… secondly it is used for those that are not facing you to let them know that you are there and that they need to keep their station and not make any sideways movement or (depending on length of horn blow) that they should move over and make way, I think!!!!!! The only time anyone gets upset is when someone violates the horn etiquette. Even the cows and buffalo seem to follow this horn etiquette, I tell you no lie, it is truly amazing to see this in action. It would never work in the west as our culture is completely different, but, everyone here knows it and follows it.

North of Delhi the farm fields spread out with mostly sugar cane growing. The roads however are still heavenly travelled by trucks which are frequently stopping in the middle of the road for major repairs. Camels and water buffalo are used to haul heavy loads also while the cows graze, walk and sleep as they please, I’m told they belong to people but you would never know it.

Eight and a half hours later and we arrive in Hrishikesa a place that is scared not only for the Ganga flowing through it, but, also it is said that Vishnu appeared here as Lord of the senses (Hrsikeśa), Lord Ramachandra did penance here after killing the demon Ravana and it is the abode of lord Shiva. As you approach you first notice the mountains rising up from the plains the color of which is like that attributed to Krishna as blackish blue like a rain cloud with the Ganga snaking its way into the heart of them. We made it!

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