My First Trip to Rishikesh, India, 2006
I’m in India where cows roam the streets and I feed them from a doggie bag after dinner.
I’m looking at a cow right now. It’s standing outside the door of the Internet on the other side of the glass.
I think this one knows me.
My cow friends find me after I eat. They come charging down the dirt road with glee in their eyes ready to grab my leftovers. So I can’t very well eat them now can I?
We’re staying in an ashram on the Ganges River and not moving.
This morning wild monkeys who looked like burglars woke us up by peering into our barred windows.
But it’s way calmer than yesterday when I flagged down a big rig in Southern Nepal after the bus we were waiting for failed to arrive.
The truck driver gave us a lift for a few hundred Nepalese rupees. About $3 US. Two hours later the driver had to perform mechanical magic on his engine and we stopped for an hour to wait.
Time is fluid here.
One must be creative in the transportation department in the Himalayas. Busses are packed to the brim. So my son showed me how to climb up on the bus roof for a seat. The view was spectacular but I had to tell a man sitting next to me to stop spitting in the wind as his spittle was sliding dangerously close to my cashmere sweater.
He looked at me like I was from Pluto but he did stop after I gestured for him to spit on the ground twelve feet below us.
I’m so glad I had my son – he’s been my bodyguard here in India. When I’m alone I get hassled but with him, I’m protected.
So now that I’ve left Nepal I have some insights on it:
Little Known Facts about Nepal, the Rooftop of the World
If you see a sink in a bathroom don’t assume turning on the faucet will produce water. I now consider plumbing a luxury.
Don’t believe anything you read in the US press about the political situation in Nepal. It is highly exaggerated. I’m now used to seeing mostly handsome men walking around wearing fatigues with rifles slung over their shoulders cruising the streets. As soon as they see our white USA faces we are waved through every security checkpoint. They need our rupees here and we don’t look like Maoist insurgents.
“The Maoists kill policemen not tourists.” My son said to comfort me.
Tourism is down to zilch due to the exaggerated claims of violence. But last week the police did find a house full of Maoist artillery in Pokhara, the tiny mountain town we vacationed in a few days ago.
There are lots of security checkpoints if you are riding in a car. If you’re walking, no problem. They immediately wave you through with the barrels of their rifles.
The Nepalese people are gorgeous and feed you constantly. I just learned the word for “enough.” Its pujo. I think.
Toilet paper is an extravagance. Public bathrooms have none. Men don’t need it so it’s not provided. It’s helpful to have strong thighs for the Eastern toilets. Squatting is a more relaxed pose for elimination and I’m now trained for this procedure.
Now, we’re in Rishikesh, India, a holy village on the Ganges River, which does feel sacred when you stick your feet in it. Rishikesh is the birthplace of yoga but all I did today was get a massage from Gita.
The young whippersnapper did yoga but after hearing how difficult it was I decided to just get a massage. Thank heavens I had him. He’s a fine courageous young man and far more calm than I am.
And because of him I have been washed of all sin.
Let me explain.
Wolf asked me to go river rafting with a few other youngsters on the Ganges River. I mentioned it was Winter now, but after being drenched with river waves over our heads I was spiritually cleansed and felt much younger.
The worry lines faded from my forehead. I barely recognized myself.
And I was just going to read a book that day.
It is a known fact that bathing in the Ganges purifies you. Look Ma, no sin.
I feel lighter. And definitely sin-free.
There is no meat, eggs, or alcohol in town. I just asked for an omelet and even though I was so hungry I was gnawing on my foot they denied me. Then the waiter didn’t know what a grilled cheese sandwich was and brought me cold cheese with raw vegetables between frigid slices of white bread.
My stomach was shell shocked from lentil beans on tap but my son said, “Just eat it, Ma.” He’s more cultural savvy and accepting than I am.
I did eat it after sending it back and getting another culinary surprise. This time it was toasted bread with frozen cheese and a well-iced tomato.
I’ll just go back to eating dal baht. What did I expect on the rooftop of the world? Unfrozen cheddar and Skippy peanut butter?
This is a true tale from my book, Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, Adventures of a Female Vagabond. Read the reviews on it and check out my 3 other books here.