February 26th, 2013
Bikes Fixed: 43
Bikes/Day Avg: 2.05
“Adventure 1” sounds like the name of a spaceship or something. Awesome.
Here’s Adventure 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Anyways, while doing the whole “being in India/Guatemala/Zambia” adventure, I thought I might go on some other adventures… does that make them sub-ventures? Or tangent ventures? Maybe they are tan adventures. I don’t know. Anyways, last weekend my host, Prabhat, left town for a business trip and a visit to his eldest son. I tagged along. It was pretty great.
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A quick note before I begin.
I am, obviously, here to fix bikes. 90 bikes, to be precise (in 90 days). In my mind, as long as I do that, I am allowed adventures on the side. EG, if I manage to fix two bikes a day for a few days, I can take the next few days and travel. After all, I’m in India!
That is not to say I give priority to traveling.
Also, any traveling I do will come out of my own bank account. Donated money is only to be used for the items in the budget.
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So the only unfortunate part of this trip was the to-and-from. Prabhat and I are both working folk. The best way to not miss work was to take the train during a time when we would have rather been sleeping. So last Saturday we got up at 4:30 AM to make a 5:30 train. It was a five hour train ride to Haridwar, with some nice scenery along the way.
The tinted windows cost extra.
Namely, it was a reminder that the vast majority of India is rural. I think the people in the cities here suffer from the same thing we do in the states — urbanitis. It’s easy to forget that the whole world isn’t high-rises and housing developments when that’s all you see.
Anyways, we got into Haridwar about 11:30. Prabhat had arranged a “tourist vehicle” for the weekend. These are guys who you hire for a period of time to drive you around (remember, labor is cheap in India). They have special colorings on their cars so everyone knows you don’t belong.
I didn’t take a picture, nor can I find a picture online, which is interesting, because they are everywhere. But here’s a photo of how everybody else was getting around:
So a few days ago I met a feller who was telling me he was from Haridwar, and every twelve years there was a religious gathering there called the Kumbh Mala. As it so happens, 2013 is one of those years, and last weekend was admist the 45 days of the festival. So I was accidentally in Haridwar for the Kumbh. Prahbat was able to fill me in — I don’t know if he’d planned it or not, but he had his stuff down.
The deal is that there’s these holy rivers. See, Kumbh Mala is Hindi for “holy pitcher.” So some Hindi gods were carrying around this pitcher and some water fell out, and that’s why we have these rivers. So if you bathe in the confluence of the rivers, all your sins are washed away.
I don’t think a snarky comment would be appropriate here.
It’s a bit (okay, a lot) more complicated than that but without all the religious background that’s the best I’ve got for now.
Prabhat offered to wait while I bathed in the river but frankly, I wasn’t mentally prepared. I had just heard about the festival the day before and I feel like washing away your sins is something not to be done on a whim. Actually, even after spending a half hour reading through the Wikipedia page, I’m still not sure exactly what it’s about. Clearly it’s an important festival since it attracts upwards of 50 million people (this year there’s expected to be 80 million) — more than 5 million people a day for each of the 45 days — so I have some homework to do. I’ll get back to you.
And these 5 million people.
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After Haridwar we drove to some city I forgot the name of, and can’t find on Google Maps, but it was in the foothills of the Himalayas. The last 30 minutes of the drive were some seriously windy roads that reminded me of some stretches of Highway 1 in California, USA from my bicycle touring days.
The signage was pretty entertaining — phrases like “Speed Thrills — but Kills” and “License to Drive, Not Fly” greeted us every few turns. Anyways, we made it partway up, and stopped for lunch. It was Rs. 250 ($5) for Prabhat, myself, and a friend. “A little expensive for my taste,” said Prabhat.
“A little delicious for mine,” said Kyle
It was basically an all-you-can-eat buffet of dal and roti. For $5. For three people. And supposedly that’s expensive.
Side note — as best I can tell there are two kinds of restaurants. There’s the hole-in-the-way style, notable because, well, they are small, and the kitchen is usually up front. The cost is astronomically… low. The second kind is the “American” kind, with waiters and what-not. Their square footage is more than 100 sq. ft., and their kitchen is in the back, and their prices are closer to (but still less than) what you’d see in the states. Also, the food is safer (remember, there’s no FDA here).
Anyways, after lunch Prabhat went to his business meeting and I got to explore. The view was pretty great.
P.S. — Click on photos to see them full size.
There were also lots of monkeys.
This is not your average roadside.
Something I noticed that I wanted to touch on was that even in this small village (by Indian standards, 15,000 people is a small village), consumerism was still present. Since many times more goods are made local in India it’s never as ominous as it is in the states, but where ever I go there’s at least a billboard for a cell phone company following me.
Welcome to [remote village]!
(hard to tell in this photo but there are three billboards for Idea, a cell phone service provider)
And of course there’s always photos of size 2 women drinking Coca-Cola with an expression that says “My life sucked without Coca-Cola but it’s all better now!”
Okay, I’m done now.
– – –
After monkeyville we headed to Dehradun, where Prabhat’s eldest son Rishubh is in boarding school. It was Saturday and the boarding school only lets the kids out on Sunday, so we bummed around the city a bit, had a long dinner, etc.
The hotel restaurant was very type II (of the two types of venues described above). We paid about Rs. 1200 ($24) for the two of us (and remember, this is hotel food, so you’re supposed to get less than what you pay for).
Afterwards Prabhat introduced me to a tradition called paan, which is supposed to “cleanse your pallet…” or something. It’s a bunch of herbs and spices and medicinal rocks all rolled up in a leaf that you put in your mouth all at once. Supposedly everything in it is swallow-able but even with the extra-unstuffed leaf Prabhat ordered for me I had to spit some of it out. To his credit though, it was an awful lot like an explosion of freshness. There’s also these things in it called “beetle rocks,” which constrict your throat a bit to make you feel full. That’s something I wasn’t prepared for.
The local paan hut.
Anyways, after a walk, we retired to our room, read/journaled/watched TV/whatever, then went to bed. Oh, and the hotel room wasn’t that different from any room you might get in the states. For that reason I’d rather post the view from the room, but when I put all my photos up on Facebook there will be a photo of the room itself.
Anyways, that’s all for now. Part 2 will go up later today or tomorrow, but I need to take a nap. I’m still on the tail end of the bug that’s been going around.