Well…talk about shit sneaking up on you. I’ve been running around like a chicken sans head (and believe me, I now know exactly what a headless running chicken looks like) since 5am yesterday morning, when I realized my bus to India was leaving in 24 hours and I hadn’t yet packed a single item.
Still, I made it. No sleep, smelling like the Twin Otter in mid-August with the door closed (and Eric Soden on board), and pretty much anything but relaxed…but I’m writing this to you from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.
I’m not gonna lie to you; although I’m extremely excited at the prospect of spending 4 months lost in the Indian Himalayas with nary a schedule, plan, or binding obligation, my departure from Nepal was bittersweet. I’ve made lots of new friends, fallen more deeply in love than ever with this real-life Shangri-la curled around the feet of the world’s highest mountains, and feel I’ve only recently started to relax enough to be here as opposed to not there. I didn’t want to leave but…the world was waiting, right?
On the bright side, I learned that this is actually flying season in the Manali area, so I don’t have to wait until October to get back in the air. Since Manali is my first real stop (Gorakhpur is just the first place after the Nepal-India border where I could catch a train going in that direction), that’s exceptionally bad-ass news.
The difference between Nepal and India is truly astounding. You may be tempted to believe that things in Nepal are a tiny bit chaotic, but you’d realize your error the instant you walked across the border and were surrounded by screaming, scheming, and tenacious touts; the miles-long line of belching Tatas waiting hopefully to enter Nepal; the order of magnitude jump in population density, the general malodorousness, and the concomitant mountains of filth. Imagine a South Asian Tijuana, but without the murderous drug cartels. Even the climate did its part to set the mood: a final, quick descent into the Nepali lowlands, the Terai, left me gasping for breath in monsoon heat and humidity as I rode my bike (!!) through customs and into the next chapter of The Transglobalist.
If any of this sounds negative, I’ve misrepresented it. It is, rather, a fantastic assault on the senses that you just have to see for yourself. Flippin’ magnificent, baby. The 3.5 hour ride from Sunauli to Gorakhpur was reasonably tame, but since crossing the border I’ve seen the armless, the legless, the blind, the beautiful; I’ve seen temples plain and majestic, a Korean man carrying an 8-foot cross, dressed like Jesus Christ and planning to walk the entire North-South length of the Indian Sub-continent barefoot (he said “God Bless you,” I replied, “No Thanks”), sat next to 3 Buddhist monks and laughed with a Muslim man guiltily chewing snuff; I’ve nearly punched a man in the face for cutting an ATM line where I’d been waiting for 45-minutes (somebody else beat me to it–moral: never jump a queue in 100-degree heat); I’ve attempted to un-see and un-smell the public defecation and urination going on in front of Gorakhpur’s train station; I’ve witnessed a pick-pocket disposing of someone’s wallet after removing the cash and cards, waded through ankle-deep mud trying to get my bike onto the roof of my bus, and managed to decipher a hell of lot more signage in devanagari script than I ever thought possible.
All this, and I’ve been here for less than 6 hours.
Tomorrow’s goal is to figure out the train schedule, buy a ticket, and begin the 24-hour or so train + bus ride to get me to Shimla or Manali, where the real, bike-only adventure will begin.
Stick around, folks, this looks like it just might be kinda interesting.
Your Intrepid Transglobal Avatar,
The restaurant I was sitting at when I began this post this morning in Pokhara was playing Nepali rap, and they were taking about Daal Bhat; a truly odd sensation, I don’t mind telling you. If my recollection is correct, it was pretty cool and worth a listen. Check out “Yo Prasanga” by Yama Buddha.