June 3, 2009
Late to bed and early to rise... Last night after dinner we danced at an Indian family's party at Wild Trail and were up out of bed by 4:30am for our morning elephant ride. Uday had some Chai (Indian Tea) which he feels he is getting addicted to and I had a bottle of soda and we were off.
This time our driver and one of the worker's from Wild Trail who gave us our wake-up call, decided to join us on this Elephant Safari. This elephant ride was also peaceful but in a different location than the previous one we were on, which was nice. This guide treats his elephant more gently and he is very quiet. There is another elephant with a family on it in front of us this time, which I think makes for interesting pictures.
We see a few deer and wild hogs but no tigers. I decide not to take too many pictures unless we see something different than our last two safaries in order to just enjoy the elephant ride in the jungle at sunrise. We did see several women towards the end of our safari risking their lives through the jungle to collect fire wood. We learn of what I call "Indian Folklore". One was a story about a long time ago when a woman went in the jungle by herself and was kidnapped and sexually molested by a bear that held her hostage. Some of the Indian people swear that it is a true story but I find it difficult to believe.
After our Elephant safari we go back to Wild Trail, take a few more pictures, grab some lunch to go and we are on our way to our next destination. We will miss the amazing cook named, Heera, who made very little money, who would be rich if he lived in America because his food is amazing. I also learned that many of the sheets are washed (most probably in the river) and then hung to dry on the bushes and this is why they have stains. I am also understanding about how time works here... Just as I adjust to the fact that we do not have to rush here, as I am used to at home, we are on our way to our next destination.
Here are some pictures of women working around Wild Trail.
Here are some pictures of men working at Wild Trail and Uday joined them for this picture.
Thinking that this ride to where we are going to go White Water Rafting can not be as interesting as the one to Wild Trail but I am wrong again. We see more exotic people, villages and temples. Unlike America, I learn that in India it is not just the destination, but rather the journey of getting there that is so interesting. I feel like I am on a human safari and even though I feel sleepy I am afraid to close my eyes that I might miss something.
Uday buys some juicy mangoes on the way and our driver Raju has fun watching me suck the juice and meat out of it.
We stop at a temple and take pictures of the people who also want pictures taken with me.
I am stunned and amazed when we get to Haridwar as I was not aware that we were going to this famous place in India along the Ganges River.
Uday told me that many India people travel far and wide in India to go to this river which they call the "Ganga River" to bath in its "holy water" before they die. I have seen this on T.V. and in National Geographic, but I had no idea that we were going to this place on this trip. I feel excited, privileged, and glad to know that his will be one check off my "bucket list".
The parking lot is extremely crowed and smells of urine and feces. We see a lot of family's living in make-shift tents around the parking lot.
It is extremely hot! We see a girl sitting in the parking lot against a car and I wonder what she is thinking about and how she can stand the smell of urine and feces there.
I am overwhelmed to be there and over stimulated by the crowd of people and the brilliant colors.
India does not look conservative here! People of all ages are cooling off in the river and walk around half naked but not in swimsuits. There are many Hindu temples here and it is ironic to see so many people taking their clothes and saris off in such a holy place... this place is different.
I learn that it is not yet "Pooja" (prayer) time and as it gets closer to this time in the evening that this place becomes so crowded that one can not get through the crowds of people. As much as I would like to see this, I am too hot and already crowded by people around me who want to take pictures with me. Wow! I am a celebrity here and I have to admit it kind of feels good! The only time I get annoyed is when our camera runs out of memory and I have to try to erase pictures in order to be able to take more and these two older guys want a picture with me and will not give me a minute to fix my own camera and refuse to take NO for an answer. They take a picture with me while I am looking at my camera. I guess that is the down side of being a celebrity, no space or privacy. There are also a lot of people who want me to take pictures of them but I can't take as many as I would like since we don't have much memory on our camera at this time.
I feel the water and it is much colder than it looks as it is coming from the Himalays. Since I don't want to sit in the car all wet I just put my feet in the water and talk Uday into doing the same. We take more pictures with people.
Our driver Raju has a friend who owns a restaurant who gives us free bottled water which I was very thankful for and asks me to take pictures with his family. He wants many pictures with me and his family members.
Now we leave this place and are on the road again. We witness a fight when two guys get out of their automobile and start hitting each other. Uday and Raju talk about how people settle things in India right when it happens and there is no going to court. They discuss how if anyone tries to help that they will get beat up too. We turn the other cheek and keep driving. We keep driving until we reach Rishikesh, which is another holy place with many Hindu temples and it is around this area where we will be doing our white water rafting the next day. We see large hanging bridges over the "Ganga" river and see the temples.
We drive over the foothills of the Himalayas on sharp curvy roads under construction and steep passage to our camp on the beach called Shivpuri rafting camp. There are three beds in our assigned tent and Raju seemed to think he might sleep in there with us. I am not liking this idea but if this is how it works in India... so I ask Uday and he tells me "no he can sleep somewhere else". After some time it appears that the owner of this rafting camp expects Raju and other drives to eat up at the hotel or find other arrangements and to sleep somewhere else even though they have extra tents. Selfishly I begin to feel relieved, as he is talking more and more with Uday in the car in their language, he is always expecting when we stop to eat that we will pay for him and now he wants to sleep with us. Who's vacation does he think this is? I try and forget about him and walk on the sandy beach and go to the cold clean river with Uday expecting to go in it. By the time we get our tent, listen to Raju complain, and get our bathing suits on, the water is feeling a bit too cold to go in as the sun is setting. We meet a boy who is all skin and bones who lives in the area. He does not go to school and spends most of his time begging for food or money which he seems to reveal that his parents encourage. I feel bad for him but we have no food to give him and I know this would not be long lasting. Here's me at the outhouses and Uday at the river with the skinny little boy at our campsite.
We sit on the beach for a while waiting for dinner that will be ready in 10 minutes. About an hour and a half later our dinner is ready, buffet style and we are hungry. While eating we meet these two Indian guys in their 20's. One who is jolly and round named Rahul and another guy who is thinner and better at English named Alok. They are both from Jaipur and are also traveling with one other friend. When they find out we are going to Jaipur later on our trip, Alok is so excited that he keeps talking to us about all the things we should see and do there. Even while eating and swallowing he can't contain his excitement. He begins to choke on his food but this does not stop him in telling me all about Jaipur. I am already excited to see this place and watching his pride for his state just raises my expectations. Rahul is also excited but can't get much in since Alok is taking over. Rahul does manage to tell us that Jaipur is famous for their curry's because they are full of... "ummmm... buuuttter", said with a very cute Indian accent. Our driver interrupts our conversation to tell Uday and me about his problems with not getting food from this camp and how he wants Uday to handle his problem. I am getting really tired of our driver causing this stress on our vacation because of his entitlement issues...
Later we see Rahul and Alok again as we are relaxing on the beach and admiring the moonlit night.
We lend Rahul some bug spray and save him from being eaten by the bugs that seem to just be after him. Rahul and Alok invite us to go on their raft the next morning and I am excited. These guys are so cool and fun I feel like I could be friends with these guys forever. I am loving this camp! Good people, decent food, clean outhouses, clean sheets, and a beautiful night sitting on the sand over looking the Ganges river.
Our tent was cool by night time and Uday and I slept very well in our single cots, without our driver who did choose to sleep in his car instead of the hotel. There were no bugs or spiders. Who would have guessed that my best camping experience ever would be in India? I am looking forward to white water rafting tomorrow, yet I don't want this night to end!
Click on the picture below taken at Haridwar to see all of our pictures of this full day: