It was about 9:15 p.m. Sunday night when I almost gave up on India. I was standing over the most disgusting squatter toilet in the three-tier (never again) sleeper train trying to hold up what used to be white pants as I watched my yellow pee (yellow because I was trying to hold off the inevitable) fall through the small hole onto the moving ground below. Seeing the ground below me whiz by, I reached out for the even dirtier wall to steady myself.
Yes, this was a low point in my life.
But two hours later, we were miraculously, mysteriously, moved to the two-tier sleeper class after about 15 Indians fought over our triple-booked seats. We finally sat in peace. There were nice middle-class looking people around us, including a nice looking Indian gentleman with a gray ponytail. I don’t know why this comforted me. It just did.
Whit and I finally figured out what to eat for dinner (bread and curry served up by a porter) and we could even laugh at how incredibly uncomfortable life can be. Our prior 3.5 train ride from Agra and 30-minute dangerous autorickshaw ride across Delhi to catch our overnight train to the Himalayas left us both frayed, unnerved, and ready to jump ship on the Subcontinent.
Our luck changed when we were moved to that quieter sleeper train. We played a little Travel Scrabble before nodding off into a deep sleep, awaking this morning to rain beating down on our broken-down train (engine problems).
Before Whit even sat up, the kindly Indian gentlemen sharing our berth said good morning. The next three hours, we talked to them about everything from India’s population problem to how Indians must learn three languages in school.
We eventually arrived in the travel hub connector of Pathenkot (a town literally on the border of Pakistan) where we met an amazingly friendly French guy named Tristan who is on the tail end of a month in India. We kept each other company on the 4-hour windy uphill bus ride to the town of Dharamsala/McLeod Gangj, home of the exiled Dalai Lama.
We went up and up and up so much in these incredible Himalayas that I still can’t believe the bus made it. Not only does it feel like we are as high as heaven, but it also feels as comfortable as heaven. We have a nice room with a balcony overlooking the Himalayas and the peaceful valley. It’s run by a Tibetan family. The whole town seems to be a refuge for Tibetans and is known as Little Lhasa.
Whit and I plan to stay here for at least a couple days, probably longer. There is an abundance of hiking, trekking, cooking classes, and anything else Tibetan you could possibly imagine.
I just took a shower after our 24 straight hours of traveling and feel like a new woman. Whit just headed out to a coffee shop with real drip coffee. This town is super backpacker/hippie friendly.
We’re gonna fit in fine.