Monkeys and Camels and Cows, Oh My!
Lindsey here, reporting back to Fishheadology from India. I loved my trip. Namas-yay!
For your reading pleasure (or disgust), I will hit on a few trip lowlights before I hop over to the highlights.
- On our first full day in India, Kirsty, Daryl, our guide, Nawang, and I traveled for 18 hours on a train from Delhi to Jaisalmer. This was a unique and interesting experience. And by unique and interesting, I mean terrible and disgusting. Here was the bathroom:
People tend to romanticize train travel. Like me, I used to romanticize train travel. I envisioned comfy private cabins boasting some sort of wood paneling and thickly padded seats. A small but well-placed table where fellow jolly passengers would get spanked on my new Travel Badminton Set. Ample snacks. Abundant Kingfishers. Tremendous scenery. A bathroom situation that would be decent and clean, albeit shared. Did Harry, Ron, and Hermione watch cockroaches climb up the walls on their way to Hogwarts? Did they observe rats weaving through the tracks? Or stop 700 times in the middle of the night for unclear reasons while men banged down the aisle adjacent to their greasy prison beds? Were Kingfishers verboten on their train?! No, no, and no. But in India, yes, yes, and yes.
2) Camel ride. On the same day we exited the train, we mounted camels for a longish trot on the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Well, first we rode camels across a highway, and then steered them to the left, into the desert. In India, road rules, if they exist at all, are mere suggestions. Like secrets whispered into your knee while you are vacuuming and subsequently forgotten by the teller, no one knows if true road rules actually exist. Crazy driving is not new to me, after living in Asia for seven years. But as I crossed the highway on a camel while cars barreled towards me, I forgot about what I understood about Asian traffic, which is that somehow it mostly works and it’s better to just shut your eyes, unless you are driving, and sometimes even then. Instead, I widened my eyes and my mouth in a yowl and thought, So long, World. Today this gal is checking out of the Planet Earth Hotel and turning in her Human Life Room Key. For reals this time.
3) Monkey Down. On our first night in Jaipur, we walked into the Old Pink City to check out the sights and not blink at the masses of humanity and animals. On the roofs of the tiny shops, golden monkeys slid, played, swung and fought each other. Their sizes ranged from golden retriever grandpa monkeys to dwarf hamster baby monkeys clinging to mama monkey’s belly. As we crossed an alley between two rows of shops, monkeys continually leaped over our heads. I remember thinking, if a monkey poops or pees while swinging over my head, I will definitely barf and then most likely cry and wish I were back on that train. Suddenly there was a huge BANG! So loud it sounded like a gunshot. I screamed and ducked behind a pole. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something drop to the ground. What just happened? One of the smaller monkeys, closer to hamster than retriever, had jumped onto an overhead electrical transformer, landing on uninsulated wiring. The gunshot sound was the bang of electricity blowing out for half a city block. The sight in the corner of my eye was a very dead monkey falling, quivering, into the gutter. Needless to say, we sucked down a few extra Kingfishers than night. RIP, little guy.
I’m sensing you’re ready for the highlights.
1) The food. If you don’t like Indian food, you really should avoid India, because that is what’s on the menu and most attempts at Western fare are pretty subpar. I especially loved all the street food I did not plan on eating. If I were to have a 4th child (I’m not), I would name her Marchi Bada after this sumptious delight:
2) The bike trip. To understate, I was nervous about this part of the trip, mostly because I am a huge wuss. When it became clear that we would be sharing roads with massive trucks that were more like gargantuan pinatas careening across lanes as if it were their first skate post-Zamboni, I thought, it may be time to pull the rip cord and catch a cab back to Singapore. But I had survived the camel ride, and numerous petrifying drives from town to town, so what the heck? I sucked it up and bought myself a fresh pair of travel pants. I was ready to bike the Raj:
Not only am I glad I biked in India, I want to plan many more trips which include biking segments. It is truly the best way to see the countryside and experience authentic local life. Plus, I felt better about the massive quantities of food I packed away, which allowed me to enjoy extra Marchi Badas.
3) The camping! I maybe didn’t mention that this trip itinerary also included three nights of camping. Because, to be honest, it sounded ludicrous. Who camps in India? Apparently, I do. But this type of camping meant that our tents were set up for us when we rode up, complete with dining tent, shower tent, and loo tent, and our multi-course meals were prepared for us on-site by an amazing crew of chefs. In the morning, we were awoken with hot tea or coffee and warm bowls of water to freshen up before hitting the road on our bikes. This was my kind of camping, especially Night 2 in the Tiger Reserve. Not even kidding.
4) The adventure of it all. Nowadays, I mostly travel to explore places with my family. Occasionally I travel to relax. This trip was different. This was a wake up trip! A time to feel excited, alive, and shock my senses! I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and experience things way outside of the box. I wanted to create lasting memories that will bring smiles for years to come. Could the train have been nicer? Sure. But I tell you what, for making memories, hands down, that train wins.
I leave India with an immense sense of gratitude. For the life I have at home. For the family who bid me farewell with grace and welcomed me back with snuggles and stories. For a husband who is both exceptional as a parent and confident in the truth that even if he weren’t exceptional, he can’t do irreparable damage in two weeks. He should write a parenting book, entitled No One’s Ever Died From Unkempt Hair. For the friends I have in Singapore who welcomed me into their homes (Aisling and Geoff, Ryan and Louise), organized a day at the spa (Angela), hopped on planes to Singapore from Shanghai (Heidi) and Manila (Kathryn) to come say hello and catch up on life. And to my travel partner, Kirsty, for executing on this trip so perfectly and including me in her plan even though I didn’t read a thing or pack proper bike pants and blindly said Yep, I’ll come. And to my new friend, Daryl, for being fun and easygoing and watching Kirsty and me as we shopped and took too many photos and shared frequent updates on our digestive tract status. Let’s meet again for more fun adventures! Maybe something without a train next time..