What a time to get sick as a dog… two days before our sojourn to Northern India and Nepal a flu bug laid me up like never before. It is just a matter of time before the virus is shared on the family plan. What to do… cancel the journey? Hang tough? We’d been waiting so long to make this trip; it was something we had to do. Off we trek to ‘carry-on’.
We’ve not had a good winter on the health front. Countless bouts of food poisoning, doctors, hospitals, took the shine off and affected all the great things we hoped: visiting an Ashram, yoga, volunteering. This last bout of sickness just about capped it all off.
We originally planned a full schedule around Northern India and Nepal. Invariably when we plan it goes up in smoke. Paring back our travel to Delhi, Varanasi, Kathmandu, Mumbai, we already felt cheated out of experiences we had dreamed of. The way we were both feeling after a few days… we didn’t give a damn. Before we even reached Varanasi the flu bug had us both laid up and wishing we were just in a comfortable hotel with medications and tissues at hand.
Staggering around, to not miss the chance of a lifetime experiencing Varanasi and the colourful and memorable ceremonies and rituals of the Ganges… Varanasi is the complete spectrum… Hindu rituals at full throttle. Sharma’s usually with little or no clothing, doing very strange things with their penises, blessing anyone and posing for the cameras for a few Rupee’s. We’re not convinced by most of these characters sitting around smoking hashish in the nude. Seemed like an excuse to get high, cavort and be exhibitionists.
Walking along the Ghats that smell more like a male urinal in a baseball park, there are the funeral pyres with human remains going up in flame, with funeral attendants who sell the mourners the precise amount of wood to ensure their deceased loved ones are completely incinerated, then shovelling the ashes into the Ganges. The same river that, Indians by the thousand, and the occasional visitor for ‘the full experience’, enter to wash away the bad things in their life. Is it possible they’re getting more ‘bad things’ from the water than they are washing away? We’ll pass on that thanks very much!
The narrow streets of Varanasi laden with garbage and smeared with cow shit, fighting both humans and bovines for space, vigorously solicited to buy anything and everything you can imagine. The integration of life with cattle is most bizarre, as people go out of their way to touch the buttock or tail of the beast for a blessing. Safe bet that absolutely anything you touch in this environment will most likely have some trace of bovine faecal matter on it.
But there’s a business to be had… the ladies that spend their days scooping up the shit with their hands, forming it into patties , drying it in the sun, and then selling the dried patties as fuel for the street food vendors, and the more basic restaurants. Don’t touch that hand rail; it was used by one of the shit scoopers on the way back from rinsing her hands in the Ganges!!! Not a nice picture. Germ phobic? If we weren’t before we probably are now!
We had intended to use Kathmandu as a base for excursions to other more remote parts of Nepal and to see the mighty Himalaya’s. Imagine our disappointment spending most of our time in the guest house nursing what had now become for both of us full-on bronchitis. Pity the poor buggers in the next room listening to us cough all day and night! Chance to visit a hospital in another country, where it was fortunately confirmed we did not have Pneumonia.
Kathmandu, a little like Northern India but with far less garbage, cows, and cow shit to compete with. We found the Nepalese to be more relaxed and easy going, less aggressive, and more welcoming. The fundamentally Buddhist environment has been strangely integrated with Hindu which gets a bit confusing in a temple where a Buddha statue sits next to one of the myriad of iconic Hindu statues. But it works… ‘Om mani padme hum’… there is a very spiritual feel to the Buddhist temples with the worshipers and monks, who are definitely not exhibitionists. Nepal is a place to which we would return.
Bundling ourselves to Mumbai to cough for another couple of days, and prepare for our trip back to Athens to be re-united with Pumper. We conclude after such a bad winter for health that we should take a break if not discontinue this hard core travel. Wendi’s auto-immune illness and some of the symptoms together with a few new twists suggest we need to resume a more ‘normal’ lifestyle. The logistics to make this happen are complicated and would make this posting far too long, but given the circumstances Wendi returned immediately to Canada, and I to Athens to begin unravelling 3 ½ years of life in Pumper.
Is it the end of ‘Living The Dream’? We don’t believe so. The proverb says, ‘Every end is a new beginning’.
Peace and love… and new directions!