Because I had a visitor, there was no time to actually write, but here's a quick overview of India's Grand Finale! Justin had a copious amount of difficulties getting to India, involving Visa paperwork not processing fast enough, followed by delays that required him to stay in a seedy hotel in Los Angeles, followed by him having to purchase a whole new ticket and arrive one day later than expected. BUT, he made it!
After his long adventure, he finally made it to Rishikesh. Our hotel sat on the banks of the ganges with an incredible view of the suspension bridge that connected the two sides of the city. He completely embraced India immediately with curiosity, excitement, and total shock. We visited the famous Maharishi Mahesh's Yogi Ashram, where the Beatle's lived and created many of their songs on the White Album. We went white water rafting in the ganges and in the evenings, we would walk along the river and watch the plethora of ceremonies held in honor of the holy river.
We made a quick trip through Agra to see theTaj Mahal. After, we drank kingfishers and admired the monument from a distance and had a fancy meal with live traditional Indian music at our hotel.The next day before we needed to catch our train, we went to a music shop, where we got a private show and Justin bought a sitar! Wow!
The train ride from Agra to Varanasi was the worst I have ever been on, with over-booked seats and families sleeping on the ground. We literally had to step on people to get through, but about ten hours later, we were in Varanasi.
Varanasi wasSOOOOO hot!! It got up to 115 degrees, actually. We heard reports of hundreds of people dying because of the heat wave, so we were so grateful for the complimentary upgrade we got in our hotel room. I hid in the air-conditioned room during the day while Justin took sitar lessons from a Baba who could barely speak any english. At night, we watched the ceremonythat is held every evening at sundown and took a boat by the burningghat, where open cremations occur.
We had a nother grueling train ride from Varanasi but finally made it to the mountain town of Darjeeling and acclimated a bit for our trek through the Himalayas. The trek was beautiful as the trail wove us back and forth across the border between Nepal and India. Our evenings were spent in homestays in Nepal, being fed traditional Nepalese food and drinking locally grown tea and during the days we were in a cloud forest, with red pandas, leopards, and bears among us.
Now Justin is back in the states and I am traveling on my own through Thailand. I miss India already but it sure is nice getting somewhere a little quieter, cleaner, and slower paced.