Sunday, 30 November 2008

Monsoon Festival in Haridwar

It's raining and so muggy outside. I'm excited to head up north where it's coooooler. Our adventure begins when our driver gets in a fender-bender whilst stuck in the murderous Delhi traffic on the way to the bus station. Uh-oh. Out of this tiny little car come these big turbaned Sikh men- like 8 of them! The driver has an orange turban, a bushy white beard and towers over our wimpy litle driver. Then they argue. And argue. (Indian style) Our driver is refusing to pay for the damage, so he gets us involved; he wants us to pay up! The Sikh men then start poking their heads in, asking us for some money to cover the charges. We look at them and say "Oh hellll no." So our driver is still standing there, not understanding any English and refusing to pay. He looks at us pathetically for money, but we've already payed him for the ride. He just doesn't want to take it out of his 850 rupees fare. So Amanda asks one of the men how much and he says either 100 or 400 rps. So in a bold, balsy move, Amanda grabs the 500 note and hands it to the guy. Man, the look of shock and disbelief on our driver's face is priceless.
The guy turns around and it's over. Easy. What a prick our driver! It's his own fault he lost all that money, if he had just payed in the first place. It's then another (awkward) 45 minutes before we make it through traffic to the bus station. We find a man yelling "Hardwar Hardwar Hardwar" and find some seats in the back of the local bus. "Doin' it like the locals do," we say. NO idea what we are getting ourselves into....
After some confusion with the price (160? 106?116?) we are off! Crammed on a bus, in Delhi traffic, listening to our Ipods to songs by the Beatles. Laughing, dancing, singing. In front of us pop up these two kids- POP! Cute now, definitely not later. The little boy has quite an attitude for a 2-year-old. They think it's fun to stare at us for hours. Three hours later, we stop at a rest stop for food. Amanda is still recovering from Delhi belly all day but seems to be doing better. Hannah and I are smoking by the bus when some guys run up to us saying, "Ice cream! Ice cream!" We just shake our heads no, no, no thank you. Then some more run over and imitate someone fainting. Shit.
We run over to the ice cream stand where there's a crowd of people hovering. Amanda is passed out in a chair. I push my way through the crowd to see her blank white face, pupils dilated and what looks like shock or a fit or something. A big woman is rubbing and shaking her to wake her up. God, I've never been so scared to see someone's face like that, like they're dead. I'll never forget that face. Amanda finally comes around, asking where the hellll she was. We give her water and juice. I am impressed by how many people come to her aid. Someone bought us a fans and ice cream, another trustworthy man is holding her backpack when we look for it. And our big Hindu momma is taking care of Amanda. We all walk her back to the bus and fill her up with electrolytes and juice. She hasn't eaten any food all day because of her illness. This is when the bus ride begins its desperate tone, when we know that Amanda needs a proper bed and needs to get off the bus. We get stuck in over 2½ hours of traffic, in sweltering heat. Amanda keeps sticking her head out the window, even though the air is clogged with fumes. The little shits run out, jump on our laps, steal our water bottles, ask for gum and pull Amanda's hair. Cute at first until we realize the little boy is the devil in disguise. Of course, the parents hardly do anything to stop them. My favorite is when the little nasty monster bites off a piece of the chair in front of him and spits it at me. Fun.
All I really remember from the trip is Amanda's head sticking out the window, like she's gonna be sick; endless traffic jams where the bus would turn off and people would get out to smoke. One time I did get out and the bus started moving without me! Nearly shit a brick, started running and hopped back on on the moving bus. The little monster came over to sit on our laps and play with our things. His favorite game though was pulling Amanda's already-messy hair. Of course, his parents did nothing to stop him. By the end we were all muttering swears words.
When we were only 30 km outside Haridwar, I figured we were less than 45 min away- wrong.
I woke up from my nap, confused why we hadn't arrived yet when it was already frickin midnight.
That's when I started to panic and it stopped being funny. We hadnt even booked a hotel room. A local guy on the bus was very helpful in helping us find a place and call Bandhu for assistance. Another guy in back used his cell phone to call places for us that we found in the Lonely Planet guide (thank god for that). I was so thankful for such generous people ! After several calls, we finally found a place for 1800 rupees. We were lucky to even find a place since it was the weekend of MONSOON FESTIVAL in Haridwar. Holy cow.

No comments: