Monday, October 24, 2011

Playa in the Himalaya's: Trek Day pt.1

Trek Day

So I started off the morning at 7:00am. After doing research with the locals I was told that it was unnecessary for me to pay a guide for the trek. Everyone told me there was no way I could get lost and that I would see many people along the way. So to save some money I took their advice and geared up to do the trek alone with the hope that I would run into other tourists. After having a hearty breakfast I find a taxi that can take me to the Govi Temple. I could have walked but I would be saving myself 2km by taking the taxi and starting the trek from the Govi Temple. This sounded great until the roads were blocked and I was forced to get out the taxi and walk. The driver assures me that it will only take me five minutes but of course 20 minutes goes by and I still don’t see this damn temple and more frightening I don’t see any tourists. I finally make it to the temple and see two guys enjoying a chai. I ask them for directions and they direct me towards what they call the “path to Truind”. Truind is the top of the mountain that I ‘m trying to get to. They tell me it should take me about an hour or two.

Happy that I saw two people I start out on my trek. What was supposed to be a smooth path was jumbles of rocks…I had no idea where to go but up. At this point I’m wondering if it was a bad idea for me to do this by myself. I’m looking down and see that all it takes is a small slip and I’m dead. I’m not exaggerating that’s forreal. Did I mention I’m afraid of heights? I take a second to get my head together and then I give myself a pep talk saying “you got this Marty”. After 20 minutes I’m again in this forest alone, wondering if I’m going the right way, and feeling like I can’t breathe. This continues for another hour with me stopping every 20-30 minutes to sit down and give myself another pep talk. The worst part and the best part about this trek was the unknown. I had no idea if I was going the right way and I had no idea when it would be over. I had to just have faith and keep going.

I keep going and after another 30 minutes I finally see a white woman and I’m so excited! She was very short though, so my excitement didn’t last long….all hope wasn’t lost though. I had finally made it to the mountain tea shop which was midway. While I was there I met an Aussie woman. I didn’t get to keep up with her for the rest of the trek up because she was on a horse but she was nice enough to give encouraging words as she rode by each time. The other woman would just walk by like I was in her way. Umm, maam! Do not throw shade….I’m a black woman in the damn woods, climbing a damn mountain, by my damn self! They both had guides though so it made me feel better to just stay behind them and follow the way. After about another hour and a half I had finally made it to the top.

To my disappointment there was nothing but fog! I had purposely set out early to make it to the top before the afternoon fog…shady! I didn’t spend much more than 10 minutes at the top. I couldn’t believe I walked all that way and didn’t even get to see the view of the mountains. Even worst, everyone was leaving because a storm was approaching! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?

The Aussie woman Kristen suggested I stick with her and her guide for the walk down. With the storm it could get very dangerous. So I listened to her and feared for my life the whole walk down. For the first half we waited in a cave; it wasn’t raining too hard so I thought we should do as much as we could while it wasn’t too bad but our Indian guide advised against it. That was until it started hailing and he realized the storm wasn’t stopping anytime soon. So there I was idk how many feet above the ground on a mountain, trying to go down in a hail storm! All I could do was pray with each step. I slipped about five times on a rock and each time I felt like I was dancing trying to save myself from falling over.

Read the next post to see how this all ended! I usually write too much so I’m trying to break the stories up; there’s just so much to tell you all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playa in the Himalaya’s: Days 6-8 FINE ASS RAJ lol

Day 6: So in day 5 I told you about my mountaintop boo Raj but I didn’t give the entire scoop. After I played in the waterfall I trudged back down and found a cool teahouse overlooking the small river bank. My plan was to get a cup of chai and read some more but that plan was thrown out the window as soon as fine ass Raj said “Hello”. And for the record his name through this entire post will be “fine ass Raj”. At first I took him for any other Indian guy but thought he was a little cute but after talking to him for about five minutes I realized I really enjoyed his company and conversation. I was almost upset that I introduced myself in my Indian name “Malika” because he could only address me as such for the entire rest of the trip.

Raj had many jobs in his 23 years he was a yoga instructor, a trek guide, played the sitar, did some other stuff and has decided to pursue being a tattoo artist. Each time he finished a sentence he would take his whole palm and glide his fingers through his hair. Any other time I probably would have thought that to be such a “girly” thing to do but with fine ass Raj it seemed so normal. I sat at that café for an hour or so before a thunderstorm kindly came by to interrupt my “Eat, Pray, Love” moment. The good part was that by then we had already exchanged numbers. He asked me out to get pizza….claiming to know the best place in Dharamsala. I don’t know if he suggested pizza because I was American but for once I didn’t care about being stereotyped. We met for pizza and again got stuck in the restaurant due to a hailstorm, but this time it was for three hours and we had plenty cups of chai to keep us warm. It was at this restaurant Unity Bistro that we met Babagi.

Babagi is just a respectful way to address an older Indian man with baba meaning father and gi being a little extra. Babagi kept referring to me as the Hindu goddess Parvati and fine ass Raj as her husband Shiva. You could tell fine ass Raj was so embarrassed because he kept trying to tell Babagi that we were not married and he kept covering his face in embarrassment. Eventually Babagi let it go but not without a Hindu song! He sang, and sang, and sang the same song over, and over again. I eventually learned the words but after awhile I was praying that the storm end and we get out the place. Eventually it did and we spent the rest of the day at the Dalai Lama Temple with the monks.

Day 7: I simply spent the morning at a café reading and spent the rest of the day shopping! I got all types of stuff…a wall hanging, furry slippers, satchels, and my best buy; the cutest ELEPHANT PANTS! All for other folks of course.


I just realized I have too much to say about this and it will have to have its own separate post lol.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Playa in the Himalaya’s: Day 3-5 Chillin and Cryin at the Waterfall

Day 3: So after seeing the Golden Temple and all its beauty I felt the heat overcoming my body and I had to divert from the original plan of staying the whole day and sightseeing turned into me catching the first bus out of there. Again I sat in the front of the bus next to the driver and held onto my luggage for dear life. After another 6 hour bus ride I arrived to Dharamsala at about 9:00 at night. As soon as I got off the bus almost four Indians ran up to me “room Madame?” OMG. Let me get off the damn bus! I finally succumb to the continuous offer of a cheap hotel because my original hotel plans fell through. As I’m walking to this new cheap hotel I have another moment of fearing my life as I walk down the dark streets and finally arrive at stairs. I immediately put my guard up “Wait, where is the hotel?”….” just down these stairs Madame…not far”. As much as I didn’t want to go down those steps once I took the first step I knew I couldn’t turn back because at that point what were my other options? The hotel was sus but it did the trick.

Day 4: I spent the morning sitting at a café sipping cappuccinos and trying to convince my family that I’m alive and well. The rest of the day I spent trying to find my original guesthouse; House Om Tara. On the website this guesthouse was supposed to be a peaceful get away from the hustle and bustle of Mcleoganj but I missed the part that it was a getaway in the forest. I follow the directions of taking an auto to a neighboring town and call myself following the roads that should eventually lead to this guesthouse. After a half hour with my backpack killing my back, sweat running down chest, and nothing but trees around me I admit to myself that I’m lost. I feel helpless because my phone isn’t working to call the owner and the one guy I did see has no idea what guesthouse I’m talking about. BLOWN! I finally walk another half an hour and find an internet café. I use someone’s phone and finally get the help of the owner. Turns out I was going in the opposite direction and once I started on the right path to the guesthouse I wanted to die….the owner kept saying…”not too much further” as it became further and further. To make matters worse once I arrived…it turned out to be a squatter toilet and a damn bucket shower! So much for a relaxing shower. The real blower came once the crazy thunder storm invaded the mountain and didn’t stop the entire night…creating a frigid night’s sleep that could only be somewhat alleviated with “The Devil Wears Prada”. I went to sleep hoping tomorrow would be better.

Day 5: I spent my entire day reading! I brought a new book Shantaram. It’s all about an Australian guy who was a heroin addict and breaks out of jail. He flees to Mumbai, India and ends up starting a free health clinic in the slums, becomes a part of the Indian mob, acts in a Bollywood film, and gets thrown in an Indian jail all within eight years. I don’t know if it was the reading or the fact that I was alone in a forest but this was my most emotional day. Waking up to the beautiful view of the mountains and being alone made me sad. In between reading I couldn’t stop thinking about my family. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing too much from my family’s lives. Especially my little cousins, some nights I cry because I feel like I’m failing them by not being there. I try to remember that I’m far away for them; because I want them to have an example and something to aspire to but it’s really hard not being a part of their everyday lives. With that, I decided to dry my tears and do something. So I decided to partake on another draining journey to the Bhagsu falls. That didn’t help my emotions because I just cried more once I was there because I was sad my family wasn’t there to see it. The walk up to the falls was exhausting to say the least but the time spent splashing around and swimming in the falls was exhilarating! There was a feeling that came over me that I struggled to define for about 12 minutes but I’ve settled on that feeling being pure happiness, I was just so happy that I was there, and more importantly that I was truly enjoying myself. The best part about this day though was meeting FINE ASS Raj aka my mountaintop boo! You must read the next post to find out all about him lol.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Playa in the Himalaya’s: Day 2- THE GOLDEN TEMPLE aka CLUB GT !!!!

I know I may have left you hanging and wondering what happened….but that’s the point right.

Day 2:

Luckily the bus driver was a nice guy and decided to make me move. At first I didn’t know how to react to this but I listened and once I got to the front of the bus, he warned me that I wasn’t around safe people and that I shouldn’t fall asleep near them. He gave me the okay to fall asleep in the front of the bus but after his warning I still didn’t feel comfortable. After a 12 hour ride and what turned out to be the best chicken I’ve had since in India from the side of the road, I finally arrived in Amritsar at 7:30am. I came all the way to see the famous Golden Temple. It is known as one of the most beautiful and the most sacred site for the Sikh faith.

Before entering the temple I was instructed to cover my head, take off my shoes, and wash my hands and feet. The security took these rules very seriously; I put my shoes in my bag because although it was a temple, I remembered that scene from Slum dog Millionaire when Jamal and Salim steal people’s shoes from the Taj Mahal. The guard saw them in my bag and would not allow me to enter without taking them to the shoe stand, then once I returned he questioned me several times about whether I had tobacco or alcohol in my bag. I repeatedly told him no but even after letting me pass I could tell he didn’t believe me. Upon entering I literally stopped at the top of the stairs and could do nothing but say “ WOW”. That was just the first of my many WOW moments on this trip.

I walked down the stairs and stood across from what I thought was the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. An immediate reverence came over me. I stood and just looked for about twenty minutes then I sat and looked for another 20 minutes. There were fish in the water and people dipped their feet in, washed their faces, and some had their full bodies immersed in the water as if they were going for a swim. I couldn’t dare put more than my feet in the water. Everyone was looking at me like” Why is she here?”, but I was grateful that rather than asking me questions that in the temple all they felt was appropriate was a simple stare. The stares only heightened once I decided that I was going to actually go inside the temple and see what goes on. As I stood in the never ending line of people with offerings known as “langars” I could only imagine all that was going through their heads, and I know they were dying to ask me something. Once I finally made it inside I was greeted with drums and singing. There were elaborate decorations of orange and fuchsia flowers to compliment the gold everywhere. I really don’t mean to offend anyone but being inside made me think of being in a nightclub. You know the fancy ones that have 3-4 levels and every floor has something different? That’s exactly what it felt like, upon entering each floor there was a different drummer ( dj) and form of worship occurring (dance). I went all the way to the rooftop where there were very little people. The people up here were devoted worshippers and engaged in their praise. A man came over to me and asked me where I was from. I kindly told him the U.S. and geared up for the many questions that would follow. Instead of questioning me he simply shared some advice and you couldn’t tell me God wasn’t speaking through him. “ You know, you may be having a hard time with your job, feeling uneasy or like things aren’t right, but this is very peaceful place; sit here for maybe five minutes and just think and clear your head, everything will be ok”. For those that don’t know, I have been more than uneasy and unsure about my job here in India. I’ve shared about me doubting my purpose but over time it has grown to just being frustrated with everything about the job. Just before leaving for this trip I had a hard week, and felt that I was becoming a target but prayer helped me handle the situation the “Spelman” way. I read somewhere that if you don’t like the situation you’re in, you don’t have to settle for it. So I asked God to send me a sign because I seriously started to consider if I was settling. Now, I usually struggle with signs because I’m a very direct person so I was nervous that I could miss it, but God knowing how I am gave it to me straight on that rooftop. This man not knowing anything about me decided to share that of all things with me. I sat down on the rooftop and prayed and cried. I had an overwhelming gratitude for what I had just received.

I walked away from the Golden Temple knowing that God has a plan for me and that India and the challenges that come with it are a part of it. So from the words of P.Diddy in “Let’s Get It”....” I was born ready….I was already on fish and spaghetti...take that”. LOL. I know that was a lot but I had to give yall that…it was only right.