Early start doesn’t even describe this one….we are told that Pulkit will be waiting for us at 4:45 sharp in the lobby of our hotel. That means a 3:45 wake up call-ugh. But we make it happen-and we’re bright eyed and ready -walking down to find him already there waiting for us. We board the bus and he asks us how we slept….we say good, but we laughingly tell him of all the trouble with the balcony and what not last night.. that’s when he admits to us that the Head of State that was about 100 feet from us last night, and had all those snipers, and police and military, is on the Pakistani terrorist hit list. That maybe he will be killed at some point-but clearly not last night so yay us! My knees go a little weak-wow. And Pulkit just looks at us like, “but did you die?”……
I’ll give you the tour – or as best I can remember- of the city. Hopefully I don’t get too many of the details wrong. He starts the tour of the old city by giving us commentary as we drive through. He says that there used to be over 100,000 temples here, now there are about 5000 that they know of, but a lot had homes built around them and some of the alters still exist, but are in peoples bedrooms or kitchens. Its literally 5am, and the city is alive-all the shops open for business, veggie and fruit stands. Lots of street food vendors starting their stews and curries to serve for lunch, bread makers, and people stringing flowers for the Hindu’s to buy and bring to the Ganges to leave at the temples as a gift for the god of their choice, usually Shiva. The Hindu believe that Varanasi is in the bend of the Ganges which signifies the tip of Shiva’s trident- a tool they believe Shiva uses to kill demons and beasts and protect his believers. So this city is the Mecca for all Hindus-most requiring themselves to make this trip once while alive, and if the family is able, again once dead.
We get out of the SUV and he gives us a few rules. Don’t give money to the beggars-some need money, but all the temples in the area provide everything they need. Food, shelter and clothing-so the money is unnecessary-and you will start a procession of people asking for money. He tells us that if anyone reaches out and seems to want to shake our hand, don’t let them. They will start giving you a hand massage and then demand money. And if we hear horn honking we need to step as far left as we can as a vehicle is signaling that they are coming through. And we will be walking through very narrow alleyways-so single file is probably best.
Outside of the vehicle we can see and smell everything-not offensive at all, mostly incense being used in prayer and people commuting to their shops or here to buy from the shops. We start to walk into an alley, and we are met with dogs (about 8 puppies that run over to sniff us! So cute-and filthy!) and cows walking with a purpose- Pulkit says they are on their way to get their food-everyone feeds the cows, and most know exactly which house they want to eat at and make their way there every morning and afternoon at the same time. The people feed these holy cows and then have their breakfast-getting milk from the cow if possible to boil and drink. He points out an impossibly stuffed tuktuk filled to the brim with men and bicycles. He explains that these are the milk men. They go milk the cows and then bring the milk around to the homes-where it will be again, boiled and consumed-handing out at least 20% of their stock to homeless.
We dodge goats and people, vendors and sari shops-all smiling or waving as we walk buy. I look around and these surroundings seem like a nightmare to me in comparison to my life back home. The old homes, just cubby holes really- made out of the ancient stone structures-with a mattress (sometimes) on the floor and a few chairs for sitting-seem so desperate-like people live here out of necessity or circumstance, not want- but George explains to us in no uncertain terms that these people are not poor. Of course there are homeless-I’ll explain more about the in a moment, but these people that we see in the shops and walking to the shops, They are equivalent to our lower working class. They all have jobs and a place to live. Of course they are always trying to improve their social or economical status, but they are happy and quite fulfilled. Just because someone doesn’t have on the cleanest clothes or has ripped pants or are barefoot-this doesn’t mean anything in Varanasi. It is a way of life, not hardship.
However there are many homeless. But interestingly, they are also smiling and none I come across are begging. Pulkit explains that this is because they are homeless by choice. In the Buddhist religion, Varanasi is considered the most holy place in the world…so when truly devout men get to a certain age, they give up all earthly possessions, and come here to Varanasi to die-they are trying to reach Nirvana- which they believe is the true state of no longer being plagued by desire or having any sense of self. Only then can they be released from karma’s effects-and released from the cycle reincarnation. This represents the final goal in Buddhism. And the temples all over Varanasi feed these men for free. They all line up at the various temples every night and are fed home cooked meals, they are given clothing if needed, help with healing if they are sick, etc. They are truly respected and loved and all those in the religious community , both Hindu and Buddhist, do everything they can to assist them in their search for Nirvana.
After about a 15 minute walk through the alleys, we come to an opening, and see the water of the Ganges for the first time. Now I realize that this river is considered the 6th most polluted river in the world…I’ll explain why in a few minutes…..but from this vantage point, it is so freaking serene that I instantly feel calm, and like I’m about to experience something so special, that I immediately began to whisper. It is quiet down here at about 5:30 in the morning. The mist is just starting to rise from the water, creating a glow on the top. And I can hear people chanting. Our guide is quite aware of the powerful feeling this invokes, and he just continues on very quietly, allowing us to silently follow him and take it all in. As we get to the stairs that lead down to the river (they are called Ghats- pronounces gats) we see a man – maybe mid 30’s- walking into the river chanting, arms in the air. Pulkit says that he is going to keep walking in to create a blessing on his family- he will dip himself underwater for each of his family members and for anyone else he wants to pray for, including himself. The river is eerily quiet-all the sounds feeling like they are miles away, giving us the feeling that we are the only ones on the banks this morning, except this one man. Long hair. Bright orange pants. Walking into the river saying, “Oh Lord Shiva,…” and continuing on in Punjabi?. As he swims he chants and then dips under water, and then starts his prayer again and dips in again. It gives me goose bumps to hear his voice through the mist-every time I think of it even now writing this.
As he is continuing on, we walk to a boat and all climb on board, our rower meeting us with a bow and a “Namaste”. We start to row out past the praying man, him continuing on as if we don’t exist. And then we get the full scope of the river and the ghats. The entire waterfront of the river, which goes on for as far as the eye can see, has these stairs-Ghats-that lead down to the water. Temples and homes line the banks, all with their own ghat- and empty boats cram near the shore. It is truly breathtaking.
We row east, toward the rising sun, and towards fires we can see in the distance. We are quite aware of what these fires represent, and I can already feel myself preparing mentally for what I’m about to see. You see, The Ganges, and specifically the Varanasi shores of the Ganges, is, as I mentioned before, considered the most holy by both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. And what do we do with our dead to honor them? We bring them to a funeral home or church like building, and we present them and have a discussion about them and say our goodbyes. Well, Varanasi is basically one huge temple to these people, so as already mentioned no greater honor can be had then to be brought to Varanasi upon your death. So the banks of this river are used as a site to bring your dead loved ones and cremate them as is the custom for these religions. So as we see the fires in the distance, and see the smoke in the misty morning light, we know already that these are burning bodies. Now, I know this sounds creepy, and I really want to do this experience justice-and really explain how moving this was. So bear with me.
We slowly float closer and closer to the burning areas, and on the way we see many people naked or partially naked, bathing and worshiping at the edge of the river. We all float along in silence, this feels so personal…like the respectful thing to do is to just watch. You’ll have time to talk and process it all later. We listen to their chanting, blurred by the mist and the ash and the heat, hearing them in the back ground accompanied by the sound of our ores hitting water, slow and steady. Enjoying every moment, with some anticipation of what is to come, closer and closer we float to the burning platforms.
A good friend recently told me that her husband often uses the expression, “some things are a singular experience” and I can’t think of a better way to describe the singular experience we have next. The weight of it all washes over us here in the oldest of India’s cities…one of the worlds oldest….and as we reach the banks of the burning ghat we hear the maze of funeral pyres hissing hearing the clang of bells vibrating inside your chest and we feel the heat consuming everything in its reach, and we are hit with the realization of how removed we truly are from the ritual of death. We float along until we are side by side with about 4 fires, us in the water and the fires on the ghats just in front of us. And I have to admit at first I feel like something is VERY wrong with us being here. It feels like we are somewhere we shouldn’t be…another symptom of our death issues coming out- the way we as westerners feel so private about death. Announcing it in our papers, but ignoring it in every other way. I quickly lose the feeling of being out of place when I see Pulkit sitting respectfully and smiling, hands folded, taking it all in. Calmly. We see many people standing around fires heads bowed, chanting or watching the flames. We see more just standing in front of platforms, piled with wood, with a wrapped body on top of the wood, white fabric tight head to toe – garland of orange and red flowers draped high on the deceased, with some sort of liquid being poured over them and incense being walked around the spire, smoke lapping over the body and the family-waiting to be lit at the correct time by the “chief mourner”- the person in the family that is highest on the mourning list- sons for deceased mothers or fathers, husbands for wives, etc. as we watch, yet another body is carried in on the shoulders of 4 men while they chant, heads bowed-gently placed upon a pile of wood all ready for the process of preparation and eventually burning.
After about 10 minutes of our silent watching, sun rising up over the background, changing the colors from misty and foggy to harsh and bright, our guide starts to quietly talk. And we listen without words, watching the shore with his commentary behind us. He points out the group I spoke of that was in the beginning stages of preparation for burning- pouring liquid on the body. He tells us he can tell from the ceremony and order of preparation that this is a man about to light his wife that has passed. He sets the pace, and the body won’t be lit until he feels sufficient prayer has been made, and sufficient gifts of garland and cows milk? butter? have been placed on the body. As we watch this man, we see him give the slightest of nods, and the cremation workers set to dousing the body in oil, accelerator for the fire. When that mans head nods, my heart sinks. He has let her go. He has decided that this is the time he will give her over to the Ganges and the fire. His beloved. And I saw it. I experienced, from a boat a mere 20 feet away, the moment this man felt prepared to let his wife’s physical body leave him. George tells us that most bodies are brought here and cremated between 2-24 hours after death. So this man lost his wife sometime since yesterday morning, and now he is watching her get lit on fire, feeling satisfied that he has given her the best that any Hindu or Buddhist husband can give his wife-he made sure she was brought to this rivers edge, and he stood bravely and watched- just as they had no doubt talked about-just as he promised he would.
We watch the flames grow and before long she is enveloped in the fire. While he sits on the stairs and watches silently. Pulkit explains that this will be the beginning of the mourning process for him which will last 13 days. During this time he will not leave his house, he will not do any work, not speak with anyone in any way, not engage with more then one person at a time as they bring him minimal food and liquid. He will spend this time thinking of his wife, mourning her, praying-asking Shiva or Buddha to be kind to her in her reincarnation if he sees fit to continue her journey. And then, after this period of mourning, he will go back to his life. Sad but feeling he has sufficiently honored her and her memory, allowing himself to process of moving on.
At this point I am crying, and for the second time in our trip (approximately 2 more times then any other trip) my sister is hugging me. Its beautiful. Its terrifying. Its devastating. And its damn near the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen-feeling such heartbreak for a man and wife I’ve never met-heart aching for his loss, breaking for her end. And we have no words, opting instead for comfort-hugging because sometimes words can be such meager things. Muppets all misty eyed.
We continue to watch, it takes about 2-3 hours for a body to completely burn-and Pulkit explains that once the burning is complete, the only left over bone on the body will be collected, blessed, and thrown into the Ganges. For a woman this is the Pelvic bone, for a man-the breast bone.
He also explains that not all can make this journey upon the death of a loved one, living hundreds of km’s away. So in this case, they do a cremation at home, first collecting bones from the body and placing in a vessel and filling with cows butter or milk…I explained this in an earlier post. So as we watch he points out another man, pouring a jug of liquid into the Ganges. This is what he is doing, now finally able to put his loved one to rest here at his holiest of cities.
We watch for a while longer, seeing also cows on the ghats, monkeys playing, goats and dogs. And the longer we are here the more people are arriving. Such a surreal mixture of life and death. Its almost dizzying. Pulkit continues to talk-telling us of the four exceptions to the cremation rules. They do not burn children who have died 8 and under-opting instead for a private ceremony with a private cremation. Likewise, They do not burn pregnant woman and this would be including a child. They do not burn people with Leprosy-as the temperature of these fires do not get hot enough to burn away the disease and make it clean. And they do not burn those who have died of snake bites-as the body will burst during cremation in these cases, and could potentially infect others- Instead they tie a rock around them and throw them in the river.
After a while we start back up again, rowing back toward the west, and perhaps a less sad continuation of our tour of the shore. Considering the amount of dead body ash and bone, and just plain decomposing bodies that is in the river, it is amazing that this is the river that these people also swim in for recreational purposes ….and Pulkit points out many swimming classes that are taking place along the shore…..telling us that this is where he too learned to swim.
We see holy men, covered in ash from the burning ghats. We see locals just sitting and watching people. We see more fires further down the river-more cremations happening. We see children washing in the river, clothes being washed and beaten on the steps of the ghats. Life in general-right next to death. Mind blown.
Eventually we leave our boat and walk through the people, smoke in the air and the smell of incense. I assumed it would smell down here, but I smell nothing foul other then the occasional whiff of cow patty. Hard to believe. We see priests in training, and shamans in deep conversation, older homeless men waiting for their breakfast along with cows waiting at windows for theirs.
Finally we make our way back out through the alley ways and back to our driver. It is 7:30am-and I feel I’ve aged about 30 years in life experience- seeing something that I can never unsee- feeling feelings that I wonder if I will ever comes to terms with.
Then interestingly Pulkit asks us what we thought of the experience. We tell him we are mind blown and emotional- there are aspects of it that we are uncomfortable with – that we’re trying to wrap our heads around for the beautiful thing that it is. and he says…he understands. From what he’s experienced, westerners don’t talk about death or what will happen when we die. And he’s right-he picked up on that feeling I was having earlier. He says that he is aware of this process form the time he is a child. And he knows the responsibilities he will take on when his parents die. They talk about it often. Then he asks…well…what do you do with your dead? And then we tell him. The process of a licensed technician first draining the body of blood and filling it up with formaldehyde to slow the decomposition process. Then of course we have to put make up on the deceased because once the blood is gone they are sheet white. Then we put them in their best suit or dress, and place them in a $5000-10,000 ornate box and march them into a church or funeral home, with the top end open, so we can all see them and mourn. Then we place the box in the ground and bury it. He. Is fascinated. And more then a little creeped out. And we began to realize that this must sound as strange to him as his process does to us. He asks many questions, very confused. And it hits home. We are all very different-but all the same, with our rituals and customs-each finding it hard to come to terms with the others.
From here I think it is decided that a little shop therapy will help with these emotions, so we go to a shop and pick up some handwoven items, numb and trying to continue with our day like we didn’t just breathe in cremation ash most of the morning. And by the time we are done, we are starving, our brains working overtime all morning has created an appetite that can only be handled by one thing. Pizza. So he takes us to Pizza hut so we can order food for our lunch to bring back to our rooms. We have a bit of a break now to enjoy the day until 4pm when we will meet with him again and go visit the Buddha temple and then back down to the ghats for the night time ceremonies. He helps us order and we end up with more food then we can handle for about $20 CAD. While the pizza is cooking he takes us to a store in the complex that houses the pizza hut and helps us buy coke for our rum and points our snacks we should try-us explaining that we have a thing were we have to try local flavors of potato chips in each country we are in. He has just the thing, and points us in the direction of the “tikka Marsala” lays chips. Oh yes. I then ask if they have mango juice here-he says of course-but I can just get some with breakfast tomorrow at the hotel….oh no…I explain I want it for my rum this afternoon. He stares at me for a bit, and then laughs….thinks I’m joking with him. Nicole and I excitedly explain that he MUST TRY this drink….and he promises to pick up some mango juice also and try this strange concoction. We have become fast friends with this guy- he is just our speed and very much has our same sense of humor. We tell him that we also need to go to KFC while were here-and he promises to deliver-while belly laughing at us! He will find one and make all our chicken dreams come true.
Down we go to get the pizza and head home…..we INHALE the pizza and then Muppets to their corners. Naps are necessary. And we take advantage of the AC-sleeping the hottest part of the day away.
Pulkit picks us up exactly at 4 as promised and we head to explore a few temples, one of which houses a HUGE geographically perfect marble topographical map of India and surrounding areas. He points out all the places we have been with a laser pointer, and the places we are going when we leave India for Nepal in 2 days. Everest and Kathmandu the highlights.
Then its on to K..F..C! We order a small meal big enough for 5 people and sit in and eat it…breaking bread with our new friend, him asking curious questions about our jobs and lives back home, sharing pictures of his shockingly beautiful wife and daughter, glowing with pride when he does. When you consider that marriages are arranged here-he did pretty good. Seeming very much in love with his wife and his life.
From here we are back in the ally ways for a walk down to the ghats again. We tell him we are interested in spices-I would LOVE to get my hands on the round tins of spices that have smaller tins inside of them, but I haven’t seen them anywhere….he says they are not as available in this area, more in western India, but if I see one I should let him know and he will make sure we can spend some time in the shop-then he is on the phone for a few minutes, explaining when he gets off that he was calling his Mom to see if she might know where I could get them. My god. What an amazing guy! I think we will be friends for a long time, he is already making fun of Gary with us, laughing when we call him the Meowsiah. Since we can’t get my tins (sorry Betty ) he brings us to another spice seller. A lovely plump man who has us smelling spices and incense in no time. At one point he asks if we would like to try some Marsala tea. Nicole and Chris decline, but listen, I’m all in. I realize that it probably isn’t a good idea to drink the water or the milk, that the clay cups it comes in probably haven’t been washed since Buddha was a baby, and this is all a pretty bad idea. But I accept, and then Gary does too- because he’s just encourage-able like that….and also because he’s half deaf and thinks they said “wine”. And I’m glad we did! It is like Chi tea, only sweeter, and I’m in love,….buying 2 costco sized bags of it. We buy meat and veggie spices…and then they show us their selection of incense and oils. But the time we leave the shop keeper is putting up his “retired” sign and no doubt going home to tell his wife all about the stupid white lady and her cute grandfather that drank the cow dung tea he’s been keeping under the counter.
Shortly after we leave his shop we are walking toward the Ghats in the alleyway, and we start to hear chanting coming from behind us. Pulkit says that this is a funeral procession, they are bringing a body down for cremation, and we need to stand aside. We slip into a small road and watch as 6 men walk by, chanting, holding a wrapped body above their heads. So surreal this life. And that death. And just all of it.
We walk the rest of the way to the Ghats and as it gets dark we are brought to our perch to watch the nighttime ceremony-where 9 shaman give thanks to the river. Nicole put it best when she said it is very much an assault on all the senses. You can barely hear each other because of the singing and the bells, your hands and body are sticky with the 43 degree nighttime heat, the colors are eye deafening-making me blink a few times to see the proper hues of red and orange, there is so much incense in the air that it is thick with it, smoky and perfume-y, and you can almost taste the street food it smells so spicy. It lasts about 30 minutes and we love every second of it. Mostly just sitting in silence and watching the dance of the shaman.
We walk out of the ceremony with about 4000 people, and we are told that this is a very light night….most times it is 10 times this many people. We walk past hundreds of vendors and are in the middle of hundreds of tuktuks, motorbikes and cars, all trying to exit at once. We are sticking so close to Pulkit that At one point he stops to check and make sure we are all still behind him, and we have a 4 Muppet pile up, him almost falling over with the force. After walking for another 15 minutes we are at our car and excited to get out of the crowd. Home to our hotel and to our thoughts. We have a lot to process from the past 19 hours…and I don’t plan on doing it without wine. But as we pull up to our road, we see a man on a horse and lights and people and hear music. It seems that our hotel is hosting the first day of a wedding ceremony (which lasts 4 days in India) and we have walked in on the wedding procession-where the groom is paraded down in traditional garb with a turban and layers of light colored clothing, and the entire family follows, singing and dancing and throwing flowers. It is so vastly different from the day we were just privileged to experience that I just can’t reconcile it-and I feel like if it think about it too much, and the meaning of both of the celebrations we’ve seen today, I’ll get in a mental loop I will have difficulty coming out of….so I just take it in…and am numbed.
Nightly drinks on the deck and bed. Exhausted. Tomorrow we are not doing anything too exciting-or so we think. We have the morning and early afternoon off to enjoy our hotel, have breakfast and lunch, pack and catch our flight to Delhi in the late afternoon.
We wake early the next day and head for breakfast, then back to the rooms for the reorg for the flight-we have to make sure the right poundage is in each bag….then Nicole and I realize that we have about ¼ of a pound of weight left, so we set to work at the hotel gift shop…loading up on trinkets and t-shirts. Then lunch at the bar and Pulkit picks us up on time at 3:30 pm and off we go, unaware of the nightmare that is about to happen on the flight. Upbeat and ready we giggle with Pulkit and swap Facebook info, emails and promises to keep in touch. I really like this guy-as do all the muppets. I think we may have adopted yet another one…Muppet number 6. He waits with us as we get through the security at the door and then waves and waves as we walk off to our fate…..so sweet. I think he will miss us also.
We board the plane on time and are very far apart on this flight….usually we opt for seats directly In front or behind each other, but this time Chris and I are at the front and Gary and Nicole 30 rows back. That should have been our first clue.
It is a beautiful day in Varanasi, and take off is uneventful. I hate to fly of course, so I am leery that we are on a discount carrier that I have never heard of, but they seem okay-and the female stewardesses all have “girl power” badges on. After a week of seeing how marginalized some woman in the country are-I am happy to see this…and I feel at ease during the first 40 minutes of the flight. At about that point, the pilot comes on and says that we will be experiencing some turbulence as we get closer to Delhi-but he’ll get us landed on time he thinks, so keep your seatbelts on. I hate announcements like that, but 20 minutes later as we start our decent it doesn’t seem like much more then the usual issues…and I’m okay. Then we break through the clouds….and notice lightening off in the distance. And it starts to get a little rougher. And a little rougher…. But still nothing THAT out of the ordinary. Then they put down the landing gear….and the plane JERKS to the side, and we see streak lightening all around us. The ride starts to get hairy. Up and down losing altitude only to climb again to just below the clouds…that are streaking lightening all around us. We try to decend and run into the same problem again, dropping drastically and swerving. At this point people toward the back of the plane are getting sick. And I’m in def con 5. I’m losing my crap. Crying and yelling. Holding Chris’s hand so tight he is having to change hands every 2 minutes. The man in the row ahead of us and on the other side looks back at me and is laughing….like this is no big deal. And Chris is assuring me that it is fine…just a little weather…not to worry. We keep in this pattern of trying to land and putting up and down the gear for about 25 minutes. And then we try one more time. I wish I could describe it better-but even as I write this I am shaking. The landing gear comes down once more, and we have an instant drop….a longer drop then I’ve ever felt in all my flights, and then the nose of the plane starts to point downward. We are descending rapidly-and not just that falling sensation that you usually get from a drop- the nose of our plane is drastically pointed toward the ground, and we hear the engines making crazy noises-that noise you hear in the movies when planes are going down…that exact rapid loud hum that you know is not correct. Finally, the plane banks to the right, we are taken by wind and jerked down again, and then the plane alarms start to go off. We can hear the rapid BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP from the cockpit…and now Chris looks scared too-although trying to keep it together for me. That man that was laughing at me? He is now in panic mode too-clutching the seat ahead of him. All of a sudden, our plane, still giving the sensation of falling, starts to climb at a drastic angle, worse then take off, and the engines make the loudest noise I have ever heard, louder then take off also, and we are trust back in our seats. We hear people screaming, Gary says one man jumped out of his seat-his gut reaction in panic. The plane is making snapping noises and we can see the lightening streaking all around us. After about 30 seconds of this rapid climb and the alarms and the max acceleration, we level out somewhat. And I am sobbing. And shaking. And having pains in my chest. We can hear people getting sick. The pilot comes on and says that he will have us on the ground shortly. That’s what I’m afraid of. We fly in a bouncy circle for about 15 minutes…..finally we hear the landing gear come down again. And I can honestly say I’ve never been that terrified in my entire life. I want my sister and I make Chris stand up and look for her. She is too far back-and after landing I find out that Gary pretty much has her in his lap, holding on to her with both arms trying to calm her and himself down. She’s freaking out also, and I wish we were together. I keep saying, “I can’t do that again Chris, Its going to happen again.” And when I say I keep Saying that? What I mean is screaming and crying and snotting that. We can hear rain on the windows…something I’ve never heard before on a plane, it is a sheet of water out there, and the electrical storm is still raging in the distance. But this time we are under control…and we descend and seem to be getting closer to the ground then we were before…and then we are on the ground. And my knees are weak and my head is pounding and I have a nose bleed.
We finally come to a stop and I can’t stop crying! I think its adrenaline. I’m shaking. And I stand up and see Nicole-she mouths: are you okay? Me with a “no”. and a “are you?”. No. Gary is pale. Both Chris’s hands look broken. Everyone on the plane looks shaken. It seems like we landed from another direction completely, so we are without a gate, having to get out of the plane into the weather and bus into the terminal. I can barely walk my knees are shaking so much. Getting off the plane it feels like we are in a monsoon. The wind so hard the rain hurts on your face. The first time I’ve felt temperature under 30 degrees since we arrived in India.
When Nicole and I finally get within talking distance of each other we all talk about how scared we were….”did you see the…..” and “did you hear the…..”. and “how much rum do we have left?” Everyone is trying to put on a brave face (except me….lashes everywhere, sobbing still, bloody nose, throat sore from screaming) and then they all decide to just be truthful. Nicole admitting she was about 90% sure we were crashing. Gary says the same. I say I was at 100% sure we were going down, I was sure. And Chris admitting nothing…this is the Chris way.
We get to our hotel and get settled, ordering room service. Before we go to Nicole and Gary’s room- and I know this sounds very dramatic- but Chris and I hug and I cry and cry. It took everything out of me to get through that-and I feel emotionally drained, and I just want a good cry…..something I don’t do often. As the drinks come out at their room more and more is admitted, Chris finally admitting that he was afraid too. And all the Muppets deciding that snipers and statesmen included, this is the most danger we have ever been in. The closest to death we have ever come.
….and we have to do it all again tomorrow to fly to Kathmandu in Nepal……