(hanging on the other side)
Varanasi part do to Darjeeling…so back to a few posts ago when I was falling in love with the dead city. I ended up staying a week instead of the 3 day trip I first planned and I’m glad I did. Everyday I’d walk around the crazy, tiny alleys of the city and visit the main burning ghat. I don’t know why but Andreane and I felt it was a good life reminder. It made you appreciate life and take in a different view of death. Moving guest houses was a big reason I stayed a week. The city is full of amazing musicians including a few talented Israelis and a Brit who jammed for us all night long. Sitting on the roof a few would be on guitar, Andreane on the egg shaker, an incredible flute player joined a few times, someone would grab a crate to drum on, and Lewis (the Brit) would sing. He had an exceptional soul/blues type voice that made the hairs on your arm raise. If my big festival dream ever happens, he’ll be playing. One night we hung out on Mona Lisa’s rooftop where a baba sang with a tablas player and later a sitar player joined. This guy could wail on that crazy instrument, he’d freestyle these rifts and your eyes didn’t leave his hands. I’m obsessed with the tablas and the deep ‘woop’ note it makes when they slide their thumb across the drum. If I could I’d stay in Varanasi for months learning it. A few of us also crossed the Ganges to hang on the other side. It’s a vast empty beach with a tea stall, cow herders, and kids selling horse rides. I’d say it’s the best spot in Varanasi. Lay a blanket down, play some music, and view the city in peace. Of course another week flew by and I was saying g’bye to head to Darjeeling.
My train ended up being 4 hours late so I sat in the ‘Ladies Room’ to hide from the most disgusting train station I’ve experienced (Mogul Sari). Reeking of piss, people laying everywhere, rats running around the tracks it was brutal. I got on the completely packed ready for bed come to find 2 men sleeping in my berth. This is normal and many Indians share these skinny beds but this train had people sleeping on the floor. A Korean girl was across from me on the upper bed because we both bought the foreign quota tickets. Travel agencies save certain seats for foreigners because most trains are on a wait list. A long, slow ride later I arrived in NJP where I could either take another super slow low gauge train twisting through the mountain to Darjeeling or take a shared jeep. I took the latter. Four hours later I arrived in a chilly, cloudy town with no idea where to go. After a good hour of climbing the steep city looking for a cheap room, I found a home but only for a night. Being high season for tourists many places were booked. I headed out for dinner down the street and while finishing my meal, Michaela (Italian) and Ignacio (Argentinean) walked in. I met these two for a second when they stayed at Elvis GH in Varanasi for an evening. Thankfully they had a cheap GH with rooms available so the next day I moved in. I enjoyed my first day on my own in the city. Wandered to the Happy Valley Tea Estate where I had a nice tour through the tea plants and factory. I enjoyed reading and eating alone and getting my directional sense of the city. It’s a more spread out Varanasi but on a hill with numerous staircases and it often leaves you breathless. The next day I met Pauline and Damien (French) and the five of us walked to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo. It was a nice zoo with many big cats including my favorite the snow leopard as well as red pandas, Tibetan wolves and a Himalayan Mountaineering museum. We then decided we’d head to Sikkim, the state North of West Bengal, to do a short trek and see a bunch of old monasteries. Before Sikkim I also visited Observatory Hill where I had an incredible calm, peaceful feeling and felt a true connection to Darjeeling. That day I decided to give my split ends a trim, not the best decision to go to a salon where English is barely understood. My long locks were chopped too short, layers ruined, and I now have an Asian cut. But I know it’s just hair and I’m too attached plus it’s nothing you care to read. So post on Sikkim next where I learned the phrase ‘Todo Fluyo’ meaning everything flows.