Jul 11, 2002
Bardia National Park, Nepal (only about 6 weeks ago)
The nightmare You're out at dawn, stalking through the forest in the hopes of spotting a tiger, but they have all been scared away by the horde of tourists who arrived before you. No, worse. The nightmare - You see a tiger, but the magic of the moment is ruined forever. Every time that you remember the tiger, you'll associate the memory with a memory of the German who was standing in front of you, middle aged with his hairy pot belly hanging over his speedo. Ewwwww. This is the nightmare that led me to Bardia, in Maoist country far from any hordes of tourists.
In terms of avoiding tourists, Bardia was a fantastic success. There was not a single other tourist anywhere to be seen, and according to the hotel and park registries no one had been around for weeks. I stayed in what was actually a very nice mud hut (I've stayed in plenty of bamboo and wood huts, but this was my first mud hut). The serenity of the guesthouse was unfortunately disturbed by the neighboring army base, which had regular shooting practice. A relaxing lunch and the sound machine gun fire do not mix well.
An English couple joined me on the bus ride from Pokhara. We decided to join up for a one day jeep safari. No tigers, but there was other wildlife. Some nice birds a crested serpent eagle flew just over the jeep, a paradise fly catcher flew by with its magnificent long tail, and some peacocks were seen wandering around. There were scatterings of deer, boar and of course monkeys. The highlight of the day a trio of rhinos in the distance with their big armored butts.
The park was nice, but not spectacular. I'm looking forward to Tanzania!
An epic 48 hours on bad busses (not the worst, but far from luxury), 12 army roadblocks, 1 accident (only one minor injury, not me) and I made my way from Pokhara to Bardia and then into India. Much to my dismay I find that, due to Indian bureaucracy, the nearest place on the Indian side of the border change money is 75 miles away and the nearest ATM is in Delhi. I don't want to go to Delhi, but with only US$2 worth of Indian rupees I don't have much of a choice.
In coming to India, I had no idea what to expect. The reports from other travelers were to the effect of: The people are terrible, poverty terrible, weather terrible, pollution terrible, crime terrible, diseases terrible, bureaucracy terrible It was amazing! I've been here for a while now. The bureaucracy is terrible, but other than that things aren't so bad. There is poverty and pollution and beggars. But as I always tell everyone, I grew up in Oakland poverty, pollution and beggars almost make me feel at home.
The crowds, the sheer numbers of Indians is however imposing. Try an experiment, to get a feel what India is like. Look down the hall, or look outside. For every person that you see, imagine that it is 4 people walking side by side. That is what density of India is like.
The big news of the last couple of months has been Threat of nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and hanging out in Delhi I was a prime target. I was interviewed by the London Financial Times and was asked Your embassy has told you to leave India, why aren't you leaving? I apparently told them My embassy has told me to leave countries before and they've been wrong before. I must have been taking the interview somewhat seriously or I would have said My embassy is worse than my mom or maybe I'm not worried, its only small nukes. The truth is, there were a few days where I was a bit worried, around the time when Musharraf was quoted in saying that first strike was an option. Not nearly scared enough to flee India, though. My plan was to wait in Delhi. If the situation intensified head South or East. If things quieted down, it should be safe enough to head North into the cool hills, but also North towards the India/Pakistan border. After 10 days in Delhi, the political situation cooled and the weather heated up. When Delhi went from a very warm 100 degrees to an unbearable 110, I left on a bus heading North.
Take a vacation from your vacation. I cant remember if I came up with that saying or if I read it somewhere, but it holds true. For travels of a month a vacation might be a day spent relaxing in a park sipping a bottle of wine. When you are traveling for a year or more your vacations need to be a bit more extensive. I was a bit burnt out on traveling and needed to take a break. I spent the last month relaxing in the little town of Vashisht. Vashisht is a funny place. Neighboring Ksol and Old Manali are full of nothing but Israelis. I went over to Old Manali one Friday night for a nice Shabbat dinner. Vashisht has its share of stoned Israelis, but it is more of a mix. Tourists from all over the world are hanging out, and some of the old hippies are even still here. You can hear tales of the good old when the Beatles were hanging out in India, and stories about vials of liquid LSD being traded for Tai Chi lessons. And pot, its everywhere in Vashisht growing by the side of the road.
I did little in my month in Vashisht other than watch the Soccer World Cup. I don't know how much coverage there was of the World Cup in the US, but it was a fun and exciting tournament. Underdogs winning everywhere - Senegal (in their first world cup), South Korea and the USA all playing good soccer and progressing far in the tournament. Then the final was an absolute classic. The two teams with the best World Cup records meeting for the first time ever in a World Cup and meeting in the final. The Samba Kings from Brazil happily triumphing over the industrious Germans. I watched the Italian games with Italian friends, the Mexico games with Mexican friends and got drunk with a very happy South Korean after South Korea knocked Italy out of the tournament.
This is the first time that I've written, or at least gotten far enough in the writing to update the website. I'm not sure if my break from writing was due to my vacation or due to the fact that I've basically stopped drinking (no one drinks in India). Everyone is stoned out of their minds in Vashisht, but no one drinks alcohol. I don't need alcohol to write, but it is much more difficult for me without it. For me, alcohol works like a lubricant my mind is slow and my arm stiff. As the drinks set it, everything loosens up and the pen starts flying.
India what am I doing here? I've asked this to myself before and Ill do it again. Not only is everyone sober, they're vegetarians too! There is no nightlife, the entertainment is mostly meditation courses. This is not exactly my scene. I do consider throwing out my Asian itinerary and flying off to Cuba or Brazil where I can drink, dance and party all night.
Now I'm refreshed and rejuvenated, back on the road and traveling again. I arrived in McLeod Ganj just in time for the Dalai Lama's birthday. I went to his birthday party and watched some Tibetan dancers, unfortunately the Dalai Lama wasn't present. He spent his birthday working. He's in Croatia, praying for peace.
The town that is the Dalai Lama's home is a nice quiet place set in a pine forest up in the hills. Its foggy and damp with a great mix of wildlife. There are cows wandering the street and dogs asleep in the streets everywhere. Hawks and huge black crows are flying overhead, and there are monkey climbing on the rooftops. Of course, there are courses in McLeod Ganj! Tibetan language courses, yoga courses, massage courses and meditation courses. I keep intending to go to a yoga class, but it starts at 9am. I never managed to make it to work at Sapient at 9am and I've yet to make it to the yoga class.
Next Stop : Golden Temple in Punjab. Its a very beautiful temple and they offer 3 nights free accommodations and food apparently without even trying to convert you.
My neighbors in Vashisht were as usual hanging out on the porch smoking hash. One girl uses her bong. Everyone else happily rolls joints. Occasionally, someone starts up a chillum. Today it is something new. The Frenchman has walked into town and come back with a full pitcher of Bhang Lassi. I cant resist joining in on this adventure.
I'm stoned, really stoned. I'm almost embarrassed about my condition unable to move, unable to speak, but I look over at my neighbor and he is equally frozen.
Time passes. I decide that at some point I will probably be sick. Unsure that I will be able to walk later, I get up without a word and walk to the shared toilet.
The paranoia sets in. I'm locked in the toilet this is a good thing. The door is locked, that will keep them out. I want to throw up, but cant. I'm looking for a way out of this trip. No one can help me now. The others have poisoned me. I'm going to die! Paranoid delusions are flying through my head a hundred a minute.
Then I sink deeper. I want to vomit or sleep. Either of those might help end this trip. I don't know how long its going to last, or if it will ever end. I lie with my head on the toilet seat hoping to sleep. I cant sleep, but I cant open my eyes either. The view my arm, the wall, the toilet tank its all too intense to comprehend. Closing my eyes again, I enter another world. I'm not sure that I knew who or even what I am. I witness the Creation, or thats how I now interpret it, but I don't know if my sober (relatively) mind will ever be able to comprehend what I saw.
I'm back in my body now, but lost in time and space. The room is spinning through space. I cannot remember what the room was once attached to or where the door leads, but I certainly cant stand up and don't want to open that door. I watch the same bug fly by my face three times, in the same exact pattern. I'm convinced that time is caught in a loop. I am never going to escape this trip. I look to a moth on the wall for help, to lead me out, but he's no help. Suddenly throw up and feel the poison leave my body.
Reality is coming back. Its like a TV with the vhold set wrong. Reality flickers into place for a moment and then its gone again. Slowly, the vhold is fixed and the picture improves. Reality is coming back, but the paranoia is still there. I'm now convinced that it was all a scam. Someone laced our bhang lassis (well, with something else) so that they could steal our bags and money. As soon as I feel that I'm able to walk, I rush back to my unlocked room. Nothing is missing.
I check my watch. As intense as the trip was, it only lasted 3 hours. The lights on the balcony are all off. Everyone else has apparently already gone to bed. I join them in sleep.
In the morning, I'm still stoned, but no longer paranoid. The bhang lassi was strong, but not laced. No one else had quite the experience that I did, but as regular smokers they were surely more resistant. As for bhang lassis, Ill have one again... but not for a while.
So,basically Mr.Katz you're an alcohol tripper & you're american,so what you were doing in Vashisht in the 1st place is beyond me.people do drink in india,but definitely not up in himachal/pushkar/goa/hampi/gokarna,etc.so yes you're right-cuba,brazil,the caribbean,etc with fellow alcohol trippers that's where you need to head,till your 3rd eye opens & you see the light although from your writing I very seriously doubt that would happen.As for India,3rd world maybe but much deeper than you can go & way beyond your comprehension. BOM SHANKAR.
Chandu Shanmura - Jan 04, 2004
this guy's message above is rubbish
if ur a westernized indian, don't speak for all of india
i am indian, this french guys journal is very accurate, majority of india smoke ganja, and hashish, and drink bhang lassi, or hash chai (hash tea)
that's what i did when i was there too, when it's a drug, it's looked down upon in india, but if it's an herb like ganja, it's looked at more in a spiritual way
ganja is a sanskrit word too, rastafarianism has adopted alot from hinduism, including, spiritual ganja use, ayurvedic medicine, paganism, reincarnation.
and this french guy who wrote this journal entry, ur seriously cool man, i love white people who respect our culture and try new thingz
Matias Elizalde - Aug 12, 2007
Adam , I was specting to find de bhang lassi experience because I was there and I remember what you said after getting rid of that devil trip................jajajaj, that was a good one!!!