Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hunting Tigers Out in Indiah!

The title is from a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and it fully expresses our 
trip to India. When Jonas & Inija asked me in October "When are you going to 
India?", I replied, "Maybe never!" However, when I spoke at an event in 
Fremont in December, the Indians there invited me and Rachael Watcher to the ICCSUS event 
in Haridwar in March. They said they would take care of everything except our plane fare, 
and this inducement was too much to resist. So, fully packed with toilet paper, soap, a 
towel, and munchies Greg dropped us off at SFO in the gray light of dawn for the first 
leg of our 24 hour journey to Delhi. 

Have I mentioned before how bad modern air travel is these days on American-based 
airlines? We took United/Continental on the way over because they had the shortest time, 
but one does feel like cattle. I highly recommend ANY European/Asian airline instead - 
you will have more room and better service. The trip was thankfully uneventful except 
that the video screens weren't working. This way we actually had some respite of rest.

We arrived around 9 pm, but retrieving our luggage took a while and so did customs, but 
we were through by 10:30 pm.

Once we exited customs, no one was there to meet us. We had no Indian $, Rachael's phone 
wouldn't work, and no way to contact anyone. Some man approached us and called the 1st 
number on our list, but that person said they had car trouble and couldn't get us. We had 
no idea how or why to go to the train station, since we didn't know if we were booked and 
had no way to find out. Another man offered to drive us to Haridwar for $285 (about 200 
km). We found out later we could have paid about $100 during the day, but hotels at 
airport were over $200/night, and we'd have still had the same problems in the morning.

 Our driver was a maniac, and he made the 6-7 hour trip in about 3 and a half hours, but 
he dropped us at the train station in Haridwar, and there was still no one to meet us, 
and it's now 3 am, and we're a little crispy around the edges after being in transit for 
some 30+ hours. The train station makes SF's tenderloin district look enticing, and 
people were crashed out all over the train station floor. We crossed the street, and to 
give an example of our language difficulties, Rachael asked at a seedy hotel about a 
"RESTROOM" and he said, $100! Obviously, she was looking for a bathroom, and he 
was trying to rent us a room. Oh well. We went up to a group of about 20 locals huddled 
around a street fire, and asked if anyone spoke English. Several said yes, and one was 
kind enough to call one of our numbers. Success! They told us to take a mini-cab, also 
called tik-tiks, to the university, DSVV. We did, and about 20 minutes later, we were met 
at the gate, and escorted upstairs to the guesthouse. It was very clean, but also 
primitive. We had a private room with two beds with very firm mattresses (read hard as 
stone), and a shared bath with the other three rooms. Our first encounter with Indian 
plumbing and facilities left a less than favorable impression. Thank all the Hindu Gods 
I'd brought soap, towels, and toilet paper, since none was supplied, and for some odd 
reason there were mothballs in the sink! I was too exhausted to care about the hardness 
of the mattress and fell into a deep sleep for five hours.

We never felt threatened, just unutterably depressed by the miserable surroundings.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! I'm glad you made it safely but ya'll are way more intrepid than I!