Last Thursday evening I caught a night bus to Dehradun and spent Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday traveling around Uttarakhand. I planned the trip since Eid was (WAS) scheduled for Monday, but on Thursday (after my host father had made the appropriate arrangements for my travel) my university emailed us saying that Eid would be on Tuesday and that we’d have class on Monday. I hate missing class unnecessarily, but it was totally worth it.
Originally my host father was going to put me in touch with a guide in Uttarakhand that could take me to the Valley of Flowers but by some miracle, a family friend of the man who owns the company in charge of coordinating my Study Abroad program between my university in Hawaii and the one in Delhi just happened to be traveling to Delhi on Thursday to see his sister, so he (I’ll refer to him as “A” from here) agreed to accompany me. We later found out that both he and I were nervous about setting off for a three-day trip with someone we were to meet just minutes before boarding our bus. I was supposed to head back to Delhi on Sunday evening but for various reasons, I ended up staying until Monday evening. A and I really hit it off and he asked me to stay one more day, but I really could not since I had a paper due in one of my classes today and needed to get back to Delhi to work on it.
Anyway, we reached Dehradun at about 4:00am Friday morning, where A and I went back to his home where his mother made us chai (I drank about fifteen cups of chai in four days). After our morning chai, we boarded another bus for Joshimath. The bus ride was ten hours long and I was so sick that at one point, I was fully convinced I was going to stick my head out of the window and vomit. A was able to jump off the bus for a bit and get me some medicine which really worked and I was able to enjoy the last two – three hours of the bus ride after that. After arriving in Joshimath, we had dinner (paneer and chicken – mmm!) and stayed the night at his aunt’s house. I was scheduled to stay in a hotel in Joshimath but his aunt insisted I stay at her home and not waste money on a hotel. That was my first experience with a separate bathroom (meaning, it was right outside of the main house so I had to walk outside to use it) as well as with taking a shower sans running water. She boiled water for me which I mixed with the cold water that was stored in the wash room and made do with that. It was oddly comforting, though, and I totally didn’t mind it. It was actually quite relaxing.
On Saturday morning we had breakfast (lots and lots of toast) and headed off for Govindghat around 10:00am (we were supposed to have left at 7:00a, but Am overslept and I didn’t want to wake him). It was very hot by the time we started the trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria, so we ended up taking mules and reached around 4:00pm or so. Being bored twenty-somethings, we drank in my hotel room until I was in bed buried in blankets because I was drunk-tired and very cold (going from somewhere like 90-degree Delhi to 60-degree Ghangaria was not easy on me). A was nice enough to go downstairs to a restaurant and fetch dosas for us since I had mentioned wanting dosas earlier in the day. After eating, we sat on the deck outside of my hotel room and talked until about 1:00am. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. Even on a quiet beach on Oahu late at night, there are never that many stars visible in the sky. It was beautiful.
We finally worked our way to the actual valley on Sunday morning around 9:00am. The trek in and out took us about five hours. We missed the valley in full bloom by couple weeks (the weekend I went to Masuri last month would have been the perfect time to go, actually) but I still enjoyed it. A kept apologizing for the lack of flowers, but I was happy with what I saw. The valley was a type of nature and beauty inaccessible to me in tropical Hawaii, so I loved it even with only a few flowers still in bloom. It drizzled the entire time we were in the valley and it was just under 60 degrees. After coming back from the valley, I gorged on a bread omelette (two eggs and FOUR slices of bread!) and veg pakodas (and chai, of course). We caught mules back to Govindghat since we were running short on time but the rush was no use – we were trapped in Govindghat for the night due to a landslide.
On Monday we made our way back to Joshimath and Dehradun. Instead of taking a bus, we took a cab from Joshimath to Dehradun which was a lot more pleasurable. There’s something about spending ten hours with the same strangers that’s both funny and comforting. On the way to Joshimath on Friday, A’s aunt (his other aunt) picked up a khira from a road side stand between Dehradun and Karnaprayag. As I was feeling sick at the time, I didn’t eat much of it but what I did taste was delicious; as a result, on the way back to Dehradun I really wanted to pick one up. We passed by the same area too late and the shop keepers had packed up for the day; luckily, however, the taxi driver was nice enough to take me to another shop he knew would be selling them so I was able to pick one up and take it back to Delhi. We reached Dehradun around 10:00pm; A’s friend met him off Rajpur Road and had brought A’s motorcycle so we could hurry and head off to get momos up the street (the name escapes me – “Singh” is part of the name). He said they’d be the best momos I’d ever eat and that I wouldn’t be able to stomach Delhi momos after eating those, and he was right. We had chicken and cheese momos and veg and cheese momos, both were amazing (and very rich). Each plate was about Rs. 110 for six pieces (totally worth it). I got on a Delhivali bus at 12:30am and was back in Delhi — unfortunately — by 6:30am on Tuesday morning (I finished my paper on time).
It was such a nice weekend. Uttarakhand is so beautiful and I know I’ll keep going back. A invited me to stay with him and his family for Diwali. On our previous trip to Dehradun last month, our friends had told my roommate and I that Diwali in Dehradun would be way better than Diwali in Delhi; they also said that should we come back, they would take us to Masuri so we could see Dehradun lit up for the holiday. Those friends and A are childhood friends, so naturally A put forth the same plan. A friend from school is also going to head up to Dehradun for Diwali since a friend of his is attending school there, so he offered for us to go up together in his car versus taking a bus. Everything is falling into place! I’ll most likely head to Dehradun on the Thursday leading up to Diwali but be back in Delhi on October 30th to celebrate the actual day with my host family.
A will be in Delhi this weekend for business (he owns a travel company as well) so we’ve made some plans for the weekend. I’ve met some really wonderful people here in India and the thought of leaving and going back to my home, half a world away, makes me sad. I know I’ll keep coming back to India, but it’ll be weird going from seeing someone in school every day to seeing them once every few years…but anyway, I really love Uttarakhand! I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my host family is also from Dehradun. They’re only in Delhi for work purposes (who’d want to leave Dehradun for Delhi consciously?!) Dehradun is so nice and quiet; coming back to Delhi is jarring and I’ve been cranky since returning on Tuesday. It’s just so hot, crowded, loud, and full of smells (both good and bad). Did I mention that Delhi is also just really hot? Like really, really, really, sticking-your-head-in-an-oven-that’s-already-on-fire hot? I sweat just sitting around doing nothing.
I’ll be heading off to…somewhere for Dussehra break. If my friend will be home in Aurangabad, my first plan is to go there. If not, A and I may head off to Kolkata since he knows I want to go to Sundarbans (I did my Hindi project on Sundarbans last Fall semester). My roommate is heading off to Assam and Meghalaya with friends from school and invited me, but if it’s my choice, I’d like to spend my break with friends I’ve made on my own, y’know? Sometimes I forget I’m here for school, hehe. But being in India for just a month and a half has really made me realize how big the world is. India is just one country but each state is so different. It’s hard to believe that Uttarakhand and Delhi are just a few hours away from one another by how much the environment changes between the two. I want to see as much as I can before I leave. I feel extremely lucky to be here, and even luckier to be with a host family. Being with a host family is very special and I’m getting an experience that a student just thrust into some dorm (or a tourist on an extended stay) wouldn’t necessarily get. Tonight we went to Paharganj for dinner; my host sister also needed to pick up new shoes for a formal at her university next week. I also got my nose pierced! Naturally, I was a little nervous about getting my nose pierced in Paharganj (an area my professor specifically advised me to avoid) but my host sister got her nose pierced at the same shop so I trusted it. I was even more nervous when I saw that the jewelry he put in my nose was just taken out of a plastic bag (versus a sterile packed piece of jewelry) and that the needle used to pierce my nose wasn’t in sterile packing or sterilized…and that the guy wasn’t wearing gloves…and that he only swabbed the outside of my nose with alcohol. But my host sister’s nose is perfectly fine and she’s a smart gal (and I’m just a paranoid American) so we’ll see. We’re going to get our hair done on Sunday morning. I also cut my own bangs on Tuesday just because I felt like it. The last time I cut my own hair, I was six and my mom was very upset about it. My bangs turned out alright; Im going on Sunday to get my hair layered a little.
Anyway, check out these photos of beautiful Uttarakhand!