I’m learning that getting anywhere in India redefines hassle, but often, there’s luxury waiting at the other end – even if you are camping – and so, the hassle of travel becomes a necessary means to a vacation.
Our Thanksgiving camping trip on the banks of the Ganges River in Uttarakhand was book-ended by busy train stations and harrowing mountain drives – but the three days spent romping in white sands, rafting through exciting rapids, and lounging river-side with wine, campfires, good food and friends old and new was well worth the travel excitement.
Here’s a photo of our crew at the train station. I would say that after traveling by train in China and Vietnam, India could use an upgrade in equipment. Fortunately, it wasn’t hot, so we didn’t need AC (there isn’t any) and the chilly morning air diffused the stench from the bathroom which contained an open hole to the tracks below. We passed fields of sugar cane and old villages, and lots of people having their morning constitutionals by the tracks. It’s difficult for me to judge the chaos of the train stations here since I think that I’m becoming accustomed to it and the sad display of poverty. Homeless camp in the middle of the stations and simply hang, hoping for handouts and an odd twist of fate, I assume. Or maybe there’s no hoping, just simply accepting. Either way, it’s a tough sight and one that my children have silently digested. Lala seems most moved and scared and disconcerted by what she sees. The boys – I’m not sure how what they see informs them yet.
Workers were literally blasting the side of the mountain beside the river as we were traveling along it to get to our camp site. I ‘m not much of a nervous nelly, but there were a few moments on the bus ride when I had to turn my back to the window and lean to the other side of the bus, as though my leaning would stop the bus from toppling over the edge of the cliff into the river below! You can see that some areas of the road didn’t have barriers and this was particularly worrying when two cars had to pass at the same time.
But this is what awaited us:
We had two tents outfitted with cots and quilts, a mirror, table and candles. The bathrooms were eco-friendly holes in the ground with wooden seats and a pile of sand mixed with lime to throw on top of your business to hasten decomposition. As usual, the Yardley clan spread itself conspicuously:
Honestly, with all that sand and water, we couldn’t keep the kids dry or clean… but who cares really? The sun was hot enough during the day to dry our sopping clothes and to roast bodies chilled by the frigid nights and the cold, wet runs through the rapids. We had such a blast though running the river – and no major flips or accidents. It was all such a thrill and a great way to salve my post-London Delhi blues.
I love this photo of the little guys. They joined us half-way down a run after the boats had passed the big waves.
Even mommies pick their noses – or so my family likes to tease. I argue that I’m having an insignificant scratch, but if it pleases my kids to think that I, too, mine the caverns, then let it be so… ( I stop short at snacking though!)
This is camp central, where lovely Nepalese cooks served us yummy meals, and where we built bonfires, shared wine and other libations and made new friends….
George, my paddling grump-meister and lovely Lala… George was quite good in the kayak and paddled happily – as long as he had the BLUE kayak. I’ll spare you the photos of him limping in a red one, seething with anger and refusing to have fun. I see summer camp on a mountain lake in his future… three long weeks of it! Camp couselors, beware…
And a two-family shot with our dearest friends here, Nathan and Kristi. We have been playing together for five years – in China and now in India. One of my fondest memories is of our boys playing with a long string and an empty plastic coke bottle for an entire weekend on the steppes of Mongolia. Kristi and I have grand plans to discover India together – quick dips into various places without the kids… First stop: Amritsar and the Golden Temple.