Had there ever been a Country in my life, that made me consider a leave, cause I couldn’t survive it anymore? Made me speak a farewell, cause I thought, I will die in the Himalayas? Made me say fuck it, cause I couldn’t take the cultural mentality anymore? Before, there had never been, but this time It had been close. Enjoy a story of a relationship with a country, that deserves a medal.
- 07.16 – 11.16
- Four months
The Zurich – New Delhi nonstop flight made me land at midnight and as my cab driver dropped me off between highway and high buildings with countless advertisements and lights dangling on them, I couldn’t find the entrance to my hostel. I am glad, that the cabbie called the receptionist for me and made him descend onto the streets after 15 minutes in order to pick me up. It was Joey’s Hostel, the place where I caught a cold due to the continuous AC running everywhere and ate take away, that gave birth to my personal “Delhi belly”. Why did I ate that shit? It was so spicy and came in such suspicious looking silver bags, looking like food for astronauts.
I stayed 4 days and did not dare to leave the hostel, because as soon as I stood out the front door, I drowned in humidity and dust. Noise and dirt. Pollution and confusion. It was too much even though, you could do several touristy sightseeing activities here. I had two workaways on two weeks each planned in Haryana and Punjab. Two districts, which are located in the north of Delhi.
Note: If you are new in India, try not to do New Delhi first, it’s actually the hardest place out of all India. People do get scared off, when seeing India for the first days like that. A city of dirt, difficult food and THE chaos. I met single persons, that were loving New Delhi, but I consider them mentally challenged (sarcasm). Arriving in Goa, Chennai or Kochin is literally another world and will greatly affect your view on India, if you have never been before.
I was so confused about all the stressful impacts, that I early checked out and went to the train station just to find out, that my train is actually not leaving today! Since I insisted, he explained me, that it’s not the 25th, but the 24th of july, I laughed at him, checked the date and left with embaressement on my face.
I went back to my hostel and left the next day to my first Indian workaway in Jind with upcoming stomach problems, that were supposed to last for a month. (I remember a lady, missing her flight to Madrid, because she made the same mistake as I did, so I guess this city has some twisting brain power).
Haryana & Punjab
I had an absolute hardcore introduction of India, by living in an absolute remote place, which has ZERO tourists and an incredible love towards foreigners. I have learned about one side of Indian people, which saved me from making false assumptions about them. If you are having a detailed interest into my first Workaway as an English teacher, then you can check out my Workaway post by clicking here.
However, from here on, I will tell you the story of Punjab. I left Sumit, my last host, with a great feeling in heart and greater pain in the stomach. The train ride to Moga was absolutely horrible and toilets are too.. especially with no toilet paper (learned for life). When I got picked up by Jatinder, my second host, I felt the shivers, running through my body, pain and fever. I never felt so uncomfortable, but I had to tell him, that I was in no condition to work. Fortunately, Jatinder was not only a great person overall, but also saving me, treating me and giving me the best time possible. My room was in the school building on the 3rd floor. I was laying in there for days, could not eat and not move.
I was on medicine and listening to Jazz from my Spotify playlist (you should check it out, it’s called “Late Night Jazz”).
I woke up by the next morning, hungry, tired and shaken by the flu. I could hear a rumble going on outside and as I stepped out, in underwear and shirt, trying to understand the situation, I found myself in the middle of a girls school department with dozens of teen students, only seeing pink Saris everywhere and shocked faces.. I was pretty mad already and not in a great mood for giving a damn about a dress code in the early morning under such conditions. It seems like, I had been forgiven after all, because I got taken to all kind of events, no matter what, such as a trip to the mountains of Uttar Pradesh, the golden temple of Amritsar or a dance event in the school building.
I could not take it anymore. The food was absolutely terrible. Not in the sense of taste, but in variation. The Chapati bread is so hard and that Dahl everywhere. I thought chicken would be a thing in India, but apparently half the population in the north of India is vegetarian! Excuse me? India?? I could find no Beef, pork or chicken, while potatoes are only served as a side dish in little curry bowls.. a friend of mine was currently in Kyrgyzstan and inviting me to her place and as I could not understand the damn food culture of India and suffering forever, I had been lead to the ultimate decision: Should I leave India? Is it impossible for me to travel this country? Did I fail? ARGH! I can’t fucking fail! I am a goddamn adventure traveler for god sake! I have made it so far until now, the exploring of India, my adventures.. no. I will not bow before the obstacles of my journey. I did continue, going through those amazing cultural and painful times of my life, while meeting great people like Krina and Anand, both volunteering like me, Molu and the students. Visiting fantastic places and learning irreplaceable cultural facts. Let me show you the some pictures and finish this chapter.
One month of English teaching in absolutely remote places had given me an understanding of India, that made me master the rest of the country without further problems. I got introduced, like a bird getting tossed into the air, going for a decent flight. I left this place for my actual first touristy destination, called Manali. Oh yeah, and the stomach problems? Gone.
I am greatly recommending a Workaway for a nice introduction into the Indian culture. It will save you misplaced thoughts and assumptions about circumstances and enlighten your understanding of India.
Uttar Pradesh & Jammu & Kashmir
I beard in mind to go to Srinagar, but bloodshed continued to arise in the Islamic based town and made me change my aim, and go to Leh. Manali is the entrance to the high Himalayas, a touristy spot in the clouded rainforest, leaning on the Himalayas on 2000 meters. The first thing I did after stationing myself in the Hostel, was to order a chicken Stroganoff and crying tears of joy, not believing this different taste existing in India. I also met so many foreigners again doing funny stuff, like paragliding, Guitar sessions and a failed attempt of hitchhiking. After five days, I made my way on a seventeen hour bus ride to the 3500 meter high town, Leh.
Leh is a Bhuddist-based town, having a very distinct flair towards other places so far. Small curvy roads and little houses, special spots, hiding behind busy streets and several monasteries, giving Leh an outstanding atmosphere. I spent there nearly a week, until I took the spontaneous decision of mastering the Markha valley trek.
The Markha Valley
I took a local bus until the start of the trek and happened to meet a dutch boy, going for the same achievement as me. I haven’t thought much of it, so I teamed up with him and went for a fast trek. We walked pretty well, skipping homestays and arriving once, so late at a village, that we just managed to catch the last sleeping spots in a 20-men homestay, 10 minutes before complete blackening darkness.. it’s scary to walk in the Himalayas, when the sun decides to farewell from the scenery and taking all the life around with it. However, looking at the clear sky at night and spotting the milky way in a never-ever experience was absolutely fulfilling and made me almost cry a tear. It’s like glitter being spread all across the sky, that never ends it’s shining.
Side story: Where I nearly died, I almost fell down a cliff. We had reached a river, that had to be crossed. The boy referred to the idea of walking a path, along the cliff side of the mountain range, so we do not have to cross the river twice. The path’s condition was not bad at first sight, but the further we managed to get, the worse it began to look and as I just managed to literally hop from a little sandhill, the leftovers of the cliffpath, onto the partly broken path, I saw him, shaking his head and aborting the mission, because the path was from there on simply gone. He turned around and I had to go back as well.. back the way too deadly path with a backpack on and let me tell you; being tall is not a lovely advantage, if you have to gaze down 30 meters into the end of your life.. I stumbled on the slippery sand along back, tried to sneak through the narrow parts of the path. I started to think about my future.. a song I would really like to listen to again, a girlfriend, having a family, getting to 2017.. so many thoughts crossed my mind… I had to take a break and breathe normally. I looked into the valley and there I saw it, the moment to take a cool picture.
We got to the river safe, crossed it and as I was putting on new socks, I got furious with him, with myself and the whole situation.. I will never trust a Dutch boy on mountains again lol. I think, that event created a little gap between us until the end, which is fine, cause that guy was a goddamn idiot. Nevertheless, after learning the card game “Cambio” from the Israelis, freezing my ass off in 4700 meters in a tent and barely able to breathe, we got to the top of the pass and he took a great picture of me, facing the mountain range on 5400 meter altitude.
After my relief had been shown and one of the best pictures of my life had been taken, it was time to descend the high altitude and let me tell you, I was fed up with the struggle of breathing since two weeks. I wanted to end this “Triangle-trip” and go back to New Delhi.
Delhi, Agra, Varanasi
I got straight back to Leh and took a night ride in a minivan to Manali and seeing the first snowfall on the roads before the end of the season calls in. After that, I took straight a shitty local bus to New Delhi, making this a 48-hours killer trip back to the dirtiest shit hole on earth. I was dead. Physically and mentally, I took a few days in a nice hostel and just gave myself the best break ever. I had my first Indian CouchSurfing awaiting me in Agra. I think, I am the only tourist, that enjoyed Agra (because everyone hates Agra, but Taj Mahal is there), with my host Roshan and Emanuela an Italian CouchSurfer. I visited Taj Mahal and left after five days to Varansi, where I saw people getting cremated on wooden piles and stuff. The hostel was empty and the people were not my favourite. I took soon another 17-hour bus out of India, into Kathmandu, where a job as english teacher was awaiting me.
I left to Nepal for one month and encountered one of the most friendliest people ever. I believe that, I was lucky and I want to share my experienced luck with the reader, simply check out my summary called: The love of the Himalayas.
Kolkata, Goa and Hampi
Yes, after a comfortable month in Nepal I was back in the fucking game. My CS host, named Andy, waited for me in Kolkata. Together with another German CouchSurfer and a Columbian live-in, (weirdest group ever in India) we discovered a great festival, that was covering the whole city of Kolkata in lights! After a few days, I took a flight to Goa, because festivals made traveling by land much more complicated. I got with absolute hardcore bargaining Israelis into a share-taxi and drove to Arugambay, where a Workaway had been prepared for me. Because of the host, I, for the first time, had quit a Workaway, and moved into a hostel. They had a Workaway offer as well, but demanded 36 hours a week, which made me quite furious about the bad Workaways I recently had been encountering. Arugambay was disappointing too in terms of vibe, beauty and people. Goa once was great, but it is not now.
I took my ride to Hampi and let me ask: how can I have not heard about this insane beautiful place before, but heard about the shitty place of Goa? I stayed a week in Hampi, driving around on a scooter and enjoying astonishing views and finding this great lake!
Couchsurfing in South India
Like mentioned before, I felt a little bit fed up with Workaway, but hostels were not interesting me either, so I went with plan C. Couchsurfing, in Bangalore, twice in Chennai and once in Pondycherry. I am probably the only one, that enjoyed Bangalore, because there is nothing of deeper interest available there, unless you know where to go, like I and Mischa on a bike ride to the hills in the upper north! Chennai had also been super entertaining with the Tunisian guy, showing me around and eating Southlandish stuff, as well as Pondycherry, where I spent a few days, doing not too much, but just chill out of it.
Side Story: The Demonetization in India happened at that time. 85% of legal tender Indian currency got declared by 17:00 as worthless from the beginning of the following day, on a sudden press conference of the Prime Minister of India (500 and 1’000 INR bills). I was veery lucky and withdrawed 10’000 INR on the same day around lunchtime, lucky by chance. The highest bill was 100 INR and it was all of a sudden precious as hell, because even though I had a lot of money, I only had a few hundred legal INR currency, see the Black/White photo above, where I am trying to exchange my bills in the State bank of India like hundreds of other Indians. ATM’s got shut down all across the country, people had no further access to money anymore and if you were a tourist at that time; Buonasera, Amici, cause everyone was basically fucked. Well, except I, because I had a Workaway for three weeks and neither paid for food nor the accommodation. Tourists all over the country were suddenly struggling with money issues and future plans for India. Some left earlier, some did not even enter. After one month, single ATM’s had long lines of people and only gave you 2000 INR per day, per credit card. Obviously a headshot, if you have to pay your local bank and/or the foreign bank with each withdraw. I managed to sneak away from a crumbling castle.
I had a Workaway for three weeks in the middle of nowhere (like always), on the countryside of Tamil Nadu. Afterwards, I had my last CouchSurfing in Madurai ready, before leaving India for a longer time.
My work contained the creating of “Sristi Village”. A Village and an organization, that is based on the foundation of giving mentally challenged people a place to live under regular life standards, such as a job, a schedule and friends. If you are having a further interest into the project you can check out the blog I wrote in the earlier days called: The Sristi village.
Madurai was my last destination of India. With Ramchand, I had found the best CouchSurfer host for five days.
Note: The taste of South Indian cuisine is absolutely incredible and a must, when visiting this city. Ramchand showed me around.
Of course, the prime minister of Tamil Nadu had to pass away and close down all the stores and ATM machines in the region for a few days (mourning days), which is funny, since there are no functional ATM machines anyway in India. The city itself is quite dusty and overall only reccommendable, if you have a flight to Sri Lanka (It’s the cheapest connection, Madurai – Colombo), in order to taste fantastic dishes of South India.
This country made a different person out of me. It is not the “Incredible India with 1000 colors and all neat and glitter.” I mean, it is, but not in the way, everyone likes to say. It is dirty, dusty, hectic, insane, unreasonable and chaotic, but filled with life and fun. The question: “Why do Indian people-” is not available. It is a country for the brave, the adventurous and the seeking ones. The ones that seek for travel, for a world full of missions to master. To make it yours. So that #TheWorldIsMine