So those two things don’t go together, but unfortunately for me, they did.
After I landed at Bhadrapur, some middle aged Indian guy began chatting me up. He found out I was going to Darjeeling, and asked if I wanted to share the cab. (Later, he paid for both cabs we took. Yay, esp because I did not have enough Nepali money...the travel agency told me it was 200-300 rupees and it was actually 1000!)
After getting our luggage in the most inefficient luggage retrieval process ever, we lugged it to the taxi. When the guy found out I was from NYC, he told me about a time 15 or 20 years ago when he visited NYC and went to the Limelight. He was still amused at the men dancing in their underwear; who isn’t - it’s a wonderful thing!
The road from the airport to Kakravitta is the worst road I have been on in the world - and I’ve been on terrible roads. We held on for dear life as we bounced around, tried to avoid our heads getting smashed by the roof. If this is a route a lot of people take to go to Darjeeling, why won’t they fix the road? Questions that will forever remain unanswered….
We took a taxi to Kakravitta bus station, where I found my friend Arpan. I met Arpan when he was working at the Love Temple, where I did my yoga teacher training. When I found out he was from Darjeeling, I said, “Let’s hang out.” Who knew how close we would get, him even seeing my bodily fluids my first day in Darjeeling. (Not the best thing at all, people….)
In our next taxi, now with Arpan and taxi dude, we crossed the border, and they patiently waited while I got my passport stamped in both Nepal and India. Arpan made it easier as he bantered with the immigration officers in Nepali.
Taxi dude dropped us off at the bus station, and my stomach felt off. One shared taxi...then another…
We got to his cousin’s house, and I met his cousin, his cousin’s wife, their adorable four month old baby, Grace, and the “auntie,” the mother-in-law. They were friendly, served me chai, and wanted to show me around. Another cousin came and we took motorbikes and began driving around. They pointed out cool places to me, we went to a neat park, Arpan’s village. It was really fun, and as scary as motorbikes are, they certainly are thrilling.
Thrilling that is, until your food poisoning takes a toll. Despite me going to the bathroom in every possible squat toilet I found, my stomach was not happy. Arpan thought I was tired; “no, my tummy feels funny.” Finally, I said, “Stop your bike now, I have to throw up.”
I jumped off his bike, and threw myself into the grass at the side of the road where I began crying and vomitting.
Some people cry. Some vomit. Whenever I vomit, I also cry. (I don’t necessarily vomit every single time I cry.)
So there I am, with Arpan, who I don’t know super well, his two cousins, and I’m vomitting and crying.
I saw the mushrooms and spinach from my pizza and vowed to never eat them again.
Someone was rubbing my back. Arpan ran into the farm house to get me water to clean out my mouth.
Somehow we made it back to the house. We were supposed to sleep in Arpan’s village, but I just couldn’t make it. I used the toilet several times (squat toilet and no light, lovely) and curled up. My stomach was in agony.
They woke me up to eat around eight or nine. I didn’t want to eat. Arpan made a very light soup with lettuce and ginger. I got most of a bowl down. And then I passed out, with Arpan and his cousin on the floor in the bedroom while I slept in Auntie’s bed. Auntie slept in the kitchen on a mat. The thing I hate about visiting people in India is that I often displace people from their beds - and they refuse to let me sleep on the floor. This time, I was too ill to even argue.
Arpan woke me up at 6am. “It’s six, Cherie. You should be up.”
“I’m sick….” I groaned.
He made me get up.
I could only sit up for the first hour or so. I ran to the bathroom when needed, and then propped myself up against some pillows. They wanted me to eat; I refused.
After Arpan urged, I took a shower “to feel fresh.” I did feel better, but still didn’t want to eat samosas for breakfast.
“Let’s go and get you some fruit for breakfast,” Arpan said.
I bought a big bottle of water and some mini-bananas; I ate one banana. I felt weak, but better. We headed to Mirik.
We tried to head to Mirik, anyway. There were no shared taxis coming, so we went to Keurseong. Why not? We met up with his cousin (who he called his sister) and she bought me veg momos. When she heard I had been ill, she had them bring me a second bowl of soup and second plate of momos. They were good and not too heavy on the stomach. Because my tummy still wasn’t 100%, I avoided the spicy sauce.
We went to a park, and hiked around. It was super pretty. Arpan’s cousin was wearing kitten heels, climbing over roots and sliding down the trails. Pretty badass.
Then Arpan and I wandered behind her as she talked with everyone and bargained at a street fair. “Everything is 10 rupees….” Hmmm, what do I need? Want?
After, Arpan and I said our goodbyes and went to the Maikabaria (sp?) Tea Factory. We had a small tour, and then I bought a nice bag of a good Darjeeling Tea that I’ll make when I get home.
We went back to his cousin’s, picked up our bags, and then went to his village. I met everyone, they were super friendly and also very curious. I was one of the only foreigners who has ever visited their village, so they were thrilled. They little kids were especially curious.
The next morning, Arpan woke me up at 5 a.m. “Cherie, the sun will be rising soon.”
So? I’m sleeping.
I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my running clothes, and went to the bathroom. Arpan’s 15 year old cousin was there. “Hi.”
“I am waiting for you.”
“That’s great. I’m going to brush my teeth. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
He stood and watched me the entire time. It drove me nuts, but people would do that. Just stare and watch me doing something very mundane. What? I’m brushing my teeth.
I went down to “the lake” with Arpan and his cousin. A few others joined us on our walk.
“In the summer, with the monsoon, this fills up with rain, lots of rain. And people go swimming.”
“And all the trash?”
“Oh, that goes away when it rains.”
There was so much trash - unbelievable. As I ran, I tried my hardest (and failed) to avoid large rocks and tons and tons of trash. Plastic plates and cups and bottles and so many things. Really sad. Everyone spoke of “the lake” with such pride...it’s a shame no one cleaned it up. (But this is my very Western POV!)
I had a yummy breakfast one of the families made me; they all live in a small area of family. Everyone’s kids play together, and you can go over to anyone’s house for dinner. They share the milk from the cows, the veggies from the fields, the delicious eggs from the hens. They share squat toilets and water sources and work and play together. It’s lovely. They all took turns taking care of me. It was so special.
I pulled together a daybag and then Arpan and I headed to Darjeeling, stopping at a bunch of monasteries on the way. They were all really special and beautiful and I took too many photos.
Then we got to Darjeeling. We went to see the Japanese Peace Pagoda, and then, I started feeling poorly. I checked into a hotel (Arpan was staying with friends; I couldn’t stay too because the space was very small.) and immediately fell ill. Arpan left me with a large bottle of water; I couldn’t move for hours. When I did move, it was to go to the bathroom.
Arpan showed up super early, 315 a.m., to go to Tiger Hill. We got in a shared taxi and then drove up to watch the sunrise. It was a crowded cold mess and you couldn’t get a good view with electrical wires and small children perched on daddy’s shoulders in front of you.
I felt ill but I wanted to see Darjeeling. I said no to Indian breakfast at Arpan’s friend’s house and just was alone for a bit. I ate pancakes with bananas at a cute cafe, and then went to Observatory Hill to see the monasteries and shrines up there. Then I went to see another monastery and bought a ridiculous amount of tea and a tea set. (Guess I’m shipping stuff home….)
I felt worse and we went back to Rohini, the village with Arpan lived. I curled up in bed for a while, drank a little tea. I went on a short run and then hung out with people. It was Rohit’s 6th birthday party so I got to see a birthday party from an Indian perspective. There were NO toys. The kids played in other ways.
At night, my stomach got worse. I took zpack (antibiotics) and rested in the morning. I had promised a yoga class, so I taught the children (some of whom didn’t even speak any English) yoga, and they loved it. It was so fun! They wanted to run, and I was dying, but we ran for 5 minutes and they loved it.
Then, breakfast - a little, because my stomach felt wretched. And a long day of traveling to prepare me for the next adventure!