Happy Mother's Day Moms! To Carole, Nancy, and Trimble... we love you dearly. Thank you for your ever present unconditional love and support. We think of you often and you mean so much to us. Also, to our adopted mothers and grandmas, and family and friends who are moms... we are thinking of you and hope you feel cherished. Sending you love from mother India.
So, a little about something called a "visa run". Most all travellers end up experiencing this at some point. Having to cross an international border line in order to have more time in a specific country. Often a hassle... but has to be done.
Bear with me as I ramble a bit. We have 10 year visas in India, but the fine print states that we can only stay in India for 180 days at one time. The rules used to make you leave for minimum of 2 months before re-entering India, but that got lifted in December so it left us confused as to whether we still had to leave the country to get another 180 days or not. And if so, how long we had to leave before we could come back to India. Seems like a pretty easy question, so I figured a quick phone call to the American Embassy in India should do the trick, but somehow, in India, the easiest of tasks becomes the most monumental effort. They had no clue. I called the embassy 5 separate times and got 5 different answers. One guy flat out told me I should go back to my country, because 6 months is plenty of time to travel India. Ha! That answer made me laugh out loud. "Thank you sir for your opinion... but do you have a supervisor?" I called the 6 main foreign relations offices throughout India multiple times each, got redirected over and over,... lost call after lost call. I even called the Indian Embassy in America thinking a native English speaker might shed some light, but no such luck. How is it possible that NOBODY knows the answer to this seemingly simple question?? Finally a police officer in the internet cafe overheard my phone calls and gave us our answer. We have to cross a border for 1 day and then we can re-enter India. Whew! Oh India!
So, since we want to head north in the Himalayas on our bike for the next 4 months or so, and we have already been in India for 4 months... we knew we'd need to cross a border at some point. Given our current location, our options were Tibet (which isn't really an option), Pakistan (which of course, as Americans, is not an option either) or Nepal. Process of elimination left us with Nepal. The bike we ended up buying is the Indian version of a Harley Davidson and even more geared to off-roading. It's a Royal Enfield and was commissioned to be produced by the Queen of England back in the 30's or 40's, because India needed a bike that could handle long distances and rough terrain. It's the most respected bike in India and truly is a beautiful bike. It took us about 10 extra days to get it exactly the way we wanted (gear racks, separate springed seats, different tires and rims, mirrors, oil change, etc) and get everything packed up and ready to go. We were a little sad about leaving our Rishikesh home and our friends we had made, but it was time and we were ready. So, with the song "Born To Be Wild" in our heads, we left for Nepal.
"Get your motor runnin',... head out on the highway,... lookin' for adventure,... and whatever comes my way..." (thanks Jim... such a fitting song...can't seem to get it out of my head )
On the world map, Nepal looks so close to Rishikesh, so we decided to just get the visa thing out of the way and go ahead and go. In reality it's about 20 hours one way. Sheesh! Good thing it was a beautiful drive through small remote villages, rice fields, and the Himalayas on the way back. We are pretty much learning how to drive the bike as we go,... well, Colin is. As of now, I am not driving the bike, simply because of the fact that we want to LIVE and not die. I am perfectly content with taking photos from the back. Besides, Colin is doing an amazing job and loving it. It can be exhausting, but so exhilarating and fun. Although the amount of presence and pure concentration it takes to drive in India is incredible. For the most part, there really are NO rules. Cows, water buffaloes, monkeys, dogs, pigs,... you name it,... they're walking where and whenever they want. People, animals, scooters, cars, buses, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, trucks, bikes, bikes with carts, people with carts, animals pulling carts with people,... combine that with crater-sized potholes, stream crossings and road signs in Hindi... it can be total madness. But we have found that, just like walking in huge crowds, it is a moving organism all working together, and as long as we relax and make no sudden movements... we are fine. So far, most of our driving has been pretty chill though. We pass through cities that have traffic, but for the most part we are driving on flat, dusty, dirt roads through super small towns, or mountain roads up and down the sides of the Himalayas. We are in no hurry, which is nice, because we can drive slow and peacefully... shanti shanti...stop whenever we want, and just take it all in. Stunning vistas, terraced lands, houses perched precariously on steep mountains. Sweet smiles, waves from children, people staring in wonder. Cool mountain air, the hum and vibration of the engine, smooth switchback turns. At times, it feels like a moving meditation, and the line between dream and reality is blurred.
Most of these small villages don't get western travelers, so if we stop for water or chai, they all come out and want to greet us, invite us into their home, exchange a shy smile or two, or just simply stare at us. The staring doesn't bother us anymore, it happens everywhere. Now it just makes me laugh...don't they know I'm really not that different? The older women pinch my cheeks and touch my face. One woman actually gave me jewelry, a bindi and wanted to braid my hair. So sweet. The men like the motorcycle and mostly want to interact with Colin. He is so tall compared to most Indians, but is his normal jovial charismatic self and makes everyone laugh. If we spend the night, they all see us off in the morning... their kindness is really never-ending. These are the moments in the journey that touch us the deepest. Oh India!
All in all, we are feeling really supported on our journey. We are only at the beginning, but there have been so many times where things have worked out so perfectly. For example, our bike wouldn't start one morning, but we just happened to sleep at a hotel right next door to a bike shop. Coincidence? I think not. God is good. It was great though,... it gave us a much needed break in the driving and we made friends with a beautiful local named Zeeshan, who helped us get the bike fixed and warmly insisted that we come to his family home for dinner. His family was delightful and the meal was delicious! They gave us gifts (a cowboy hat for Colin and flowers for me) and invited us to stay at their home the next time we come to India. We were blessed yet again. And, they worked on our bike for 11 hours, took our entire bike apart, and put in all new electrical wiring ... all for about $26. Crazy. It's these moments that remind us that life always happens according to plan... just not always OUR plan. Having no set plans or expectations is so hard for me. I'm so organized and want to plan everything, but more and more I am realizing that life doesn't work that way... that's me swimming against the current. Once I let go, feel my connection to all and move with the flow of life and just be... beautiful things occur.
So, we have made it back to Rishikesh, where we will stay for 2 or 3 days to rest up and get a few things tweaked on the bike. We are getting a squeak fixed and putting on a quieter muffler. It seems more respectful in the smaller villages for it not to sound like a helicopter is landing when we enter. We're also putting together a basic tool kit and getting an extra tire innertube and pump... seems smart. Getting ready for our ride into the real mountains. I have a feeling our adventures have just begun. We'll take 3 or 4 days to get to Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan refugees. There, we will stay for about a month. Our music teacher is there, so we will continue tabla and bansuri lessons, we're looking into a 10 day silent meditation retreat, and we're hoping to hear the Dalai Lama speak. We'll see what actually transpires. Feeling much gratitude and sending lots of love back home!! xoxoxoxoxo
sunset over Rishikesh and the Ganga
On our way to an Indian wedding
her eyes say so much. An arranged marriage.
Indian women wear all red for their wedding, have full henna on their hands and feet and wear all their finest gold jewelry. Beautiful
the wedding gang
We had a blast dancing. Indians sure know how to have a good time
these girls danced the whole time... so cute and sassy
Our good friend, Sumit. Great musician and adventure guide
Si... our best bud in Rishikesh. Beautiful and wise man
Krishna... sweet playful spirit
Babaji... an Aghori baba... 12 years of silence
Adi... another really beautiful. From south india. Colin and Adi played drums together almost every day.
Saying goodbye to our guesthouse owners... packing the bike for the first time and hitting the road!
Dad, I wear your necklace every time we travel.... so I've been wearing it everyday for the past couple weeks. Makes me think of you and keeps us safe. xoxo I love you
cuddled up in the trash pile
not sure why they paint on the center dotted line... no one stays in the lanes
our bike breaking down right next to the bike shop.
Zeeshan....so sweet. Nice hat
Indian border crossing check point
blocks of ice
water buffalo crossing
coming home from school. love the pink bikes
one of our bags flew off the back after hitting a really big pot hole. They yelled for us to come back and then gave us fruit and water.
weed is growing all along the roads... crazy
real men wear pink.
this baby was so precious
and I thought WE were carrying a lot. Ha!!
the indian women look so beautiful riding side saddle with their saris
Haridwar... Shiva statue
Nepalese children are so beautiful
doing henna with the daughter at a guesthouse we stayed at
out warm send off from a small village near Rishikesh
this woman was so sweet ... gave me jewelry ... most indian women don't smile in photos... not sure why
on the side of the mountain
looks like maybe a bus ran off the side of the road... yikes
this tree was soooo big. This is just ONE tree. Magical
All the road signs are in Hindi... not so much help
sweet Nepalese children living in India. They spoke fairly good English and was so excited to chat with us. Sweet
our road... wow
not a bad view from the road
the two rivers merging to make up the Ganga
Back in Rishikesh... hangin with the babas.
Ready to hit the road again... these mountains are amazing