Tuktuks

I was  doing a bit of research about tuktuks yesterday (yes, I’ve finally learned how to spell tuktuk), and when the Wikipedia article  reminded me that they feature in Octopussy, I couldn’t resist the temptation to put this video together. It’s only  rough, and could probably do with a better outro/ending, but it  made me chuckle.

My favourite photo

John’s girlfriend Anna is a photographer. Of all the amazing photos she took in India, this is my favourite, taken at the ashram in Rishikesh the day before we left.

john and matt from the back

John worked unbelievably hard on this trip, far harder than would ordinarily be expected of a PA. My gratitude to him cannot be put  into words. Without his support, I could have done none of the amazing things I did. I now regard him as one of my best friends, something akin to a brother, and hope that, one day, I’ll find a way to repay him.

Back from India

The journey home yesterday was just as long and tiring as I expected it to be. In all, John worked out, we were on the go  for over forty hours. We got back to Charlton at  about twelve last night absolutely knackered, but both extremely proud of ourselves for having made  it. India was a trip of a lifetime; it was absolutely incredible. My head is now buzzing with ideas and questions. It is a place of so many contradictions. For one, I was struck by  how in places like Delhi and Jaipur, there  are modern, up-to-date buildings of the kind you find in any western city – the cinema we went to, for example – while all around them are vast swathes  of derelict, dilapidated shanties desperate  for repair. It struck me as a kind of perverse juxtaposition, as if the city was  trying to appear modern while not giving any attention to the areas which need it most. I now want to research it to find out why India is the way it is.

Most of all, though, I want to start working out where we’re going  next.

An amazing end to an amazing trip

To be honest I’m not looking forward to tonight. This is our last day in India: this evening we catch the night bus back to Delhi, then after a few hours wait there, we board the plane to the uk. However at this very moment I feel I can deal with anything. I just had the most sublime ayervebic massage from two local experts here in Rishikesh, and it feels like I just downed about five beers. The feel of their hands as they nimbly rubbed my body felt like nothing I have ever experienced before. My body is loose and relaxed, my mind is clearer. The trip home suddenly seems much less daunting. What a great way to end an absolutely amazing trip.

The waterfall

I honestly think that what John did for me yesterday was nothing less than superhuman.  Not far from here, across the Ganges, is a cleft in the rock which people can climb up to see a waterfall. John and Anna wanted to go see it yesterday,  so we caught one of the local jeep taxis there. It was totally inaccessible, of course; there was no way you could get any type of wheelchair up those steep steps. Instead John proposed to give me a piggyback all the way up.

It wasn’t easy. The path was steep and long, weaving its way too either side of a beautiful cascade of water.  John took regular rests, and on the way up some other guys offered to help carry me,  singing Indian chants as they went. The effort they put in, John especially, was incredible. Mind you, I might add it wasn’t that easy for me either: clinging on to someone’s back for about an hour took quite an effort.
When we got to the top, though, I instantly knew it was worth it. The view across the valley was mind blowing. We went as far along the path as it was safe to go, before taking a swim in a pool into which a beautiful waterfall flowed. It was quite cold, and the rocks hurt my bare feet, but in that moment I found myself wondering how life could possibly get so mindblowingly incredible. For all it’s faults, humanity is surely redeemed by the kindness of people like John.

Getting to Rishicesh

The last twenty four hours have been quiet something. I don’t feel tired, although technically I haven’t been to bed.   We are now in Rrishicesh,up in foothills of the Himalayas,  having caught the night bus here.  It was an eleven hour journey, but on Indian night busses passengers get their own compartments with full sized beds, so I was able to sleep most of the way.   Believe me it was quite an experience.

Now though, we have a completely new town to explore, very different to Jaipur or anywhere we have already been. Rather hilly with a lot of steps, getting around over the next two or three days might be quite interesting, but from what I have seen of this place so far, the Ganges flowing majestically through its centre, we are in for a treat.

Dumbo

Yesterday was more lazy and relaxed than the long,  busy days previous. I think we needed it. After breakfast we came back to the hotel and pottered around a bit; i wrote and surfed  the web while the guys sorted a few things, and in the evening we went to the cinema. Anna wanted to see Dumbo, and, simply because it was by Tim Burton, I shelved my reservations about Disney and went along with it.

To be honest it wasn’t that bad. It was standard, simplistic Disney fare, where the goodies were good and the baddies bad. Danny DeVeto gave the best performance. However I think I ought to note two things: first that it was the first film I have seen in 3D. Truth be told it  wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and the effect at times, such as when the elephant was flying, was quite striking. Secondly it was noteworthy because it was the first cinema screening I have been to with an ad break halfway through the film. I’m not sure how widespread that is, or whether it was because it was a kids film, but it struck me as a total insult to the cinematic art. It broke the narrative completely, destroyed the aura. It treated viewers as pundits rather than people coming to enjoy a piece of art. I was shocked and appalled. I really, really hope this isn’t a sign of things to come elsewhere.
 I think I prefer the real thing when it comes to elephants. After all, I don’t have to look far here.