Monday, December 7, 2009

Feelin' Pauly

One of the most common things you hear about India are the horror stories of seeing little more of the country than the interior of your grotty hotel bathroom... the notorious Delhi Belly due to the, erm, different hygene standards of India. We fully expected to encounter this at some point, but one of us got a little more than he bargained for. Let us tell you a story about our friend Paul... for 2 weeks, as we travelled from Rishikesh down into Rajastan, Paul woke up with a new ailment just about every day... poor bastard... but it was pretty funny for us.

It all began in Delhi while we were stuck in traffic, a eunuch stuck her head into our rickshaw asking for cash. Knowing that eunuchs are feared across India for posessing 'evil powers' we subtly averted our eyes to aviod engaging or angering her. Paul, on the other hand, delt with the situation as only Paul would... he looked up at her with obivous shock as she put her hand out for money, which he bluntly refused. He then blurted out "Oh God! She's not going to put a curse on us, is she?" To which the eunch responded with a tell-tale clapping motion towards Paul, that symbolises he giving bad luck. She then walked away as we joked that she had put a curse on Paul... turns out that, only a few days later, on a train to Rishikesh, we began to believe this was true.
After some very questionable curry the night before (we saw mice on the flour bags of the restaurant), Paul began to feel the first rumblings of Delhi Belly. An overnight Indian train is probably the last place on Earth you'd want this to happen, but once we were on board, he had little choice in the matter and spent the majority of the trip locked in the vile bathroom.

After spending a day in the hotel room while we explored a bit of Rishikesh, Paul mustered up the courage to venture out on our 2nd day there. Lucky he did too, because we found that Rishikesh was one of the most chilled-out, beautiful places we'd been to so far. The Beatles spent a few months in an Ashram in Rishikesh during their hippie days and from walking the streets, it's quite apparent that the hippie vibe is still, like, totally strong man. More than anything, these hippies provided us with hours of entertainement. At the nightly 'Ganga Aarti' (a hindu ceremony performed at many points along the Ganges), we were distracted from the ceremony itself by 2 groups of hippies. One group felt the need to sit themselves in prominant positions around the ceremony and undertake a little public meditation... with eyes closed, they spiritually swayed to the music and sang along to Hindu chants they obivously didn't know the words to. It wasn't just us who found them amusing, all the Indians around them seemed to find their behaivour a little odd too. The second group of hippies, dressed in blankets and dreadlocks, arrived towards the end of the ceremony and put on a little show of their own with creative bird-like dancing that you'd expect to see in an improv dance/acting class... it was terrible, but at least they weren't taking themselves as seriously as the swaying meditators. Seriously, sometimes being a foreiger in this country is really embarrassing.

Ganga Aarti ceremony, Rishikesh
Our meditating friend...

Anyway, back to the Paul story. A good laugh at the hippies seemed to settle his stomach a little and we thought he was on the mend... until the next morning... "there's something wrong with my eye, isn't there?" he asked, as he woke up. We looked to him to see the most swollen, red, crusty, eye we'd ever seen... somehow in his sleep, Paul had managed to contract conjunctivitis. With no time to visit the doctor before our train out of town, he popped into the local chemist for some eye drops. Being the hippie town it is, he could only find a herbalist, so he had to settle for some seriously weird looking drops, which made him scream when we put them in for him. He described the feeling as having acid dropped into his eyes, and , after 2 rounds of drops, refused to take anymore.

Unfortunitely for Paul, we'd previously purchased tickets for an overnight train to Jaipur, so he was forced to, once again, travel on a grimy Indian train while sick. He emerged from the train a broken man. To try and ease his pain, we checked into a nice hotel and settled down for a nap. When he woke up, his left eye wouldn't open - it was crusted over with conjunctivitis gunk. We sent him off to the docto and he returned with a wheel barrow of medication and full of hope for a speedy recovery. Paul didn't see much of Jaipur, in fact, he didn't see much of anything through his swollen, crusty eyes.

Hawah Mahal, Jaipur

Instead, he rested up in the hotel for 2 days while we checked out Jaipur. Thinking nothing else could possibly go wrong for Paul, the night before we went to bed joking about what illness he'd wake up with the next morning. We felt a little bad when he woke up with a cold and a back so sore he could barley walk. He soldiered onto Puskar with us for the annual camel fair and over the next few days everything but his eyes seemed to clear up. Luckily for Paul, he felt healthy enough to go on the day long camel trek we'd planned in Pushkar. Unfortunitely Claire did not. It seems that Paul had passed the eunch curse onto her and she was too cick to join the camel trek. Before going to India, Claire had often joked that she'd felt like she hadn't fully experienced India unless she got so sick she pooed her pants. Well, while Amy and Paul were off riding camels, Claire "fully experienced" India.

Amy's camel on the camel trek

As luck would have it for the sick and weary on our trip, we had an 8 hour overnight trip booked (on a run down bus with no toilet) at the height of Claire's sickness. She battled it like a trooper and rested up in the hotel for a few days while Amy and Paul saw the sights of beautiful Udaipur. As they made full recoveries, Paul and Claire waited with eager anticipation for Amy (who had laughed at them both through this whole ordeal) to succumb to an Indian illness... they're still waiting.

Beautiful Udaipur

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