I left for my 5 hour drive to Nasik. So many people told me not to go. But I wanted to experience a more traditional India and I am glad I did.
About two hours before we reached Nasik, we got stuck in this little town. Traffic was not moving; my ever calm driver was starting to bristle. It was hot, humid, windless, but I was completely enamored with my surroundings. India is an insane mix of crazy and peaceful and in the mist of this craziness all I can feel is calm. Things that would set me off into tornado of frustration at home; here just make me smile. I love the constant noise, smells, movements, the sound of people speaking, yelling, singing, dancing. I love the way people drive here. Four people sitting on one motorcycle, the women in saris sitting sidesaddle.
Do you know what side of the road people drive on in India? Any side that will get them to their destination faster. This includes driving on sidewalks, through yards and toward oncoming cars. It is all done calmly and efficiently as if everyone here is a professional stunt car driver.
After 5 hours of driving, my driver informs me that we are not going to the hotel, but we are going for a tour of the temples now. I haven’t eating since 6:00am, I need a bathroom break and a glass of water might be nice, but I acquiesce. He hires a rickshaw (my first ride in a rickshaw) and tour guide who tells us to leave our shoes in the car. We will have to be barefoot to go into the temples. The stone is comfortable under the feet and I forgot my hunger as we walked along the river to watch people bathe, pray, and send flower offerings down the river.
There was a particularly beautiful temple made from black stone. We had to crawl into a very small, very dark cave-like tunnel to view the place where the god Ram kept his wife Sita for two years. Hundreds of people were streaming through here.
After visiting the temples we arrive at the hotel. My driver informs me that he is going to sleep in his car.
What? What do you mean you are sleeping in your car?
My wife packed me dinner, I’ll be fine.
I didn’t think to ask what he was going to do when we got to Nasik. Apparently sleeping in one’s car is a common practice. But I didn’t want him to sleep in the car so I asked the hotel manager if there was another room available…nope…but he can sleep in one of the lobby areas…What? Yes, we allow people to sleep in the lobby. As it turns out, there were at least a ½ dozen people sleeping in various areas of the hotel.
I go up to my semi-deluxe room. Hmmm, it was a room, the word deluxe wouldn’t have been in my description, but I’m going with the flow. I pull the blanket down….stained sheets, gray with age. I lift the pillow, it smells of 100 previous visitors. I put it back down. A fly lands on the floor, I swat it and leave it there. I grab a book and leave the room. Side note: When I came back to the room ants had taken most of the fly away…shudder.
I am on my way into the night to find a place to eat.
I hear Vikram behind me. “Where are you going?”
I’m going to find a place to eat.
No, No, I will find a place.
So we go to a place the size of a hallway with stone benches. The menus are in Marathi and they bring me the same food my cook has been making me for the last two weeks…sigh…
After dinner I tell Vikram that I NEED dessert. So he takes me to a place across the street with lots of desserts in the window. I point to something that looks interesting and also order a sweet lassi. I have been enjoying the frothy, thickness of this drink in India.
The dessert tastes like a donut dipped in sugar water and the lassi was very good, however, I knew I might be in for some gastrointestinal distress when I saw them take the lassi from a large unrefrigerated vat on the counter. It was uncovered, and warm….
Twenty minutes later my colon was completely evacuated, and I curled up into a ball on top of the blankets and went to sleep.
The next morning I got up and stood on my balcony looking at the still quiet street. There was a lone bull wandering the street and rickshaw driver outside who looked up and said good morning.
I went outside and the rickshaw driver asked if I needed a ride and I told him I was going to walk. He looked amazed. Walk? That’s very good! He said.
I had my gps in hand so I could wander the streets without too much worry and set off to see the temples and ghats in the early morning quiet. I sat, relaxed, and watched people go about their business. I went into a temple I hadn’t seen the day before. I got to participate in a ceremony pouring water on, I think, a Shiva statue.
I made my way back to the hotel and Vikram wanted to know how I was able to find my way around. (The map provided in the Lonely Planet Guide is scant and not helpful in maneuvering your way around the area). I showed him my gps – it amused him.
Vikram took me to one of the holiest temples in India. The Trimbakeshwar temple. The lines were longer than Disney’s during peak season. It took over an hour to get through the line into the temple. Once you’re inside, the police are pushing you to get you to move along. Really!! I wait more than an hour in line and your pushing me out the door before I can even absorb the ceremonies going on inside the temple?!! Vikram said that’s common in the more crowded temples…
It was another amazing adventure and I’m very thankful I got to experience it!