I began the day with a wake up call or rather knock on the door from one of the Sikh staff to get breakfast. After getting all checked out, I had another one of the Sikh’s delicious breakfasts free of charge (donation based of course) with their unlimited refills so that anyone could eat to their heart or stomach’s content. Fully fed I took the wrong way out of town and had to do some extra walking. Along the way I kept asking when the next bus or share taxi would leave to Badrinath so that I could visit one of the four main char dam Hindu pilgrimage sites which sits in a cradle of peaks. Everyone gave me different response whether it was a different time or the fact that buses or share taxis didn’t head in that direction. The only thing that everyone could agree on was the fact that I should head to the bus/taxi stand which conveniently sat on the opposite end of town where I should have been all along. The way to Badrinath was looking less promising but I continued to wait for literally hours. I spent the time chatting with the rare somewhat English speaking Indian around who likely wanted some practice with the language. After awhile I had gotten fed up with waiting for a ride that may very well never come. I saw many buses passing through to Badrinath but these were all pre-booked for the pilgrims. I decided once again to alter my plans and head back to Joshimath and see if I could reach Chopta which supposedly was the doorstep to a great day trek up past a Shiva temple and onwards to a peak looking beyond to Nanda Devi, the second tallest mountain in India, Kedarnath group, and others. After some more waiting since time is nonexistent in India (and not in the way you would like it to be), the share ride to Joshimath finally departed with me stuffed into the back. Apparently with transportation vehicles in India, there is no such thing as maximum capacity; if there is a rupee to be made, the driver will find some space (I am probably being overly critical but truth can be found not too far away and not far enough from the nearest neighboring passenger that is beyond shoulder to shoulder bordering on one’s lap). Anyways (I can’t help myself from a good rant) I got to Joshimath where my nearby passenger helped me find the next lift to Chamoli. This share jeep was as crowded as I have experienced with a grand total of fifteen passengers including myself and then the driver of course who was crammed far right with only access to half the wheel. One Indian opposite me who I later found was drunk in this time at midday was extremely curious of me trying to communicate with no English and much prodding and touching my hands. Eventually I held up my finger (not the middle one) to tell him to hush it. In Chamoli I quickly found the next ride which was a public bus to what I thought conveniently would be Chopta, my awaited destination. The bus stopped in some random town with much fervor. I was led to the bus stand union office by the bus ticket man where I found out there was no further transport to Chopta today and not until 12:30 the next day would I have a chance to reach there. Upon further bewildered questioning I found out the only bus that returned to Chamoli and onwards from Chopta at 9 in the morning. The way I pegged it in my guesstimation I would stick there for an extra day easy. Even though I really wanted to do this trek since I was in the area and I already spent so much time to get up here I had gotten fed up with the inconsistent unavailable transportation times up here. The long uncomfortable journeys with little reward since the crammed transport offered only craned and crooked neck views were wearing on me and I simply just wanted to get moving back to Delhi and onwards to Nepal, the reason I had extended my travels. Some taxi men said that they could take me to Chopta but for 2000 and then 1500 rupees. I know it isn’t much in U.S. dollars comparison but in India it was too much for me to rent my own taxi. All in all I grew content with my decision to return to Chamoli on the bus I had come here from and get moving on back to Haridwar. The bus took awhile to get moving to load up all of its passengers but I was ready to get out of here no matter the delay. We passed by some awe-inspiring, unspeakable scenery with steeply inclined terraced fields twirling around the deeply carved valley that would make Sapa a joke. I was beginning to regret my decision upon seeing these views. I have a tough time staying content with choices such as these but there will always been in life stones left unturned and I need to find it within myself to acknowledge that I won’t see everything and gain solace in what I am enjoying in that moment more than all the others that could or could not be happening if I had chosen another path. In a book by Rolf Potts that is a guide to vagabonding, an inspiring read, he mentions early on ‘the vivid joys of uncertainty’. I felt like I was avoiding this by not going to Chopta and not living up to whatever standards I have now created for myself while on the road. Towards the end the bus quickly dumped all of its passengers off at their chosen depots with only the driver, the ticket man, myself, and a random left over. We turned into some bus stand in a town with little to no life. I was confused. Where was I? Are we continuing onwards or did I make a fateful miscalculation? At first they were fixing a rear tire which I thought was the reason for our stoppage but eventually I found out this was the last stop and no other transport would be passing through. Apparently I took the bus in the wrong direction and was now closer to Chopta, which would have been fine well and good but apparently for regular transport times (relatively) this was as far as it went. I was now stuck in a town with no restaurants nor continuous dhabas and only a single guesthouse. The next bus would be leaving here at five in the morning so I had roughly twelve hours to kill. Here it was, ‘vivid joys of uncertainty’ staring at me in the face and all I wanted to do was raise a two gun salute by way of my middle fingers at this predicament. Another day, another challenge with another way for me to grow stronger. I don’t know why this had happened or why I had been out here but this is another step in my journey and I need to find some positive outlook from this to keep my sanity. I was led by a limited English speaking local to the guesthouse where I was shown to a room by a village boy. The room was a total shit hole as likely the worst room I have seen while in India. Since no right minded person would ever stop here for the night, it was dreary, aged with visible gigantic spiders spreading themselves over the wall adjacent to the head of the bed in this boxed in room devoid of a bathroom and no electricity. The English speaking guy said that electricity would be turned on later at some undetermined time but downstairs in the ‘lobby’/’reception’ a light bulb and television were on. I decided I should pay no more than 150 rupees which amounts to $2.50 but the guy wanted 250 rupees likely do to the fact that this place was the only show in town. I explained to him it wasn’t worth that much and he can’t be taking advantage of me as a ‘white face’ but he wouldn’t budge. Out of stubbornness I told him I will sleep on his doorstep out of principle alone. Principles like this may bite me in the ass in the future but I like to stick to my guns. I was pissed off and enraged from getting stuck here so I was acting like a man at war fighting whatever stood in my way. So I pulled up a chair and sat my sweet ass down to catch up on some writing. Surprisingly a guy that worked in Delhi passed through with his friend who I didn’t know until later was the owner of the shop and guesthouse and so we had a chat while sipping some green tea that the owner freshly prepared from his nearby potted garden of herbs. I was talking friendly with them using my infectious charm. I have found that I love talking with strangers and stirring the pot of conversation. I am learning a lot about how to deal with people and how to perhaps bend their wills in my favor if the situation necessitates it but in general I just like engaging others and trying to hear their opinions and maybe I might learn a thing or two in the process. After that when the two of them left it was just a matter of getting myself to five in the morning while I eyed the concrete bench nearby that I figured would make a decent enough bed for me for the night. Yes I was ready and willing to sleep on concrete over a matter of 100 rupees ($1.50). After some time passed the two returned and the matter of where I was sleeping the night got brought up immediately. The man from Delhi said that the two of them had a chat and he convinced him not too difficultly since I think I won the owner over anyways by my own right that he should help me out and let me stay the night at my price. He again asked what I was able to pay. I wasn’t going to say this but sure I can pay more but 150 rupees was the bottom line fair price that any shrewd person could get and so it was done. Without me knowing I had been chatting to the two guys who gave me my accommodation for the night. Again we talked for awhile longer sipping some more free delicious tea before I dropped off my luggage into the room and got some food at the dhaba nearby. I had an unlimited thali platter of chapatis, potato sabzi, and dal. I cut it short when I was satisfied but for the same 70 rupees (a shade over a dollar – I can’t say buck because Indians use buck as their slang for a rupee) I could have continued eating until I was ready to burst. The cook and I as well as another kitchen hand had a limited chat due to the language barrier about my travels in the Uttarakhand state. I showed them pictures of The Valley of Flowers and Hem Kund and when they saw The Valley they said it reminded them of Chopta and the views from above. They gushed about the scenery around Chopta and each remark made me feel sick that I was skipping it and brought further doubt to my world. They even mentioned the time that the bus would be leaving tomorrow as I already had known. Noticing my confusion and state of flux the cook said that I should go to Rishikesh as I had already planned. I am likely filling in many gaps in what he was trying to say but it seemed like he wanted to tell me that the worry, doubt, and headache is not worth the alternative route. Hearing this wisdom from a place and person I would never have expected sat right with me. I needed it in that moment. I guess I was wrong. ‘Vivid joys of uncertainty’ are the best. The uncertainty at times may weigh you down with stress and anxiety but once past it the fruits of those moments will bloom. I had my sleep with an all too early wake up call waiting for me as well as a long journey on the road. I may have not seen or done anything anyone would have heard but it was a rewarding day in a way that I had not expected nor could have appreciated until the day was all accounted for.
Expecting the Unexpected in India Day 267: ‘Vivid Joys of Uncertainty’ My Ass