Bike Camping in Ontario

Another story from 2015, seems like forever ago:

Day one of camping and it’s a soft start.  We got a drive to Fenelon Falls and a stay in Moonrakers intending on leaving the next day, me for two weeks and Shane for one.  But the night brings Cards of Humanity and I win and I get drunk on beer and tequila shots.  We don’t feel like riding the next day until it’s too late to leave.  Before drinking games we sat in a semi-circle on the dock across the lane, down some stairs it protrudes into Cameron Lake.  A light breeze and clearing sky it goes from gray to blue before our eyes.  The wind makes small ripples all around us and the extra person has to sit facing the crowd.  So not thinking of myself I suggest musical chairs and whoever is in the hot seat has to tell a story.  Like an out of body trip I get a strong feeling that we are in a matrix surrounded by green screen, anything is possible, only limited by thoughts and ideas. Our world isolated from nature becomes more fake by the day.  The rocks around the house look fake, the trees are all pristine in place, everything perfectly packaged.  There’s me, Orla, Shane, Georgia and Fenton all connecting minds separated by bodies moving from identical chairs, all around just water and blue skies.  Patterns on the lake make me think about how perfect nature’s imperfections are.

We hit the road the next day with Tina’s pie in zip lock bags.  Biked to Elliot Falls and set up camp in the woods under three fallen trees.  We went out for lunch and took naps in our tents.  I walked around until it rained, after a small dinner we made a fire and stayed by it in the light rain and played gin rummy until we fell asleep.  After coffee in the morning we packed up and bought the rest of the food we’d need for the next two weeks.  We headed up highway 35 and stopped to look at the map a lot.  We found Deep Bay Rd. eventually after holding the white line for maybe 50 km. with no shoulder.  On Deep Bay we were alone and it was woods and lakes all around us.  No cars.  Just hills and open road.  The sky was threatening rain and scheduled for 3 p.m. It came right on time as we descended a big hill wrapping the top of Gull Lake. Blue sky on one side and heavy rain clouds on the other with a wind that quickly pushed the doom over us.

Now it’s Wednesday and we’ve camped two nights so far.  Now at our second location, in the Kawartha highlands.  Last night I was terrified by all the new sounds in the dark, paralyzed in total paranoia, every rain drop spiked my blood pressure.  I didn’t move a muscle not even my eyes for an hour just stared at the ceiling of my tent.  Adjusting my eyes to see the stars.  I made up a story in my head that involved some scary sounds we heard earlier and bloody murder, since we were so far away from anyone else my mind wandered.  I tried my meditation technique and went outside to brush my teeth and every star in the sky was shining.  I dreamt that night of shooting stars.  At 8 a.m. I wake and do standing yoga poses, meditate for not long enough then get the food down from the tree, eat blueberries, a granola bar, some quinoa, chips and an apple with peanut butter.  Then make coffee with my portable stove top.  It rains a bit more then gets sunny.  I think we’ll have to stay here another night.  I need to move my tent off the hill and away from the trees and stop worrying.  Two turkey vultures just walked past and gave me a mini heart attack.  It’s clouding over again.  I clean my teeth of apple peels with my knife, brew coffee and wait for Shane to wake up.  It’s finally raw nature and all green around us.  No toilets no rules no shaving no time just reflections in the water to think about.

That day we rode to Minden along Deep Bay.  It was hilly and I was tired.  We got to a café with Wi-Fi after maybe 30 minutes of hard riding.  I drank two bottles of water and a large coffee and banana bread.  We shopped for books and got Kawartha’s ice cream then burgers and missed our turn to Beer Lake and ended up circling Bobs Lake and hitting Devils Lake on the way to the site, we swam and had a beer on the dock. The water was warm and still with some reeds and lily pads.  It was like walking on a full head of hair if you stood up on the weeds.  We sat and dried off then biked back to make a fire and a fire pit and then dinner and cards.  I lay on my back on the rock shield of Canada and watch the sky as meteoroids fly by.  We saw over six of them shoot out of nowhere and disappear just as fast.  Shane saw one span over the entire view.  I could see them in my peripheral if I tilted my head back and laying down I saw two in a row.  I woke and ate early and hours before Shane woke I went off on my own and walked down a valley and back up to find an oasis of swamp.  I sat by a frog and sharpened a stick.  I left for the camp but didn’t make it back the way I came.  I crossed another valley and didn’t know where it went. I kept stomping through the woods looking for something recognizable but there was nothing.  I got hot and scared, then I found a trail and wound my way back.  When I was safe back on the rock I took a self-portrait with my 35mm film camera.

We spent the day swimming and laying on the rocks.  We walked back for lunch and went straight back to the water.  Shane made a gift out of birch bark and I watched the fisherman.  When it was getting late we came back and made a fire.  Made KD and played cards with whiskey.  Then a noise in the woods set us up to put the food back in the tree and pee out the fire.  While I was peeing under the stars there was a flash and Shane joked it was a camera.  I turned to see it flash again and again. No thunder no clouds but through the trees the sky was lighting up and getting more frequent and closer.  We got into our tents and it was a constant daylight flash after the next.  Just lightening then the heavy rain.  All night it rained with my tent lighting up every two seconds.  We slept in the next day and I dreamed of letting go and galaxy eyes.  Then coffee and cereal and a trip to the woods before a long ride down Bobcaygen Road. We rode all the way to Canarvon where we got breakfast at the Mill Pond restaurant.  Best bacon and eggs, toast, re-fried beans, sausage and home fries I’ve ever had.  We toured around a bit and went down highway 118 back to Minden.  Heading down Bobcaygen in the pouring rain.  It is a two way road with no lines and 100’s of blind hills and corners.  It went on for about 15 kms and straight through forest and the rock shield of upper Canada. Very few cars and incredible speeds going downhill and grinding uphill’s.  We spent that night hiding from mosquitos talking from our tents, watching the stars, and listening to wolves howl.  Our last day together was by the lake recovering.  After a week alone together in the woods we were talking our own language, and had nicknames, strange eating habits, no clocks or schedules.  By the time he left I was called Devils Crow and he was Gooseman.  Shane left the next morning and I was alone, 200 km north of Toronto.  I soon came to a cross road and still undecided whether I wanted to go home or go on, I headed north into the unknown.

I hit highway 21 after stocking up on water and essentials like peanut butter and bread.  I stopped and studied the map and weather forecast and decided on Halliburton, liking the name of a lake called Kennisis Lake, which had a road around it called Watts which is a family name.  I stopped and had a picnic and put my feet in Head Lake.  I was trying to get to Kennisis that day but the hills were too much.  A sign said 15 km to Fort Irwin and then the next sign said 11 km and I was already tired in the August sun.  So I turned on Indian Point road to try Drag Lake.  It was an incredible road, ups and downs and hairpin turns. I went to the end of it, probably 5km and went down one drive way called Murrays and knocked on the door after walking to the end of the dock for water.  I considered squatting there for the night but knew it was not safe.  I climbed back up the hills I had descended and was getting desperate.  It was nearing 6 p.m. and getting dark in the woods.  The bugs were already bad, horse flies were following me and I was retracing my steps when I saw a lone white poodle, then a little further I saw a man in the road.  He looked old and maybe lost.  As I approached he said it was lots easier going down and I said yes, do you know anywhere I can put a tent for the night?  He said well you can use my lawn if you help me move this outhouse.  I met his wife Kathy and Peter showed me to the A frame cabin where I could sleep.  I helped to load a bee infested outhouse onto a truck and after deciding these were friendly people we went swimming together.  He was naked and floating on a pool noodle.  I went and put on my bathing suit and jumped in after him.  It was a beautiful night on a quiet lake and after a dip they served me dinner and we chatted until 9.  I brushed my teeth and went out to my cabin and climbed into my bunk bed for the night with promise of coffee and breakfast at 8.

I have the rest of the week to make it home.  I woke up early and packed and went to the dock to photograph the fog over the lake as the sun was rising.  I came to Peter’s door as the coffee was brewing and grabbed a mug and talked.  He served breakfast of omelette and toast.  We talked until 9 about their charity in Kenya called the Ronnie Fund, where they support a small town.  I got on my bike after exchanging phone numbers and took off down Indian Point Rd.  I flew down some hills, and climbed back up for sometimes 10 minutes at a time.  When I made it to Fort Irwin I was supposed to go left but missed the sign.  I went straight and rode along another lake.  When I saw a small beach just big enough to stand on I jumped in the water and swam.  I took out the map and decided to keep going anyway, maybe Percey Lake would be good enough.  I came across a road cyclist mounting his bike and he waved me down.  We exchanged words and he asked if he could ride with me.  He was kitted out in carbon fiber everything, I said yes and assured him I wasn’t trying to get to Algonquin from here.  We got a good pace going as he noted all my gear. (I had front and rear panniers full plus a tent and sleeping bag, extra shoes, two water bottle holders, a map, and was riding in cycling shorts with no helmet or shirt)  He said hello to the locals as we climbed the hills together.  He was very old, maybe in his late 70’s but very fit.  We climbed to the end of the road and were both exhausted by the end of it.  On the way back he offered me to stop in for a sandwich and a swim.  I met his twin sister and her friend.  We swam and he did laps, I floated and dried off on the dock as he made lunch which included a tuna sandwich, chips and a beer.  We studied the map and told stories of travels.  I set off for Kennisis Lake with his number in case of emergencies.  It was 30 degrees and I didn’t even make it to Eagle Lake when through the trees I could see a lake with enough room for a camp site.  I cleared a patch and pitched my tent, swam and hung my food in a tree.

I went skinny dipping when I got hot, was bare foot when off the bike, wearing only my Tilly hat.  I’m literally watching the leaves turn from green to red as I travel along the shield.  I got to bed after wading into the water to watch the sun set.  Back on the road I finally hit Kennisis Lake road and after about 50 km in the burning sun I pull over to swim once more.  I lay down and close my eyes until it clouds over.  After biking to the end of the road which circles the lake I turn around because I couldn’t find anywhere to set up camp.  On the way back I pass a bridge and see a gap into the woods, I bike right into it as far as I could.  Then walk into the woods for a better look.  It’s all tall pines by a little lake.  I pitch my tent as it starts to thunder.  Everything is inside just as it starts to rain.  It turns out to be a good spot, I’m in the pines with a clearing behind me for drying my clothes and 40 feet from my own lake, it is a little bubble connected to Kennisis.  My stuff is hanging in a tree to keep bears from coming to my tent and I’m invisible from the road.  I’ve got a well paved winding road all around the lake and a restaurant and corner store 30 minute bike ride away.  I can even charge my phone in a utility box hanging on a telephone pole I found 20 minutes down the road, even though it was full of wasps.  The first night I dip into my freeze dried chicken and rice.  For breakfast I had two coffees, cereal and almonds.  The sunset last night was beautiful, especially after pizza, beer and ice cream from up the road.  The next day I picked wild raspberries and looked at trees and walked around my yard.  As I pulled out my knife to carve my initials into a dead birch tree I looked up as it clicked open to see a deer look up from its munching.  I waved hello and stared at it until it continued on its way.  It looked like a cross between a kangaroo and a horse; I could see its ribs.  I’m getting really good at snatching skeeters out of the air with one hand.  I continued picking berries and enjoying the warm air.  Just as the sun was going down I walked to the pole and left my phone charging and came back to put my feet in the water until the bugs drove me away.  It was a clear night and I was going to go back to the utility pole but decided to read and sleep instead.  The wasps would keep it safe.  As I was reading I heard a thump at my tent and shown a light outside to see nothing. I looked closer and there was a lumpy toad there eating ants.  He let me photograph him for some time, even touch him.  I woke at 6:30 that morning to retrieve my phone, it was off and I was walking back when I looked up and was face to face with another deer, or maybe the same one.  It ran away before I could turn my phone back on.

I took my coffee to a different rock that morning.  Ate some cereal, my back was stiff from straining up the hills and I was considering leaving the next day.  I had Shane’s family cottage as my next stop, about 127 km away.  The only reason I was going to leave early was because food was running low and running out of paper to write on.  I’d like some beer and a chair too.  Maybe a mirror to shave.  It rains from 8 am to 3 that day, so I put on my rain coat, leave my shoes behind and go out with my camera to document all the little things I’d miss once I was gone.  As I was wading through the shallow water, crouching in the rain to take pictures of the tree roots in the water, the water line on the rocks, all the different patterns in the sandstone, granite and slate.  I looked up the hill behind my tent and saw two men standing there in sweaters and ball caps.  I look away and keep walking then look back and they are gone.  They definitely saw my tent and probably saw me.  Later in my tent the sound of random falling raindrops from the trees on my tarp pulled tight over my tent is like knocking on my door.  Each thud alerts me that I’m not alone anymore.  And makes me think someone is ringing my doorbell. I think of packing up and leaving.  My resolution from this trip is not to be surprised.  That was a major lesson I learned that day and it stays with me.  That day I sat and watched a slug but it didn’t do much, then a caterpillar as it ambled slowly straight into the water, I eventually intervened.  The next morning I packed before coffee, I left my cereal for the chipmunk and called the realtor who had a sign on the property I stayed on.  She said it was $269,000 for two acres.  The rest of the trip was a straight shot down highways and side roads towards Fenelon.  I stopped for the same bacon and eggs at the Mill Pond, bought some souvenirs, talked to some locals about my bike.  The trip back took about eight hours of biking, when I made it to the cottage I had a drink with Shane’s dad, John, then a swim and a lay down and dinner.  As I sat back on the same dock I left two weeks earlier, reflecting on my trip, watching the water bugs as they skimmed the surface, dragon flies circling the lake scooping them up.  Then a fish jumped out of the water and ate the dragon fly

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Costa Rica

*While I’m writing about the end of my travels, and what I’ve been doing since, here is a story I wrote about a vacation to Costa Rica in 2015:

My vacation to Costa Rica started when my best friend left for Bangkok.  I was going to meet him there and travel with him.  But once I had a chance to buy a plane ticket they doubled in price.  Wanting to go somewhere still, and being alone, it was now up to me to find a place.  I knew it would have to be south, and green, warm, with an ocean to play in.   The tickets to CR were affordable and the lodging there was also at the level of austerity I was looking for.

My budget was not very much, with one pay check saved I went to sleep Friday night in Toronto and the next night I was sleeping in a hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Two weeks to explore, get a tan and make it back for my flight home.  In between I really didn’t have any plans.  I had a four hour bus ride to Cahuita and a cabina waiting there for me, but other than that I felt free to walk slow, look up, get lost, and explore.

My phone didn’t update the time change when I arrived and I didn’t notice until the next morning.  I woke up at what I thought was 7 a.m. but really it was 5, to walk to a park with my camera, and get coffee and check out an enormous grave yard nearby.  I left my hostel, and it was still dark.  I was confused with the whereabouts of the sun.  Maybe it was hiding behind the mountains to the south of the city. I walked for hours and saw the sun rise. I bought a coffee from a soda, which is any local restaurant.  Ordered it to go and 10 minutes later there was a brown paper bag with a coffee inside with a spoon and cream and sugar.  I took out my cup and paid 500 colons (about one American dollar) and continued on towards the mountains.

Anywhere you point your camera in central America makes for a good picture, especially during sunrise, which is around 5:30, and sun set which is 12 hours later.

After experiencing the wilderness of San Jose and the extensive grave yard, with graves not buried but in tombs, I packed up my room and headed for the bus station.  My room didn’t take long to clean up; just one small back pack, and my camera bag.  Two weeks later in the same room on my way home, I’d leave with even less because I ended up trading my sweater, pants, rain jacket and books for help and knowledge in Cahuita.  None of those things were any use to me,  without them my bag was all the more lighter.

Downtown San Jose was kind of a shock, even on Sunday morning. The streets are narrow, dirty, full of food, garbage, stray animals, sleeping people, lots of motor bikes, delivery trucks, cheap knock offs of everything, and fresh food being displayed all over for locals to come and enjoy.  Every street has a deep open gutter along both sides instead of drains or man holes, people stop at stop signs if they feel like it, I was asked for money several times, and told to be careful if I was going to walk and not take a cab.  My cab ride from the airport to the center of San Jose was a great start. I agreed that although it is a huge rip off to take a cab, it was safer, and my driver was very helpful.  He brought me to a place near the bus station as I had asked, but at the hotel they couldn’t get the cash register to work and after maybe 20 tries I told them I’d find some cash. So I walked out and decided to look around first, the cab was still outside and he saw me leave which was suspicious.  I turned a corner and went down a one way street, he followed, going the wrong way and pulled over with the window down to ask what was wrong.  A quick explanation and he said get back in, I told him that his $30 ride there was all I had, later I would find out that the city bus goes straight to the airport for 250 colons.  He said it didn’t matter and drove me around until we found a nice hostel and he waited out front until he got the o.k. to leave having acquired a room.  What a great way to start my trip, I had been reading about serendipity and synchronicity and keeping notes on good things that happen over my travels, and he kicked it off right.  And to add to that on my way home he was at the airport and we chatted about my trip and he wished me luck, shook my hand and said good bye.

At the bus stop I bought my ticket to Cahuita, bought a fruit smoothie and a pastry and waited in the sun for my bus.  It was about 30 degrees and for some reason people didn’t feel like opening their windows even though there was obviously no air conditioning on the bus. We drove out of the city and it got cooler as we ascended the mountains, everything turned green, and moist and fresh.  The air transformed from smog to mountain dew. The view on both sides was enormous trees, water falls, deep canyons, mountain tops and sharp drops down into oblivion right outside my window.  Squeezed into my seat without much room for my arms since the person next to me maybe needed two seats for her size.  At least I wasn’t one of the several people who were sold tickets but did not get a seat for the four hour hot and sweaty trip.

We stopped once in Limon, and that was my first look at the local cuisine. Realizing it might be a bit of a challenge to remain vegetarian I was determined to succeed.  I bought a bottle of water and ate some of the nuts from Toronto. Another hour or so on the highway and we pulled down a dirt road past houses on stilts, open concept homes surrounded by gates, with no glass in their windows, rows and rows of banana fields, palm trees, and green everywhere.  We drove a little closer to the ocean and stopped in a pharmacy parking lot, I thought everyone was getting out but it was just me and another couple.  I walked to the end of the parking lot and sat back down and waited for a drive to my reserved cabina. It never came.  I found my place on a map, bought a bag of chips and some more water and walked a small section of paved road to the end of town and turned left onto a dusty, dirt and rock road along the beach.  The road splits a path between palm trees and ocean on one side and deep jungle on the other.  I walked and walked and walked.  And finally checked into my cabina, one room, a bed, desk, fan, lamp, and shelf with hooks. Hammock on the outside, and a bathroom a few steps away.  And if there weren’t so many trees and plants and flowers I could see the Caribbean Sea.

I dropped my stuff and walked straight into the crystal clear, bath tub temperature water.  Amazed to see that the beach was empty of people, no debris, no junk or coral, no sea weed just clean clear water.

The cash situation there was a little weird, they had one ATM and it was attached to the bank, it only gave out $100 American at a time and increments of 2,000 colons. Both are kind of useless there, a coffee is 500 colons and no one wants to make change for either currency.  I didn’t pay for my room until the day I left, only a few days later, which is in another part of the story.  I had to ride my bike to the bank every day and take out $100 at a time, which came with a fee of around $10 from my bank, and the exchange rate totaling somewhere around $140 each time I used the machine.  After two days of doing this I was putting my cash in my hat where I kept my room key and didn’t take my card from the ATM fast enough and it was sucked back in.  Since it was after 5 I knocked on the door and a man with a gun came to the window and told me I’d have to come back in the morning.  They open “around” 9 a.m. That didn’t really bother me, the card would be safe there for the night and I had my cash.  The next morning I got up with the sun, went to the beach, stretched, or did “yoga” basically alone. There was a regular crew of joggers who would pass by while I was in tree pose, and I’d always say hi, even later when I’d see them in town.  The sun would come up over a bed of clouds that was constantly on the horizon turning the sky a myriad of reds and oranges.  After breakfast, banana pancakes, fresh fruit, and lots of coffee, I got on my rental bike. A laid back beach cruiser with a back pedal brake. Biked along the bumpy dusty, already hot road to town, which was about two km away along the beach.  There was a line outside the bank, it was 9 a.m. I lined up with everyone and tried to stay out of the direct sunlight.  Soon the door opened and a couple of guys with guns let people in one at a time.  When it was my turn they asked what I needed and I told them, he asked me to take a number and sit down, my first and last experience with air conditioning and it was miraculous.  I didn’t wait long before my number was called, I sat down, and explained best I could, the man left his little glass box and came back with my card a few minutes later.  He set it down in front of me on the other side of his glass shield and asked if it was mine.  Then asked for identification, I came prepared with my passport.  Then he left again.  Came back with a big sheet of paper and started filling it out.  Then he messed up one of the columns so he left again.  When he came back he very slowly filled out a new form.  Then he left.  My passport and debit card staring me in the face.  I was enjoying the AC too much to care.  He came back and got me to sign the paper, then he left and when he came back he slid my stuff through a hole and said good bye.

After a couple days in my original cabina, the noise from the bar down the road was too much.  They had base music playing until after midnight, and since it got dark so early and the road didn’t have any lights,  I was inside or in my hammock reading or listening to podcasts and could not get a moment of silence.  My fan barely kept me cool, the WiFi came and went on a whim, and someone moved in above and beside me, rooms which were previously empty. I was no longer alone on a deserted island, I was just another cheapo traveler.  On day two, a nice sunny day, after my hair cut at the bus station, grocery shopping for water, chips, local fruit, bread and peanut butter, I went to the beach for a swim and to lay on the sand.  Again I was basically alone, except for a few locals on daily walks.  No sunscreen, no hat, and since the weather forecast was unpredictable I decided to have my day on the beach.  I floated in the water, jumped around, sat on the bottom of the ocean, let the wave’s crash against me and lay under an almond tree on the beach.  After a couple hours I decided to move on, not really understanding what I had done to myself or how close that part of the world is to the sun.  The walk back to my area was under one minute, I took an outdoor shower to clean off, a couple people stared but that was normal.  Upon entering my room my skin dried and became un-ignorably painful.  I checked the mirror and my bright red shorts matched my bright red face, shoulders, chest, stomach, legs and feet.  Leaving the skin under my shorts a pale, Toronto winter, never-seen-the-light of-day-white.  Quite the contrast, I wanted to have a tan, to not stand out as the whitest man on the Caribbean, but that kind of backfired and now I was the red guy who was obviously in pain.  I moisturized as much as I could, they don’t seem to sell moisturizer there.  I used an entire little travel bottle, tried to lie down but could not.  I sat by my fan and tried to read.  Desperate, dying, horrified at what I had done so early into my trip, and now I didn’t know if I was ever going to see the sun again, ever wear a backpack again, ever lay down again.  I jumped on my bike, hat on, an open shirt stretched across my shoulders with a great struggle, barefoot, and took off down the road in search of a breeze, some shade, maybe even some aloe vera or help.  I took a dip in the ocean to cool off and continued on.  Soon my rusty rental bike decided to give up on me, the steer tube seized and I no longer had any say in which direction the bike would go.  Embarrassed enough already, sweating, sun burned, lost, falling off my bike, stupid tourist, people would say hola and continue on their way, as I pleaded in my head for help.  I walked the bike a distance, hit it with a rock, dropped it a couple times and got it to ride straight for another little bit.  Eventually I found a small path into the jungle, ditched the bike and started walking. I passed old house foundations, pineapple trees, saw a blue frog, and soon found a giant tree giving adequate shade.  Some of the trees there are so big and old they have other trees growing on them, they are covered in vines, buttress roots, animals, nests, birds, monkeys, sloths, real living things standing in the heat.  I sat quietly with my eyes open, just observing my breath, which is how I’ve been taught to meditate, sitting perfectly still, cross legged, until I cooled off.  It didn’t take long before a butterfly landed on a nearby log.  Then a multicolored bird on a branch in front of me. Then a lizard walked past.  As I stared into an open space it became clear I was looking at a massive spider web, pretty soon the ants started to bite, and God knows what else was nipping at my bare, sensitive skin.  So as I had felt earlier and often while swimming in the current, I was being kicked out of nature, time for me to move on.  The sun was about to come down and I really didn’t know which way I had come.  Wandering, I came back to my bike, rode it until it broke down and walked the rest of the way.  I passed homes without doors, guarded only by a couple mean looking dogs.  Laundry drying on lines, dirt floors, wells, no electricity for some people, they would sit by the front of the house catching the last of the light and play cards until dark.  I did not feel very welcome there either, walked past until I saw a medicinal plant sign, and heard reggae coming from a property.  I took my chances and went inside.  There was a water sprinkler I immediately walked into for relief.  Everything was blooming, perfumed, beautifully green and I immediately felt better.  There was an aloe vera stem just sitting there so I grabbed it and rubbed the cool green slime all over me.  Then I heard someone coming up the path with a wheelbarrow.  Fernando introduced himself, to my delight in perfect English, and reassured me that he could help with my burn.  Holy sweet Jesus what a beautiful thing to hear.

Journal Entry: “I met Fernando by chance while biking on a single lane road seemingly endless when you’re lost and at the time dying of a sun burn from the CR Pura Vida.  A nice day at the beach turned into what I thought could be a medical emergency.  After trying stuff from the pharmacia I went on a bike ride to be in the shade and get away from the town.  I rode past a Medicinal Plants sign and wow I was intrigued wondering if there could be a cure for my burning red skin.  I was too embarrassed to just charge in there so I rode on until my bike broke and I walked back a bit and ventured inside toward the reggae music.  I saw gardens with Spanish signs telling what each thing is, a greenhouse, a yoga center with calming vibes.  It was a labyrinth of green, I felt better already but where is everyone?  I saw a man whistling while he worked in the garden and he introduced himself with a big smile and friendly handshake.  I showed him my predicament and he assured me he could help.  I was ecstatic!  He gave me a glass of water and gave me the tour.”

Fernando showed me around his garden, his library, tea room, yoga space, sauna, his own chocolate making operation, and pointed out some cactus that I could come back for tomorrow after spending the night applying the aloe he gave me to my skin.  We biked back to town together and ran into Anna from Salt Lake City, Utah, who was staying with him.  He biked ahead to keep an appointment and Anna and I talked about our travels.  She is an Uber driver and sells shoes on EBay that she gets from the Mormon Church.  Once we met back up with Fernando we came across a caterpillar, big fuzzy guy crossing the road and Anna stopped and got very close and pointed him out. Fernando took one look and cautioned her not to touch it since it would paralyze her.  He is a photo guide and snorkeling instructor, and was able to identify all the trees, plants, animals, (even the elusive sloth), insects, just about anything that is in Costa Rica he knows about.  He was born and raised in that small town and growing up he taught himself English, German, and Italian and learned French while living in Montreal. He is always active in the community and has families visit his property with a focus on educating kids on the importance of protecting the environment.  The importance of plants, and plant medicine. He learned that kids can transfer those lessons to their parents and family better than anyone else.  He quickly became the center of my trip and someone I still e-mail with and look up to very much.

The next day I could not do my usual stretching on the beach, although I tried, it was too painful.  So I took a walk with one of the dogs from the hotel, named Chaplin. He was one of the many dog friends I made along with Bella and Scotty, the littlest dude who would bark and run in front of every car that came or went.  I had my breakfast, and took a good look in the mirror to see blisters had formed covering my shoulders.  The owner of the hotel saw I was in pain and got me more aloe and went to the pharmacia for ointment that didn’t work.  Since I couldn’t go out in the sun I waited for cloud cover to leave and find Fernando.  He was working so I biked into the jungle, found some shade and took pictures of monkeys swinging from tree to tree.  Some of the trees there have leaves well over eight feet long, everything is over grown, perfumey, completely psychedelic and awe inspiring.  There were trails through the forest for humans and mammals as well as little trails within them made by ants, solid lines of carpenter ants combining to about five inches across and going for miles, carrying small cuts of leaves back to their queen.  It was so hot the entire time that I lost 10 pounds.  Just standing around looking at ants I could feel the sweat dripping off of me.  After looking around I realized that my cabina was basically in a very busy spot and I’d be happier a little further from town.  So I stopped in at one place which was very fancy, she wanted $75 a night, I left and the next place down the road had a hand painted sign just saying cabina. I biked up their driveway to a massive gate surrounding their house, past the little cabin I saw for rent. The fence was mechanical and about 20 feet high, three dogs barked ferociously and Angie came out, she showed me the place. It had a kitchen, sofa, bathroom, ceiling fan, big comfy bed, two nice windows looking out at the jungle and through to the ocean, she wanted $20 a night.  I did the four km ride to the bank, back to my original spot, packed, paid up there and moved on down the road.  This new place was isolated, no street lights, no music, no neighbors, no problems.  Plus it was much closer to Fernando.  As I was biking to and from all these places a taxi drove past with him and Anna in it, and I got three friendly waves. That was the first of many times I’d feel like a local.

After one day of applying aloe his next treatment was a combination of prickly pear cactus, locally called tuna, and a clay mixture that he helped me spread over my back and shoulders, and a custom made moisturizer for cooling off my skin at night to help me sleep.  This guy had the cure and prevention for everything. At his place he had cocoa growing, vanilla, plantains, some plants he claimed were aphrodisiac, red bananas, sugar leaves, coco nut, antioxidants, perfumes, everything.  He even showed me how to use their big ants to give yourself stitches in a pinch, and taught me about the history and geography Costa Rica.  The clay dried up the blisters, and the cream helped me get over the pain so I could sleep, the cactus cooled off my skin so it could heal. After two days of this my sun burn was gone and I was able to see the light of day again.  Tentatively I ventured out, back into the ocean, in very short increments. Biking mostly well before noon and after 4 p.m. After one of our hang outs I asked about his parents and he told me his mom owns a vegetarian restaurant in town. The next day I introduced myself to his mom Edith and would visit with her every day after that.  Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest parts of leaving. Sitting with her I met locals, heard all the gossip, read from the bible while she read from her Spanish version. She answered any questions I had, introduced me to her family, and one night while I was there on my way home I even saw one of her grandsons get arrested by the police up the street for smoking a joint.  So much activity for a town of 3000 people.  One day I woke up with a bug bite that worried me, she gave me a special potion that helped my circulation, clearing up my skin, it worked immediately.  It was a very bitter root extract from a tree called hombre grande.  While I was drinking it, sip by sip a man selling honey came into the restaurant and they spoke in Spanish about how awful it tasted.  Though he was a burly old man he could not stand the taste even if it did cure bug bites.  She said that locals don’t really get bothered by bugs anyway, something to do with their skin, and the taste of their blood.

Soon on my morning commute for breakfast of gallo pinto, which is rice, beans, toast, eggs and tomato and lots of coffee, I was waving to the same people every day, nodding at fellow cyclists, saying hola, good morning to people I’d pass.  I felt more and more like a local, and it was a great feeling getting to know the town beyond the regular tourist perspective.  It was easy to make friends once you gave them some business, or stopped and talked, and being from Canada was a benefit, it seemed to be a connection lots of people had, either they had been here, had family here or just heard how great it is here.  One day after visiting Edith I was biking along the dusty road with canopy on both sides, just minding my business, breathing in the perfumed air, beautiful blue sky, warm wind on my freshly peeled skin, totally engulfed in the moment when to the left in my peripheral something like a small furry man busted through the dense brush along the road and came out on all fours scrambling across the road, it was a monkey! And it was heading right for me, I was going at a good pace, and he was rushing to get back into his territory when we collided. I slammed on the brakes, causing a flat tire, another long story, then we were both just there in the road, him knocked down, me standing over my bike, both in total shock.  One second later he gathered himself up and disappeared on the other side of the road.  I felt like that was some sort of sign, some insane timing, an omen maybe.  I had to tell someone so I texted my mom and went over it again in my head like it was some sort of dream.  When I told Fernando about it the next day he was not surprised, it is something that happens apparently.  Humans have put a road in the middle of their canopy and in order to get from tree to tree sometimes they have to cross that road, and it’s not always at a cross walk.  So I’ve had a face to face with a monkey, howler monkeys and roosters notify me of the rising and setting of the sun, the monkeys even howl when it rains, giving praise to the rain gods.  I’ve seen all the plants, the toucans, a manatee, amazing blue and yellow fish bigger than my torso, enormous cockroaches, but still no sloths.  They are supposed to be the local ambassadors, and according to Fernando they are everywhere, all you need is to know where to look.

I wrote a haiku about my two weeks:

The sun sets early                                                                                                                                  Caterpillars can kill you

Shirts, shoes, not required

And Now, California

 

Waiting for hours in the LA airport watching as chairs are filled with interesting faces and emptied and refilled with unknowing bottoms. Unaware of who was there before them. This place may be the plastic surgery capital of the world. People all rushing trying to be somebody. So many beautiful faces, going in different directions.

Since January it’s been mostly me saying wow. Whoa. What the f?  Coming into LA it was snow topped mountains and hilly landscapes, crinkled land of trees and rocks.  Then flat. And about 10 minutes of my mouth open going whoaaaa. House after row of houses. Crenshaw. Football fields. Smog hiding the sky scrapers. And more houses. Some with yards. Some identical spirals of suburbs.

So many tans and bad tattoos. People looking confused.  I sit and watch and feel the sensation when people step on the cracks in the carpet. I was id’d for my 20$ beer.

After we board the connecting flight I fall asleep and wake up hovering 20 feet from the ground about to land in San Diego.

On the way out of Rishikesh a rickshaw took me the 20 odd kilometres out of town to the Dehredun airport. I was at least three hours early for my flight. I just wanted to get out of India and sit in an air-conditioned lobby as early as possible. I bought a book called the God Delusion and sat and read it in front of 300 Muslims and Hindus.

I was assigned seat 1/D which was at the very front on the right aisle. The flight attendees seat was facing mine and when he sat down for take off and landing we were knee to knee. The propellers looked safe and the inside was retro. The flight was easy and fast. Then I waited in Delhi airport for six hours or so and was assigned an economy class premium just for asking at no extra cost. I had a huge seat with no one behind me, my own arm rest, it was like a little pod, just a little smaller than business class. Sitting apart from each other on planes is one of the most expensive ways to travel. When I asked to upgrade my third flight from Tokyo to Vancouver they said it would be 2000 extra dollars. The airport in Tokyo was completely empty of travelers.  It was just after six thirty a.m. and we were the first flight in. I found my gate anyway, even after being told I could leave to make the 12 hour delay a little more exciting. I opted for sleep. Gate 75 is at a dead end in the crescent shaped airport. I eventually fell asleep there for hours at a time. I would wake up, put my shoes back on and go to the washroom, fill up my water bottle and check out the one convince store that sold beer and candy and soups and t-shirts. I bought a t-shirt and chocolates and funny cakes and a tea over all.

Landing in Vancouver was the easiest airport I’ve been to so far. It’s a short walk, and I was ecstatic to be back. I could see the mountains, and feel my skin not burning. Canadians get a separate line to scan our passports and answer some multiple choice questions about where we’ve been and how long. Then you show your receipt to someone, then pick up your bags, tell someone where you’ve been and how long, then you’re free to get on the sky train and go straight downtown. In my case, to Broadway, then got on a waiting bus. It took me maybe four stops and I got off walked three blocks through a beautiful perfumy park and rang the buzzer.

For the first time in a long time I took a long hot shower. Washed my air, saw my body in a mirror with light. Totally relaxed under the hot water, scraped off some skin on my feet, massaged my swollen ankles,  cleaned out my nails and scalded my skin.

After a few days I’m back on schedule. Sitting in Mount Pleasant with my green smoothy and some coffee boiling. It’s a warm sunny holiday Monday and I’m listening to the Beach Boys.

Then I spent two days with Evan and Amanda in Maple Ridge. Their 3600 square foot house had a theatre, a music room an office, three or four bathrooms, two guest rooms, a hot tub, bbq, two big trucks, garage, boat, hunting rifles, just about anything you could ask for. Plus it’s between Golden Ears park and another park where you can hike to a waterfall and see glaciers. At night there are no sounds. No lights.

There, people push strollers.  There I met his friends for bbq, one was a welder one worked at the Bay. One was an arborist and former train conductor, with his baby boy who’s head was too big.  One works with computers one wants to be a cop.

They all had cars…I learned about fixed mortgages and flex rates and websites and office politics while we sat in the hot tub in our bathing suits. We heard stories of bear break-ins and how many deer you can shoot in a day.

I was able to see life through the eyes of one of my best friends. He took a different path and one I could only imagine till now. He’s got the girl, house, truck, property by the forest and an entrepreneur. Some of it I’d like, but mostly it was a view of stuff I now know I don’t want. I like traveling. It will end but for now I like seeing how other people live.

In Metchosin things are perfect.

I look up from my book and see my 93 year old grandfather laying the ground not moving. I put the book down and lean out and look a little further. He’s laying on his side talking to his cat, feeding him treats.

We sit and read at night and one day we had a big lunch so skipped dinner. I read his grandfathers letters home from India, 100’s of them. They started the same way mine did, “I can’t believe this place, I want to go home.” Letters of famine and poverty, monsoon rain, and converting Hindus to Methodists. It went on for hours until the year 1900 when he said they treated a starving little girl whose mother could only feed her pills of crushed flies when she complained of hunger. He reads me a passage from Jane Goodalls book and I read him some from mine, then we eat cereal together and go to bed early.

People here worship the ground he walks on and so they should. They ignore me completely until they ask how I know him, and when I say I am his grandson things really get going. That happened after his birthday party. I was ignored then suddenly the centre of attention. One of his oldest friends asked what I discovered I need to change about myself in order to be happy? She was excited when I said I had more than one answer. Then we looked at every photo of India I had posted online.

The mountains here look the same as Nepal, I’ve seen these all my life but didn’t know how special they are until now. The ocean water looks psychedelic, like just another form of atoms, could be air or land but it’s liquid and we could walk across it if the atoms were arranged differently.  The ripples flow in all directions on an otherwise calm surface. As I go out in the kayak, on surface level the water closer to Victoria is flat and reflecting the city and nearby boats. I’m not sure if it’s a wave or a mirage or a tsunami but I continue to paddle out anyway. Mount Baker is looming over it all in the background, a big volcano looking thing covered in snow.

I try to watch each wave as it comes in off the ocean. Watch it roll in and keep its shape until it breaks on the shore. As the tide shifts out the rocks on land dry.

Swimming alone in an unknown area so far from any other people was magical. It could have been my end, one person dies in there every year. It could have been me. I almost jumped in without planning an exit. I biked 25 km on a trail and stopped by a river. After a long time of sitting on the edge I found a place where I could walk in and out. It was a cork screw made by millions of years of water erosion, into a cave with water reflecting on the rocks. I walked into the cold water and swam directly to the nearest rock and got out. Got warm again and jumped back in. To the next big rock and then crossed the river and wandered on the other side.

Swimming in the clear cool water I felt complete. It was something I really wanted to do. One of those things that you could either say you did or almost did and the difference means the world only to you. You got to experience it. Our bodies are made to float not sink. We have adapted to water. Our fingers prune to grab the rocks and pull ourselves up. Our shins are to a  point so we can walk through the water with no drag. Our feet  are like flippers.

The river is so zig zagged I couldn’t even see the water fall up ahead. All I could see was lava rocks cut through by rushing water shaped over the years into perfect swimming pools. The sun tanning my skin, my clothes and bag perched on the rocks somewhere. The perfect summer adventure. After kayaking on my birthday this one takes the cake. BC has it all. And I feel like I’ve taken every opportunity possible to grow. And explore and have a story to tell that isn’t full of I wish I had, it’s going to be a list of amazing sensations that I made happen because that’s living. Living isn’t biking 25 km to not swim.

One in 1,342,512,706

 

Ask me if I’ll miss India and I’d say yes. I’ll miss India because back home old people don’t double ride bicycles, people who look like the general picture of God, with a big white beard and bright white clothes don’t ride scooters with a huge smile. Old ladies here feel comfortable enough to squat on the sidewalk if they need to take a pee. Strangers greet you with their chosen name of God, and yoga is everywhere. Interacting with cows and dogs and pigs daily has given me a clearer look at being a vegetarian. I won’t miss the fact that last night it was 30 degrees at 2 a.m. Or all the ants that have walked into my keyboard and never came out, probably lost in the matrix of the mother board, the giant wasps or the horns and traffic in general.

I’ve been bitten by ants, mosquitoes, pushed by bulls, barked at by dogs, cohabited with geckos and spiders, had a monkey land on my dinner table and now a large Gray langur has intimidated me into running from my dinner. And after I gathered my wits and tried to scare him off I was scarred mentally and physically when he jumped and scratched me with his fangs showing making growling sounds.  After that I was afraid to go out my front door, then slowly started hanging out on the roof again. But not before finding a strong bamboo stick and starting to learn some defensive moves from YouTube.

In a way I’m grateful that monkey jumped on my head, he kind of knocked some sense into me. It’s my last few days here and one of the things I was hoping to do in India was learn some self defence. I was letting the days drift away, not adhering to my own advice of ending as strong as you start. Yoga was getting kind of boring to be frank. Now I can combine my roof time with some stretching, mindfulness, pushups and bo staff training. The first day I was able to do a two hand wrist spin and now I’m getting faster at it and not dropping the staff as much.

When he jumped at my head it was a wake up call to what Nature is capable of. I assumed monkeys would be more scared of us than we are of them. And I underestimated his hunger, this guy was not cute enough to beg and probably just as tired of the heat. I saw him come down out of the tree and march along the edge of the roof, thinking maybe he was on his way somewhere but he came straight to me. He did not hesitate to bear his teeth and growl, no asking at all, then jumped, using my head like a skipping stone to land behind me causing my plate to hit the ground. And I was out of there, far enough away to watch him eat my dinner which was really just raw cauliflower with some salt and chilli powder on the side.

He made me wish I had doused the veggies with chilli powder. He made me think of revenge and how stupid that would be. He made me mistrust monkeys and see how fragile our existence is without cooperation. He gave me a scare of potentially having rabies, which is fatal! How insane is that?  It takes just two weeks to die from it, and although he probably didn’t have rabies it was not worth the risk to ignore the blood coming from my arm.

Diseases are different here, polio is still a hot topic and every year diarrhea and pneumonia kill millions of people.

After asking around it was decided that I’d get an injection right away. I walked to the only doctor I know since the hospital was closed on Sunday. This is a clinic which used to be a dog food store and is now half a dog food store, half a clinic and a little bit of a health food store. The doctor there is young and I’ve met him a few times over the last month. He suggested I get the course of five injections, they are 320 rupees each, so a fraction of what it would cost me in Canada.

I went home to debate the idea of being injected in India and after reading about the symptoms and final end to what rabies can do to a human I ran back and said lets do it. This clinic is just like any other store on the main strip, it is a big room with a garage door that opens to the road. There is a counter and behind it sits the doctor facing the street. Outside are cows and horses walking by or standing in the road, motor bikes driving on either side, dirt, garbage, things burning, people selling food, all sorts of commotion.

He takes the needle out and puts it into the container which is full of dead rabies virus and tells me to sit down, the only seat is a step ladder at the top of a stairwell…So as he is fiddling with the needle I’m looking out at the street and watching people stop and see what he’s doing, looking back at me. Also I’m texting my friend in Toronto telling him exactly whats going on and the doctor comes over to my left shoulder and as I press send he just jabs me with it, no cleaning of the surface no OK this might hurt and I look over at him like what the fuck!? And he’s saying something to me, you can hold the cotton ball here right? So I do and he goes back to his seat and starts writing out instructions and dates for me to come back. Immediately I have to put my phone away because the light from it is bugging me out and darkness is creeping in from the sides of my eyes. I sit up straight and breathe deeper and think this cannot be happening, I’m going to pass out!  No, I can control it, I won’t pass out. Nope, I look over at him and he’s saying something about me being fine but I can’t hear anything and can only see whats directly in front of me, which is one of the employees. I make eye contact with him and shake my head. Then step down from the seat and crouch on the ground and look around, sweating, deaf, wondering whats going on. After a couple minutes I’m OK to stand up and lean on the counter as he explains when I’ll have to come back for more…Then I leave, feeling slightly better that at least I’ve done something to combat any chance of rabies, just in case.

The second time was much better, and we’ve become friends since then. I’ve been invited to hang out there any time, and he often asks his customers if I can photograph them. He said there is only one other guy in the area with the same camera and he charges 1000 rupees for three photos. He introduced me to his wife and some friends, it’s been a good experience overall…

Sometimes its hard to leave your house especially if you have moustache for the first time, a scarf around your head thats been soaked in cold water to keep you cool and a walking stick you’re practicing bo staff spins with.  After a long day in the heat I was lying in bed when outside became dark a few hours too early. So went to the roof and saw a sand storm kicking up, and the sky turn grey and black. After the sand settled I went down to the river to watch the show.

The clouds were the ultimate what the fuck, I’d never seen anything like it before, a hundred little flames, turned into swirls over the mountain, as the sun coloured them dark orange mixed with black. Then pushing into blue at the edge of the clearing sky were what looked like a huge row of  teeth, extending into their roots. I sat in awe for hours as the wind pushed me from all sides. At one point as lightning was striking over the mountains looking to my right, along the path by the river a sadhu stops as wind picks up his flowing fabric wrapped around his waist and he does a Marilyn Monroe, holding his skirt down in the wind.

Earlier that day I took a walk to find some upma, my favourite South Indian breakfast. Just about 2 km away from my apartment, in the direction towards the main town, far away from any tourists. As I was walking a sadhu on a motor bike offered me a ride, I talked to him and considered it but declined, two more steps and I found the Madras Cafe. The food was OK, and the bill for umpa and tea was 105, I gave him 110 and he gave me a Kit Kat bar as change.

Later I found a better staff, started twirling it and dropped it in the sewer by mistake. So I bought a bottle of water to wash it off. Then explored the alleys of the main city, took photos, and then came across a fabric shop and remembered I have two weddings to attend this summer. So I selected some material and got measured and in two days I’ll have a custom kurta.

After I ran out of money I walked home taking photos, talking to strangers, mostly sadhus. Seems like if you don’t shave and carry a stick you’re more approachable. Maybe they see a little of themselves in me. I know sometimes I envy their lifestyle. Eating from ashrams, sleeping where ever they want, what else do you need? I don’t think they have a retirement plan.

Walking through the bus stop as I always have to, a large group of people sit on the gravel hill cooking and eating their lunches. Men and women and children all dressed in amazing colours and cloths huddle in groups. A few of them are standing around the water pump washing their hands, pigs run among them. To my right on the highest gravel hill a group of men stand out in their striking white outfits with red turbans, bare feet, squatting or sitting cross legged, beards and grey moustaches, passing a chillum around. Weed smoke clouding all around them.

On the morning after my mischievous monkey mayhem I wake up early to find a stick and see the sun rise. I walk to the roofed sitting area by the river and look out, the sun has risen but not above the mountains. The green trees all around the elevation are glowing with yellows and orange. And the river rushes below, down where the bodies are burned. Sitting quietly when three people come with their cell phone playing Hindi music. I react and almost get up but decide to stay for what I came. To see the sun peak over the range. One guy starts doing push ups, elevated ones then on his knuckles then tries to get into pull up position but he’s too heavy and short. Then he gets his friend to take lots of photos of him flexing all the while dumb rap music is coming from his phone. I spot a stick and leave.

Going down into the funeral grounds was kind of creepy. There were kids playing by the river and people working in the early morning hours before the heat sets in. There are lots of old clothes and artifacts laying buried in the sand. The stick I saw was much too big and soaking in a dirty puddle. On the way back I found a bamboo staff and as I ascended the stairs the most golden light shined back behind where I was with the muscle man. This time I look up to a kaleidoscope of colours. A bus must have dropped off a bunch of Indians and they were all dressed in saris of flowing flowery colours standing straight up in the wind. All waiting for a security guard to guide a family of geese from the field to the water.

I found a strip of cloth and wrapped it around the split end of my new stick and made it into a custom handle. Took a few swings with it and started home as the 6 a.m. sun rise started to heat up the day once more.

Passing the empty grounds with the sun rising from behind, to my left is a tarp with maybe 20 indians sitting cross legged in the centre. Next to them is a tractor with a big cage on the back with all their bags packed on top. Then a couple dogs fucking, pigs fighting over garbage, one massive pig is laying in the sun against a pile of stones while someone pees next to it. I walk a little further and there’s another big truck bus thing with Indians pilled all over the inside and outside climbing down for their day by the Ganges.

Walking up the alley as the golden hour turns into day another small kid is taking another shit into the gutter while his mother watches. She stands in the middle of the lane, dressed in purple and gold one hand on her waste the other on her head, he is shy but concentrating. I look at her briefly and then down as I pass. Then I take my stick home and my place is covered in little monkeys. I look up as one is checking out the jump from the fence across the lane onto my roof, where they drink water from one of our water tanks. I hope it’s not the one that leads to my shower but theres no one to ask…I look up as he’s peeing and pooing at the same time. He looks down at me and then away.

Namaste in bed Pt.2

 

Having so much time and so little to do I don’t feel bad if there are days I don’t go outside. I still wake up early, if I’m feeling motivated I’ll still go to the roof and stretch and sit and quiet my mind while the sun peaks over the mountains. Once I have my groceries there is a certain comfort in not leaving the building. I know outside is beautiful but also full of the usual, people staring, people trying to sell stuff you don’t want, people sleeping under tarps and pigs covered in shit. Taking a day or two off of that has been nothing but helpful.

Days and weeks can pass slowly or slide away and suddenly it’s sundown and although I haven’t done much I’m tired and ready for bed. Even when I don’t do anything I look back and see yes, I did mop the floor, which needs doing since the dust comes in daily through the screen windows. And yes I did laundry although I only had to wash a couple things since I barely wear clothes anyway, when I’m home it’s just a bathing suit or sweat pants and putting it on the line to try only takes hours if that. And yeah, eating dinner on the roof at sunset is good enough for me.

Yes I did make lunch, sometimes I’ll even go around the block for milk, cauliflower, bananas or just a walk to the end of the lane to sit under a roof by the river. Sometimes that’s as far as I want to walk in the heat, I’ll take a podcast down there and sit until it’s over then walk back.  Even that turns into a story.

Just going to the bank can be an adventure. Last week I met a woman from south Africa and helped her use an ATM while talking to a local about my tattoos.  Then I had to walk to find a tank top because even a t-shirt is too much to wear in this heat, and in walking to and from I walked with a guy from another Indian state while he practiced his English he taught me some Hindi.

Then at dinner sitting alone, talking to my friend in Tokyo via WhatsApp and listening to a podcast I see a monkey climb the fence next to me. He looks down and jumps over another table onto mine, full of food. As soon as it lands I’m eating with my right hand and instinctively shove it off with my left. It goes flying, knocks over my carrot juice and my camera and a chair and is pissed off. Lucky the waiter comes over with a stick and chases it off as I continue eating.

There is so much here I can’t bring myself to photograph. So much poverty, so many sunsets with people working, people sitting in the golden light, the moon rising over the mountains long after midnight.  Masses of colours, monkeys, massive fires I can see from the roof.

If you’re in the right mood the wind in the trees can sound like a flowing river, the birds cry encouragement and clouds will spell out your lovers name. If something is bothering you, which in India it can be easy to drown in others sorrows and your own discomforts, you may smack someone who passes too close on their scooter. And hope they turn round so you can toss them off the bridge.

You have to watch what you eat, your sleep must be sound, intoxicants at a minimum, even sugar can set you off if you’re still adjusting the a warm climate. Over population can grind under your skin as you jostle for space on the stairs amongst hundreds of people who are concentrating on buying plastic souvenirs.

The early morning clouds made it possible for me to leave the house. I worked against the wind  and crossed the bridge perilously amongst many other pilgrims. It swayed under us as each step my legs were blown off course causing a sea sickness so strong people were holding onto the sides and in the middle was a standstill.

On the other side clouds of sand spread and stood in walls blocking us from going any further.

I stop for tea and sit next to some sadhu and wait, once I’m drinking, no one is around then a little girl comes up and shakes my hand and asks for a photo. Then another older one, then the mom dad grandpa grandma and aunts and uncles, about 12 people gather around with their cell phones out as each of them sits next to me. Eventually I pull out my phone and take their picture and then selfies with each of them until they are all satisfied and shake my hand again and walk away.

Midway through this a sadhu in orange robes, lots of beads and bracelets, asked me to take his photo and to see it, when he saw his face on the back of my camera he knelt down and put his head on my lap and thanked me over and over.

Without the morning rain and the cover of cloud I would never have got that far. Fleeting weather can make great photographs, people blowing away, things falling over. I had set out just to see and came to the bridge and crossed it, then decided to check a road I had been afraid to go down days before. That’s where I found some interesting people and photographed them, and then decided to try to get into the woods. I walked and walked and climbed and got way above the city, in the wind, climbed until I had a 360 view and turned on the Beatles in my headphones, and looked down and saw the ashram where they stayed, saw my apartment, the river looked tiny, the mountains mightier than ever.

Another day another walk to the Ganges. Listening to another podcast. Looking down at the path by the rocks and saw an ambulance with a covered body inside and a man consoling a crying man. Then I took a seat and stared out at the river and as always contemplated the volume of water that constantly flows down from melting glaciers in the  mountains, day and night non stop, forever. And not just a trickle, this is full heat of summer, some rivers are dry, this one is lower than the high water mark but still fierce. Still a greeny blue with white caps. Where is it coming from, how is it so eternal? Then looking down there are three or four men carrying wood out to the edge of the river and I know they are going to burn that body from the ambulance.

Soon there are 20 men carrying logs and sticks and brush to that spot. The podcast goes on, someone is talking about Hindu death rituals and how death is the last taboo in the West. It’s the worst thing you can do to someone, it’s not always ok to talk about, it’s scary because we don’t know anything about it because no one comes back, because we’re not supposed to talk about it we’re ignorant and what we don’t understand we fear. Then they carry the body under a sheet out to the river and pour some water over it and put it on the logs and cover it with more sticks and wood. They all surround it so I can’t see much. Soon there is a spark of fire and a few minutes later people are standing way back as the flame grows strong and bright. I can see the heat waves as the orange disappears into smoke into the atmosphere. It is one of the biggest fires I’ve ever seen, I’m about 50 yards away and it looks like the surface of the sun.

The man I saw crying earlier is now clearly not a man but someone around my age probably younger and he is accompanied by two other younger guys. He leaves the crowd to cry alone and people sit with their arms around him. Someone comes and gives him instructions to stoke the fire so he does and then walks away. Soon after that, two people come and shave the heads of all three brothers right down to the scalp as they do with each cremation, shave the family in mourning. Now the fire is barely there and all the wood is turned to grey ashes. Each person scoops some of the river and tosses it on the flames as they walk away and the remains crumble into the rushing water, carried off downstream.

Rishikesh

India is a land of contrast, rich and poor, hot and cold, high and low. Different sides of the same coin. This is the kind of place where kids still play with a stick and a tyre. This trip has its share of contrast as well.

In Mumbai I took a 10 day silent meditation class amidst the chaos. A 30 hour train ride third class across the continent. Stayed in the oldest living city in the world in an apartment with wi-fi. A holy place with a holy river that feeds all of Northern India, completely polluted by those who rely on it.

Then a month isolated in the mountains of Nepal only to spent two weeks in Tokyo. The first time I’ve truly felt claustrophobia. Now I’m back in India in a city where meat and alcohol are illegal. Polluting that same river is not though.

Littering and shitting in public is not, pigs lay in the muck and cows stand where ever they please. Weed is literally a weed that grows wild. Bodies are burned by the river as a naked sadhu and renunciate swim near by.

Sunrise and sunset are the only times of the day bearable to be outside.  Around noon I’ll do hot yoga on the roof and take a cold shower after. And several times a day I can sit in meditation. Once a day I’ll take a dunk in the Ganges and break the ice with strangers with my camera.

It’s too hot to do much other than wade into the river. Just putting your feet in is enough. Or come home and shower and do yoga on the roof, meditate in the trapped heat of your room with fans going, stirring up the hot air. Once on the roof after sitting I opened my eyes to see a monkey sitting next to me.

Last week I rented a rickety old bike and rode 11 km to the Neem Karoli Baba ashram, sat there for an hour or so and came back without any water, only prasad.

Now it’s after dark, I’ve made dinner and cleaned up a bit, sitting on the roof in the slight breeze listening to blues from the 30’s and typing, uploading the days photos and playing chess against the computer.

A few nights ago I fell asleep early and woke at 2 a.m. Unable to sleep in the heat I came to the roof and lied down on a blanket fooling myself into thinking that could work. Then I went downstairs and turned on all the lights and fans and made breakfast, cereal and coffee and started my day. I think I have adjusted to the heat now and my routine is much healthier.

I sit and drink tea by the side of the walkway and a cow is now looking over my shoulder. Resting its head on my shoulder trying to have some of my sweet milk tea. I lovingly shove it away and it comes again on the other side to rest its heavy head and beg a little.

Later on the ghats, hanging with the kids a white cow wanders up to us and they all shoo it away but it stays, looking for food, maybe eating some flowers they are trying to sell. Then it spots a white plastic bag tied with some garbage in it and starts chewing it. I grab the bag from its mouth but it won’t let go, I get it away and the cow somehow gets it back from my hands and we wrestle with it before I throw it away. The cow chases it down and someone has to bait it away with flowers.

The temperature passed 42 degrees so I went to the barber to have my hair shaved off and my face shaved again. Together they cost the same as a litre of milk…

A big thunder and lightning storm woke me early one morning. Bringing relief across the city. I opened all my windows wide and ran to the roof to watch the lightning. Cows moo’d, doors slammed, the sounds coming from the sky were demonic. The rolling thunder and heat lightning made the early morning mountains into orange and green.

At sunset I’m sitting under the bridge.  People look so small from down here.  Compared to the surrounding mountains the whole city could be swallowed whole. The bridge and everyone on it dwarfed by clouds.

Swimming in the Ganges

I got used to living in Japan. The bakery up the street. The shrines and temples all around. The friends dropping by. The insane things on TV. The bikes. The beers. The night life. The sushi and 7/11. The laundry mat downstairs.

The trains the crowds, sleeping on the floor, the morning coffee, reading in the kitchen, days spent alone while everyone else worked. I got used to walking on the sidewalks and having a vending machine every 20 feet in case I get thirsty or hungry.  I got used to the Japanese sounds and being lost in translation.

The weather, always able to wear pants and a t-shirt, keep a sweater for night-time. Being able to walk down the street and keep my shoes clean. People being over the top respectful. No garbage on the street, nothing to trip over, and all the lights. Tokyo loves lights. Tokyo loves smoking in restaurants but not on sidewalks. Tokyo loves public transport and not private vehicles.

It was only two weeks. The culture shock from Kathmandu to Tokyo was not that much. The real eye opener, even though I’ve already been here, is coming from the land of the future back to India. Landing in Delhi it’s 4:30 a.m in Tokyo and I’ve just been flying for the last nine hours, watching three movies in a row, including Lion, which was a tear jerker.

I leave the airport in my sweater and pants and immediately feel the humidity and heat and the smell of burning in the air. 100’s of people stand with signs and rush you asking if you need a cab. I take one offer and ask to be driven to a medium range hotel.

The guys working the midnight shift don’t speak much English, and I’m so close to the airport that planes landing and taking off shake my window. They show me to my room and I lock the door and take a shower. The nozzle comes off in my hand, the toilet seat is just placed there for looks, unhinged. It’s a standard Indian hotel room with two small beds a T.V. and wi-fi. good enough for a nights sleep.

I wake with the sun and pack and dial 9 to make a bus reservation but they don’t understand. I go downstairs and ask for breakfast, and where I can find an ATM. Breakfast will be ready in 20 minutes, I point to something on the menu that I can’t read. Then walk out the door into a blast of heat and honking. Cows wander past me, motor bikes, people selling fruit, shit and garbage all over the ‘road’. The first ATM isn’t open yet. I walk a little further, the morning rush is starting, everyone’s going somewhere in a hurry, no one obeys traffic laws and no sidewalks so dodging puddles of black water and cow shit can be risky. Next ATM has no money, next one is off, next one doesn’t accept overseas cards. I make it to a dead-end and I’m face to face with a bull. so I turn around and go back for mystery breakfast.

Luckily the hotel has a taxi service so I can pay them for that and the room with my credit card. And wait. Someone comes with a small van and I get in, he does a 6 point turn on the narrow road under the overpass by the airport and we’re off. Once we clear that area the air starts to smell of roses. The streets clean up, all the intersections are roundabouts with beautiful gardens in the middle. Massive trees line the empty roads. The sun is still low, and people sweep the sidewalks making sun beams in the dust clouds.

Everything is green. Compared to being here in January when most of the trees are leafless. This is when we start to pass embassies, one after another, Canada, Japan, USA, Kuwait, all of them, no wonder it’s so well manicured. After a few miles of jaw dropping beauty we get closer to the city centre and its jaw dropping poverty again. People sleeping on the mediums between the highways, children begging and fighting each other for space at stop lights, homes made of garbage all around.

The driver takes me to the bus stop and says good luck. I get out, go through a metal detector and ask the information for where to find a bus to Rishikesh. She asks if I want a nice bus or normal. I say nice and she points me to counter number 14. I still don’t have any cash, my bags are heavy and I’m sweating. The guy says there is a bus leaving in 30 minutes and its 640 rupees. And the ATM is out the exit and to the right. I try that one several times to no avail. Someone says there are more ‘behind the metro’ so I venture out onto the road and 10 minutes later find a row of them, the first two don’t work but I hit the jackpot on the third and make it back with minutes to spare.

I’m directed to bay number 11 and start asking about a seat, along with 10 other people who didn’t plan enough to have a ticket. Two minutes before leaving they assign me seat number 40 and I find it at the very back of the packed bus, I get the row to myself, and all the leg room in the world. Now for the eight hours of podcasts and much-needed napping.

We get one stop for lunch and washroom half way and then pull in to Rishikesh around 5 p.m. I immediately get a rickshaw to the area around a certain ashram and near a bank, luckily the driver knows his way around. I have no way to contact my air bnb place but find it, and the shop keeper out front lets me in. I put my stuff down, wash my face, go into the courtyard I share with another room and knock. Alex from Portland Oregon answers, then Jules from NYC comes out and I’m invited in, meet Judith from Spain and we hit it off right away and make a plan to swim in the Ganges and get dinner after.

The water was refreshing and somewhat clean. The current where we went in was extremely strong and hard to stand up in. Today I’ll try it a little further upstream where it’s calmer. We swam until sun set and went back to change and decide where to eat.  There are few restaurants we could find that had english menus, but we found one a kilometre away across a suspension bridge and it was yummy. On the way back we sat on the banks of the river and made friends with a dog who followed us almost all the way home.  In the morning I walked back to the same restaurant for breakfast, 150 rupees for corn flakes, toast, two fried eggs, and a coffee. Then I walked the opposite side of the river and had a chai and bought coffee grinds so I can make my own at home on my stove. Today I cleaned my new apartment, did my laundry and later we’ll visit the Beatles Ashram.

Tokyo Shortcut

 

Living in a mouldy basement in Toronto you can have all sorts of theories on what is life. Is it a computer or a hologram is anything really here? Atoms living and dying popping in and out of existence and all in our minds. Not until I walking in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, Nepal and see a goat stop and look around and yawn did all these theories go out the window. Now in Tokyo it’s hard not to see this place as a computer chip when you’re 450 metres above.

Being in the Tokyo Sky Tree, 450 meters up gives me an idea of how high I was in Nepal at 2500 meters.

I spent the day alone and got a message from Sho saying come to Asukasa. Some friends and other travelors from San Fransisco were waiting there. He gave me the address of 29-15-2 so I googled it and started walking.  After arriving at Toy Dogs, real name Kosuke, we all went for monjya, Japanese pancake, then to sentō.

Sentō is the communal bath house where men and women come to bathe and sit in hot tubs. Eight of us merged with the locals and sat naked in the steam room, hot tub and sauna. I got lots of stories of people who grew up with no bathrooms. Not long ago most people had to come here for their daily cleaning.

Going home I was very glad I learned to skateboard as a kid because that was my transportation. The streets are wide and smooth and no one was driving.

In the morning I biked for about half an hour until I didn’t know where I was, then gave myself some time to try and find my way back on my own. Once I gave that up I used Google maps to help. I was 2.5 km away and came home to see Justin was still sleeping. Then I went to the Ono Terusaki shrine and sat for 30 minutes. People came and went on their way to work and bowed and clapped twice, or rang a bell or dragged a heavy knotted rope across some chime.

Then I went and bought a sandwich and two pastries and brought them home to make coffee while Justin still slept.

He woke up and we cleaned the apartment and took the train to Yokohama.

Tokyo is so clean it looks like it’s power washed every night and Yokohama every other night. Like it sprang up out of nowhere, ancient city brand new.

I waited around downtown for him to retrieve his bike and then we did some window shopping. Then he brought me to the station and he left on his bike but we both forgot to give me the key to Shos apartment. I made it to my station and then found my way back to the place. Completely out of money and only wearing a t-shirt as the sun went down it got cold. The only cash I had was on my metro card so I bought some food and beer from the Family Mart and sat down in front of his door to wait.

After sho came home we went to the store again and did laundry and went to sentō. This one was busy again and after washing we went into the hot tub, the warm tub, and then the cold water tub. Then back around again. This time I tried the electric bath where two volts are shot out from two sides of the bath. At first its painful and feels like a million tiny fists pounding all around you and on your limbs it’s even more painful.

I didn’t have any plans on Thursday and actually had a messenger dream the night before. The sun was out and the day was young. Totally unprepared other than years of experience riding in traffic I took my camera, 10 dollars and my phone and followed Sho to downtown Tokyo for work. The streets are smooth and friendly here. Nothing like the pot holes and street car tracks in Toronto.

We went straight into the heart of the city to wait. We passed the Emperor’s Palace and the financial district. I used the washroom at the 7/11 and it had like everywhere else, a heated seat, bidet, up to 13 buttons, including one for white noise but nowhere to dry your hands after you wash.

Sho doesn’t need a lock in Tokyo because no one would ever steal a bike. The buildings mostly look the same as Toronto, the people are all in black suits, they are called salary men and women by messengers. We do one pickup and drop off at a time then get a rush call from a theatre to a TV station. It has to be there in under 10 minutes and its about 4 k.m. away. That was fun, we do it a second time several hours later and it was not as fun. There are some good hills here, we found a few of them, up and down.

Several areas have cross walk scrambles where people can walk from all angles. Sho barely slows down to slice through them and I’m right on his wheel to make sure I don’t lose him forever.

I get to meet his co-workers one at a time and see all the other messengers working. Most of them dress like the most professional Toronto couriers. They have expensive clean bikes and jerseys, everything here looks expensive and clean.

We take a break to walk along the cherry blossom parks, we stop for lunch with Kosuke at a salad bar. Then sit and wait with coffees. Overall Sho estimates we did 50 km by mid-day.  He works 9-7, and around 3 p.m. I was ready to go home but the thought of navigating Tokyo alone was worse than finishing the day on the road.

Tokyo

It didn’t really feel like a foreign country until I was alone in Tokyo. Wandering around the grocery store by myself trying to find bagels and creme cheese. Paying 2,000 yen for a days worth of food plus some instant coffee. I get the english muffins home to see that Sho doesn’t have a toaster. So now I sit and drink instant coffee looking out his 10 foot window on the corner of a nondescript street. Traffic flows in all directions and the sun is finally shining bright after a couple days of overcast or rain.

Not long ago I was spending my last five days in Kathmandu. There I spent my time wandering the maze of ancient streets, getting lost and finding my way back to the hotel. Next to my hotel was a place that sold great Americanos and corn flakes. After that I would take a road leading to Durbar Square to see the oldest part of town and what is left standing after the big earth quake two years ago.

My grandfather has a friend who lives in Patan, another big city a few km from Kathmandu. So I dropped in on him and we went out for lunch. He showed me around the Durbar Square in Patan and then put me in a cab back to Kathmandu. Once I knew kind of where I was I asked the cab to stop and walked the rest of the way. The streets around Thamel are so narrow cars really shouldn’t be allowed in there. The next day Juju picked me up in the rain and we drove to the famous Monkey Temple and two more amazing areas I would never have thought to visit or been able to find. We had lunch at his cousin’s hotel and drove to the ancient city of Bhaktapur to see their Durbar Square. Which means palace square.

My flight to Tokyo left Delhi at 1 a.m. on Friday and my flight to Delhi left at 4:30 p.m. from Kathmandu. So the plane landed in India around 6 and after customs and immigration and baggage I walked to the front door, looked outside, turned around and went back to departures to wait for five hours before checking in once again. Luckily there are an infinite amount of podcasts to listen to and the hours flew past. The flight to Tokyo was eight hours, or a couple podcasts and La La Land, which was pretty good.

After landing in Tokyo things started to look very familiar. There were trains and clean streets, vending machines and brand new cars. There were people wearing clean clothes and brand names that aren’t knock offs. I can’t read any of the signs but people are happy to help.  I bought a train ticket and got on the one for Ueno. About an hour later I got off and bought a coffee and came up the stairs to see Justin walking towards me. We hugged and walked into the masses of people and bright lights and crazy sounds to Sho’s bachelor apartment. The one overlooking a four-way stop with a steam bath, laundry mat, restaurant and fish store.

We relaxed temporarily and took a train downtown to meet Sho at his messenger office. From there we went to a bike shop grand opening and met lots of nice people. One had been living in Paris and was home with his moms BMW so he drove us to the next area. By now it has been 24 hours since I’ve slept. We stayed at that party for a little while and then got dumplings and noodle soup and the last train home. The next day Sho and I had a nice breakfast when Justin went to work we went into the main shopping area for coffee. We got donuts and I bought jeans because it was cold. We checked out camera shops and walked around taking photographs. That night we ate sushi at a sushi train restaurant and drank beer on the sidewalk people watching.

The next day Justin and I took the train to a cherry blossom park for a picnic with his work friends. They had all sorts of sake and snacks so we stayed there and had fun until he had to work. At work Justin has English conversations with Japanese people in a fancy cafe. So I stayed and helped out when I could then walked around alone in Tokyo at night. At 10 p.m. Sho came with his parents car and we drove around the empty streets, saw Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge. Then we drove through a district dedicated to Anime and back home.

Now I’ve got some groceries, eating un-toasted english muffins and getting ready to walk down another unknown street hoping I won’t get lost.

Lumbini

After a month I finally escaped Pokhara. And after about eight hours of driving south now I’m in Lumbini.  I left early for the station and filled my stomach with a risky amount of food and liquid. Tea, coffee, pastries and the best masala tea since leaving India. Not knowing how long the trip would be, in a bus without a toilet.

The trip is just over 100 km but the road is through mountains and many hair pin curves and steep mountain passes later and several hours of podcasts we emerged into what looks like India and a full blast of heat. No more clear mountain air. Now I’m looking out at flat land. Everything is torn up, the roads are all dirt. Lots of busses, one with a goat tied to the roof. Out my window a dog walks along the road with a diaper in its mouth and everywhere you look people are burning their garbage, plastic and all…

We pull into Lumbini after 4:00 and I jump on a cycle rickshaw to Siddhartha Guest House. There are not many choices here, and this is one of the cheapest hotels that is not a monastery.  I wouldn’t recommend it. I would say don’t even bother going to Lumbini.

After checking in I walked to one of the entrances and tried to rent a bike but no luck. No one told me there was a bike rental place just up the street either. So I turned around and someone bikes past me and asked if I needed any help. I said I’d like to rent a bike just like his and he said here you go. He told me where a good place to start was and said he’d wait for me to come back in an hour or so.  So off I went. Inside the five km by 2 km rectangle there are no cars and mostly monasteries and walking paths. You can take a bike all around it and along a pond that runs up the centre. After biking for a while on bike that turned out to be much too small for me I stopped for dal baht. Here the portions are huge and only 150 NPR.

After turning around and heading back with the sun setting behind me I found the real bike rental place. I rented a bike my size for the rest of my stay for less than I gave the first guy. Back at the hotel, the power comes and goes just like the hot water, and it’s so hot out you don’t really need hot water anyway. In Pokhara I got a tattoo of my friends dog Bella and you’re supposed to keep from sweating and out of the sun for a few days at least…

The next morning I was up and out before seven to try to beat the heat. The food here is suspiciously cheap. The rest of the morning was spent cycling around looking at some amazing monasteries and mostly being lost inside the rectangle. Places from all over Asia have what I would call embassies here. A few of them will let you stay the night but mostly they seem to be tourist attractions. It didn’t take long for me to tire of that so I found some trails to explore. On the way out of one I found 200 rupees! Eventually I made it out of the rectangle and biked along the outside and into a wheat field. That is where I met the two kids I photographed and put on Flickr.http://www.flickr.com/photos/geminiimages/ And on the way home found a mostly naked man shovelling and moving soil wearing a loin cloth and dread locks. So I passed him and waved and then turned around and talked with his friend who knew some English. He only let me take two pictures before he got back to work. I gave the friend who was cooking one of the 100 rupee notes.

There is the Lumbini rectangle and shops around it, and then there is the real Lumbini. After biking about 500 meters into real Lumbini I stopped and turned around. If I’d gone much further I would be in India. The people on that stretch of road were some of the poorest I’d ever seen. They at least had homes but that just means cement walls and metal roofs and dirt floor. Some had cows and chickens but no clothes. Kids played on the street and babies begged for food. After buying bananas one little boy ran along beside me asking for one and before I could say anything he got in front of me and put his hands out and stopped.  We negotiated how many bananas he’d get for being so brave and insistent. He was very happy with two.

Riding a bike again is fascinating. The wheels hypnotize me. Maybe that is why I stayed a messenger so long. This rectangle is fascinating too. Still one of the first things I did here as find the bus ticket booth to buy a ticket out of here. 400 rupees to Chitwan. Symbols of the location of Buddha’s birth and first bath are here but the actual location is unknown at best and said to be just a few kms away from the site. Lumbini means ‘the lovely’ in Sanskrit. It’s hard to get over how much this is like India. The Nepal I know is nothing like this place. Nepal is mountains to me. There are too many mosquitoes here.

Six a.m. I check out of the Siddhartha Guest House standing in a cloud of mosquitoes waiting for them to make up a bill. I walk to the bus stop and show them my ticket for Chitwan and change my mind. I ask for a ticket to Kathmandu instead, to escape the heat. He takes my ticket and crosses out Chitwan and writes Kathmandu and someone shows me to the bus. I get the last seat and 10 hours later we arrive in Kathmandu…