Wild India…

by wonderfullyrich on August 28, 2006

So I’m in Delhi again after visiting Karen Lampe in Palampur. She’s doing a 2 month volunteering stretch with RIAES (Rural India Awareness and Educational Society, www.riaes.org.in ) in the beautiful Kangra Valley. It was an peaceful and yet eventful 6 days in the small town of 20,000. It was nearly devoid of foreign tourist other then Karen and I, which meant more stares then usual, but less harassment by rickshaw drivers. I doubt also that I would have been harassed by monkeys if I had stayed within the tourist bounds.

(Karen and one of the lower caste families she’s interacting with as well as members of RIAES.)

Walking to Karen’s host house, I had a half kilo of short bread cookies (they love bakeries here) held out in front of me as the bag had broken and just like the skua from the ice, this monkey came out from behind me and stole my cookies. Like taking candy from a child… hehe.

Most of the inhabitants were kind and helpful. My experience in india prior to Palampur was of a calculating Indian trying to legally or illegally separate you from your wad of rupees. Palampur change that as it gave me a flavor of what most of India is like in this “rural setting.” I quote that as don’t get an American rural in your head, it’s still packed and bustling, but it can be quieter and much more majestic then what you imagine of a hot, humid, india. It rained as if we were in the tropics, though we were at something like 1200 m (4000 ft) and people were well prepared for the daily rainstorm.

(As we walk into the storm… No the goat didn’t come along)

The RIAES group that went trekking (including me) however were less prepared and organized when we walked up the valley to take a look at a waterfall. On the way back down the rain did a good job making a grassy trail become slippery and give leeches a free ride too food. (yes I got one, but no biggy) After the fact I managed to fry a the cell phone I picked up in Thailand cheap, 2 of my camera memory cards, and get everything else possible fairly wet/dirty… It was worth every minute of wetness though. Only with risk and loss can you get pictures like this.

(RIAES peeps on the side of the Kangra Valley with Palampur in the light)
(Darmashala in the clouds the day Karen and I visited)

Unfortunately the camera also got water inside the lens so I’m going to have lackluster photos till I clean everything in the camera. But the memories are just as clean.

(Me before I got wet)

Oh, I do have to digress and mention that although the image of india is, as I said, rather thieving, they can be extremely kind hearted too. Take for instance the stupidity of my dropped GPS. I was riding the toy train (narrow gauge) from Palampur to Panakot and trying to log the track position and it’s stations so at one point I left the GPS on the ledge of an open window in order to eat some proffered fried dough during a stop at Guler station. The train started, jerked, and wobble the GPS right out the window and we were gaining speed. I got up, screamed, waved and yelled and the Indians around me, though they didn’t exactly know what was up, flagged the engineer and stopped the train as I took off running. I book back to the station grabbed the dented, but working GPS and ran back to the adulation and interest of all the train. Kind and warm is what I have to say about most Indians. I haven’t lost a thing to thievery here.

Back to Bangkok I go, hoping I can get into Vietnam… :)

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