Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day Trippers

When you live somewhere semi-permanently, you don’t necessarily have impetus to visit the local attractions… after all, they’ll always be there!  But, with exactly one month left in Mussoorie, I’m rushing to do/see/taste/climb/experience everything that I’ve been putting off for almost two years now.  My roommate, Claire, and I took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather to check some of these experiences off my list.

But first, to gain the mobility necessary for traversing treacherous mountainous terrain, I had to go to Doma’s to rent a scooter for the day.  Doma’s is a quaint little inn/restaurant situated right at the entrance to the bazaar.  It’s run by Tibetans and serves the most amazing food mine tongue has ever caressed.  This my go-to order:

Veg Shaphaley: two big, fried momos.  By the time it’s delivered, so much oil has seeped through the paper bag that it breaks. There is no truer taste test.

Honey Chili Potato: potatoes with honey and chili.  It hurts so good.

But alas, I was not at Doma’s to eat, unless you count ‘biting the dust’ as dining—(sorry).  Since Claire was down at dorms teaching children how to swim, it was my job to retrieve the scooter and meet her at school, the halfway point.  Once at Doma’s, all I had to do was give the desk-man Rs. 500 (about $8) and my Ohio driver’s license.  I would like to publicly state that being able to drive a car in the United States in no way makes me qualified to drive a scooter in India.  These are not transferable skills. 

I’ve done a lot of dumb and dangerous things in the past two years, but this 5-minute adventure really made me aware of my mortality.  As I coasted away from Doma’s, I kept repeating, “left, left, left, left” to ensure that I didn’t get all American and drift to the right side of the road.  It was a well-intentioned but poorly executed mantra; on the first downhill switchback, I did not give myself a wide enough berth to make the turn successfully.  I almost tipped the vessel of death in full view of the restaurant, but ho!, I remained upright and forged forth toward the bazaar.  At the intersection, I passed some 7th graders who recognized me, despite the helmet that made me feel like a mighty morphin’ power ranger.  I wanted to wave, but with my nerves freshly rattled from the near-fall, I just yelled, “I don’t know what I’m doing!!!”

I am an excellent role model.

Luckily, Claire the Scooterer Extraordinaire took over all driving duties after I arrived at school, surprisingly unscathed.  Our first order of business was to fuel up—both the bike and our bellies.  We had a very Indian meal of bun omelets and pakora at Chardukan’s Tip Top Tea Shop.  Chardukan literally means ‘four stores,’ even though I think there are actually five now.

Then we made our way to Everest House, a former home of Sir George Everest.  He was India’s Surveyor General in the mid-1800s and Mount Everest was named after him, though, according to this site, he was admirably against the idea.  Fun Fact:  George Everest’s last name is pronounced with an initial long “e” sound, so everyone technically says the mountain’s name incorrectly.  Here is another incorrect pronunciation that will blow your mind: Himalayas.  Instead of “hi-muh-LAY-uhs,” everyone actually living in/around the mountains says “hi-MAH-luh-yuhs.”  

Everything you know about the world is wrong.

Though technically part of Mussoorie, Everest House was very isolated and quiet.  Claire and I trekked to the top of the nearby hill and just sat, listening to the Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind.  The flags are supposed to spread prayers across the land and its people rather than sending them up to heaven.  It’s a nice thought.  Meanwhile, a couple of eagles flew overhead and got close enough that I could see the orange of their beaks.  The prayer flags, the eagles, the good friend, the isolation, and the breathtaking views balled up in my gut and gave me a “how did I get here and why am I leaving?” moment.  I will miss Mussoorie.

I'm proud to say it took us about five shots to get a proper selfie.

view from the top!

You can see Everest House in the distance; we hiked up from there.

The house itself was not as peaceful and picturesque as its surroundings.  It’s fallen into disrepair and is covered with haphazard, non-artistic graffiti.   

After Everest House, we went to ‘Happy Valley,’ a rather upbeat name for what is essentially a refugee camp.  However, since it was established 50 years ago, Happy Valley is now a fairly settled, stable village for thousands of displaced Tibetans.  The Dalai Lama lived here for a year in 1959, right after fleeing Tibet.  Then he made a permanent move to Dharamsala.  I went to Dharamsala for quarter break—blog post coming soon to a computer screen near you!

the first Tibetan temple in India, consecrated by the Dalai Lama

Tibetan Homes- a school for orphaned children.  Woodstock students often do community service here.

On the way back home, Claire and I decided to follow the signs for Camel’s Back Road, a route that we’d heard of before but had never explored.  It was a wise decision!  There were more spectacular views along this relatively quiet, winding strip of pavement, and it was as flat as could ever be expected from a mountain road.  It was also lacking in the crotchal discomfort one would usually associate with a camel's back (ahem, mom).  Along the way, we stopped at a theater/ballroom/roller rink that the British established in the late 1800s and took a peek inside.  It was both creepy and cool, in equal parts.

As great as it was to finally see Everest House, nothing beats returning to your own house after an exhausting day of adventure.  It was simply amazing to be able to foray into the Himalayan foothills during the day and sleep in my own bed at night.  Before bed, though, I was able to talk to my mom on Skype and tell her about my memorable day.  And, because I couldn't officially say it then, I must say it now:

Happy Mother's Day!

Without my mom's love and guidance throughout my childhood, I probably would not have become a teacher; without my mom's love and support as I've entered adulthood, I definitely would not have become a teacher in India.  I love you, mom!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, very nice blog with pics. Me and my sister are also planning to visit Mussoorie on our scooter and wondering if hill roads are safe to ride there? Do you normally switch off the engine and ride on down-slopes there? Thanks, Kusum