Monday, May 21, 2007

fevers, tibetans and the never-ending bus rides

After spending two nights in Rishikesh (at least one night longer than I planned) I headed out for nearby Dehradun to catch the bus to Dharamsala. I was told the ride would take about 12 hours, but knowing Indian buses and knowing Indian promises, I prepared myself for a 16-hour overnight ride. I wasn't far off. Seventeen hours after leaving Dehradun, and at least two engine problems and four stops later (in some of the dirtiest places I have seen yet in India), we arrived at the Mcleod Ganj bus stand.

At least I didn't suffer the ride alone. A few minutes after reaching the Dehradun bus station, a girl I vaguely recognized from my most recent Rishikesh guest house (Nishant, highly recommended) said hello to me. She turned out to be Israeli (despite looking completely European), and also turned out to be a former employee at Haaretz. Small world. In India, as in most places in the world, friendships that are supposed to happen happen. Aviv and I got along right away, and spend the whole ride talking and laughing together. Yes, we spent 17 hours talking and laughing. This is because there was no way in hell we could sleep. We were seated in the front of front seats on the deluxe bus, which must have been comfortable for the tall (read: very, very big, even huge) Tibetan monk seated across the aisle from us, but for us was very difficult. Aviv and I are about the same size (read: haven't grown since we were 15, and it's questionable whether we even grew before then) and our feet only reached the wall in front of us if we leaned our shoulders onto the space where our butts belonged and stretched with all our might.

So no sleep. Still, it would be hard to call it "the worst bus ride I have taken in India" since nearly all have been such gems. But usually, I find myself crunched up against a window or pushed onto the engine seat by an unknowingly overbearing Indian man. So in a way, this was okay.

There was a group of seven other Israelis on the bus, (not to typecast) the kind that just got out of the army and were in desperate search of a shanti Tel Aviv nightlife in Dharamsala. Which they found. Dharamsala, at least its upper two villages Dharamkot and Baghsu, caters nearly entirely to Israeli tourists. Most tourist places in India specialize in Israelis, but this was out of control. I'm talking Hebrew signs everywhere, shakshuka in every restaurant along with a waiter itching to try out his Hebrew, and more Israelis than you'll find in Dimona. But a much better view. Aviv and I hightailed it to the furthest guest house in Dharamkot, set basically in the forest, and set up home.

Which was a great idea, since the next day, after lunch at the Beit Chabad and a long walk in McLeod Ganj (home of the exiled Tibetan government) I found myself almost too weak to walk. Being the stubborn person that I am and the grandaughter of my Polish grandmother, I insisted on walking the 3 km from McLeod Gan to Dharamkot. By the time I arrived at my guest house, I essentially collapsed on my bed, not merely because I was exhausted, but from what would turn out to be a very uncomfortable case of probable dehydration.

First came the near fainting, and then came the shivers, which engulfed me all night long, even after I began vomiting in earnest. Knowing I needed to drink water, I tried with all my might, only to lose it into the bucket or toilet a few minutes later. Since I have experienced probably three fevers in my life, the last one about 15 years ago, I was convinced that I was about to die, and was nearly content to accept my fate. Aviv, who like a sister patted my back and changed my bucket and refused to go to sleep until I did, convinced me that it would pass in the morning. Inwardly, she was convinced I had malaria.

When I awoke in the morning, after sleeping in short spurts, my fever was still high and I couldn't keep down any liquids, or ingest anything into my body. So I elected to stay home and "sleep" while Aviv went off to play with Itamar, a great guy we met at the Beit Chabad over Friday night dinner. Personally, I began the day by cursing the good will of the Chabad, who I was convinced had made me sick, but I soon realized that what I had was a pretty clear case of dehydration. I spent the whole day in bed, hurting from head to toe, unable to eat, cold, hot and weak. But I did finish "Everything is Illuminated" (great book, thanks Gil).

Today, Monday, I got out of bed, and ate a meal (in all honesty, not the best decision) and walked to Baghsu with Itamar and Aviv to explore. Dharamsala is truly lovely, and I'm looking forward to regaining my energy in full so I can explore some more.


mark said...

I hope you are feeling better by now, than your mother will be when she reads this...
You take good care of yourself, I will try and care for your mother.
So happy you are pleased with where you have led yourself.

Mommy said...

I'm so glad you called Savta. Now I don't have to get on the next plane.
Hag Sameach!

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