I was pouring water on a statue while Giacomo held burning encens sticks and the Hindu priests recited verses in Hindi that Meead would have probably understood. The inside of the temple is dark, humid and wet – it’s right next to the kund, the sacred pool. I’m only wearing socks and I have already spotted two mice.
The Hindu priest pawinted a reddish dot on my forehead, Giacomo’s and Lia’s.
“There is Krishna, Bishnu, Shiva. More than one god. But I think, there is only one god. Just different thinking. Look at you. Look at me. Same body. Two eyes. Two arms. T
wo legs. One head. Same body. Only culture different. We are all the same. ”
It hasn’t even been a week since my first visit to Galta Ji but I’m back, this time with Lia and Giacomo. We caught a tuk-tuk at Ashok Chowk, bought peanuts for the monkeys at the gate, didn’t get a guide, got followed by a four-legged guardian angel.
-We should give her a name.
-An Indian dog name.
Lia suggested “Masala”, which is actually an Indian spice mix, quite abundant in the food we’ve had this past week. Masala it is.
She let go of us a bit before reaching the Sun temple, probably distracted by the monkeys who stole Giacomo’s peanuts. The three of us went inside and sat on the roof, waiting for the sunset. We watched cars and tuk-tuks disappear inside the maze that Jaipur seemed to be. No one said a word; all we could hear was distant honks and pigeons cooing. Peace. This is when I realized that the world has a lot to offer and that there is a lot to see, a lot places I want and need to go to. Any kind of routine sickens me: I need to be doing something in such a way that every day is an adventure, every day I try something new. I have never been happier – not only I’m traveling for the sake of exploring, not for tourism, but I’m also writing about it. Traveling and writing. I’m going to make these my thing. This is just the start.
Anyway, it was still early for the sun to set which is why we decided to check out the kunds. Masala helped us go down the hills and we stopped to watch her swim across the first pool we found.
Men approached with boxes; monkeys appeared right out of nowhere. It was feeding time. Masala left the pool and stood right next to us – we were stuck watching monkeys rush towards bananas and bread. When I got a piece of banana thrown at me, I took it as a sign for us to leave. Masala led (and cleared) the way.
The kund was at our right. We went in. A monkey was picking flowers and eating some of them by the sacred pool. Giacomo disappeared for a bit. Lia found his shoes – we followed him inside the dark, humid, wet temple in our socks. Masala waited for us outside.
My first visit to Galta Ji was mostly about the monkeys. This visit was more about the temples. Sure, the people there will invite you to check out one of them, tie something around your hand, bless you/ paint on you, and ask for donations. The Hindu priest from the dark, humid, wet temple wasn’t like that. He warned us of the so-called monkey masters and guides that trick you into hiring them, just for the sake of making money. For him, it was more than that. He offered to teach us about meditation and more next time we visit the place. Needless to say we liked him a lot). The people around the other temples might be motivated by money but the temples are worth checking out – weirdly enough, Galta Ji doesn’t attract much tourists.
We watched the sunset near the gates, between two temples. Monkeys on the mountains with a pink and purple background. We listened to Hindu chants and walked into a “Hindu-priest” school near one of the temples. A priest instructed us to follow him as he turned around a tree, reciting verses. He stopped (so did we) and asked us to pray for something and touch the roots (so we did)
(Mom, you can stop reading here)
“This is something I forgot to think about”, I said as we left the site, “all of the tuk-tuks must have left”
I wish I was wrong but all we could see was an empty road, cows, goats and an abandoned tuk-tuk.
“I’m guessing we’re gonna have to walk for a bit?” asked Giacomo.
The journey started. I knew the way up here, we just had some walking to do before we reached somewhere where we could find a tuk-tuk or a cab. We could not order an Uber because last time, our driver informed us that they don’t cover this area. We could not wait in the dark. We had to walk.
“Guys, once we cross that point, we need to start using flashlights.”
We had a forest on our right, a forest on our left. No one on the road. A car maybe, every ten minutes or so. We walked for twenty minutes maybe. The word of the day, as Lia later pointed out, was “faaak”, which is “f*ck” said with an Italian accent (props to Giacomo).
“What was that?”
I definitely heard something as well. It sounded like a bear, something huge and creepy. We all stopped. “Where’s the flashlight?”
A lonesome car passed by a lit the road for a brief second. It was a cow. An Indian cow. With pointy horns.
“Guys, we can’t scare it. It might charge.”
We swiftly zigzagged away from the cow.
Lia pushes me all of the sudden. Startled, I jump and turn around. Was it following us? “Come down, there’s nothing to be worried about”, Giacomo said.
More bear noise. Louder.
Of course, we couldn’t see them. We couldn’t tell where they were. One thing was for sure, we couldn’t startle them. Of all the times a tuk-tuk could have passed by us to save the day, a yellow and green rickshaw appears out of nowhere. Then disappears. We couldn’t call it.
The cows – that were actually bulls – headed towards us. The tuk-tuk annoyed them. We didn’t understand that they were just avoiding the vehicle. Our instincts kicked in. We hid on the side of the road. When I turn around, I see Lia on top of a wall and Giacomo climbing it.
Fak. Are they really charging us?
In less than a second, I jump and join my fellow adventurers, flashlight in hand. We wait for a couple of seconds without moving.
“Should I just keep on walking?”, I asked, since I was first in line.
A Lebanese, a Brazilian and an Italian walking on a ledge, flashlight in hand, with a forest on one side, bulls (and three fast cars) on the other. I don’t even need a punchline. We were practicing funambulism in the middle of Indian nowhere.
“Can I go down now?”, not that I had many options. A tree blocked the way.
We fortunately see a house. Lights. We keep on walking – is there anything else we could do?
“Civilization at last!”, Lia shouts.
“You see more cows and the first thing that occurs to you is civilization”. I wish I was joking. There they were. More cows.
There was a temple right in front of us, something that resembles a supermarket on our right, the way out on our left, cows, cows and cows in the center.
“I want chips. Is that okay?” asked Giacomo
Lia takes out her phone, opens snapchat, records a video of us saying “Oh faaaak, we’re in the middle of nowhere”. I see the almost-mini-market’s owner.
-Do you know where I can find a cab?
– A cab!
-Oh. Yes, there.
And where does he point? Right across cow-land. He walks to his motorbike, rides it, and goes to the other side. I follow. Little steps.
I turn around to check that Lia and Giacomo are still there, not devoured by vegetarian cows. Lia is taking a picture. Giacomo is recording a video in Italian. “Guys”, I loudly whisper while I almost slip on cow shit. They follow me.
The second time I turn around, I almost slip again.
It was like I was Orpheus and Giacomo and Lia were Eurydice. I remembered the myth: I shouldn’t turn around until I was done with this road. In real life, the actual beasts were brown piles of feces.
We make it alive. Just sweat. No cow shit.
I see a tuk-tuk parked right behind the cab.
-Where is the tuk-tuk driver?
-Not here. Only cab driver.
-Okay, how much?
-One thousand rupees.
I laugh. Because it must have been a joke. Giacomo takes part in the bargain. We get it down to 300. Still too much. We walk away.
“It’s okay guys! It’s an adventure!” says Giacomo
“I’m definitely going to write about this… Lia just make sure you don’t jump on me again…”
We walk some more.
Nick is probably ordering chicken Briyani at Babylon. All of them must be ready for the beer fest. It was eight o’clock something.
Two kids follow us on a bike for a bit, saying that Agra road was that way (correct, we checked Google Maps). Giacomo, who, according to Talal, doesn’t usually have much to say to kids, casually chats with them and even shake their hands.
“Come on, they can’t be rapists at that age”
“Fak”, comments Lia.
Five minutes later: there’s a tuk-tuk noise. I turn around, there it was! I wave at it. It stops.
“Ashok Chowk, how much?”
The driver looks at us.
I give Giacomo the bargaining look. I’m assuming that our strategy was set telepathically.
“Three people, three hundred”
-What?! Too much.
We know what we’re doing. Only idiots like us would actually bargain with the only tuk-tuk they have seen in the past thirty minutes. Trust us, we know what we’re doing.
-We have been walking for the past hour. Since Galta Ji.
-Do you think we care if we walk a little more.
-One hundred for three people, or nothing.
-Think about it this way. Either you make a hundred rupees right now, or nothing.
-A hundred or nothing.
I can’t help but think about Meead’s yes, no, yes, no.
I’m sure we got him. He’s going to take the deal.
“Okay then, bye!”
I wave bye, Giacomo and Lia bid him farewell and we get back to our walking.
Twenty steps later, the tuk-tuk catches up with us. “Ok one hundred”. We jump in. Lia high-fives me and Giacomo. We take off.
“Are we going to go to the beer festival now?”
We definitely smell like crap. Probably look like crap too. I, for sure, stepped in crap. Should we go ? Maybe not. But we did go.
We reach Babylon house and walk in on the rest of the tribe while playing “Charriots of Fire”. They all want to know why it took us so long to get back home.
Guys, now you know.