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|February 19 - 22, 1996||Sasan Gir --> Ahmedabad||Tension, Disease, and No Lions|
Finally leaving the beach bum life behind (if only temporarily) we headed for Sasan Gir, a very inaccesible lion preserve in central Gujurat.
This is supposed to be "the last home of the Asiatic Lion", so we figured we might as well go.
Traveling by bus in India generally involved sitting around at a bus station in the center of a circle of onlookers waiting for buses to roll in. When a bus comes, one of us would run up to it and try to determine where it was going, while another of us (usually Zach) jumped through a window or otherwise gained access to the bus and tried to secure six seats. While this was going on, the rest of us would throw our packs onto the roof and try to tie them down. Then, often, we would find out it was the wrong bus and have to do it all over again.
So this was a change from our 12 days at the beach.
We finally got the right bus which took us bouncing along dirt roads for 5 or 6 hours while we sat in the back (the bumpiest part) on TOP of our packs. I think I dislocated my shoulder as a particularly nasty bump sent me flying into the bars on the window.
At any rate, we arrived in Sasan Gir and tried to check into the only hotel in town. The hotel was beautiful and appeared deserted so we went in and asked for a room or two. Here we ran into another of the sublime pleasures of traveling in India; inexplicable delays and roadblocks.
They told us that they didn't have any rooms, or some such crap and we argued that they obviously did, and they said they had a group coming the next day or something. We said that may be so, but we were talking about that day, not the next. Finally they gave us an expansive room but sternly warned us that we'd have to be out of there early in the morning to make way for this massive fictitious group. Whatever.
We woke early to go on our "safari" to see some serious lions. We saw none. Saw some peacocks and couple of horsecows, but no trace of a lion. Tensions were rising within the group so we decided to call it quits and get out of town posthaste.
BUT, over lunch, under flies, we were told by other whities that we should definitely go again because they saw LOTS of lions and it was worth it. So we stayed. That it is to say, we sat on the lawn and argued and got pissed off and got the run around but good from the hotel staff. We politely pointed out the obvious lack of a group of 50 people at the hotel but they assured us they were coming. We pointed out all the keys hanging on the wall when they told us there were no rooms, they said those were old or something. We ended up sleeping in their dormitory and paying them much less money. Their motivation is hard to see.
Okay, we went on another safari, so lots more non-lions, and this time we really left.
|February 23 - 29, 1996||Bombay||You have the right to remain annoyed|
The big event in Bombay, and perhaps the only one worth mentioning, is the
story of the video camera loss/theft. Here it goes. In brief.
Arriving in Bombay on an overnight train we were woken up wo pack up our stuff and get off of the train. In the middle of packing, they turned all the lights off, so we couldn't double check if we had everything. Fifteen minutes later, we realized we were without "The Nose". Erik and I raced back to the train to check for it but it was gone. We scurried around trying to get help, see if it had been turned in, etc. We got no help from no one. Except this one guy, apparently a CIA agent, who spoke perfect English and seemed to know exactly what was going on. He told us he would make some "inquiries".
We located the police station, walked in, and the video camera was there on the desk being meticulously inventoried by a crowd of cops. We celebrated and woo-hooed and slapped five and thought everything would be cool. Zach even gave them a "Don't squeeze the juice" shirt. Little did we know. Oh, so litle.
Turns out they had no intention of giving us our camera back, it was evidence now in a serious crime. They explained to us that they hade caught a kid stealing the camera and had him in custody. We told them to let him go, we didn't care, we just wanted our camera. It was our fault for leaving it on the train anyway. They found this very perplexing and refused. We contacted the US embassy, and tried to get that CIA guy to help us with translation, but he refused to go anywhere near the police. (?) So we tried to determine waht we would have to do to get the thing back. They put a document on front of me and told me to sign it, I daid I didn't want to because it was written in Hindi. They told me that it said that this guy stole our camera, I told them that I didn't know that, all I knew was that we lost it and now it was here. They said, "Oh, well that's what it says." We were getting nowhere so I signed it with a large disclaimer that I had no idea of any crime, yadda yadda.
That being done, we figured we'd get the camera back. Nope. We had to go across town to court and petition the judge for the release of our property.
Now, at this point I was very unwashed, hadn't eaten in 24 hours and I think I had pneumonia. I was unhappy. They packed Erik and I into a van with some prisoners and gun-toting cops and drove us to court. We got the run around at court for about 4 hours, watching the Indian "system" of justice grind to a halt. Finally the judge called my name and I went before him. He said... (drumroll), "Come back tomorrow."
Well, I lost it. I threw my hands up in disgust and stormed out of the courtroom, evoking gasps from every corner. Erik managed to calm me down, and we finally decided not to fight it and to just go take a shower.
I'll spare you the story of trying to get our packs back from the left-luggage office at the train station. That sucked too.
The story ends well, we got the camera back, washed and had a big steak.
Some other stuff probably happened while we were in Bombay, but you're not really interested in that, are you?
|March 1 - 15, 1996||Benaulim, Goa||Back to the beach. (Give us a break, it was hot)|
Finally dragging ourselves out of Bombay, we headed for Goa, the hippy capital
of India. We didn't intend to go to North Goa, populated by neo-euro hippies
and full-moon partiers. We wanted more of a serene beach experience, so we headed for
the less popular South Goa.
Arriving in Benaulim we found a little hotel a short walk over the dunes from the beach.
In Goa, there are temporary restaurants on the beach which are set up every year after the monsoons have gone. The restaurant on our part of the beach was Dominick's and became our local haunt. We spent our days on the beach and at Dominick's hanging out with Johnson and the other guy, Dominick and Rafiq. Rafiq was a kid who sold fruit on the beach. He was probably about 11 and a great kid. We promised to buy fruit only from him and he swam with us, gave us good deals on coconuts, and so on. Tomorrow, I'll buy the whole basket, Rafiq.
We spent our nights at Dominick's and at our hotel. The Norwegians met up with some friends from home and we spent some time up in Colva and in the surrounding areas.