In the Himalayas –
Fresh, breathable air that drinks cool.
It took us ten hours, a flat tire, mounds of traffic, a couple mangos, a cup of tea, and peeing in a hole until we transferred all our bodies from two large tour buses to six or so nimble taxis that would shimmy us around the bends of the ‘foothills’. This ride took us about another hour or so and thrilled me beyond belief.
Before the wheels even started turning our driver forcefully suggested that we lock our doors. The back of the car was jammed with luggage, and so although I saw the driver’s eyes wander to the rearview mirror quite often, I’m not entirely sure if he could see anything beyond our lumpy luggage sacs.
We wound up and up and up on roads that should have been at least two yards wider, and fought for a share of the narrow lanes. We passed by cars close enough to give them goosebumps, and a couple times we were forced to stop and back up in order to make room for an oncoming truck that was too bloated to share the road. We hopped in front of cars on our side of the road, too, around turns, honking and honking and honking… warning and warning and warning. Everyone honks here. It reminds me of volleyball, where they always tell you to yell, “MINE MINE MINE” if you are about to hit the ball so that two people don’t go for it at the same time. It’s how cars dictate their space and make their presence visible and aggressive.
Anyway this ride…
Winding and batting and pulsing in and out of lanes crunching on stony pebbly roads and degraded inclines that tossed you back views of green sprawling misty trees. Honking at every turn. Weaving through roads in an endless maze.
I feel like everyone that grew up here has a primal sense of how it all fits together. (Obviously) – but it just amazes me how people navigate! – whenever I get into a taxi or an auto rickshaw to tug me to a different part of the city to which all I know is a name. It’s so hard to gain a secondary sense of direction here, and I am so entirely aware of how reliant I am upon the people who live India, who know the mazes, who can tap into the movement of traffic and the dusty roads and the uneven cement and the trucks and the cars and the honking honking honking. As if everyone has the secret here, and I am so obviously foreign to the whole system, I just need to be tugged along until familiarity begins to sink in.