Goa is a teeny bit soul-destroying. Not to be dramatic or anything. But when one is on a spiritual quest-type adventure and enjoying bungling one’s way through confusing Hindu ceremonies and making inappropriate choices to follow Shiva priests to the top of pitch-black rat-infested towers, being anointed with all sorts of colorful powders that subsequently stream down one’s face as you sweat in the sun, and enjoying the mystery and great gentility of the Indian people, one does not want:
- trance music blasting through one’s ear canals all night and shaking the bed, making sleep a remembered concept
- white people everywhere one looks (because why did one travel across the world then?)
- restaurants full of strange western-indian hybrid food (incorporating the best of neither)
- no ceremonies or religious rituals to be had except that of vacationers taking lots of drugs and swaying weirdly to aforementioned trance music
- a strange Osho-massage teacher who requests that one hold hands with him and close one’s eyes and dance and then tells one they are too shy (while charging an obscene amount of money for this service)
So, like any self-respecting yogi, I changed what I could about the situation. I had a Moon Day (full moon=no Ashtanga practice), so I high-tailed it over to Hampi for two days of historical and religious bliss.
Hampi contains everything I love about India – gorgeous history, beautiful landscape and temples and ceremonies everywhere you turn!
The overnight bus ride contains everything strange and upsetting about traveling in India, so let’s start there, as it might provide more entertainment.
You arrive at the travel office indicated on your bus ticket, but the man from Paulo Travel says the bus will pick you up on the side of the highway, gesturing vaguely “down there”. You wait by the side of the highway and eventually the bus actually comes. You board and make yourself comfortable on a sort of shelf for sleeping.
After 15 minutes, the bus stops. “Get out!’ the conductor yells. So you get out and stand with a lot of confused white people as Indians try to sell you dolls made out of foam and ice cream and travel pillows. After about an hour you see the friend you were going to meet and together you determine the location of the actual bus going all the way to Hampi.
Together you finally board, the bus starts moving, and when he sees your ticket the conductor yells, “this is not your bus! get down!” You say you booked this bus to be with your friend and where are you supposed to go? He disappears so you feel as if you’ve won that argument, albeit far too easily.
You chat with your friend and then you both lie down on the sleeping shelf and fall asleep to the tipping, swaying motion of the bus and its frequent lurches and honks.
“Get out; get out!” you hear. You sit up quickly. He is telling you to get out. It is dark. You’ve been asleep. “Your bus there!” He is pointing out the window.
You get out. You get on the other bus, as your friend gives you instructions on how to find her in Hampi. You try to sit down on the other bus. The conductor asks for your ticket. You can’t find it because you were asleep and maybe you left it on your sleeping shelf.
“Get out; get out! No ticket; get out!” You get out. It is dark. The original bus is pulling away, but you flag it down and find your ticket. Your ticket in hand, you are surrounded by a circle of screaming Indian men in the dark on the side of a road. You duck out of the circle, and they remain, still screaming.
You are finally on the other bus. You have paid for a sleeping shelf but you are seated in a cramped upright seat. You point to the space on the ticket indicating “sleeper” but the conductor says, “too late.”
You are too late to sleep. An Indian man who was forced to relinquish his seat for you keeps yelling and pointing to his eyes, which seem to be streaming with some kind of disease.
At the next stop, you are directed to a toilet, and you stand outside near a small shop, patting the forehead of a cow and wondering if you will ever see your traveling friend again.
This time, when you board the bus, there is a German girl in the eye-disease man’s seat. You have had it and yell to the conductor, “Sleeper. I paid for sleeper. You find me a shelf!”
So he does. You sleep a bit and then you are in Hampi and things improve a lot…