Yesterday we met up with Michele at the small town of well, it has many syllables, south of Binjour, Garhmukteshawr! Look that one up! Right on the Ganga, almost.
We had not seen them for 2 days, and had arranged to meet at 4 o'clock. We are seriously working on communications so at 4 Nat called and said they were about an hour out. WE were at a ghat -- a series of steps leading down to the Ganga where men and boys bathe away in the sacred waters, swim and spash about while a ways away, the women bathe discreetly and modestly but with lovely motions. Judy and I both got tikals (red/yellow dots on our foreheads) and were properly covered as well. Not a foreigner to be seen, and from the looks of it, we were the only ways in quite a while.
Our business was to locate a safe resting place for the board and the canoe which is so briliantly painted as to be a work of art. Our driver, Gishan, negotiated with a government dude for 500 rs. I said 300, he said 400, and we settled on that. But then we walked to a beautifully turquoise open buildings and a small park with an elderly caretaker, and a solid, locking gate. It looked like an ashram to us and come to find out, it was a cow shelter! Remember those sacred cows? Well they stay in beautiful open areas, with a rose garden to boot. Much more sincere and a mere rs200 ($4). We then found Michele and Nat who came into a area of open boats, the ferries that just go back and forth across the Ganga at this particular spot. Michele moves quickly here because they are only lines of men staringt at her and she is quick to get out of the spotlight. But soon lots of the men helped carry the board and the canoe to the gausala (cow house) and everything was stowed and locked up.
Children of MIchele, your mother has done just what she hoped to do -- paddleboard down the river in serenity.
She and Nat have camped twice in the middle of the river of sparkly white sand islands, admiring the amazing sunset (ok, pollution causes bright orange sunsets, but beautiful anyway) and far away from what Jidy and I have found with teeming cars, trucks, hand rickshaws, horses, cows, and so so so many people. All forms have horns, and they are not used rudely but to communicate, but still, oh the noise for thse New Mexico ears.
And oh the tales they told: the best part of their quiet and fast trip (2 days at about 25-30miles a day on the water) was filled with dolphins (Gandetic) that are small and beautiful. Michele saw the equivalent of an elk sized deer, frisking its tail as it turned and walked away from the river. Sadly not many fish, and in a few places, very bad pollution on the river.
She wonders what people think about this odd couple but mostly there is smiles and indifference as if a paddlebaord doesn't make much of a footprint on that sweet river. Some boys came out to swim along side her. But no problems, no difficulties with anyone, and again, amazing kindnesses when needed.
And here is the news that is miraculous indeed: Michele has no pain. None, whatsoever. Audrey she said you warned Nat that she might moan in the night because she was indeed feeling pretty bad before she came. But here, none at all. Their colds are both better and Michele was very strong over dinner telling us all their tales.
Judy and I have doing a miserable job of our small tasks requested: somehow\ dried milk and nailpolish remover are proving too hard for us to find, but oh well! Every day we get better at our meager jobs...
And both Michele and Nat seem to like the ratio of 2 days on, 1 day off with us for this. Their little cookstove isn't working (another of our tasks, Tenz where are you?) but they loved all the high protein food supplements Damien supplied and are using them mightily.
India is all we hoped and so much more. The colors, the noise, the hustle and bustle of the traffic -- are just what you would expect in Delhi, a city of 22 million people!
So Judy, great and long-time friend and donor from Chicago, and I fled Delhi to find Michele.
Her cell phone didn't work. But my driver talked to hers and had an idea where she was. Five long hours, through lots of traffic, we came to the city where her driver said she was on the Ganga.
As we slowed for heavy traffic to enter Binjour, a small city, there was this beautifl blonde woman with a saffron colored scarf, standing by the road, with her companion Nat, and surrounded by several Indian men.
We began to hoot and holler and Michele was flabbergasted to see us. She had been on the river since last we had spoken, but had lost phone contact with her driver, had no idea where he was, or any idea we were coming!
Many hugs later, we had dinner together and heard her amazing adventures, and tales of kindness from ever so kind Indians, including a hotel owner who had a press conference for her.
Even the guards at the barrage let her and Nat pitch their tents away from bad monkeys, but in an idyllic park with convenient restrooms and beautiful birds wandering about. Michele was a bit weary, but really doing so so well on her paddleboard. The best news is that for all the time on the river, she has no pain...!
We saw them off this morning below the barrage, and will meet up in another two days. She urged us to return to Hardiwar, north, and see what she had so enjoyed. We're here now, and happy that Michele is doing her goal!
Leaving Albuquerque in the dark this morning, on the long flight to Delhi. It's always hard to leave the beloveds behind, but know they are in good hands, together!
Michele called at 5 this am and sounds terrific. She'll describe what they are up to with Divali, and while we nattered about a snag or two in our logistics, the basic feeling is: whatever the problem, we'll solve it, all together.
I have asked everyone who has been to India to tell me what they like best: my favorite came from a friend who said: "the colors are unbelievably vibrant, and there is a dignity about the women that is equally beautiful." Now that's what I will seek first.
No Dehli belly. The ganga is sublime. Nat found a dead body in the rocks while filming me, our guides shrugged.
So far everything is amazing. The rapids yesterday were beyond epic, with 6 ft standing waves for up to 1000 meters long. I was the first to bring a paddleboard to this region that is packed with rafting companies.
Oh, the canoe and rig is perfect, really fast and also unique. The factory owner who had it donated it to us. All the guides and camping at Yangdu's were also donated for the cause.
The generosity has obviously been wonderful. Vishwas wouldn't take money from us either for helping us all day in Dehli.
And I would add to this: And we -- base camp in NM -- got the call from MIchele at midnight about logistics big-time! But they must have worked it out. The fact that reception is so clear is heartening, but still communications will be difficult until I arrive and have an Indian phone, too. So I'm imagining them being driven to Rishikesh with a shiny new canoe on the top and all their gear, including Michele's deflated ULI paddleboard safely stowed.