Saturday, November 6, 2010

From Rishikesh to Mussoorie with KHEL students

2 November 2010 Tuesday

From Rishikesh to Dehra Dun to Mussoorie. Now starts a new part of this India trip – going from one place to another, and spending only one or two nights in any place, days filled with traveling as well as sightseeing.

Not only photos, but two video clips at India 2010 #12 To Mussoorie

Today we left Rishikesh about 10 am, arrived in Dehradun around 11:30 am, visited a school mainly for children shunned because their parents were lepers, went to see the leper colony around 2 pm, had lunch at 2:30 pm, an hour later taking the bus up the hill to Mussoorie, arriving at around 5 pm, climbing the steep 7 or so blocks straight up to our Himalayan Castle Hotel.

The day started out abnormal around 6 am but no walk with Alice or anyone. Worked on modifying some photos of Sunday’s Ramana Garden and Ram Jula Arti ceremonies to be added later on Picasa. I heard Robert talking on the phone around 2 – it was a happy birthday to a niece ? back home. Took my usual shower and shave around 7 to go to normal breakfast at 7:30, sitting with 3 strangers at a table, I think they were Swedish. Parathas today with some vegetables mixed in and cilantro sauce, banana, and chai. Around 8 rushed back to pack – how am I going to add my jacket, 3 new Indian shirts or kurtas, 2 Indian pants, and a new pair of sandals to my already full suitcase. Somehow I did, putting some clothing in my knapsack, but it was tight. Pulled my suitcase up to the office by 9:30 planned departure as all others were there and Robert was finalizing paying the bill.

The bus was larger (24 passenger) than our previous large van (15 passenger?), but smaller than the normal larger busses (40?). They placed our luggage In the back and I got one of the font seats, though it was not good seeing out the front since the sideman or guide was obscuring the front view with his head, but I still enjoyed the 1.5 hour ride through the Swaliks, the town of Daiwala, past the Dehradun airport (where Vance will fly into on the 8th of November), and into Ddn.

Our morning visit was to the KHEL school (Kindness, Health Education, and Laughter) of low or untouchable caste children – Robert had been here before and others he knew supported the school financially. Light and dark blue uniformed kids running around at recess as we arrived around 11:30 or so. After they ran off to their classes the director told us some about the school, and then we went and visited classroom – Kindergarten up to 5th Class (elementary level/?). We were greeted by the students, walked into the class room, found out the subject and asked a couple questions. I asked one 10-year old boy his name – Amin, and then wrote my name Filip or Feeleep in Nagri for him to read. Last class was a Music one in a large auditorium room, and I read off some of the notes on the board from Nagri. Soon we were seated in front of the stage, some speeches, including remarks by Robert, then garlanded and tea and cookies were brought as we watched performances of boys and girls, traditional dance, local mountain dance, little kids singing Twinkle Twinkle, and an athletic demonstration of poses to a really, really loud booming drum. Then photos before we walked back through the lanes to the bus – most with their garlands still on, and greeting lots of uniformed girls coming from another school as classes were out for the day. They loved greeting us in English and trying out their hellos and giggling. It was a nice visit to the school.

Off to the leper colony, which Robert, again, had previously visited. Again a walk through the wide streets, after the bus parked about 3 blocks away from the colony. But, we found that the residents had gone off to in invited free lunch and were on there. Except for one older man, who said, no photos, no wandering around without the residents there. A disappointment.

Lunch at a modern looking vegetarian Ananadam restaurant – the food was finally much spicier and better than the Ashram, and included South Indian dosas, ras gullas, etc.
About 3:30 pm we headed up the hill to Mussoorie, the driver evidently worried about his return trip down in the dark. Kathy joined me in the double front seat, and I tried to answer her questions about India and the hillside as we climbed up and up – having to close the windows as it got quite cold. We noticed the very different trees. 

The bus dropped us off at the bus stand, about 3 blocks from Picture Palace. I warned folks of the 3 blocks, and then the 5 other blocks climb straight up to Himalayan Castle. Coolies tried to carry luggage for Rs 50 a piece, and about half did. Robert, Alice, and I started pulling our luggage up the steep hill. I gave up about a block up to a pestering coolie who I had gotten down to Rs 30. Alice gave up next another block up, but Robert persisted and carried his all the way. We then fanned out to our rooms on the second floor as our hotel manager greeted us (name Prithab Vaish?), saying if you had contacted me we would have had cars to bring you up from the bus stand. Robert and I settled into room 12. It was like the others – two huge rooms, each with a huge double bed with 2 quilts (but no top sheet), a bathroom in the back and a view along a narrow hall to the back side to see Dehra Dun, a TV, closets, etc. I found out our shower hot water facet didn’t work well – only a trickle – so we ended up having to fill a large bucket by the lower hot faucet and cup bathe ourselves. Well, always adjustments to living and traveling in India. 

We decided to eat supper at the hotel and ordered right away, various Indian dishes from their menu, including meat dishes like tandoori chicken, curry chicken, and then several naan breads and rices, etc. Surprisingly the opened up the dining room (across from the office) which we had never used on our previous stay. And then everyone retired early. But not before the manager had gotten small heaters for each of our rooms. I did not use it the first night but ran it all night long the second night, though it does not seem to have made much difference in the huge, high ceiling room.

Lost my combination lock today, I had not closed the lock on my suitcase and it likely fell off in the back bus luggage compartment. I didn’t check about it as we got the luggage out of the bus, but it is likely sitting there at the bottom of the compartment. Too back and unlikely to find a replacement in India.

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