Heading north in Kumaon

It’s 6:30 am. I’m not tired but sitting up doesn’t appeal to me at all, so I clutch the pillow and bury my head into it. It’s 7:30. It’s 8:00.

river in Bageshwar or Bharari... I don't remember

I sit up, turn on the television and start packing up my crap so I can get myself out of Bageshwar. Leaving my books with the owner of the hotel, I eat and find a shared jeep to Bharari. There are no views of the jagged Himalaya due to cloud cover, but the foothills are beautiful themselves. When I get up to Bharari I’m told that thee are no shared jeeps to Jhopra and that, while my 25 km ride from Bageshwar was Rs. 30 the 30 km ride to Jhopra will be Rs. 600. I start slapping my legs and saying ‘these are very good… and free!’ and I communicate to them that I plan to walk to Jhopra rather than paying what I’ve set as my daily allowance for a ride there.

they just finished dumping cut grass

‘My brother… near Sikar,’ a man on a motorcycle says. Sikar temple is a 3 km walk beyond Jhopra and is my destination. ‘I going tomorrow,’ he adds. ‘Brother, Sikar,’ his friend adds. It keeps going like that with five guys repeating over and over about this motorcycle guy’s brother living somewhere around Sikar. You wouldn’t believe it, but there is actually very little that I can do to quell this seemingly needless repetition, because there turns out to be a reason for it. These men are excited to help me and excited to do so in whatever broken English they can speak, so I nod patiently until they are satisfied.
The man on the motorcycle says ‘brother, baba, Sikar.’ ‘Your brother is a sadhu?’ I ask. This is not the case and it starts up another round of excited repetition. In any case, I’m looking forward to spending time with another sadhu. I always feel a peaceful challenge when in the presence of a strong person of faith. Another man joins the group and I’m enthusiastically informed that he is also a teacher and he knows English. ‘There’s a taxi stand on the other side of the river,’ the teacher says. ‘You stay my house,’ the motorcycle man says. ‘He’s lying,’ the teacher says. ‘Oh, he’s lying? You mean he’s joking?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘OK, then I’ll go to the taxi stand.’
Arriving in Jhopra, it’s pouring rain and I would have to walk to Sikar right away because there are no hotels. That’s when this guy who’s riding in the jeep, Chamu, tells me to ride for another 8 km and stay at his home.

my host's house

Of course I accept his hospitality. When we reach, I meet his mother, who is a striking lady in worn traditional clothing squatting inside the mud house preparing a bit of rice, dhaal and curd for her dear son and his foreign visitor.

Chamu's family's kitchen

After the huge snack Chamu goes off to ask a friend to accompany us on a walk to view the Himalayan panorama. He can’t just call the guy because there is no network service here. While Chamu is finding his friend, I practice my headstand and meditate until he comes back. As it gets dark, he lights the oil lamp and we talk for hours.


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