Paneer (and the odd temple)

I originally wrote this post on an overnight trip from Rishikesh to Amritsar. When writing, I was thrilled to be on another overnight train (in an ambitious moment, I likened them to the Emirates sleeping pods)… This morning, my enthusiasm has dwindled.

At one point last night, after heavily sedating myself, I remember waking up and thinking all my senses are overwhelmed. There is a blinding light that we can’t turn off in only our car. All I can smell is horrible massage oil and Carolyn’s dead stomach. All I can hear is the loudest team of snorers ever. I’m boiling hot and itchy, despite it being so cold outside. And I just want to brush my teeth. While I very much appreciated lying down, the stars did not align for us on this train trip. However, until those few hours, India has been wonderful. It’s all been incredibly smooth – total thanks to Carolyn’s remarkable planning.

Warned about the chaos of Delhi, our first two nights were spent at an amazing hotel in New Delhi as part of a Christmas present to Carolyn and I. They greeted us with a wiener dog wearing a coat (the city has really gotten on board with clothed animals) which obviously sold us on the city immediately. The next 3 days were spent sight seeing, exploring markets, tasting all sorts of food and pulling together the warmest things we could find. We’ve been featured in a surprising number of Indian tourist pictures… Initially we thought it was because we had to wear the equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt in burka form to enter a mosque (every other tourist had a regular looking cloak….). But the requests have continued and we can now only assume it is our hilarious attempts at warm clothing that draws the attention. Or our beauty…

After a day trip to the Taj Mahal (more spectacular than I could imagine) we were off further North to Rishikesh, the self-proclaimed yoga capital of India. This quiet town was a welcome change from the chaos of Delhi. While horns are still used for every style of communication, I was less concerned that my death was imminent when I heard them there. We got fully out of town on our second day with a hike up to a temple. Entering this hike, we assumed it would be a subtle incline winding through the forest… After all, monks do this walk each morning. Jokes on us as it ended up being a 10km very uphill hike. It led to a temple that was perhaps mistaken as a shopping complex at first.

For being the yoga capital of the world, I took only one class. Most come to Rishikesh for a spiritual awakening or teacher training and as such, I don’t think much emphasis was placed on the one off classes. The one I took was delightful but much more cut and dry than what I anticipated. A more thorough review after more classes around the country.

The food, the original purpose of this trip, has been wonderful. Having been “denied” of cheese for all of 2 weeks in Ethiopia, it has been one huge paneer-fest with us. It has involved the usual paneer based dishes, but also paneer sandwiches at a German cafe and a McPaneer from McDonalds. It had led to a real leaning experience about all the sounds, smells and aches a stomach can produce. Luckily, nothing more serious than the odd asphyxiation.

Today, we recover. We’re staying in a Sikh-dominated town called Amritsar where they have built a spectacular golden temple. But first, hot showers, naps and laundry are required.