So we arrive in Rishikesh, and head to one of the main market/guesthouse areas. It's early in the morning, and crossing the ganges with the sun rising and the monkeys swinging about the bridge wires - it's a pretty darned cool welcome.
One of the locals:
We wander around, drink lots of chai and lemon tea, and find a great restaurant on the bank of the ganges with possibly the world's smiliest waiter. We also find an advert for a Royal Enfield Bullet - the quintessential bike for touring India. I'd been doing a bit of biking back in Britain with the hopes of doing some in India, so we try getting in contact with the owner, with no luck, but the idea is planted in our heads and we go on a bike hunt. We meet a very friendly Indian who is here on holiday and is clearly fairly wired on charras. He is wandering the same way we are and we keep bumping into each other and eventually he offers to help us find a bike, since he rides himself and is looking to rent one. I'm fairly dazed at this point, it's dark, we have no idea where we are, and we're trying to buy a motorbike with no idea how much I should be paying or what a good bike is, and one that I'm not sure I can ride, and am certainly not legally allowed to ride. Anyways, after settling on a good price for a nice bike that was about 10,000 rps less than I was expecting thanks to our Indian friend (27,000, about 350 pounds, all inclusive with insurance/luggage racks, etc) we sit and have a chai with the friendly man, I calm down, and I decide to go for it:
They tell me to ride it around for the day to get a feel, first to go the petrol station just down the road. I'm pretty nervous, not only because I've never ridden anything half this big, or because of the Indian roads, but also because I'm sitting outside a motorbike shop with tons of bikers outside clearly judging me. Obviously 100 meters down the road I fall off into the gutter and get covered in sewage. Standard. In my defense, the brakes and gears are on different sides than in Britain so instead of braking I changed into 2nd (the gears are also opposite, down for higher gears) but yah, not my finest moment. I ride around the petrol station a bit getting a feel for it, then try with my friend on the back (yeah, the first time on a much bigger bike with a passenger with different controls on insane roads in a different country is a great idea, I know I know) and we go buy helmets. We ride around a bit and find some awesome scenery on mountain paths:
There are a few scary moments, clipping a rickshaw on the busy inner city streets, a few (ok, about 3 bazillion) problems with things like turning around/maneuvers, and at one point we turn a corner where a bus is speeding towards us and there is absolutely no room so we get pushed to the side, both burning our legs on the silencer. We carried on our way, but deciding that going long distances with a passenger simply wasn't going to happen - or if it did, something bad and painful would happen. The ride back is fine though, and really nice. I drop Ali off and ride back to the shop - which is MUCH easier without him - for a few minor adjustments... (a huge iron pole and 6 men bending the engine guard thing back into place after the fall). Then I ride back to our hotel (in the dark + potholes and unmarked speed bumps + getting lost = eeeeeek) and finally get back to our room and have a small heart attack.
At this point my leg is looking pretty yellow from the burn - it doesn't hurt but then I read on the internet that it's probably because it's at least a 2nd degree burn and so the nerves have been burnt. So I head to a hospital (which is clean and westerny to my relief) and get attention almost immediately. First the doctors cleans the burn, then brings out a razor which makes me a little nervous, then he leans in to the wound and as he makes contact the lights cut out. So I'm a little freaked out, but he just starts shaving the hair around my leg, so I calm down. Until, that is, he starts cutting off the skin around and inside the burnt area. Slicing inside infected, burnt dermis with a razor without anesthetic is... not unpainful. So I chew my fingers off for a while, he sorts me out, prescribes some antibiotics and I pay a few hundred rupees. I was kind of laughing the whole way through, certainly an experience!
Which kind of takes it to now - I've been doing very little the last few days, I'm not supposed to walk much or get it wet, and have to go back every day for new bandages/to check on the infection. I sort of wish I'd taken a picture of the wound actually, but it'd just worry family members/put off other readers. Was pleasingly disgusting though, looked like the flesh of an orange covered in yellowy milk. ...yeah that was more graphic than strictly necessary.
aaaanyways, I've rambled for faaar too long - I have a lot of free time since I can't do much. Reading back it sounds kind of negative or like a bit of an ordeal but I've honestly been having an amazing time... there were a few unpleasant bits, but I'm just in a constantly good mood at the moment. It's been really nice just reading, meeting travelers and drinking lots of tasty lemon tea - it's a very relaxed place, peaceful and beautiful.
Time for some mutter pannier and roti methinks!