Climbing every mountain

At least, that's what Kid A wants to do. His suggestion, with every mountain he sees, is, "Maybe I should get out of the van and climb it!"

I can't even believe it is Sunday. We started traveling on Wednesday, and we are almost there.

Our last day is ahead of us, and it promises to be a doozy.

But I left you in Delhi, in our hotel room, and so I should bring you up to speed. I have always loathed being in Delhi, but I had a whole new outlook after living in India for ten months already. Delhi went from being the horribly crowded and polluted place where we landed to... a big city! With shops and everything! We spent part of the day looking around at the different shops. I wanted to go to the Government Khadi Emporium, somewhere I've been jonesing to go for a long time. However, we managed to land in Delhi on a Government Holiday (a festival of some sort- there are so many, I can't keep track. However, there were parades) so it was closed.

And then we spent a big part of the day trying to figure out our travel plans for the rest of our journey. There is no easy way to get where we are going.

a) Night train boarding at 10:35, then taxi for the rest of the 100 kms.

b) Night bus, then taxi. (Horrific option, really. There is nothing more terrifying than being on a night bus on switchbacks in the Himalayan foothills with a crazy driver, swinging from side to side in your bunk, not sleeping, seeing nothing but headlights coming RIGHT TOWARD YOU.

c) Hiring a car for the entire journey. This is the option we chose, and I am so glad we did. The cost ended up being only about $40 for each person, with plenty of space for our stuff and all of the people. It was more expensive than the other options, but also more sane. Sanity is good.

A pause here for a small miracle.

When we reached Connaught Place; a large market in Delhi that spans several kilometres, Chinua jumped out of the tiny auto rickshaw with his camera, spying a photo opportunity across the street where a dozen men were rolling out snacks together. I herded the kids to the sidewalk, and we stood watching Chinua framing shots until he turned around, clapped his hand to his head, and said, "My camera backpack!" We both whirled and looked. The rickshaw was gone.

Three lenses. Much worth.

It was like one of those movies with a helicopter zoom out, and I saw the city crawling with rickshaws like green and yellow bugs, all of them exactly the same, all of them possibly containing contents which could earn their struggling drivers some much needed wealth. Wow.

I sat down in the shade on the sidewalk with the kids and we prayed for a minute. Then the beautiful things started happening. Some kind men wanted to know what was wrong, as Chinua walked around asking questions, and he told them. "No problem no problem," they assured him, and went to work to help, asking questions, making phone calls. There is no radio system in the rickshaws, but they called the head of the network of auto rickshaws. I have no idea how they found our driver, but they did.

And he brought it right back. It was incredible. A small miracle.

I've never realized before how incredibly helpful the people in Delhi are. At every step there is someone ready to offer assistance, advice, help getting a rickshaw or directions (right or wrong ones). Delhi is also heartbreaking with its plethora of beggars and rows of slum housing. One man approached us asking for help to buy him some medicine from a chemist, since he had been in some kind of accident and had a large wound on his arm. At the same time, Leafy decided to pee in his pants, and we danced back and forth between figuring out what to do with pee boy on the street and buying the man the medicine and then following another man who was trying to lead us to the tourist office. It was chaos.

I eventually booked our van and yesterday morning we were off, through more and more fields of grain, helping the kids to pee on the side of the road innumerable times, through snack breaks and past truckloads of people.

When we reached the foothills, we hit the switchbacks. The air coming into our van was suddenly fresh and cool, the first air like it that I have felt since I left Israel ten months ago. All of it was amazingly nostalgic. There were flowers springing out of the hillsides and the kids nearly fell over each other pointing out the monkeys. At one point we got out for a pee break and below us was a red toy train, an old wooden one, making its way around the mountainside. The kids jumped up and down with glee.

I loved hearing Kid A and YaYa playing 20 questions together, of their own volition. Here's an example of YaYa's questions:

Does it crawl?
Does it have a mouth?
Is it alive?

I love how generously she splashes out her questions, not hoarding them or keeping them sensible. (The answer ended up being a mouse, but I think Kid A gave her a lot of hints.)

Anyways, we reached Shimla, our halfway point, last night, after our 12 hour journey. And now we will hop into the van for another day of switchbacks. Another day of stunning views and terraced mountainsides and Himalayan people in their sweater vests and toques.