The Revenge of Karnataka on the road from Bangalore to Coorg

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The third day blurred into the fourth. Shannon was exceedingly sick. We were scheduled to check out of the hotel and meet our driver down in the lobby at 6:30 AM but Shannon just wanted to lay in bed the rest of the day. I completely understood, as I, myself, slept little the night before. However, such events are normal when traveling with Shannon. She's prone to motion sickness and generally comes with a handle with care label. When she's on, she's 100%. When she's tired or nauseous, she's either passed out or irritable, throwing the itinerary into a tailspin. We discussed canceling our trip or me going alone, but we both knew if she didn't get in that car, she'd regret it for the rest of her life.

I knew when I booked our tour to Coorg that I was playing with fire but I also knew it's exactly where she wanted to go (even if she didn't know it). Even Aditi, kept asking me if Shannon would be alright considering Shannon's hesitation for hostels which resulted in us booking a finer accommodation in Banaglore. As someone who has seen Shannon throw-up on almost every road-trip we've taken, across thousands of miles and numerous countries, the only choice I had was to push her through it. By mid-morning, I was just praying that she didn't take Tai-Ji, our driver, out in her cross-hairs of projectile vomiting or damage the interior of the car.

Shannon became adamant we would not be going to the places on the tour that day. Missing our initial stop, Nisargadhama, I pushed back on the second stop and said I really wanted to go to the Tibetan monastery. As empathetic as I am to her condition, I felt that my chance of a lifetime trip to rural India was slipping away from me. What was supposed to be an adventure was turning into six hours of driving past everything with a burping corpse who angrily became conscious to tell me, "no we can't go there".

Eventually, Shannon passed out enough that Tai-Ji could slip off for some lunch at a roadside restaurant. A literal shack in the middle of nowhere that seemed quite popular. However, neither Shannon or I had the appetite for a full meal. I popped out of the car for a cold drink and a snack while keeping an eye on Shannon's lifeless body. She became a bit of a tourist attraction as individuals would walk by and peek on her, curious as to who was the occupant of the car. I was getting my own share of attention for the first time since leaving Bangalore. Aditi would always hate when someone would call her exotic in the U.K. and claimed if I ever came to India, I would be the one who was exotic. I was starting to feel, well, "special". Eventually, we were off again and we arrived at the Tibetan monastery. She begged to stay in the car, but I prodded her with, "it might make you feel better to walk around". Angrily, she rushed out of the car, hurriedly hopeful to get it over with.

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Namdroling Monastary is a huge compound, housing nearly 5000 monks and nuns. The monastery was started with only 300 rupees by a Tibetan named Pema Norbu Rinpoche, but is now a center for the teachings of Buddha and has since been consecrated by the Dalai Lama. Included in the massive facility is the shedra, a monastic college that teaches logic, philosophy and debate.

I suppose this is where I'll segue into one the most (or least) interesting of topics about India, the toilets. They range from western style to squatter. I became quite fond of having a Bum Gun (a sprayer used in lieu of toilet paper), but at many toilets you will find only buckets of water or nothing at all. The monastery public bathrooms were actually one of nicer squatters we would visit in the days to come. Being able to adapt to anything is the key to being happy here. One moment you've got your shades on and marble floors, the next you're standing ankle deep in "water" squatting over a hole in the ground and washing your rear with a bucket. After our Tibetan baptismal we were back off in the car and heading towards a small nearby town in Coorg. Upon exiting the monastery, Shan just wanted to collapse back into the car. However, we couldn't locate our driver and she quickly became angry at the idea Tai-Ji had driven off with the luggage (which wasn't the case). She was simply tired and exhausted and wanted to retire to the hotel. Except, there was one itsy bitsy problem. I hadn't exactly told her everything. The whole trip had been a surprise and only Aditi knew the entirety of what would take place. I sat Shannon down on the bench, and had to break the news to her. "Shan, we're not staying at a hotel". Her eyes, turned to me, her neck slowly catching up, I winced with what was to come. "We're sleeping outside". At this point I closed my eyes and waited for the worst. A slap to the face, her breaking down in tears. I knew I had screwed up.... but there wasn't anything I could do at this point. "Oh! Great! Are you serious?", she shot out. I apologized over and over but there was no going back now. The surprise had turned into a disaster and all she could imagine was three days of diarrhea and vomiting on the arid sands of some random town in India. I can understand her misery.

After roaming the town looking for Tai-Ji alone, I eventually found him exactly where he said he would be. We headed off to our home-stay about an hour away. In between there and here were millions of twists and turns that would finally lead Shannon to vomiting on the roadside, her head extended from the backseat of the Toyota in  the midst of dangerous traffic. I'll admit, she almost made it without incident but I also was grateful that her indiscretions occurred far from camp. Almost immediately, she began to feel better once the measure was complete. Though, the faces of residents in that small town was a story unto its own, Shan seemed at peace having purged the demons into the poor village. As we road into the coffee bean plantation on a long dirt road surrounded by lush coconut trees, I don't think either of us knew what to expect. There, we met the husband and wife team of Prakash and Darshan who led us back to our Swiss Tent. At our feet was Blacky, their dog, who ended up living outside the tent for the next few days. Shan was pleasantly surprised to find a bed and toilet inside the tent. We even had running water. For the first time in days, Shannon had a smile on her face. "This is pretty cool", she replied, knowing the worst was over. "Yeah? You sure, Shan?", I cautiously asked.  Although it was almost 100 F outside and we were in the middle of a power-cut till 10 PM, our new home seemed like paradise with gravity fed water to a sink and faucet to wash off in. Mr. Prakash-Ji kindly brought Shannon some salt and lemon water for her stomach and eventually she fell off into a deep afternoon nap. I sat outside with Blacky, feeding the dog banana chips and relaxed in what had to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

It was difficult at first to stop checking my phone, but without WiFi, power, and in the heat of the day, I found myself resorting to doing nothing. Something that's far harder to do than you would expect. I missed this feeling. The art of doing nothing, la dolce vita. I became quite adapt at it while walking the Camino de Santiago last summer. I was glad to be back to that authentic human experience. Where time and society's constructs don't exist and true freedom to be and do as you please provides a sense of happiness you can't find in modern life.

Eventually, just before dinner, one of the boys arrived in our tent with a million questions about life in America. With Shannon still in post recovery, I'm not sure it was her idea of a good time, but for myself I was instantly asking as much about his life here in India as he was of ours in America. His favorite movie was Jackie Chan's Rush Hour and he was working on his degree. We talked about Bollywood, Hollywood and television. It was quite interesting to see his perceptions of American culture and hear about his dreams of one day moving to Los Angeles, despite recent political events.

Soon it was dinner time and Mr. Prakash came and guided us down a dark path to dinner. The amount of food put of by Mr Prakash and his wife is enormous with every traditional home-made Indian dish you could imagine. Shan ate light, me not so much. We both were feeling a bit more comfortable now. After a cold bucket shower and some clean clothes, I settled in for the evening under the twinkling night sky of the coffee bean plantation. Blacky kept watch, sleeping outside our door and the cool Indian winds blew through our tent windows. I grabbed my comforter and smiled. We had made it. Shan snored.

Continue Reading: Part V: Sightseeing in Coorg and Farting Indians.

Read Part I: Beyond the Beautiful: Bangalore
Read Part II: Kissing Bangaluru, Tasting Kerala and Brahmins' Coffee Bar
Read Part III: Balance in India: What begins must end. - Cubbon Park, Commercial Street.


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