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Big Sur Camping

Big Sur, California.

It is so quiet here. In fact, the tranquility is so deep that even the sound of the wind feels deafening. Below us, the Pacific Coast Highway curves along the iconic Big Sur coastline; the deep blue of the Pacific sweeps up into a beautiful green turquoise as it washes up into a cove hidden beach. The PCH, normally traversed by tourists and other ocean lovers is all but abandoned due to multiple closures along the route from mudslides caused by winter rains. Up here at Prewitt Ridge, it means that we are the only ones here, maybe the only humans for miles.

We’ve set up camp near a burnt out tall tree, that looks more like an old tentacled alien. Woodpeckers and other birds have dimpled the branches and sides of the tree, giving the effect of a golf ball all over. Despite how much it has already been abused, the birds keep pecking away, sometimes fast like a jackhammer, sometimes slow like a lazy worker.

This is the second time we’ve set up camp in as many hours. Our #FOMO and choice of campsites sent us repacking when our first vista didn’t seem as breathtaking as another site we stumbled upon later. In fact, every site seems to have a million dollar view. We will later regret making this move since the ground is much harder here and sleep eludes us.

The road up to Prewitt Ridge is a dirt road that twists and turns up to the ridge. It’s not a difficult road when taken slowly, but it does have some slippery sections that may require more caution, especially given the sheer drop down the mountain in some turns.

After we’ve set up, the sun has already begun to set and the wind picks up. With nothing between us and the ocean breeze, we bundle up and tie down the tent even tighter to stop the buffeting. The campfire and dinner are made and cooked under heavy wind gusts. Once the burger meat is cooked, we quickly take everything inside and finish our meal inside the tent, sheltered from the wind for the most part. Some more reinforcement and extra padding to the tent help block out the wind completely.

The night passes peacefully, snacking and watching TV shows on our laptop, bundled in blankets, away from the world.

After lots of tossing and turning, I fall asleep on the hard and uneven ground. I wake up around 6am to the light and sounds of the birds. Giving up on sleep I sit outside with the hopes of reading or doing something, but I get lost just sitting, thinking, and watching the fog slowly fade away with the morning light.

After a breakfast hot dog, a lone hiker comes up from below us and apologizes for the intrusion before wandering off. We later tried to retrace the path he came from, but found that it ended into open wilderness.

We wander around the campsite some more, again finding no one else here except for an RV parked up in the distance.

Being away from the world without cell service or internet and having a beautiful view helps us slow down and just exist. I can hardly even bring myself to read the books we’ve brought; I just tend to just watch the ocean and veg out, looking at the trees, the grasses, the water, and listening to the sounds of the birds and wind.

When I’m hungry and snack on something; when my eyes get tired, I close them. I feel like one of my cats when I see them sitting outside in our backyard, chin up into the breeze, eyes closed.

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Art of India


“Yes that’s me,” I replied.

“You were supposed to arrive 5 hours ago,” he says almost in a rebuking tone.  I’ll later find out that Arvind, the guesthouse owner, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Indian Army.  His specialty: transport.

“Sorry I got on a late bus over.”

“It’s alright, I thought you had been kidnapped by one of these autorickshaw drivers or something.”

“No no, I’ve learned how to get around and deal with that since I’ve been here.”

“Yes, there is definitely an art to it.  Please, come in.”

There is indeed an art to getting around in India, and in fact, there is an art to everything in India.

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In the Desert

Osian is about a two hour bus ride north from Jodhpur.  It is an oasis in the Thar desert, and if you travel about 100 miles west, will take you to the border of Pakistan.  All I knew at the time was that I had to get off at the stop right after Osian and meet a man, who would take me by Jeep (which was really a Mahindra) to the base camp where I would be spending the next two days exploring the desert by camel.

Now, being in a more rural area of India than the previous cities I’d visited, almost no one spoke English.  On the ride to the camp our conversation was a struggle, and answering “Yes” to many of my questions left me even more confused about what was going to happen in the next couple days.  Like a logic puzzle, I had to ask simple and mutually exclusive questions to determine whether or not he understood what I was asking and if he understood what he himself was telling me.

Things became a bit clearer once we arrived at the base camp.  The camp was quite impressive given the fact that it was in the middle of the desert off a dirt road.  The front was structure made of bricks that looked like a miniature castle gate, with small flags flying atop the walls.  The main entrance opened up to a wide area enclosed on the right side by a low brick wall extending about 50 meters into the desert and on the left side by a line of large tents, all secured into the ground by a lattice work of ropes and stakes.

I was led into a small dining room attached to the brick entrance where I met the owner of the camp, who spoke very good english.  For the next couple days, I’d be staying at the camp while taking excursions into the desert and returning for meals.  As their only guest, I basically had free reign over the entire camp and their staff of 4.

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The Ganga

Traveling alone is never really traveling alone if you don’t want it to be. Today I shared a taxi from the train station with a funny Japanese fellow and then wandered the ghats and back alleys of Varanasi with some French travelers. So why is it that it’s so easy to know a stranger thousands of miles from home, yet so hard to know neighbors  who live mere feet away?

They say that if you die in Varanasi, you achieve moksha, or freedom from the cycle of death and reincarnation. Varanasi is the end of ends.  It’s like the anti-Matrix; if you die here, you die in the spiritual world as well.  This is why many older Indians come here to spend the rest of their days, waiting to die.

When that day comes, their bodies are wrapped in ceremonial clothes and carried down to the Ganga for cleansing.  Once purified, their body is burnt upon a carefully weighed out pile of sandalwood if their family can afford it, otherwise cheaper wood is used.  To witness all this firsthand is a sight that can only exist in memory as there is no photography permitted anywhere near the burning ghat.

I think one of the French travelers said it best about the river, “The Ganga is pure, but it is not clean.”  When you see dead goats floating down the river as well as dead bodies being cleansed in its purifying waters, you get an idea of how inviting the Ganges must be.  Yet, thousands of people come to its shores each day to wash themselves and their clothes.

Of all the places that I visit on this trip, I will be spending the most time here.  Here, there are no great feats of architecture or grand museums to visit, just a holy river and the people who believe in its purity.  I don’t know if I believe in its cleansing power or what sins can be washed by its waters, but I think just being here is good for the soul.

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