The Adventure Begins: Arriving in India to the Taj Mahal to Dharamsala

Inside the Taj Mahal
As soon as I walked out of the airport I was swarmed by taxi drivers asking where I wanted to go, I simply ignored them and walked passed, relentless they are, they continued to follow me repeating the same question. With my determined walk I continued straight toward the "pre paid taxi" booth across the walkway. Finally I reached the front of the line and was greeted to a 400 rupee taxi ride to my hotel. I sighed of relief. 

I stepped into the front seat, on the left side, to an air conditioned taxi. I was grateful as I was sweating, (of course). 

The taxi made its way onto the highway and I couldn't help but smile at the new culture I was entering. The new sites and new people brought a grin to my face. 

Although there were too many close calls of crashing, I enjoyed the foreign chaos. In places like China and Egypt I have experienced crazy unorganized driving but in India cutting people off and beeping your horn every minute is expected.

The next morning on my way to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is, I felt as if the constant horns  from the cars were like a "sound machine" for those that slept near the side of the road. 

I wondered if they knew what it was like to sleep in silence or if they have ever experienced a moment of pure silence.

The streets are packed with people, bikers, buggies, cars, and taxis all thinking there destination is more important. 

The Taj Mahal was magnificent. I am here during off season but to my surprise I did not experience the long smelly lines or the dirty crowded streets I was suppose to experience.

My experience was like any other adventure in another country - foreign, different, crowded, beggars here and there.. 

It was hot, but that's what I expected, I am in India! Crowded as a normal tourist attraction would be. Beggars and cute little boys trying to sell me stuff... Nothing different than what I've seen before. What I've learned is to just walk. Otherwise they will get you, their cute accents and young pitied faces will make your heart melt. But I've learned to not fall for it -- just keep walking. 

Anyway, I enjoyed learning about the history behind this world wonder. It was made in honor of the --- third wife. It is completely symmetrical and is built so it goes out 4 degrees in case of an earthquake it will not fall onto the building -- fascinating.

We also explored forts and the history behind them all is extraordinary.

I visited a couple stores in the town and of course, not to my surprise, I purchased things from the two stores I went to. For some reason, and I need to work on it, I can be persuaded to buy something. 

So I told both store clerks show me the cheapest things to buy. Literally. I bought the cheapest ring, although it is not cheap to me, it is a sterling silver with the Black Star gem. I will do my best to not lose it. I then bought a marble case, apparently made from the same marble of the Taj Mahal, to put jewelry in. 

On the way back from the Taj Mahal I was exhausted I hadn't had much sleep the day before since I had just arrived from my long trip from the states and woke up at 1 AM to leave for the adventure ( I was suppose to get to the taj mahal at sunrise but the driver was late so I missed it.. No tip for him.)

I took a shower as soon as I got back and fell asleep from 2 pm until 1130 pm! I called my mom and then went back to bed until 530 am.

I felt I needed a pick-me-up so I went to workout and got back to the room at 7. I showered, ironed my clothes, packed my bag and then went to breakfast at 8. 

I felt sinful eating because I am starting the Hindu diet when my yoga teacher training begins tomorrow so I ate way too much and felt guilty as I know people other me could use it way more.

Unfortunately that did not stop me from over indulging.

I left for the airport and arrived to see my flight was delayed an hour. I was mortified that my mother paid EXTRA for "special assistance" . Yes special assistance. So when I checked in, a guide took me through security and walked me to my gate, as if I was a little child. Enraged that my mother thought I couldn't handle myself I gave the guy a tip to leave me alone. I told him I'm okay... I've travelled to Israel, Jordan, New Zealand and Spain alone with no companion .. I don't see how India is any different. 

I wait for a few hours and I finally board on a tightly filled bus. I had been warned never to enter an Indian bus but I didn't have a choice. Thank god it had ace but it's no joke when you smell foreigner BO.. Although I still think Israel's was worse. But then again I was not experiencing the "authentic" city bus. 

We get on board Spice Airlines, with all these random planes going down it was on my mind that this dinky thing could hit the Himalayas and it'd be another plane to add to the crashes but to my grace that was not the case.

Again, I get off the plane to be utterly mad this time, no long mortified. A guy asked me if I was Devin, I nod, out of instinct... Ugh it hits me he's my "special assistant" oo I was mad. 

I walk at my own pace in front ignoring him and go straight to the restroom.

I murmur to myself that I'm going to make my mother pay me for this extra business she paid for... I get out to find the guy has my bag on a cart. I stare at him. And he's like, "your bag?"

Uh!! How did he know? I grab my bag off the cart nod and say thanks.

Later man I'm not cripple nor am I seven. I walk out the door and see a sign that has my name, "Devon Kathleen Hogan"... Spelled wrong shm. Not only in the U.S. Do they get it wrong, but here too. 

Two other women are on my flight that are in my yoga training and get in the taxi with me. We put our bags in the trunk and they get in the back seat. Not thinking I instinctively go to the driver seat and they both laugh, "planning on driving?" The Swedish girl giggles and the Ecuadorian woman chuckles too. I smile a little embarrassed, "I swear it's instinct!" Trying to not show my American colors so boldly.

The taxi driver is the same as any Indian driver beeping the horn, cutting people off, I was glad to be in the front seat because I was feeling nauseous with the constant yanking from one side of the road to the other. It is official that there are worse drivers than my mother. My mothers a good driver but boy does she slam on the breaks and pound down on the gas pedal. There's no in between so I usually end up w my head out the window gasping for fresh air before I vomit. But anyway, it was a winding road to say the least going up these treacherous curvy streets through the Himalayas.

The views were spectacular looking over the mountains. We kept going higher and higher, I kept thinking what a workout it would be to have to climb these mad steep streets. 

I spoke too soon. 

The taxi driver got lost and could no longer trek up the curvy roads. He kicked us to the curb.

How far? Great question. He told us 50 meters straight up. 

The Ecuadorian woman was the weakest link as she was older and recently had a groin injury so she has to roll her bag. The Swedish girl was like me and had a backpack but she packed way lighter than me.

We start walking literally straight up at some points I needed to make sure I still had my balance because it was so steep and it was muddy and I had flip flops on and two backpacks.

I had my huge backpack and then a small carry on one on my front side. I soon regretted packing clothes for Dubai in my bag and all the other things I could do with out.

We walk fifteen minutes up hill and I am sweating, but I don't feel so bad because the two woman with me our on the same page.

We ask around if the people know where we're suppose to go, and they have no idea.


Well, my back is aching from the bag but I pretend like I'm back in New Zealand trekking the Abel Tasman, but this time, my knee is better. So why am I complaining? I don't say anything just keep on going up the hill.

The Ecuadorian woman needs a break so we stop for a split second but she doesn't even have a backpack on, she's rolling her suitcase so the other girl and I just stand there with our packs on. At least it gave me a second to wipe my sweat.

We walk to the top of this hill where many people are bustling from one place to another. And the Swedish girl is trying to find directions as the Ecuadorian lady suggests to get a taxi.

I am not opposed. I am dripping sweat and I am carrying almost half my weight. (that may not sound like a lot but 50 lbs up the intense steep hills were not pleasant and if it cost me 5 bucks to get dropped off in front of the yoga place I would not complain)

The man the Swedish girl is talking to says the taxis on our strike and refuse to drive us. So he offers to use his dolly.. I'm all in. He asks how much I say, 10 rupees. He says 10 euros. I say no no rupees. To give you an idea 50 rupees is 78 cents in U.S. Dollars. Yes 78 cents is 50 rupees. Enough to make me go crazy thinking I'm giving away a ton when really it's nothing, literally.

Anyway we get impatient and decide to keep walking. I have been leading us the whole way and after about ten more minutes and another stop to ask someone where to go I am now behind the roll-y suitcase... They go so slow.

For me, in most aspects of life I like to go fast I get things done quicker and then I have more time to get more done. In this case, the faster we go the less time I have to have this bag on my back. 

But I'm not going to say anything so I decide to get out my phone. It's been a good thirty minutes of non sense walking I mine as well take some photos of what it's like.

I start laughing to myself because it's actually quite comical. The Ecuadorian woman is not a happy camper to put it in simple terms and the Swedish girl is too positive for my vibes. I start laughing we are randomly put together in the middle of this mountain town (and it's not like the Colorado mountain towns where there is paved roads, sidewalks, and order. There is one small road able to fit two cars but with shops and people in them it's quite impossible to get to cars to slide by one another.)

It's a tight squeeze, so anyway, we're stuck without resources, a phone, wifi and with a language barrier in this mountain town. 

The pain on my back is no longer dominating my thoughts as I think how ridiculous this is, we're the only ones with crazy luggage hauling it through the packed streets, sweating. 

Eventually we find hope, Americans!!! They are helpful. They pull out a map and point us down the mountain .. After spending 45 minutes trucking up hill, she sends us back down. 

We stop one more time on the way to get reassurance and this guy tells us exactly where to go, before the lotus sign there are stairs to the left take them all the way down... Stairs? Alright so we're close! 

Oddly, he asks if he can take a selfie with me and the Swedish girl. Whatever man as long as these directions are accurate.

We finally see the lotus sign, which by the way is a symbol of the Hindu religion. And we start down the stairs, the Ecuadorian lady is having issues but we make it half way down and this American asks if we are looking for Sushil Yoga.  

"Yes we are!"

They sent a group of teachers to come find us because we called on the taxis phone over an hour ago asking how far it was.. 50 meters my butt. 

Anyway they show us down, get us in our rooms, and we made it for dinner. My first vegan meal. I would have taken a photo but I left all my belongings in my room so I didn't have my camera.

It consisted of cucumbers on the side, rice, warm smashed pumpkin (which was actually good), and I think a version of beans... I am not totally sure. Either way it wasn't too bad.

I meet with my group and they all are friendly. The two teachers I have met our Americans and there are three more Americans in my group! The others are from Ecuador, Sweden, Brazil, Germany and Australia. 

After dinner around 730 I came back to my room and unpacked what I could. 

Taj Mahal, the name/door to my room.

I wanted to text my mother so badly and let her know I made it but I couldn't. There is no wifi. And unfortunately I brought my iPad because I have an iPad keypad to type instead of lugging around my computer and I find out my keypad is out of battery.

So I am blogging on my phone which is not the easiest. But I got to it. By 830 pm I decide to go to bed.

I spot this huge bug on my window it looks like a big firefly, I want it to leave my room but I don't want to kill it. I turn off all the lights and then I loose sight of him. 

It is still loud outside, I hear babies crying and music. 

I get in bed, put my ear plugs in and face mask on. It's 9 pm when I shut my eyes. 

I fall asleep and abruptly wake up around 2 am to loud thunderstorms and because I think I'm getting bit by bugs. I am not wearing long pants so I start to fear that when I wake up I'll be full of bug bites.

In New Zealand when we were camping I got bit terribly and we think it was because I was of foreign blood. Needless to say I started to itch everywhere. 

I was swatting at my legs, my feet, my face.. You name it. I got so paranoid I got up and wrapped a sweatshirt around my thighs.

Eventually the ear plugs helped tuned out the storms although I thought I was in Nepal or Java about to experience a catastrophic earthquake. The booms were so loud I thought my bed room was about to collapse. But I was so fatigued the thoughts didn't last long and I was back to sleep.

I woke up around 530 am and slept in until 6. Orientation starts today at 1030. I have to go into the town and make copies of my passport and visa and get a photo taken of me. If I had known I needed copies for them, I would have done this back in the states. But I didn't realize they actually wanted a copy so I am going to head over there soon. And maybe find a shop with wifi so I can post this blog! And of course tell my mother I'm alive. 

Tomorrow starts the routine of yoga at 6 AM every morning so although it's my day to sleep in I figured I mine as well get used to waking up at 530 and plus I had a long sleep. 

It's raining here, I suppose it's the aftermath of the storms I heard last night. But it's only 7AM now so hopefully it'll clear up. (In future blogs I'm going to start using military time because it's annoying to do the am and pm and be consistent throughout the blog, so get familiar with reading time like the rest of the world does) 

Well I'm off to get ready for orientation! Wish me luck and enjoy a fat cheese burger with fries for me. 


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