I awake, fresh. I am adventurous and decide on a run. I start my run around the Fateh Sagar with a spring to my step, taking in a middle class suburb and the stunning views of the lake as I go. I’m glowing. What a beautiful place, blue sky, fresh air, sun starting to tingle my skin with its morning heat. I under estimate the size of this beast and after an hour I start to feel my calf pull, I ignore the warning signs and carry on. I feel like I can run forever. Bad idea. It tears half way round the lake. I hobble back to Lakeshore Hotel but I’m still smiling. Slightly sad I won’t run for the next two weeks but the run this morning was worth it. The sights, the sounds, a pleasure to digest. I’m free. I’ve got India to see, running and fitness can wait. In my life back in kent, UK, I planned my professional day and personal life, sometimes to the hour, in full detail. Now, I don’t have to do this. I don’t have a job and there’s no bills to pay. It’s taking time to adapt but I’m learning to love being spontaneous, I’m learning to follow my instincts. Modern day life in the western world doesn’t allow much time for freedom so it’s a bit if a shock to the system being in India.
I pack my bags and head to Lal Ghat hostel. There’s an opportunity to stay at the Hanuman Hostel for the same price but I decline as Lal Ghat has a dorm. These are social hives, I plan to meet fellow liked minded travellers.This is the part of my journey that involves fate and a small sprinkling of luck. Whilst bouncing along to Lal Ghat fully loaded with my Karrimor on my back, I bump into Joe, one of the Milton Keyne boys I met in Mumbai. The guys have only just checked into Lal Ghat. We don’t know it yet, but this is the start of a beautiful relationship. Cocky and extremely funny, these guys are oozing with PMA. Bouncing with happiness. They are 22 years old and speak my native tongue. Result. We immediately jump on a boat trip with a bunch of travellers. I’m surrounded by a good crowd again, I love the randomness of it all, backpackers just talk to each other and are instant friends. It’s the law.
We retire on the roof top with a bottle of Old Munk rum. We are merry, strolling through the streets down to a restaurant by the lake. We eat and drink cold super strength 8% Kingfisher straight out of a teapot! Serving or selling alcohol after 8pm is not allowed, but every restaurant does it anyway. In fact as Yogie, the manager of the restaurant, explained to us, Indians don’t like paying for a license but do like selling beer for a profit. Just like the Police like receiving baksheesh to take a blind eye.
Aloo mutter masala, some freshly prepared chapatti’s along with a few of India’s finest beers see us into the night with jokes and laughter.
This is the moment the lads tell me about how Raj had taken them into the jungle to see some holy men and a Baba. They also told stories of meeting locals and smoking the holy Shiva, a variation of different tobaccos, a close relative to the the sisha. They met locals and visited villages and temples off the tourist track. I wanted a slice. The real India was out there and the boys invited me to see Raj at his other hostel in a place called Charbuja. Tourist traps are fine but I want to see some nice Indians who don’t just want to sell me something. I’m up for an adventure. Off the beaten track? Yes please. We relax on the roof and talk to the early hours. I’m overwhelmed. I sleep, smiling.