On Saturday, there was a branch activity to Araku Valley and Borra Caves, which about an hour and a half car ride or three hour train ride from Visakhapatnam. The people here tend to be vague about everything, and Indian Standard Time is even worse than Mormon Standard Time. We kept hearing tons of different schedules concerning the Saturday activity, and ended up meeting the branch at the train station at 6 am. At about 7, we were able to board our train and the station was a madhouse. The branch members kindly took good care of us. One member led us onto one train, but there was standing room only. So he started running (fast) towards another train car and we haul after him. Once we get on that (completely full) train, the member starts negotiating with other passengers to secure seats for us. The other passengers were quite sensitive about their luggage being rearranged, but he finally secured us some seats…on the luggage racks, which were shelves dangling from the ceiling. My friends, Dan, and Kristin, and I were sitting on the luggage racks, pretzel style for three hours. We passed the time playing would-you-rathers involving the cranky passenger sitting below us who got chapped at Dan for having his shoes sticking over the ledge a little bit.
After three hours, we arrived at our destination. First we went to the caves. Good thing you weren’t allowed to bring cameras in, but every Indian person did anyway, and all us dumb Americans were stuck without documentation. So I don’t have any pictures of the caves. The jungle leading to the caves was swarming with monkeys. The cave entrance was huge, and the cave was huge and open; no little passageways or anything like that. At one part of the cave, we climbed up a steep/sketchy/scary flight of stairs to a little shrine for a deity. Also, there were railings partitioning places off and creating a walkway, but everyone was hopping right over them. Don’t even worry that the cave is 150 million years old, or that climbing up huge slabs of damp rock with dim lighting could potentially be dangerous.
After the caves, we ate delicious and spicy (the most spicy I’ve had thus far) food at a little thatched roof hut, with newspaper pages lining the entire inside.
PS, Speaking of newspapers, there is a picture of my roommates and I in the Telugu newspaper. I didn’t even know I was being photographed. In the picture, I am chugging water, and the caption read something like, “The Americans are suffering from heat stroke, and they needed a drink from the store.” How true that is. It’s a reeeally good picture of me. I’ll maybe try to post it sometime.
Our next stop was an Indiana Jones-esque, jeep ride (packed full of people) to a hike through this beautiful jungle, up to a waterfall. It was beautiful and so nice to be in nature, despite the fact that people litter everywhere, always. I really miss the mountains in Utah, and it’s nice to get out of the crazy city. There were lots of people swimming, and lots of men in their skivvies only – bonus!
We had to hurry and hike down because we didn’t want to miss our bus home. Good thing we hurried, because we ended up waiting for 4 hours at the bus stop in this little rural town. (When I had to use the restroom, I asked a man at a little food shop, and he told me, “By school … very silent place.” Outside behind the school is the communal toilet, apparently.) A few buses came through, but each one was already packed. Finally at nine pm, we each paid 100 rupees to get a ride home from some jeep driver guy. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t sketchy, because native ward members were with us.) We had 13 people on the ride home, and I was the lucky one who got to sit on everyone’s laps in the backseat the whole time. Not comfortable. But our driver blared Indian music the whole time, so it was worth it.
My trip highlight is: turtle-ing. Dan cleverly coined this phrase while on the train, (you know, like when turtles stack on top of each other to sun), and we noticed four boys sitting in two seats on each other’s laps. It’s so awkward and so awesome, and not to mention beyond sweaty. Also, on our jeep ride home, maybe there were four people in the front seat, and maybe the 2 men were spider sitting. I think you all know what I mean. Anyway, notice the two boys on the right hand side of the picture.
And just in case you want a closer view:
Don’t even worry that there’s a whole open bus stop.
Also, Indian people are pretty modest. Since it’s so hot here, my roommates and I walk around our house almost naked. I always feel kind of bad, because I sometimes our neighbors can see us, since their house is about 3 feet from ours. But still, it’s soooo hot. Well yesterday our neighbor definitely saw my roommate in her underwear and totally shook her head at her. However, I would just like to mention that a couple days prior to that, I looked out my window to see her on her balcony, with her skirt pulled up, exposing her bare bum to the entire neighborhood. Just saying.