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Phil's 1998 India Travelogue

Mussourie, Saturday Oct 31

After a very blissful morning meditation, I take leave of the Ganges, and bid farewell to Beehm, Hari and the gang at the Hotel Ganges Kinares. It's only a two hour taxi ride to Mussourie, passing through the city of Dehra Dun, and the comical highlight of the trip was the traffic of Dehra Dun having to negotiate around a large herd of water buffalo heading down main street.

My mood is light and can be expressed in Dicky Betts "I was Born A Rambling Man", but after getting carsick my tune turns into Simon and Garfunkles, "Homeward Bound, I wish I was ho-omeward bound." Emotional states are fickle as the wind, and it has taken a long time and a lot of work to not simply and totally be an expression of my emotions, to find something deeper that rides out the ever changing emotional and psychic landscape. Quite a show though, no?

Beehm gave me a list of hotels to look at when I get to to Mussourie, and I was planning on getting a good hotel, as this is the off season in Mussourie, a place saturated with hotels, and many give 40-50 percent off now. Similar to the rest of the Himlayan mountains, Mussourie rises quickly over the Dehra Dun flats, and there are many, many cutbacks and sharp curves.

Similar to a lot of "arrival" scenes, when I get to Mussourie, I am approached by numerous indiuiduals. Beehm had told the taxi driver to go with me to the various hotels to check them out, but in looking over the hotels I wanted to see, they were on the "mall" a place that is closed to auto traffic, so that plan is shot. So I go to my plan B, which is simply to stay at the Savoy Hotel, a former Victorian Resort built at the turn of the century.

Taking a long driveway to the top of a hill, I can see that the Savoy was once a large, majestic and grand hotel, but now it is a bit run down, to say the least. The office for the hotel is like something out a Merchant-Ivory movie, with a metal grailing that says "Osho". Hmmn. What does Osho mean?

An old porter lugs my heavy bag to my room, a corner room that has a wonderful view of the snow capped Himalayas. The room is obviously once reserved for the wealthy, containing a study, large bedroom and bathroom, about 800 square feet, still with the same period furniture from the turn of the century. Having once been in the used furniture business, I'd like to back a truck up to this place, and ship it all back to the US. I'd make a fortune.

Again being disoriented, I made the mistake of taking the food plan, which comes to $30 a day for room and 3 meals, which still is a bit expensive, relatively speaking (I know some of you must be saying "what! 30 bux?!"). The place has a beer garden and other recreation facilities, all run down.

The Savoy is famous because it was the inspiration of Agatha Christie's first book, and the owner, lady Ormsby, was murdered here via cyanide, and her murderer was never found. Lonely Planet said that the place is still haunted with her ghost.

Going to lunch, I realized I made a big mistake. Except for a small conference, the place is empty, and when I go to lunch, I am placed in a dining room big enough to hold several hundred people. I'm the only one in there, and the creepy waiter is trying to serve me like I'm royalty or something. This place is starting to give me the creeps.

So I visit Mussourie, which is really a big tourist center, over the long single lane "mall". I can see why this place has appeal, and I am taking this time to recover and balance. As the day goes on, I am feeling sicker and more depressed, but I continue to walk the streets. I take a small ski gondola to "Gun Hill" to take some snapshots of the Himalayas at dusk, which is really beautiful, displaying all of the peaks that are involved in the Char Dham Yatra.

Night time presents us with a magnificent view of the city of Dehra Dun 6000 feet below, and also showing the sharp rise of the mountainside upon which Mussourie rests.

I go back to my room, and as I am opening up my door on this great outdoor verandah, I look to the veranda across the way, and see a woman come out of a dark room to look at me. It was so weird, and when I got into my room, I said,"wha? could that have been...? Nah...whoa!". I got a real shiver down my back: could that have been the ghost or a real woman? I'll never know but at that point it was really capping off a bad day. The hotel at night really showed off it's old, run-down qualities, and I was expecting Morticia, Gomez and Lurch to show up any minute.

I was feeling really sick - my intestines ached and my great fear, the fear of diarrhea (which rhymes!) came up strong, but that didn't happen. But something was really off in the intestinal world of Phil Servedio. And feeling really down and depressed...hey, wait a minute, I'm hypoglycemic! That's exactly what it was, I hadn't eaten anything in 7 hours, and was between a rock and hard place - eat and run the risk of getting sick, or fast and getting even lower blood sugar. I decided to eat, and it was like a drug rush, it's really amazing - all of a sudden physical, emotional and psychic strength returns. But it was still creepy eating all alone in that giant ballroom, and I got outa there quick.

And being 6000 feet up getting close to winter, Mussourie is freakin' cold. Knowing that I was going up to the high country on this trip, I kept my down vest and other warm things. It only got down to maybe the 30s or 40s, but the place was drafty as hell, the curtains moving - was that the ghost trying to get in? Man, this is perfect for Agatha Christie! So I slept in my down vest and woolen skullcap, and fortunately slept like a baby. No night visitations by the ghost.

November 1

My second month away from home. The previous day, while walking around, I stopped by many hotels to view their rooms. I liked the Clark Hotel (10$), Horizon Hotel (18$) and the luxurious Connught Castle ($30). I selected Horizon Hotel, as it is the newest hotel in town, and things were not so banged up. Indians seem to be real hard on hotel rooms. I want something that may come close to passing the white glove test.

So after checking out of the Savoy, I hired a bicycle rickshaw to take me to the Horizon hotel. My driver was a 70 year old man who weighed a helluva lot less than me, taking me and my heavy suitcase through town. He took the "Camel Back Road" a very scenic side road around town, and very flat for the most part. But on tiny hills, he has to get off and just push the bike with all that weight. I offered to get off, but he flatly refused.

So there I was, thinking about my station and this old man's station in life, which obviously leads to the conclusion that life is just not fair, he shouldn't have to work that hard at such an age. At one point the old man has a coughing fit (I can see the Willis brand cigarettes in his pocket), and I was seriously wondering if he was going to croak while pushing the bike. Finally at one point near the destination, the hill was so hard that I did get off and help push. I gave the old man a big tip.


Next, Varanasi

Page 12.