Chameleon Chapter 9 - Sun's Up. A sunrise adventure in India.
Asha and I met up in Rishikesh, Asha in her second month of travel, me in my second week. We hit our stride immediately, over three years of living together makes it pretty easy to be around each other despite totally new circumstances. The second night we were together, we decided to go see the sunrise with our new friend Shilpi who was on vacation from a central Indian state and staying in the same guest house. At first, we were going to get rides on the scooters of some of the guys that worked in the guesthouse, but Shilpi caught a weird vibe from them while they discussed plans with her in Hindi – so we decided to go with a guy from a tour company that Shilpi had met earlier that day. There was a bit of confusion right as we were finalizing plans – Shilpi had confirmed with the guy over the phone, he had agreed and then said he would “call right back” but he never did and she couldn’t get a hold of him again. Nevertheless, we figured he would probably be there, so we decided to give it a go anyway. The next morning we got up at 4 am to walk the 15 minutes across town to the tour guide’s shop. We hit our first snag trying to leave the guest house. We were locked in. This was one of the most disconcerting phenomena I experienced while traveling – realizing that the building was locked from the inside at night as guesthouse staff slept there. I recognize that it was done for everyone’s safety, but it still felt strange. It was so early in the morning, none of the staff were awake. The guys were also a bit sore because we had decided not to have them take us on their scooters, so they apparently’ forgot’ we were still planning to go. We looked for the key to the gate at the front desk, but after multiple tries, we couldn’t find the right one so we ended up climbing through the window. Not the most promising start. In this case, we could even call this foreshadowing.
Fifteen minutes later we are at the tour company’s shop and it’s locked and empty. We wait for fifteen minutes, but he never shows. Shilpi is stressed because it was her plan, Asha and I are completely relaxed and trying to make Shilpi feel better. We decide to try and find a cab, it’s now almost 5 and we are cutting it close to making it to the spot before sunrise. Most of the drivers around that are awake are already taking people places, but Shilpi manages to convince one guy who was sleeping in his car to take us. We drive the hour up a winding road – both Asha and I are feeling carsick. We arrive at the temple area and walk for about 10 minutes to the top with just a few minutes to spare. Asha and I decide to sit with our feet dangling off the edge of an overhang with the temple behind us. It sounds dangerous, but it wasn’t. Shilpi offers to take our photo, so we turn around to face the camera with our backs to the colors streaking across the morning sky. It somehow turns into a photo shoot, with Shilpi directing us. Finally, she hands the camera back and all she says is, “sun’s up” in a matter-of-fact tone. We realize that while she was taking those photos, the sun had risen. We had overcome so many obstacles to make it up to see the sunrise and we missed it while it was right in front of us. Luckily, it makes for a very good memory.