Everyone Makes Mistakes

14 January 2013

Yesterday was a little story about how things started off, so today is a story about how things have changed already.

I’ve eaten nothing all day, and the only conversations have been with Indians on the street about my ‘work’ in Australia and how many people there are in my family:

What is your country?

There is one of these guys who seems reasonable now that I’ve spoken to him a couple of times. He invites me for chai, acknowledging that I said that I’m not buying anything.

Could you imagine the surprise when I walk through the door and there”s a white face looking at me behind the counter? The shop is dusty but very neat and tidy, like it had been arranged like this a few years ago and has just been left the same since. There are photos on the wall of somewhere really mountainous and with bit lakes.

There’s small talk with two Kashmiri brothers and the French woman. The Kashmiris have piercing eyes and the French girls she’s 32 but looks about 40. Smokes pours out of her mouth between drags as she speaks. Can you imagine my complete lack of surprise when one of the Kashmiris starts flicking through photos of Kashmir? He wants me to head up there and have a good, funny time like all these other people in the photos. More surprise when another white guy enters the shop. Alex, a Belgian. They all seem to be friends and we all head out for dinner.

It’s an awkwardly quiet meal and the French speakers start smoking, shrugging their shoulders at the no smoking sign, obscured by the smoke from Indians’ cigarettes.

Back in the shop, it’s late, and there’s a little influence from the Kingfisher. I’m a little lonely and have no idea what to do. I think about my hotel room and its empty hallways. The only sign of other people is sometimes I hear Russians talking loudly in their room with their smelly shoes outside.

So of course I say yes when Alex suggests that we go to Kashmir together. Maybe this is how you meet people, and Alex has done travel before, but something still feels funny how organised this all is. Whatever. I’m not proud or snobby and I’ll prove it by just going with this. But then it feels even worse when we fork over what feels like a relatively large amount of rupees, even though idea of trekking and camping sounds good. Just sleep it off and make sure you’re on time tomorrow for the flight.

I’ve travelled for a long time but I’ve never felt this kind of remorse over a travel decision. I barely sleep and when I do I have strange nightmares.

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