Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Indian Bureaucracy, Continued

(post from three days ago; it'll take a day to catch up)

9:50AM: we (me and Ulrieke, an Austrian lady who's in the same boat) show up at permit office to meet the kind young lady. I'll call her Aarti, because I think we later found out that was her name. Nobody there.
10:10: still nobody there. A soldier guy says a bunch of stuff that we think means "go to Gangotri". An Israeli backpacker mentions that he saw a lady on the walk up who said she could get him the permit. I speculate that this is our gal. We set off to find her again.
10:15: stop by... her house? Two other girls come out, and say that the girl we're looking for went to the temple. Stop back in maybe a couple hours. I think her name is Aarti, although, that's the word for some prayer ceremony, right? So maybe we actually asked what she was doing. Regardless, if I have reason to refer to her again, I'll call her Aarti.
10:20: consult with wise guesthouse owner Deependar. He suggests we go on to Gangotri to get the permit there. Seems more reasonable than waiting two, four, twelve hours for Aarti. We momentarily ignore the fact that everyone on the internet says you cannot get the permit in Gangotri. Meanwhile, two other Australian ladies, Barbara and Julianne, have hired a taxi to a town near Gangotri. We hop in to share costs.

3:30: arrive in Gangotri. The inevitable swarm of touts ensues. I forget that sometimes the swarm of touts can actually help you accomplish things you need to accomplish, things that you couldn't possibly accomplish on your own, like finding a permit. Ulrieke exhibits more trust/naivete/smartness and listens to a tout, who requests us to join him at 5:30pm for the permit. They're available at 5:30, but not now? Curious. And suspect.
4:00: try to get some food and fail. I guess if they don't have chapatis, your request for a thali will get dropped on the floor. This is not relevant to the permit tale, except that I am very hungry.
4:45: randomly run into Ulrike and Tout (I swear, tomorrow I will learn his name), who are going for the permit now. Wait in line for a half hour. Other interesting fact about this permit: you have to write a statement that says "I am going to Gaumukh at my own risk. Forest Service will not be responsible for any mishappening." I pity the poor French girl who was trying to understand the Indian guy telling her to write the word "mishappening."
5:30: get the permit, for tomorrow. No problem.

The morals of the story: as of now, you can get the Gaumukh permit in Gangotri. (maybe because it's a festival in Uttarkashi?) Also, the smaller the city, the more touts are actually helpful, and the more confusion is just confusion, not bamboozlement.

Anyway, current status:
- room is infested only with gnats (those are gnats, right? not mosquitos? they must be. no mosquitos up here at 10000 feet. and they don't look like mosquitos. oh god please be gnats.)
- room also has only a trickle of running water. But it's okay! Gangotri is cool of climate, so I'm not gross.
- apparently Ulrieke's guide/porter will also be guiding me tomorrow. and packing me a lunch! how nice.
- wallet has 1400 rupees: 600 for the permit and 800 to last me for two days and nights, until I can get back to the nearest ATM, five hours away in Uttarkashi. Oops.
- wallet also has US$160; turns out US dollars are accepted everywhere, if at a poor exchange rate. Things always work out.
- not altitude sick!


  1. Wow. I pity the fool who tries to get a permit from a tout. That was tiring just reading about it, but funny.
    Mosquitoes live as high as 10,000 in CA, USA per Google :-0 Here's a bug fighter: ‘Odomos’ is a famous cream you can buy anywhere in India. Apply this and you are free! Apply on the exposed areas like face arm and leg. They don’t give you a sticky feeling or offensive smell.

  2. I sense Hinglish. Copy/paste? :)

    An interesting remedy I've used here once or twice is "Neem". It's an herb. You chew some and it improves your circulation or your heart or something, and it also makes mosquitoes avoid you. Maybe it's because it tastes terrible, so it makes your blood taste terrible too.

    Luckily, they weren't mosquitoes, just gnats indeed. I actually have no bites now. Well, here's to minor and undoubtedly temporary miracles.

  3. Glad to hear that you've acclimatized! Was going to Gaumukh worth all that hassle?

  4. Yeah yeah! That's the fun of it. It was the right amount of hassle: enough to make for good stories (or at least a few interesting bits) as well as memories that are unlike any other memories I have, but not enough challenge that it's too hard to take, and not actually harming myself or anyone else.

    I guess what I mean to say is that the threshold for "am I glad I did it?" and "would I do it again?" are quite different. The answer to the first question is almost always yes. (incl going to Gaumukh.)