I’m writing these a few days behind, so some days are a little trickier to recall. However, as far as memory serves, I spent most of my second morning in Udaipur doing very little, apart from nursing a hangover on the terrace. As time has gone on I’ve found exhaustion setting in; I’ve gotten lazier and lazier in the intense heat, and when you’re shattered in the first place, it quickly becomes a huge task to simply get up, get dressed, and leave the relative serenity of the hostel for the rapture of the streets.
I’m struggling to switch off and adjust to a slower pace of life, however. I’m still wired in that western way that leaves me in constant guilt if I don’t achieve something every day. I guess I just need to reassess what achieving something is. Surely spending a day relaxing and basking in a beautiful sunset is an achievement, however at the moment my fried brain fails to view it as such.
So I got restless after breakfast, which I spent with Prax, who has swiftly become one of the best people I’ve encountered while travelling. We don’t even have to speak, we can just sit together in silence and watch the day; there are certain people who calm you with their presence, and he is one of them. I think I can probably count on two hands people who have that effect on me. Whenever he agrees with something I’m saying, Prax does the Indian head wobble – a slight side to side wiggle, and it gives me so much joy and validation.
I headed out with James to explore the town and buy cigarettes. Within 20 metres of the hostel doorway, things are always hectic. It’s tiring being so stimulated all the time. We wound round a few Udaipur runways, dodging bikes and cars, hopping over open sewers, and we left the bustling tourist area. James bought his cigs from a dodgy looking street stall, and we ducked into a quiet, breezy courtyard café for a couple of lassis. The cigs were horrible, bitter and painful and foul, so we binned them and went to another stall to buy more; James said he wanted menthol, but the shopkeeper had none. However, as we walked away he followed and told us that we should go back to his shop, as he’d just remembered he did have menthol. He did not.
Melted on the hostel terrace for a few hours until an energetic conversation caught my ear. A few guys and a Kiwi girl were chatting about going swimming in a lake nearby. I walked over and asked if I could join, and Prax jumped in too. Our new friends were called Max, Danny, Job and Joy, and they were my kind of people: easy to talk to, self-effacing, and daft.
We changed into trunks, crammed six of us in a single tuk tuk, and flew away out of the city, up into the hills to what we were told was the area’s cleanest lake. Lee came as well, riding his scooter up ahead of us along with a Canadian girl I’d invited named Leah; I saw her sat alone in the hostel, and the number of times I’ve sat alone and wished somebody would approach me is astronomical, so now I always endeavour to help out more introverted-looking travellers.
Well then: it was the area’s cleanest lake, yes. There is no denying that. However, it would also qualify as the filthiest lake in England. Nestled high up in the hills, the lake is well above sea level, and very beautiful from afar. From anear, however (fuck off, it’s a word), the beaches that skirt the lake are glittering with broken glass, and the bushes wave hello to you with limbs of discarded plastic. It’s such a shame. Our group of eight sat together on the beach and watched as a group of Indian kids on scooters finished the beers they were drinking and lobbed the bottles straight into the water. It’s such a frustration; so many people in this country love hanging out in beautiful places, but don’t hesitate to ruin them with litter. It’s an idea that infuriates and baffles and baffles me.
We took our kits off and went swimming – keeping shoes and sandals on to avoid our feet getting filled full of shards. The water was warm. It was a little murky, and some of the local kids hanging out wouldn’t stop staring at the girls in their swimming costumes, but eventually we just stopped caring and had fun. Prax sat on the shore fully clothed and smoked and laughed at us, shaking his head at the stupid white people and their splashing and pointless laughter.
Lee put some chilled music on a little speaker after and we got high on the beach as the sun set over the lake. We swapped stories and I told a few of the usual shockers I roll out at least once a week. Squeezed once more into a tuk tuk we headed home, stopping off to buy booze. A 500 ml beer here is about a euro fifty, however a small bottle of rum is one twenty, so we stocked up on rum and coke. The prices make no sense, but then nothing does.
We all ate together at the 99 rupee thali place we’d eaten the night before, where the toilets are debatably the worst in existence. I took a piss in the urinal, and heard a dripping sound. I looked down and realised the urinal wasn’t hooked up to anything; the piss was just pouring straight through it, out the bottom, and onto my already-ruined Converse. Piss shoes. Sigh.
We watched the sunset together back at the hostel and got hammered; it’s easy when you’re dehydrated. I love the little gangs you make while travelling. It’s all so fleeting and intense and transitory, and nothing really matters because if you don’t get along you’ll never see them again anyway. But everybody was cool and everybody was friends, and I once again felt that sense of quiet contentedness that I’d so sorely missed during my final few months in Berlin. I came to India because amid the adrenaline, passion and sorrow of Berlin’s sordid glitterscape, I’d forgotten how young I am. And you know what? I’m think I’m starting to remember.