My last few days in Kathmandu were mostly spent in bed, recovering from pre-India Delhi Belly. The day after the 6.8 Earthquake that shook us all the way from Sikkim, two friends told me they were heading to India the following evening. I realized just how long I had been putting off my trip across the border and decided to join them. At this point, my planned 3 months in India had shrunk to just 2 weeks. With my fingers crossed that my stomach would be able to handle the journey, we set off by bus from Kathmandu to Sunauli, walked across the border into India at about 5am and headed to the train station in Gorakhpur where we waited for 4 hours, with a ring of people standing around us staring as though we were the most interesting thing they had ever seen before we parted ways. I was headed to Varanasi, one of the most spiritually important cities and the best place in India to die. But beyond that, it may also be the best place in India to get ripped off, and after the stories I had heard, I was nervous. However, my fears were once again quelled by going and seeing for myself. There were touts everywhere and scams around every corner in the labyrinth of the city, but with 3 or 4 firm ‘no’s and a cautious eye it was no problem to get around these annoyances. I spent 3 days visiting the Ganges, getting blessed by a Baba, stumbling upon a burning ghat (cremation site in use when I arrived), avoiding the crowds of cows in the alleys, getting head-butted by a bull and getting soaked in a flood. Varanasi was not boring, but it was a little overwhelming. Walking through the meandering maze of alleys constantly avoiding cow crap and puddles of pee from any imaginable source wasn’t such a problem until the rains came and didn’t stop. The water pooled in the city and the level just kept rising. Walking through it up to my knees, I had to keep telling myself “Don’t think about what is in the water, just keep going”. My shoes will never be the same! It became obvious that it was time to move on, so I booked a train ticket. Afterwards, I met some fantastic girls who gave my tips on India, convinced me to try Couchsurfing, and made plans to meet up with me again. After a 6 hour delay at the Varanasi train station (where many people wanted to help make sure I got on the right train), I was off to Khajuraho to see the Karma Sutra temples and to meet my first Couchsurfing host. When I arrived, I was greeted by Anjul who explained that he couldn’t host me, but found me a crazy cheap room and still showed me around. We hung out, ate, toured and chatted. The next morning, Marie (from Varanasi) arrived and we headed off to check out the erotic Karma Sutra sandstone temples. In India, it is very unusual for anyone to openly discuss “private matters”, but in Khajuraho Marie and I were repeatedly approached by men explaining in detail what was happening in the carvings. I couldn’t help but revert to a 12 year old, snickering and giggling my way through the temples. After we finished at the temples, we went back to Anjul’s house, where his sister sat down on the floor with me and gave me a beautiful henna design on my arm. That evening, I took another night train, this time headed to Agra…the home of the Taj Mahal. I arrived at 2:30am, found my new host Shalab and my super swanky room, and drank coffee until 5:30 when I headed out to see the sunrise over the great tribute to love. Walking through the gates and staring down the perfectly calm pools reflecting the image of the Taj towering in front of me was surreal. I have come to a point where I am usually far more interested in people and culture then just ‘seeing the sights’ of the places I visit, but visiting the Taj Mahal was different. Yes, it is super touristy, but sitting in front of it at 6am with only the other early birds, watching the rich early morning sun slowly illuminating the massive monument to love was a very peaceful and pleasant experience. I ended up staying for 3 hours! That night, Shalab took me and 2 other surfers out for some of the most incredible, flavourful (aka spicy), delicious food. I am fully in love with Indian food! The next day, Marie again caught up with me and we headed to Fatehpur Sikri with a French couple to see the Palace and the Fort. These were beautiful structures, but I had again gone back to being less interested with the buildings than with the people. From Agra, I hopped onto a train in General Class (an experience everyone should try once in India) and headed to Delhi. There I was again hosted by a Couchsurfer, Udit, who not only showed me around but also spoiled me rotten and fed me really well! We managed to get into the Lotus Temple on Gandhi’s birthday (a national holiday) which was amazing. I first learned of this temple when I was about 12 or 13 years old and was in awe to finally see it in person. My last day in India was spent hanging out in Old Delhi with a new couchsurfing friend and Leasang, who ran the monastery I stayed at in Nepal. It was fantastic to see Leasang again and get the scoop on what all the boys were up to as we roamed the insanely overcrowded, stinky, and intense Old Delhi streets. What a way to end my time in India. I was worried about coming here, fearful of the stories of robberies, noise, sickness, poverty, pollution, staring, groping, and general chaos, but I have found that even though all of those things are very true, India is still an incredible, friendly, welcoming and diverse country. That seems oxymoronic to say, but I have no idea how else to explain this place. I will certainly be back. However, after over 6 months, the time has come to leave Asia. Eastern Europe…here I come!