Summer Edition Reader Competition: Cyan Brown's 'My First Gypsy Coffee'

Thursday, 15 February, 2018

We have been so thrilled to see the entries for our incredible competition with African Bush Camps and Travel Designer pour in. We thought we would give you a sneak peek into the amazing coffee adventures people are having out there! We have loved reading them, keep them coming!

My first gypsy coffee

By Cyan Brown

It was a cold June morning. I was 21 and convinced of my own invincibility and thus decided to give in to my spontaneous urge to join a group of friends travelling to India in eight days. I wasn’t entirely sure where they were going in India, but the last minute decision was spurred on by the fact I had a saved a little bit of money intended for travel through a small part time job and really needed an adventure to celebrate reaching halfway through medical school without losing my sanity. 

The visa arrived with only a few hours to spare. The administration clerk that handed it over also happened to be the recipient of a most affectionate hug and flurried words of gratitude for my mini miracle in the embassy.  I had just finished my final surgery exam of the semester, still in a daze with my visa in hand and scantily packed backpack, I rushed to the airport. The others had left that morning and I was left reading my Indian travel guide alone on the benches of the Mumbai airport in the early hours of the morning whilst waiting for my connecting flight with only a screaming child and dodgy looking man as company on the hard, steel airport bench. 

I eventually reached Delhi and the familiar faces I loved a few hours later. Nothing could have prepared me for the sweltering heat and kaleidoscope of culture that was Delhi, but I intrinsically knew I didn’t want to be prepared for that. I wanted to come to India with an open mind, a light backpack, a keenness to understand these peoples’ context and the desire to embrace rather than judge. Many foreigners travel in India, few actually truly experience it. Our group fell into the latter. We slept in all sorts of places in Delhi and Mumbai, used only public transport, chatted with locals, explored temples, ate only traditional food, did everything on a budget and made the most of this infusion of culture. 

The next part of the trip was the adventure stretch. After landing in war-torn Kashmir and being welcomed by machine guns and military personnel (the border conflict with Pakistan still rages) we found a local who organized some Royal Ensfield motorbikes for us. It was time to meet the Himalayan Mountain Range. I clung tightly to the torso of my friend, Daniel, who was driving (not particularly reassuringly, I might add) this very flimsy motorbike up winding roads covered in patches with thin layers of ice. Many prayers, bug splatters and nervous giggles later we arrived at a beautiful village. The old ruins were not far off in the distance and the hill was dotted with small tents and people hunching over the fires. We wandered down to the river to behold a wonder of gushing water that served as the life source to the tiny village. The locals were friendly and we played some cricket with the young boys. 

This population were known as gypsies in this region, people who lived off of the land. They had a mysterious charm about them and were hospitable to our group. One of the locals we had met in Delhi had arranged with a distant relative that we stay in one of the only small houses in the village that night. The family of three barely spoke English but warmly showed us the small shed we would sleep in. All eight of us piled in, head to toe and got cosy under blankets that smelt distinctively of a stable. I didn’t sleep at all, but I didn’t even mind, we were in the Himalayas! In the morning my adrenaline rush for the day came from watching our hostess slaughter a chicken right in front of me for our breakfast and pluck all the feathers from its lifeless body before popping it in a large cooking pot. Then the magic happened. I was handed a tiny cup, and without even looking at the contents took a sip fully expecting it to be the chai tea that had been our standard beverage for the past while. Instead the taste of glorious coffee laced my lips and sent a small shudder of happiness right into the core of my belly. Ahhhh, a small piece of heaven in my morning beverage and my surroundings. Life was good, very good. 

We embraced the rest of the trip wholeheartedly and continued being faced with completely new paradigms. The one cup of coffee I had was the only local coffee I tasted, but left an impression of note. I came back changed. To face such abject poverty, overwhelming beauty, potential, culture and difference all at once makes one re-evaluate one’s frame of reference. I look back now (older, more mature, having finally become a doctor and having gained  new respect for my  mortality) and have listened to people tell me of the dangers that could have been , the huge risks that we took, the things that could have gone wrong but didn’t and I am filled with an overwhelming sense of “ Let’s do it again” because true adventure does not call you within the realms of your comfort zone and India is not experienced fully unless wholeheartedly embraced. 

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