More narrative recorded during the Rickshaw Run…
We haven’t been partying or drinking much since we got here. We detoxed in Alaska. We drank a little at the bon voyage party, but last night we tied one on. There were four other Rickshaw Runners at our hotel and we all met in the bar after dinner. We had a blast swapping stories and lost track of the time and how much we were drinking. We felt pretty rough this morning, but we didn’t regret it. It was our first chance to socialize since we hit the road. 5:00 AM came early, though. We heard from some of the guys and they didn’t get started until 10:00 this morning. By then we had nearly 150 km under our belt. We’ve been slowly falling behind schedule, only making 200 km instead of at least 233 to stay on track. So the 326 km today were sorely needed.
Witnessed an accident today right in front of us. A motorbike was cutting across traffic in the right lanes while it was stopped. We were moving in the left lanes and didn’t see it until it came out right in front of us. At that moment another motorbike was passing us. Dave was able to stop in time, but the two bikes collided. I think the front of the passing bike hit the legs of the man and woman on the crossing bike. The passing bike stopped to check on the people, but the other guy just took off. He didn’t show any concern for his wife. The guys on the passing bike were clearly worried and seemed reluctant to leave. I’m sure the man and/or woman will be bruised at least. It is fortunate that the accidents we see happen in heavy traffic that is moving very slowly. The only accidents we’ve seen on the open highway are the big trucks and we haven’t witnessed them happen. With signs like these, I’m not sure why there would still be accidents.
Just had to say it. I instantly thought Caltrans when I saw this road crew.
Finding hotels is a bit tricky, they vary greatly. Some have walls and a roof but no windows, some are 2-4 stories and look like very old Motel 6 or Travelodge type places, some are just a sign on the front of a strip mall type building with an entrance down a dark alleyway, others look nice outside and have grand lobbies but the rooms are total crap. All these have windows in the bathrooms that are open to the outside without screens or anything. So you can’t leave the door open to allow a/c to cool the bathroom otherwise you will get mosquitoes in the bedroom. Then there some places that would rate 3-3.5 stars in the states. This one looks much nicer (on the outside anyway) than the roach and ant hotels we stayed at, but not near as nice as the Fame Hotel in Berhampore. I’m telling you, that place was like the Ritz Carlton in comparison to all the others we’ve seen so far. It even had glass windows in the bathroom!
Load too big to fit in the truck? No problem, strap it on back. There’s always room for more. See? Good to go.
Each town or village has some specialty, whether it is pineapples, pomegranates, apples, giant smelly asparagus things, or the bundles of fiber. We passed through a town or village that was literally a recycle town. There were piles and piles of litter everywhere on both sides of the road. People were carefully sorting the items. I saw a pen of plastic bottles, this broken plastic chair pile, piles of bags like feedbags, and other things. Truly, the entire town is full of recycle piles. Crazy!
The quality of homes vary so much here. These look more upscale than most and may even have windows. Most of the brick buildings we see look vacant to us because they do not have glass in the windows, but the homes that are close enough for us to peek into as we fly by have people in them, laundry hung to dry, or cows and goats in them.
As we travel south, the weather is becoming warmer and warmer. The humidity is high, but there is no longer much rain. In Shillong and Guwahati, in rained a lot. Now the dirt roads are drier and dustier. A perfect mix to end the day covered in dirt and soot from all the exhaust. Everything sticks to you. No lie, when we shower at night, the water looks muddy running off us. And when I hand washed my clothes in the room, the wash bucket had a thick layer of mud in the bottom after I finished. This doesn’t mean that the people of India are always dirty. Remember, we are driving in an auto with no doors or side windows, everything just flies right in. And, we are driving for 10-12 hours a day. Everywhere we go, we are the dirtiest (and smelliest) people by far. Anyway, I loved watching these kids play in the water and was a bit envious. It would feel nice to cool down with a quick dip.
Just as we drove by, this boy did a backflip off a concrete slab hanging over the water. Very impressive… and still envious.
Each village has a community water pump and I’ve seen people refill plastic bottles, wash dishes, wash clothes, bathe, and brush their teeth at the pumps. Sometimes there is also a large hold for the water, like a circle of bricks. It makes a pool of water, and appears to be a community bathing and laundry spot.
This water source is at a gas station. Maybe this is where truckers bathe on long hauls? Maybe it is just another community water pump and locals bathe here. Either way, you can let it offend your western sensibilities or understand that these people have no running water in their homes and no local river to bathe in and turn your head. You may think it is weird to see them washing themselves publicly but they probably think you are weird for paying any attention to it. As we get accustomed to these types of sights, it gets easier to turn a blind eye.
After passing a tollbooth in the middle of nowhere, we pulled over to cool the engine. There was no one around except some people working out in the fields. Then, out of nowhere this lady walked up and stoppped to watch us. She didn’t try to communicate, but was just happy to watch. I asked through pantomime if I could take her picture. She gladly posed for me and seemed pleased that I wanted her picture. Ready to go again, we waved good bye and she smiled and nodded. We continued on our way and watched for where she might be going. There was nothing out there. Nothing! We wondered where she started from, where she was going, and how many miles she had to walk. Perhaps we should have offered her a ride.
I’m not sure what this is, but it looks like someone has quite a palace. What a beautiful building! The contradictions and contrasts in India never cease to amaze me. Not too far down the road is a mud hut village! Driving is going well. The roads are improving and we are able to cover more kilometers in a day. We made it to the front of the pack with only one or two rickshaws ahead of us. Maybe we will finish this thing on time.
I’ll leave you with a brief video. Sometimes it helps to have a little music to help perk you up!