Day 11 – Teapot (Hole) Day
With thunderstorms throughout the night, we woke to the calm after the storm.
Markus unfortunately left his clothes near a leaking window and found them drenched. We bid farewell to The Golden Park, a nice clean hotel with good service and big rooms.
The temperature took a dramatic drop from the high 30’s that we have become accustomed to and we found ourselves trawling through the bottom of our packs to find our jackets. I am grateful that we are doing this in summer as its pretty damn cold in the back of the Tuk Tuk when the temperature drops and then you add the wind factor.
Today we used the plastic curtains that Adam painstakingly designed and installed for us. They worked perfectly to block a lot of the chilly wind and diffuse the dust and fumes that blow around, clinging to us like leeches. So thanks Adam, I think you should patent these.
This mornings drive marks a shift in both the features of the people and the landscape. A more rural experience, with poorer towns and less on offer from the small vendors we are so used to observing as we pass through the villages.
We saw people working the fields and as I always do, I envied the simplicity and value of their lives, every effort, each and every task purposeful and part of their survival.
The houses are now beginning to be crafted with mud brick and thatching. I did a double take as I saw a pink cow being led amidst the farmed paddocks. I felt like I was in some kind of fantastical fairy tale, but Adam assured me they are just the cows that produce strawberry milk.
We passed beautiful tea and pineapple plantations and the usual punters peeing on the roadside. I’ve been holding my lavatory needs for our fuel stops, a questionable decision given they vary from OK to downright putrid. All are squat toilets and the ones with no water fare the worst.
It’s hard to imagine the life of these villagers before the NH34 highway? Trucks and buses hurtle through these small towns like the out of control bus in the movie “Speed”. It’s a life and death challenge for these people to get from one side of the road to the other. The noise of the screeching horns is ear piercing and continuous.
The one thing you DON’T want to be in India, is a dog. They really are the most neglected and least valued form of life. We’ve seen many very aggressive, angry dogs barking and attacking. This is either a manifestation of their ill treatment or they are riddled with rabies.
What you DO want to be is a cow or a goat. We all know cows are sacred but goats seem to have a pretty good thing going on. In the main, they are pretty healthy looking and they seem to just cruise around the villages happily nibbling.
We came across a traffic jam in Dhakhola, probably the least friendly and dicy place we’ve passed through and really not all that bad – just lacking the smiles and welcomes of other towns. The traffic jam however held us up for 45 minutes.
Shortly onwards Adam started to feel a tremor in his sub-cockle region, fearing something wasn’t right. There just seemed to be an unusually large number of even more aggressive bus drivers hurtling towards us. Markus dodged them with skill and precision. Then we looked to our left and realised we had missed a diversion and were actually driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic. It’s one thing to do this knowingly, it’s a whole other level of danger to do it unknowingly. It’s a testament to how messed up this road system is that it took a good kilometre of dodging buses before Adam alerted us to our mistake. That’s how used we are to having traffic hurtling at us head on.
We took about 10.5 hours to cover approximately 253km’s, arriving in Siliguri at about 5.00pm. The Apollo Hotel was well setup and we began our nightly routine – shower, beer, dinner, route planning – bed! Ah – I hear you ponder, but when does she write the blog? Well my friends this entire blog has been authored from the back of a Tuk Tuk on an iPhone over some pretty hairy territory, surely that deserves a small donation for the people of India.
Each day as we load and unload our stash of luggage, I ponder what I could possibly dispense with? Not much given I’m off to Africa for 2 months. I have however been lugging around a travel pillow and each night I consider leaving it behind, just another thing to keep check of. But today this little gem afforded me a good snooze in the back of the Tuk Tuk. Yes, indeed it can be done. One deluxe air cushion for the butt and one foam cushion for the head.