Congrats to Teams Kingfisher and Chang for making the local papers.
Day 8 – Beer Parlour day
With no-one particularly keen to consume or touch anything at our hotel, we had unanimous agreement to skedaddle bright and early at 6am.
With a 5.00am rise we had our tuk tuks loaded and on the road by 5.50am.
We purchased bananas, apples and coconut water from the local village vendors. The coconut water came direct from the source, freshly cut for each customer and served with a fine, thin straw.
We’ve been taking it reasonably easy to give ourselves a little time at the end of each day to experience a taste of each place we stop. I’m really enjoying this part of our road trip. The ocean swims are just the sweetener to end the day. Today we’ve stepped it up a notch completing 387km to bring us to Chandipur. I enjoyed being on the road earlier, it made the first few hours of driving more pleasant.
Long haul Tuk Tuk driving isn’t too dissimilar to architectural photography, the best hours on the road are the first and last 2 hours of each day.
So what have we seen architecturally, not much I’m afraid. The only buildings of note are technical colleges, universities and temples. Education is clearly valued by the people of India. Educational buildings are large, grand and well kept. Unlike the majority of ramshackle structures pieced together with any variety of available material such as tin, palm leaves, wood, plastic, rope, canvas, fabric etc. We are really off the tourist circuit and getting an invaluable insight into local rural and coastal life. Rubbish and plastic are big issues. We persist in using the bins provided at petrol stations despite the hoards of rubbish littered around us. The service station attendants don’t get it, some even find it amusing. We are often told to throw our rubbish on the ground, we hang on until we find a bin, however I fear it will end up on the roadside regardless.
We have seen some cute mud brick houses with thatched roofs and a few brickworks, but in the main through towns and villages the buildings, usually born of brick, are just crumbling remnants patched together out of necessity.
This morning saw an onslaught of vehicles hurtling towards us on the NH5, this time on the right hand lane of the double lane highway, yes that’s the overtaking lane – Jesus – what next? I just can’t fathom it, there’s 2 lanes right beside us that have free flowing traffic going in the correct direction. Why would you purposefully drive into oncoming traffic? The most unsettling part of the whole experience is the calm Indian motorists maintain throughout all this lunacy – they just don’t get angry or bothered, quite the opposite they’re a rather joyous lot. There’s a lesson in this to be sure.
We’ve figured out there’s only 2 things an Indian motorist slows down for, a speed bump and a cow.
Markus and I tied on “Manoeuvre of the day”. I narrowly escaped a head on collision with a police vehicle and Markus handled himself beautifully avoiding a near rear-ender with a truck and a simultaneous side swipe with a car.
We came across another team “Shitty Shitty Bang Bang” who had news from the road. They told of one team hitting a cow sleeping in the middle of the road, while night driving and another team involved in an accident with a bus. I think both made it back on the road, a fine effort.
Making it across India in a Tuk Tuk requires a few essentials, in no particular order I’ve jotted down our top 6:
1. Mechanical prowess
Someone who knows something about mechanics is a massive bonus. We are very lucky to have Chris who comes sharing tools and a lifetime of motorbike maintenance.
2. Gaffa tape and cable ties.
They’ll secure most things. You can be sure the screw you need will be the very one no mechanic has, or will part with. This rattling little beast drops screws and bolts like loose change.
3. Jerry can, fuel and funnel .
Our little Uggi guzzles fuel, so a good refuelling regime is a must to avoid being caught empty. If you think it’s fun to stand exposed on the roadside in 40 degree heat while someone goes in search of fuel, then forget the Jerry can.
As we mix our own fuel, having been warned in no uncertain terms not to entrust this task to the service station attendant, a stock of 2 stoke oil is wise. It seemed to become a rare commodity at the very time we decided not to restock. By the time we found it I felt like Jed Clampett!
4. Snacks and water
Keeping the petrified passengers fed and hydrated helps relieve tension. While they’re chewing and guzzling water they can’t bark alarmist rhetoric at the driver. Markus stays calm in all instances without exception. He is quite Indian in this regard, so I guess it’s just the usual driving dribble between Adam and I.
Carol stocked team Uggi with a well thought out stash of goodies that are still feeding us on Day 8. Jelly beans, yoghurt covered cranberries, biscuits & sesame snaps. These snacks have saved the day on more than one occasion. A huge Thanks Carol.
5. Wet ones + Hand sanitiser
I’m not a hygiene freak but I would classify these as mandatory if you don’t want to eat fuel. Firstly, refuelling generally results in a game of ‘some for Uggi and some for me…’. The cheap, crappy plastic bottle we are calling a jerry can doesn’t pour the best. Secondly, if you’re going to be using service station toilets (…and you will) just trust me on this one – bring hand sanitiser.
6. Toilet Paper
No one here uses it, so not only will you not find it in toilets, you’ll also find it very hard to source. So my advice is to plan ahead. I’ve spent enough time in Africa to be on top of this. The alternative is to decide to master the art of using water to perform this essential task.
Good luck juggling the squat position in a confined space that has the temperature of a Bikram Yoga class, the stench of a sewerage farm, looks like a mud slid just hit it and is buzzing with mosquitoes that could carry a small child. Now that your squatting, probably pondering whether the water under your shoes is urine or just water from the flush bucket and frantically scanning the room for cockroaches or spiders. Now I’m just projecting – this is just the routine I follow, remembering I have toilet paper.Should you not, you must somehow reach the tap, fill the big bucket and then use the smaller bucket to clean your booty. If you’re keen on this option I strongly recommend practising at home first.
Then there’s the female urinal, signed as such. What is a female urinal you ask? I’m still confused,but this is what I saw; unlike the female squat toilet, there is no hole for matter to exit – there is a little porcelain lip that’s it – I looked once, I pondered, I had another look – nup – I just couldn’t figure out where to aim, so out of respect for those to come after me and fearful of the mess I might leave behind, I held on for the next service station stop.
Today’s region was a watermelon lovers paradise. Makeshift shelters, with a thin piece of fabric held up by 4 poles creating shade, littered the highway. Stacks of watermelons were laid out enticing drivers to stop. So stop we did! Armed only with his melons and a machete, the young boy carefully tapped several before presenting us with a suitable candidate. He sliced the melon with the speed and precision of a seasoned professional, even cutting the flesh on the wedges into small sections for easier eating. We devoured the melon in the heat by the roadside, spitting seeds into the dry, dusty dirt – this my friends, is the life!
Making our way off the highway and into Chandipur, another seaside town, spouting a beach that at low tide can span 5km toward the ocean, we enjoyed the late afternoon activities of the village. The village was serviced by a fleet of real rickshaws with only a bicycle and elderly men straining their thin bodies to take the weight of their passengers.
Our expectations are dropping each day as our accommodation options lessen. Chandipur is another neglected coastal region. Not dissimilar to Gopalpur in quality, our hotel was pretty run down. We dumped our gear and headed out into the beautiful cool of late afternoon and walked out into the ocean as far as the eye could see.
A young girl of about 10 approached me enquiring on my nationality and with a beaming smile wanted to know what I thought of her country. I told her I simply loved her country, I thought it and its people were beautiful. She looked me directly in the eye and genuinely thanked me before skipping back to her dad who was waiting with a smile of pride. This is the essence and beauty of Indians. I love their confidence married with gentleness.
I find the Indian accent hypnotic. I once changed from Telstra to 1410 Communications because I swear I was hypnotised by the sweetness and confidence of the telephone operators voice.
We finished the day with a few beers in the ‘Beer Parlour’, an air-conditioned, smoking room with cricket playing. I’m guessing ladies don’t generally go in.
Day 7 – Driving like we stole it!
Our day began well with a delicious room service breakfast of omelette, pineapple pieces, watermelon juice and a chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich was a bit odd, but otherwise a scrumptious start to the day.
We managed to get moving around 7.30am. Checkout was a bit of a nightmare with businessmen pushing in and a room audit professing we’d knocked off a towel and a pillow. I was incensed and offered a luggage search. Upon reflection, 6 grubby westerners travelling across India in 2 Tuk Tuks probably would knock off a towel and a pillow.
Getting out of Ramachandra was mayhem and fun. I think at day 7 I’ve officially crossed over. I don’t flinch anymore. All caution is gone, I think nothing of squeezing little Uggi between 2 trucks hoping to slip through before they converge. I’ve almost got the art of dodging potholes in a 3 wheel vehicle down pat. I’m happy to have a chat and pose for photographs on my right while dodging oncoming vehicles on my left. I am at one with the horn. I think I’ve reached the very opposite of enlightenment – I think I’ve found a comfortable place in living hell – India’s NH 5.
Adam is adamant that I am a reincarnated Indian bus driver. I think he might very well be right!
Today we gave our little babies a workout averaging 55-58km’s per hour. We swing from caution to flat out, depending upon the pace of the lead vehicle.
Despite the utter anarchy that exists on these roads, India’s transport authority is trying road signs as opposed to policing to curb this mayhem. Here’s a few gems:
– “expect the unexpected”
(They’re not kidding)
– “alert today, alive tomorrow”
– “traffic rules are life saving tools”
(Not if they’re not policed)
– “the safe way is the right way”
We encountered our first accident today with an overturned white car. We’ve seen plenty of roadside vehicles left to rot where they crash, including an ambulance.
Kaitlyn found seaside accommodation in Gopalpur that fits into the ‘lucky dip’ star category. Despite some positive reviews by locals, it had a whiff of not quite right. It’s position right on the ocean and its quirky decor pushed us across the line. So we set out in search of Hotel Sea Pearl, secretly wishing for another Palm Coast resort experience.
We approached the Gopalpur exit taking in the familiar aroma of burning rubbish and sewerage, mixed with the faint undertones of the ocean.
Not dissimilar to Chirala we made our way off the NH5 and through the local villages. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I spotted it, a bar. Markus hit the breaks with haste and we secured ourselves 7 cold Kingfisher beers. This was the find of the day. Such urgency is usually only reserved for switching the fuel tap to reserve when we run out on the highway, hoping not to die while Uggi coughs and splutters trying to suck through to the reserve fuel.
As we followed the road right to its very end, there she was dead, smack on the ocean, that much of the review was right. A dismal representation of her once former glory, Hotel Sea Pearl presented sad, run down and in desperate need of some TLC. Our rooms were aged and shabby but essentially clean, if you don’t count the pungent smell eminating from the bathroom.
I quickly decided that a swim in the ocean was preferable to use of our bathroom shower. Kaitlyn savily rubbed vix under her nose to try to repel the odour that was beginning to permeate throughout our room. I’m a seasoned traveller but I’ve never thought of that little trick – I was impressed.
Markus immediately ruled out eating at the hotel having passed through the kitchen to refrigerate the beer.
Markus, Adam and I went for a dip in the ocean while Half a Tribe went in search of food. The ocean was refreshing and slightly colder than what we experienced at Palm Coast. There was a really strong rip and one of the local swimmers showed Markus a war wound having taken it on.
This little seaside paradise is home to many local holiday makers and camel rides are all part of the sunset beach experience. So there you have it – we’ve now thrown camels into the mix.
The foreshore has a cement grandstand and the promenade is littered with sculptures, including a tortoise and a rowing boat with an Indian God. The rubbish bins are penguins and rabbits and vendors line the opposite side of the road cooking fish and samosas. A large arch signals the entry to the beach.
After our swim and promenade stroll, we settled in the outside courtyard overlooking the ocean and the laundry of the sea view room guests, for beers and chips. Markus, Adam and Chris headed out later for samosas and crispy vegetables from the street vendors.
Kaitlyn and I were soundly sleeping by 8.00pm after we managed to adjust our subarctic room temperature to something suitable for sleep. Hotels here love to pump that air conditioning right up. At the Alps Hotel we exited our Tuk Tuk in 35-40 degree heat and within the hour I was sitting in our room in a Kathmandu fleece trying to work out the air conditioning remote.
“To slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.”
Seriously, Uggi is a crowd magnet where ever she rocks up! Looks amazing, always nicely oiled, just like her owners!! If we only would get a dollar for every autograph at toll points, hand shakes along the way and motorists waving before they cut us off, I would be well off!! Uggi ran out of juice today (happens about 3 times a day or about every 100 km) and this time it was near a school crossing in the middle of nowhere!! Took less than 30 seconds and about 100 of those schoolies asking questions and sticking there faces into this sexy beast to get a glimps of her – or is it for the sexy looking owners….hmmm, nothing sexy left in our greasy outfits, so it’s, all about her…unfortunatly! Go Uggi, I know you not gonna let us down!!! Buy you another drink tomorrow, cheers Markus
Day 6 – The generosity of strangers
Our day began with Priyanka arriving at 7.15 at Hotel La Hospin in a mini van to collect all 6 of us for breakfast.
The car was in pristine condition with air conditioning and suspension that I thought I might never experience again. Who would have ever thought suspension would be something one would pine for. My $50 cushion purchased in Singapore is the Rolls Royce of cushions and is serving me well. A very wise investment for long haul travel in a Tuk Tuk.
A short 20 minute drive through the morning chaos and we arrived at their 2 story home greeted by Suresh and Shiny, their 3 year old daughter, along with a host of other family members. A most lavish banquet awaited us, we felt like royalty. We were served in the living room. Priyanka and Suresh insisted on serving us, they would eat later. We began with a sweet rice dish. It was like rice pudding but with an Indian touch, flavoured with cashews, lychees, ghee and milk. This was followed by another rice dish, less sweet and creamy than the first – both delicious. Next came a savoury dish of coconut and spicy condiments followed by white bread and jam. You have to be full just reading this. That was just the beginning, next came a selection of almonds, dates and pistachio nuts followed by bowls of pommegranate, grapes, apple and papaya, finished off with a brew of coffee, chocolate cake and biscuits. We definitely left well fed and happy. We met these people at dinner the night before and they put all this together for a 7.30 breakfast, that’s first class Indian hospitality.
Suresh works for the government as head of irrigation and Priyanka is completing her PHD in English literature. They have a beautiful 8 year old daughter named twinkle and a 3 year old named Shiny. They showed us such kindness and generosity of spirit and are another beautiful part of our colourful journey.
We returned to our hotel at 9.30am with the mechanics wrapping up the Tuk Tuk services. The hotel arranged for the mechanic to come to the hotel to do the service. It really has been quite smooth going today. Uggi was about to blow a head gasket so we’re all glad we had the service done. Oil changed, air filter cleaned and ready to roll by 10.30am.
It’s day 6 and to date we know of 2 teams that have pulled out of the run.
The Tukin Bandidos didn’t make it out of Cochin, poor buggers had mechanical nightmares and then one of the team members got sick.
John and lois pulled out as John drank a bottle of contaminated water. Ironic given we are driving across India to raise money to combat this very problem. In excess of 50000 pounds has been raised, so thanks to everyone who got on board and donated. You can still donate at http://www.justgiving.com/teams/Uggi
Today bought us back to a mountainous area. There is something magic about driving with mountains to view. We also saw more beautiful rice paddies. Unfortunately today we lost our dolphin mascot. He must have missed the ocean and headed back to sea.
Enroute to our destination Uggi ran out of fuel, this happens about 3 times a day. We were bought to a halt right beside a school crossing and within seconds were swarmed by children. They were so innocently joyous and so perfectly groomed. How is it that we look like the fall out from Apocalypse Now and they stay so perfectly clean?
About 35km from our destination, we came across another team, ‘The Shanty Project’ in a spot of bother. Our resident mechanic and good samaritan Chris stopped to help. He managed to get them started and fingers crossed they made it to Ramachundra. While Chris was fixing things I wandered up the street and found the most divine ramshackle roadside barber. It was unmanned and so i began to take some pics when the barber returned with a client and invited me in to watch as he was about to get a shave. Pics are attached, this one was priceless.
It was pushing 5pm when we got back on the road. Markus did an awesome job bringing us in to Ramachundra in peak hour traffic. We got some great video footage.
Ironically it is in the cities that the animals are the biggest obstacles – oxen, cows and pigs being the main offenders. Not to mention en masse pedestrians that just appear to have no fear. People will stand with their push bike in the left hand lane staring at the traffic honking furiously and hurtling toward them and not even flinch.
We finally managed to make it to Kaitlyn’s ‘Best Western’ hotel pick at just after 6pm. Hands down this is the best hotel we’ve stayed in. After passing a rather comical bomb detection audit on our innocent little Tuk Tuk’s, we were welcomed with cold white towels. I don’t think they looked at us closely enough before giving us these, we disgracefully returned them a very muddy brown.
I am going to attempt to describe what it feels like at the end of 9-10 hours driving in a Tuk Tuk. You are exposed to wind and dust constantly. Your skin is dry and scorched and no amount of moisturiser is going to help. Your hair isn’t hair anymore, it’s straw and no it’s not your imagination, it really is falling out. Your fingernails look like you just dug your way out of Alcatraz and your feet, well they’re not even worth discussing. While the driver doesn’t get the same breeze they are a little more protected from the elements in the central position. There is always a feeling of exhilaration that you have survived another day.
‘Best Western’ your best is our best! Real beds with real mattresses. But still no beer. Markus managed to negotiate beer to be bought to our rooms but no beer allowed anywhere else. Apparently only the rooms are licensed. Perhaps this is a sign that we’re meant to give up the booze.
“To slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.”
Day 5 – Rage against the machines
We set out today, sadly bidding farewell to our little Indian ‘Porpoise Spit ‘ paradise. We took the NH214 for about 60km’s stopping at local fruit vendors for apples, bananas and grapes. All of which were delicious. A small mishap when half the crew stood in a big wad of ox poop.
5 Days on the Indian roads and something’s got to blow. Actually it was our team that had a very short, very intense and very relieving screaming outburst aimed at all Indian motorists – every single dang one them.
Markus won an overtaking battle with a truck & Chris won an overtaking battle with a bus, this is no mean feat. I found myself in a game of chicken with 2 hoons on a motorbike while trying to drive through the main streets of Rajahmundry. The antics ended with these idiots hitting a poor cyclist.
BTW cyclists in India cover vast distances and I’m yet to see a single piece of Lycra. Just another point in my cause to ban lycra and smash fluro to a pulp.
Chris has thrown caution to the wind and has begun to embrace some of the local lunacy. He’s now completely comfortable conversing in the middle of a National Highway and even more excited to try travelling into oncoming traffic using that 50cm road edge I discussed yesterday.
We arrived at La Hospin hotel after a few navigational hiccups. We’ve been using the iPhone Sygic app to navigate and so far it’s done us well. This time the street name wasn’t listed and I tried to navigate to the nearby police station. Fortunately a local Tuk Tuk driver took pity on us and guided us in.
La Hospin was one of our flashier accommodation options and boasted a bar called the ‘Hang Loose’ bar. After a fairly hairy 40 minutes navigating our way through the city we arrived at our hotel a little frazzled and all ready to hang loose in that bar. Guess what? Bar is under construction!
However our warm welcoming hosts offered us the option to have a drink in the boardroom. Having moved to a district that wasn’t a dry district, against all advice I decided to have another crack at wine, Carol even agreed to share a glass. Consider it declared – no more wine in India. I even did a video message for Markus affirming this. It was another night of metho and crispy veg.
The boardroom was setup in that u-shaped conference style with white table cloths and pleated edges. It had no windows and felt like a PowerPoint presentation was imminent or someone was going to be fired. It didn’t really have that hang loose feel we were looking for. Alcohol was not allowed in the restaurant, so we finished our beers (no I did not drink the metho wine) and moved for dinner.
Carol sparked up a conversation with a family at the neighbouring table and they invited us for breakfast at their home, generously offering to send a car to collect us. What a beautiful gesture and fortuitous as our Tuk Tuks were being serviced and wouldn’t be ready until 10.00am.
Day 4 – The detox is over, it’s party time!
Just when you think you’ve got all the unexpected traffic manoeuvres worked out – BAM – the crazy Indian motorists shock you with more priceless road antics.
By day 4 we are quite accustomed to motorbikes, push bikes, oxen and pedestrians using that small 50cm strip of road that sits to the left of the white painted line, to travel into oncoming traffic. But day 4 introduced the use of this minuscule piece of road by the odd truck, bus and even a tractor. Essentially what this means for the poor, unsuspecting, law abiding motorist travelling forward as he should in the left lane, is that he is forced into some very quick decision making, “Do I
1. Dodge the oncoming vehicle that is hurdling toward me in my lane and hope like hell one of the lunatic bus drivers isn’t hooting up the right hand lane
2. Just have a head on collision – not a good idea given we are in a Tuk Tuk
3. Break & honk my horn furiously and fishtail it as best I can
The correct answer is generally a combination of all of the above.
Now lets talk speed bumps. They come out of nowhere and can span up to 16 humps. You definitely don’t want to hit these at 40km an hour in a Tuk Tuk, well not if you want to make it to Shillong. One would think that this would in some way manage to curb speed, but is nothing more than a momentary pause and then it’s back to the erratic and chaotic speeds. I swear the bus drivers are maniacs.
Just a little tip for the Indian transport authority, regulate your bus and trucking industries if you want to put a dint in your 147,000 pa road toll. I don’t think your road signs are going to cut it.
The only authorities we’ve come across in 1200kms are toll booth operators who just want to take our picture, pollution control (not sure what they do, but apprehending polluting vehicles is not it) and license check by police. Now call me daft, but I would gear those police forces to a little highway patrol. Can the US send India the entire series of “Chips” – if it’s bling enough it might just catch on here.
Manoeuvre of the Day goes to the car that overtook us on the right, waved furiously and tracked beside us for sometime before accelerating, swiftly changing lanes and then almost side swiping us trying to park on the 50cm strip of road I described earlier. Thank you for that awesome experience, you peanut!
Now onto more joyous matters.
Today under Chris’ suggestion we agreed to abandon our original route and head coastal to Chirala. Kaitlyn (the accommodation whisperer) deftly found us Palm Coast Beach Resort. From Internet appearances it looked basic, but it was right on the beach, so no difficulty making that decision.
We arrived after being followed by 2 youths on a motorcycle whom Markus nearly wiped out at an intersection.
We first thought we were in the wrong spot when the signage read ‘Bay Watch Resort’ but apparently this gem has a few names. All I was interested in was getting to the ocean ASAP. This place was quirky, to be kind. Unlike the litigious checkin process we have endured at all other hotels, this little piece of paradise required nothing from us but the joy in our hearts. We were promptly upgraded from standard rooms to the deluxe rooms. I think they are using the term deluxe a little liberally.
There were only 2 deluxe rooms so Kaitlyn and I stuck with standard. This was clean and fine. No shower, just a bucket and a tap. There was no electricity, apparently a small problem with the generator, they were working on it. A quick look at the menu and saw beer, enquired as to if the beer was cold. Nope, no beer – not allowed. Then why do you taunt us so! Oh and the pool was empty – just about to be filled for a party the next day. To be honest it was all starting to look like they just opened up the resort for us. It had that closed for the winter kind of feel but it was the middle of summer.
We didn’t spare any time enjoying the range of animal sculptures in the garden, we headed straight for the ocean. It was the most marvellous way to end the day. Really strange pimped up tractors with load music parading for a short while.
After our dip it was back to the hotel, this time we got to really absorb our surrounds.
The delightful garden included sculptures of 2 deer, 2 parrots, a dolphin, a lady that I like to think was an Indian mermaid, a carousel of pots featuring an array of succulents, a basketball ring and 2 pagola’s adorned with fairy lights – heaven on a popsicle stick really.
All that was missing was beer and wine. We actually passed a roadside wine store but my first experience of off wine has left me scarred. Beer is a universal safe bet. And then something really strange happened, out of nowhere music started pumping from two massive and previously unnoticed speakers. As one should, I immediately started to dance. And then I began to see the potential party mania in this freaky little place and I just knew there had to be beer somewhere. And so I picked a different boy to ask, one not so holy looking – “Please Sir, how can you have this pumping music and fantastical garden and no beer, that is simply cruel and unusual” – BAM – Beer could be sourced if we agreed to dance. No problem, source it young man! After a short while we were gleefully sipping cold kingfisher beers. Upon further enquiry we discovered that the market for this little piece of paradise is 35-40 year old private parties!
The long of the story is that it took 3 hours for dinner to arrive, the short of the story is we danced like no one was watching (or should be) with the 4 young lads that man Palm Coast Resort.
Summation – If you are ever in India this is a gem no to be bypassed.
On departure the owner (a bone surgeon) introduced himself. How apt, this whacky little place is owned by a bone surgeon. That’s perfect!
Day 3 – Agriculture Day
It’s also day 3 of an involuntary detox. Try getting a drink in India. I came armed with an alcohol license but it seems I won’t have much use for it. I guess it’s all part of the enlightenment.
We hit the road at 7.00am faced with a highway U turn. This was the first of these maneuverers and probably a little early to start the day with, but none the less mandatory to get en-route. Chris took the lead and confidently hauled straight into it. I quickly followed, and it was all over in the blink of an eye.
To add to the mix of obstacles we already face on these crazy roads today oxen and cows were introduced as well as massive farming equipment – sorry not sure of the official name of these machines – my farming family would be appalled – I’m going to take a stab at a ‘Header’. A picture is included below.
The irony is that the highways are littered with Safety signs spouting a host of safety messages – all of which are completely and utterly ignored. Signs like “lane discipline gives you long life”. Life expectancy in India has to be at an all time low because I can assure you no one in India knows what a lane is, let alone what direction you should travel in it. Another pearl of wisdom “Be alert, accidents hurt”.
As soon as I get back to Australia I’m heading straight to one of those gaming halls, if I can’t seriously get the top score on one of those driving games with all the obstacles, I’ll walk from here to Shillong. I’ve already made a bet with Benn Dalby of ‘The White Tiger’ that I’ll run naked down the streets of Shillong if he gets his Tuk Tuk to Darjeeling so I’d better stop now or I’m going to have a lot to do in Shillong.
Today Carol debuted on the roads and handled herself like a pro. I on the other hand did not fare so well as navigator. I was loading some pics to facebook and missed a crucial turn. This lead us off track navigating our way through some serious back streets to try to get ourselves back onto the right side of the highway. It was absolute chaos and Markus and Chris both behind the wheel, managed these backstreets exceptionally well. After about 30 minutes we were back on track and I was reprimanded by my team. No more facebooking while navigating! I will say though it was a right challenge to navigate through those back streets and quite rewarding to have done so without too many hiccups.
Only one minor vehicle issue today with our roof rods coming away from our windscreen, nothing that Chris, Markus and Adam couldn’t fix with a bit of gaffa tape and a cable tie. Chris assures me it’s no problem and the weight is handled by some other vertical poles. OK then, no biggie – a detached windscreen it is. Onwards we go.
We made 40km more than we expected and have bedded down in the small town of Srikalahasti. We arrived late afternoon and managed some daylight hours roaming the streets and getting a taste of some Indian culture. Again, warm and wonderful people and some unrelenting begging – a taste of what I am sure is going to get much worse.
We all strolled the main street excited and enjoying watching the local vendors go about their business.
Markus and I visited the Srikalahasti Temple. It is one of the most famous Shiva Temples in Southern India. We partook in 2 x 20 minute ceremonies and wandered through the temple. Alive and beautiful was this place.
It’s 10.00pm and that’s my bed time.
Day 2 – trouble free
Another hot day on the roads of India, dodging the crazy Indian drivers overtaking us from the left and right simultaneously. If this isn’t confusing enough, particularly given that one of the vehicles is usually a motorbike and the other a damn massive, monolith of a bus or truck, one must also keep their peepers posted to avoid a head on collision with the random vehicles that literally advance into oncoming traffic. Think nothing of entering a highway facing oncoming traffic, think nothing of it at all! The most disconcerting thing is the over zealous cars that beep and wave furiously at you as they overtake – very friendly bunch – and then practically side swipe you as they make their way into your lane. You’ve barely had time to recover from the distraction, which usually involves you trying to return some kind of greeting… and then BAM you’ve nearly hit the buggers. It quickly wipes the smile right off your face!
Intersections and roundabouts are mayhem, the only way to make it through an intersection I have found is to advance into oncoming traffic and furiously beep the horn, if you wait for a break you will be waiting forever – these crazy bastards have an innate sense of fear, they’re like horses. And if you do happen to hesitate, be prepared to be overtaken from both sides by traffic from behind, there is no patience on the roads of India.
We’ve learn’t a few more things about our little baby today.
Uggi is a guzzler, no surprise there given her owners. She’s doing about 110km to a tank of fuel. Half a tribe seem to be faring much better, we always run out of fuel before them. We are still hearing some funny noises from our exhaust and my hit prediction is that at some point in the not too distant future, we are going to have to have this looked at before the thing breaks or falls off.
Kaitlyn from ‘Half a Tribe’ made her debut on the open roads today and drove like a champion. Kaitlyn is also to thank for our awesome accommodation at the Alps Residency, very flash and very gold. The staff are exceptional and our teams and our Tuk Tuk’s were welcomed with open arms.
We sourced breakfast at one of the various little roadside cafe’s. Chris and Markus braved it and tried the freshly deep fried samosa’s and other delights. I stuck with yoghurt treats from Carol’s fantastic goody bag. This goody bag has been a godsend and a welcome delight – thanks Carol. Markus and Adam love the sesame honey snaps.
We came across 2 other teams on the roadside today as we refuelled. Both experiencing minor issues and heading in the same direction as us.
I wiped out 3 out of 3 witches hats trying to take the narrow toll lane for motorbikes and nearly rolled the Tuk Tuk on an unexpected turn. Uggi does not have a good centre of gravity, corners need to taken with care and the slightest slant in the road is disconcerting.
India loves a GIGANTIC billboard. Have seen plenty of these.
It’s 10.00pm – over and out from Di.
Wow! What a day!
A few sore heads after the big launch party last night. More crazy antics with human pyramids and some people throwing. All occurring while I was chilling back at Saj’s with Carol and Kaitlyn. Markus, Adam and Chris went to represent team Uggi & Half a tribe – a fun night was had by all.
Day 1 began at 10.00am at the United Club grounds with the packing of the Tuk Tuk’s. Some great costumes and a really good vibe amongst all the participants. We’ve got more luggage than the Kardashian’s, but managed to squeeze it all in. Our little Uggi has her work cut out for her.
We finally got away about 12.30pm after all the formalities. We are travelling with our friends team Half a Tribe and together headed straight for the ferry and out onto the Indian roads. We covered about 140km arriving in Palakkad at about 6.20pm.
Little Uggi had three minor hiccups, firstly running out of fuel on the NH47 (promptly diagnosed by Adam) , next a blown spark plug (quickly rectified by Chris) and finally an exhaust issue (again rectified by Chris), mmmmm – beginning to realise how little I have to contribute on the mechanical front, but learning heaps.
I did the first drive up until about 3.00pm and then Markus took over. Poor Markus got the hairy end of the driving. Holy Cow – I can’t describe just how insane it is on these roads. The biggest, badest guys are the the bus drivers. Do not mess with these men. There are seriously no rules and Indian motorists simply have no fear. It is insane.
I have got very good on the horn. I ran 2 red lights, they’re up so high I just didn’t see them. Thank God we’re all still alive. I still don’t understand how the lights work, now I’m actually conscious of where they are (very high up from the drivers seat of little Uggi). I have come across several red lights that no one seems to stop for and others that people do stop for. Note to self “safest bet is to just stop”.
We hit one hell of a traffic jam about 35km short of Palakkad and that was an interesting sight to behold. Buses just literally jamming their way into oncoming traffic. More welcoming smiles and waves from the locals.
We arrived at our hotel and I don’t think they were that impressed to find 6 grubby foreigners and 2 Auto’s landing on their doorstep.
Dined at the hotel restaurant and experienced some seriously spicy Chicken Masala – my lips were burning.
Absolutely knackered and in for an early start tomorrow to beat some of the heat. It’s stinking hot, that kind of hot where you are just dripping with sweat.
That wraps us Day 1 from Di.