Date: 10 May
Location: on the road trip from hell, somewhere between Varanasi and the Nepalese border.
Notable sightings: urgh, too tired and hot to care.
Hours driven: 9
Hours to go: 4
Crossing a four 'lane' roundabout yesterday it occurred to me that I was getting the hang of hanging out on Indian streets. I've seen take-your-life-in-your-hands streets before – Saigon, Bangkok, Istanbul – but nothing like India. Lanes, where they exist, are completely ignored and, horrifyingly, everyone drives on whatever side of the road best suits them. Turning right soon? Just drive on the right, facing incoming traffic. It's cool. The only law of this jungle seems to be to follow precedence and get the hell out of the way of anything that outranks you. With one important exception, travellers are ranked by size: as a medium sized human you can plow through children, goats and dogs but should always defer to rickshaws, tuktuks, cars, buses and trucks. Everything gives way to cows.
Today begun at 4.30am and has been pure evil since the screech of the alarm. I'm sure I've had more physically uncomfortable days in my life but my scrambled brain can't seem to retrieve memories of them. It's 40 degrees out and we're taking jeeps along the worst 'roads' I've ever seen to the border of Nepal. My jaw is locked and every muscle is bracing just to keep my body from shaking to pieces. It should take us, oh, eleven hours. And then another two from the border to Lumbini. There is not enough Candy Crush Saga in the world to distract me from the fact that this is a wickedly gruelling journey.
(Another snarky interlude: 9/10 of our group agreed that it would only be fair to rotate places and to switch between Dubiously Air Conditioned Car 1 and Skeptical About Prescence Of Air Conditioner Car 2. Terrific Texan planted himself in the front seat of Car 1 and has refused to move for the last nine hours. A brief but explosive war broke out when this first occurred and we've been informed by him that he has “massive internal bleeding” and will need yo go straight away to Bangkok for surgery so is “looking out for number one”. Confused about why he's seen fit to take ths journey today into Nepal and not fly directly there from Varanasi? Also confused as to how he's sleeping so peacefully now in theb breezy front seat with feet on the dash if he is seriously injured? Me too. Mysteries of the world. This trip has shown me more adults acting like complete children – spoiled ones at that – than I knew existed.)
The Lady Bogans are growing on me. Today I squeezed in between them and we shared travel war stories and Pringles. They've trekked Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail and have some truly delightfully hideous stories.
When we get to the border we'll get dropped off and have to depart India, walk 50m, then enter Nepal. So we're crossing into Nepal on foot. How very pilgrimage of us.
Typing this in the car and I'm tempted to leave all the typos as they are to better convey just how bloody bumpy ths road is but I don't want you to have to decode it, all Clockwork Orange style.
I've loved India and by no means feel done with it. Enduring impressions will include the lovely people, it's monstrous size, the hideous rubbish, the enchanting temples and the unforgivable heat. I wish I had another month here to see more of Rajasthan, Punjab and maybe Kashmir. However, the heat, which is now stifling, will become, I'm told, prohibitively hot. So it's best I leave now and come back soon.