Well, we finally have put something together some sort of film thing to show you!! Granted, It is only part 1 of what we are thinking will be a three-part series, and it is just a few snippets taken from hours and hours of video footage. Although, I do believe that this will absolutely give you a quite good perspective of what was going on those first few days in India. Hope you enjoy it!
For eight and a half hours, the car ride was completely silent. No more than maybe 10 words were spoken between us on our ride from the finish line in Jaisalmer to Jaipur. The activities of, not just the last 3 weeks, but really the last 9 months, finally catching up to each of us. It was as if we were being pushed into almost a numbness that required immediate reflection as the driver took us in his white 4-door TATA Sedan to catch our flight back home to the States.
Amazing, how different India looks from inside the comforts of a car verses the 3-wheeled rickshaw. It is almost as if we have already stepped away and are now looking at the country through an aquarium glass. For two full weeks, we have not just traveled through India, but were actually part of it. The rickshaw and everything that encompassed traveling in this manner allowed each of us to actually be an organic part of the country. Not until this very moment did I realize what a wonderful gift that was. and how much I already missed it.
All of our senses are overwhelmed - our entire body covered with bruises and dirt from the challenges we just overcome …I’m almost fearful to close my eyes, because it immediately enables a random memory to once again put me back to the whirlwind they called the Rickshaw Run… Initially, I thought this whole thing started with a friend I have back in New York City, that told me about theadventurists and her experience with their crazy challenges for charity. But now with deeper reflection, it wasn’t really my friend that brought this to be… I mean yes, she absolutely steered us to the opportunity, but personally I have been searching for these types of experiences for a much longer time. An experience that, not only allowed me to truly give back to something I personally really felt indebted to, but also to push myself to the brink of exhaustion, confusion, terror, sadness, happiness, and just the unknown… and, then, hopefully to safety return back to a state of normalcy. This is what they must mean to truly live.
Closing my eyes once again, the memories flowed… Our clutch, why did we fix our clutch! I am still sure there was nothing wrong with our clutch. And now with this new clutch, I can’t get it into 2nd gear! Of course, that is not a problem I can just skip to third, but now I am in a damn circle... cars, pedestrians and cows flying in and horns honking from all various directions and I really need to find 2nd gear!! “You’re coming in at 6 o’clock and leaving at 3!” I hear Joanna yelling at me from behind! “Why are you yelling?"I scream back! “She isn’t!” yells Danny, "just get through this!” My head down, my hands white-knuckled on the accelerator and clutch, my foot lifted so I can reach the brake pedal that is way too high in the air and just driving like I have blinders on through one of the many stressful circles or road diversions we went through on this journey. You immediately learn not to ever stop, nor to look at anyone as you navigate through, by the off chance you catch someone’s eye, which would allow them to convey possible negativity of your driving skills, completely enabling to throw you off your objective... Don’t need that right now….
"Would you people like to stop for Chai?”, I heard our driver ask us. Each of us shaking our head “No, not right now, thank you.” Chai - what an amazing statement that drink has in this country… Always served hot, and in a small cup. Sometimes you paid for it, sometimes it was just offered. Sometimes it was heated on a electric stove, but more often than not, it was being served on the roadside and being heated by wood or charcoal fire. Each time, it was always a little bit better than the last. Although, also each time, you hesitated sipping this milky concoction in hopes that it wasn’t the final trigger of Delhi-Belly....
I remember telling Mila Kiratzova, of TheAdventurists team, on the second day of being in India, how much fun this adventure has already been, without even starting the race yet. There were so many things we had learned over the last 9 months of preparation… Meeting our team at ArtsConnection, learning that raising money for charity is absolutely not as easy as one may think!...Hours of watching Youtube, taking notes as we went along on different things we should remember or purchase to make this journey just a bit more bearable...Website design, short film creations, press releases all in the hopes to raise awareness/money for our charities…The endless glasses of wine and conversations with anyone that would listen, just trying to prepare ourselves for this adventure. For the last few months, it had consumed us and (thankfully) our friends, family and work associates cared for us, just enough to continue listening a little bit more about this trip.
"That isn’t a horn! That is a freaking melody!” I heard one of us say as, once again, we were being over taken by one of the many "Buses of Death" that traveled these Indian Roads. Immediately, your hands would once again go into that white-knuckled grip on the rickshaw steering bar, and the tension in your neck and shoulder would be guitar string-taunt as you waited for this Steel Bus that has just played the most obnoxious 15-second air horn right into your right ear, as it barreled down on our little rickshaw. Always passing close enough that, if you just put your hand out, you could feel the hot steel of the bus side pass by. After about seven days on the road, I really think I understood the melody that blew from these intermittent scares - it was to give the hundreds of cows, sheep, and goats enough time and alertness to get out of the road before they may meet their ultimate doom on the grill of one of these speed monstrosities. Although, it is probably more for the safety of the driver of the bus. It became very well known to us that, if anyone ever killed or harmed one of these sacred cows that populated the India country side, a very harsh punishment was the retribution, which usually meant death. A few times, at some of the check points, the buses slowed down just enough that you could peer inside the blacked out windows that were open to give some sort of air conditioning to those inside. From the windows, always you were given the same look of misery, dark faces worn from the exhaustion and, I am sure. the heat inside. It seemed they no longer had the energy or any reason to flash a smile, just an empty stare.
"We will stop here, I need some chai and you can purchase water," said our driver as we pulled up to one of the many roadside truck stops that we have witnessed on our trip. Noticing that this particular stop was a bit more modern then most that peppered the indian roads (it had a fridge in one of the huts offering cold water! This was a luxury that we had really come to appreciate on this trip). It was these type of stops that really became special to the three of us. The stops always offered a different view point of India and most certain an experience or something would happen that would make each stop special, in its own different way. First, the curious stares of the elders and, then, the children (always a bit more adventurous and daring) would begin to circle the rickshaw, hands out - trying to shake our hand - and learn our name, guessing which country we were from, till we helped them through it. Curiously with our life in Saudi Arabia and our global travels, we knew that, being American and getting closer to the Pakistan border, we were putting ourselves at an unnecessary risk by broadcasting that we were from the States. So, as we did get closer to the finish line (next to the Pakistan border), we kept that information close to our chest. When asked if we were Australian, we all usually happily agreed.
Back in the car, with cold water, salted potato chips and cashew or butter cookies, we were back on the road to Jaipur. These three items really ended up being our daily consumption as we traveled through India. We usually left the more adventurous Indian meals to the evening. The days just brought so many stresses and nuances that eating was the one thing none of us really wanted to risk. I was pretty sure that my bout with stomach issues arrived from the Coffee Day sandwich, I had somewhere earlier in the trip. In hindsight, it was not a very bright move having a sandwich with mayonnaise in the middle of nowhere india. You can promise yourself that there were not many Indians that would order that sandwich, so who knows how old that mayo was. I knew better than that, but after 7 days of the same food options, a chicken sandwich just sounded amazing….
Again my eyes closed, this time bringing me to the beach south of Goa. What an amazing place that was! It was like last resort. We had just caught up with Roel and Bryan again, passing them on the streets. They too were searching for a hotel in this no hotel area. They had decided to bite the bullet and just continue further north, looking for the next town hoping to find possible lodging there. Conversely, we turned back in hopes that one of the earlier places we had passed along the way would offer lodging. All of us agreeing, initially, that Ecostay sounded like a no electricity, no plumbing, type of facility and that was not at all what we wanted! Now that the sun was beginning to set, things were a bit more stressful and our reluctance for this type of non-comfort facility was overcome by the desire to just to find a safe place to spend the night. We turned on a dirt road and traveled another 2 kilometers to the beach curious what we would find at the end of this road. It opened up to a slice of heaven. Approximately 7-10 people were working the grounds and the entire time we were there, they were all doing anything they could to make sure our experience was amazing - hoping that we would write a review about their new hotel on the beach on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor really was review of choice in India. Many times, we were asked by various hotels/restaurants and lodging areas if we could please recommend them on trip advisor. I remember going back to the room looking at the wall with 12 light switches - This was common. Everywhere we stayed always had at 5 to 12 light switches and you would hit each of them just trying to find the one that actually worked and turned on a light. More times then not they really were never connected to anything and the light switch you were looking for was next to bed or other wall.
All of sudden, after we realized we had been in the car for now almost 5 hours and not one word had been spoken, I nervously pointed out that the driver must think we really do not like each other. Not one of us were talking at all. I suggested, which I know is true, that we were all lost in our thoughts. All of us let out an exhausting smile, agreed, and immediately went back to our thoughts…
"Really? that is a shaman?” Danny asked. “I don’t know," I replied, "I think so, he is some sort of priest.” We were able to peer into the temple as we walked by. His beard was long and grey, as was his hair, he had a huge amount of beaded necklaces around his neck and his face was painted with a bright red mark on his forehand. He was gently applying red marks to those that walked in to greet him. The activity can be summed up to: take your shoes off, walk into the temple, pay the shaman a donation to the deity he was presenting, and then you would bow as he would gently put a red mark on to your forehand. I immediately was uncomfortable with the scenario. Not that I didn’t believe it was a beautiful process, but it was one that I had no knowledge on, and me entering the temple and replicating the actions I saw others performing made me feel it may be considered a type of mockery. I think it would be very similar to a buddhist going into a catholic church and taking communion. With that, I tried to observe these religious happenings, but not really partaking, forbidden by ignorance in what was really occurring. Also, I am pretty sure my own religion would be a bit curious as to what I was doing. No reason to have to explain to anyone what that was about, so I just took a picture and moved on.
"Stop Stop Stop!” I remember saying one morning on the run. “What is going on there?” Down the slope, you could see what appeared to be possible rice fields and next to them 30-40 women and young girls digging in the dirt, creating more - all of them wearing beautiful bright clothing, but the work was hard and it was so hot outside. I grabbed my camera and headed down the slope. At the bottom, I was greeted by two Indian men. Neither spoke English, but with the smiles I was given, I could kind of make out what was happening. These men were managing this group of ladies, young and old, to create these rice fields. More times than not, we saw this type of gender inequality being displayed in India. Women are absolutely the work horses in the demographics we were exposed to. I motioned that I wanted to get closer the ladies to take their picture. The two men made it very clear that they wanted their own picture taken, not the women. I, immediately, went into the vogue photoshoot scenario allowing the men’s ego to be raised, to see themselves in such pictures. Finally, going back to my original request to get closer to the women. With a slight nod they agreed, and I was off to take more pics closer to these beautiful women that were working so hard to get their task complete. As I walked up to them, I once again was greeted by curious stares and some smiles, although not once did the work slow down or stop. I looked back up to the slope and I could see Danny making sure of my safety, I nodded at him and began walking back to the rickshaw. As I reached the top I saw another rickshaw, with possibly another 12 women inside, drop them off to work in the fields.
"Look at that car”, I heard someone say on one afternoon through the countryside. Here comes a jeep of sorts with possibly 5-7 men on the inside (with heater) and on the roof, in the bitter cold of the Indian desert morning, were 9 women sitting cross-legged, going down the highway! Unbelievable! ...but not uncommon we saw this sight so many times through our weeks in India.
Finally, pulling into Jaipur, we are being greated by 1000’s of kites being flown from the rooftops and grounds - from men, women and children alike. How fitting our last days in India is also during the national kite festival! Every city in India is flying these homemade diamond kites. It peppers the sky like confetti as if wishing us a final farewell! "It is so beautiful,” I hear Joanna say... We actually saw so many beautifully amazing things on this journey. Our minds go back to the ruins, waterfalls, beaches, rainforests, elephants, temples, churches, wells, caves, faces of the people. It was incredible.
We also saw poverty like we have never witnessed: Whole towns without anyone wearing shoes...Children breaking into tears when giving something just as simple as a pencil or baseball cap... Whole towns without electricity or inside plumbing... Women carrying dried cow feces on their heads to bring back home to burn and try to heat the home... Whole villages that were just tents, or even, teepees made from straw. India has shaken us all to the core. It made us experience and feel the pain from some of the stares and handshakes, but then, it embraced us with wonderful hugs and hospitality, all in the hope to learn our name and possibly know what country we were from.
Thank you India!
Thank you theadventurists!
Thank you to all of our friends and family!
And, finally, thank you to my teammates, Joanna & Danny!!
For the last three days, we have been running hard to get to the finish line. However, we have also been able to see some fantastic sights along the way.
At one of the hotels, one of the employees told us that we must see BiBi-Ka-Mukbara.
What we were told is this is another tomb similar to the Taj Mahal. Even with the same type of story. So, knowing we weren't going to see the Taj on this adventure, we knew we should try to spend some time there.
It was great to see this, and the architecture alone was magnificent! Allowing ourselves to explore a bit, we had a chance to go inside and take a peek. Underneath the dome was a large room, below, that people were continuously tossing money in.
We quickly went through the building and then headed back to find our rickshaw and keep on moving. The next stop was about 150 kilometers north, the Ellora Caves. These caves were separated into three different areas. One area was for the Buddhist, another was the Hindu, and finally was the Jain. It all depended on who occupied the area at the time. They were built from the 7th - 9th century. A guy came up to us asking if he could be our guide. Knowing that we really knew nothing about the place, we were in. Afterwards, we all decided that was absolutely the best choice. These caves were amazing and every single room in these huge caverns had a purpose, depending on the religion that occupied at the time. Through out the tour, many Indians, in the habit of our adventure, stopped and asked to have their picture taken with us. We were told that this entire structure and everything within was cut from one large rock that was in the side of the mountain. Once this rock was discovered they pulled back any dirt that could be layering the sides and top and then began carving from all directions. On the way out, we were bombarded by shop owners, begging us to visit their stand to look at their goods. We decided to buy a few things to take home. What we did notice was the "walk away" technique worked perfect in this instance. As soon as they thought you were leaving the shop, the prices dropped dramatically. Usually to almost 1/2 the original offer. As we headed out of the caves, we noticed a few other runners driving in to see the caves including our original caravan partners, "Fire it Up". We got to our destination village late in the evening and, once again, the Here navigation program took us on a very creative route. Next thing we know, Danny is driving through an extremely busy town market. Of course, everyone has to stop and stare or laugh as we tuk-tuk through this area, making his driving job that much more stressful. With a little help from the locals, we were led out of the market before we did any (major) damage to any of the 100's of carts or motorbikes that were completely thrown in to sell goods (we did clip one bike's footrest says Danny.... Joanna and I are sure he ran it completely over and backed up to make sure he bent the frame the first time over....why let the truth get in the way of a good story!)
On the way out of town, this morning, the sun was just starting to light up the city. We quickly got everything on top of the roof, trying our best to get out of town before the city bustling began.
Noticing a small lake on the right, it appeared the road we were on headed towards it and ran along the side. We began to see boys and men carrying buckets, either by hand or balancing them on their head, and walking towards the lake. Curious what they were all doing, we all decided they must be going out to get water and bring it back to their home.
Suddenly, we noticed what appeared to be poop on the ground, swerving quickly trying not to hit it. At about the same time, we noticed a young man appear and crouch down on the road next to his bucket. As we got closer, we realized wait he wasn’t crouching - he was pooping! In about the time it would take you to count to 5, the moans and cries emerged from our rickshaw! They are not going to get water - they are going out for their morning constitutional!. As our eyes, then, focused on the possibly 50 -75 men that were out by this lake (which we now have now coined to be Poop Pond), we realized they all were crouching doing their thing! Ah, yes, and then the smell…. Really, that is enough of Poop Pond. There is really no more to add..But again, this is a great example of the type of poverty we are witnessing going through some of the most rural areas of India.
We immediately got away from that area of the village and ventured further. Quickly, the road began to really deteriorate. I felt it would be much easier to drive on a dirt road than this pot-holed filled attempt of a paved road. It was quickly understood that the only vehicle that could withstand this type of road is one of these wagons being pulled by two cows. This was a common view in our journey and one that many times we had to either avoid hitting or find away around them (as the cows have the right-of-way). The road continued to get worse and I thought if I could slowly get the rickshaw off the paved area and onto the smoother dirt section on the right side of the road, it may be more bearable. All of a sudden, we hit a huge hole and it rocked us back, quickly everyone looked at each other and told each to hold on. As we continued off the shoulder, we hit a rock (we believe) and it bounced our rickshaw to the right. In what seemed like slow motion, the rickshaw then continued this motion and fell completely on her side. Landing with a crash and a poof of dust! We all quickly checked to make sure we had all our fingers and toes and then made sure everyone was safe. It seemed everyone was ok - a bit shaken - but thankfully no major harm. Danny ended with a cut on two of his toes and Joanna had bruised her cheek. As soon as we stood up, we realized we were already surrounded by more than 20 indian men and children all trying to assist us in tipping upright Lady Karma back on her wheels… Within minutes, we had taken about 15 selfies with random people, thanked them for their assistance, and pushed onward now with two goals… One, to get off this darn road and, two, to have a mechanic look at our rickshaw.
Finding a mechanic was fairly simple, conversing with him was much more difficult since he knew very little English and we knew just as much Hindi. We think he told us that that everything was fine but we needed a new clutch and obvious a new right side mirror, since lay down crushed the last one… After a motorcycle ride, many pictures with the locals, and $7.00 for a new clutch and 75 cents for the new mirror we were back on our way!
After viewing the ruins in Hampi, we headed back to our hotel to plan our next day's journey. Since we were a bit behind most of the racers that were going straight up the coast, we knew we would have to make up time by driving all the entire next day. So... off to bed at what seems to be our normal bed time since we started this race, 8:30pm.
Waking up bright and early, it usually takes us about an hour to get packed up and our rickshaw loaded for the day. This morning, it was extra chilly so we thought it would be a great day to use our plastic siding. With a little ingenuity and suggestions from my father before we left, we had packed industrial-strength Velcro from USA. The Velcro, combined with the clear plastic sheeting that we found in a fabric shop in Kochi, made for perfect siding to block the cold wind, and possible rain, not to mention the amazing amount of dust that is in places I didn't even realize existed. We were initially planning on using a shower curtain, although now that we have been in India for over ten days it is apparent that the bathroom curtain is out of fashion here. The Indian bathroom shower style is consistently a shower head on the wall enabling you to use the entire room as a shower. This is very convenient if you would like to go pee, shave, and brush your teeth while not leaving the cold water shower that you are taking. The hot water lever is there and even at times is labeled as "hot", although we have found it is usually just there to tease.
Putting up the side curtain, we set off and made record distance for the day, almost 430 kilometers! It was truly a hard day of racing. Although, our curtain kept it warm and almost pleasant.
When we got into the town around 5 pm that evening, we decided it was a good place to rest. However, it was quickly apparent that we would never find lodging. It was a moderately poor area, and absolutely zero English was being used or spoken.
Two young boys on a motorcycle drove up next to us. I asked them if they knew of any place we could lodge and they asked us to follow them and they were off... Weaving through the streets for about seven minutes, we came to rest at a building that had no markings of a hotel but we assured by our two young new assistants that it was. Once we got inside you could tell that, not only was it a hotel, but probably the nicest one in town. We woke up the clerk that was asleep on the bench next to the desk and exchanged our info with the clerk. $17.00 later we all had a room with supposedly free internet (if it ever worked).
Quickly showering, we got ready to explore the town and at least find a bar that we could have birthday celebratory beer. Normally, it would be a vodka or gin & tonic, but, not wanting to test the ice situation after my last episode of Delhi belly, I am sticking to cold bottled drinks.
We grabbed a taxi rickshaw that, with some assistance from others, took us to a local garden bar where we were a bit leered at because we had a woman with us. The waiter was very nice and did a great job getting us through the menu with drinks. On the way home the same taxi driver came back to pick us. I was teasing him because before he dropped us off at the restaurant earlier, he had actually ran into a bicyclist and knocking him to the ground. Obviously this turned into 30-second verbal quarrel until the taxi driver got out of the rickshaw, pulled the man's bicycle from under the rickshaw and tossed it to the side. So, on the way home, I teased him to please not hit any more bicyclists, if he could prevent it. He replied with a huge grin, "My country, mycity!!"
Ha!!! So many crazy things happened today! Not really even sure where to start. Again, we got up at about 5am and started our trek to the western coast. There is a rickshaw run party in Goa on the 5th of January and we thought it would be great to get back with the big group and try to refocus our plan north. To get back to coast meant we had to go back down the mountains and across. It should be a full day’s journey but our goal with a night at the beach has us all pumped and ready to get moving.
On the way down, we noticed a nice park that had a beautiful observation deck to let people see the view from the top of the mountain. We stopped for a bit and then made our way down. Until now, we have been using the GPS program “HERE” navigated by Joanna and once we get into a local city we switch to Google maps and that usually gets us where we hope we want to be. When both those fail (which they do at least 3 -4 times a day), we switch to our trusty paper map, which we sometimes have to remember how to use.
The fun part of Joanna’s “Here Program” is that it really has no idea that it is in India. And that what it may consider a road is really a rocky dirt path, possibly an open field, or even a 4 lane major highway. All are referenced the same and give you the opportunity to really explore india in a way that you may never have expected. Which brings me back our journey down the mountain. Are you sure this is correct? This is the last question I heard as I slowly drove “Lady Karma” down the steepest embankment we have traveled thus far. Imagine how steep the embankment would have to be for us to topple over, not side to side, but forward. Now imagine it as wide as a 4 foot sidewalk. Now when you have this image settled and ready to move forward imagine going down this path for at least 5 miles and from time-to-time have other vehicles coming in the opposite direction, just to mix things up a bit. One car stopped us and asked us what we were doing. We explained to him that we were trying to get to highway 88 and he told us there was a better way…that we should go back up since this road is just about to get steeper. Knowing we could not get the rickshaw back up the path that we had just come down, our only choice was to continue on. Keeping it in 1st gear and riding the break we inched further, praying we did not hit a sandy patch or that team “Fire it Up” wouldn’t slam into the back us. Admittedly, there were times that we did hear Bryan and Roel screaming “”GO, GO, GO!!!” behind us so I am sure things were just that much more eventful behind us.
The next 6 hours consisted of hairpin turns and descents finally coming out of the mountains. At one point, we passed a religous festival. We were not sure what it was until a man passing by informed us. About every three minutes, we passed about 3-4 police men all carrying M-16’s or some type of automatic rifle. We assumed to keep this rally/festival peaceful.
The closer we got to the coast, the more we wished to see some other areas than going to Goa would permit. Although as soon as we saw the beach, I must admit flip-flops and shirts were tore off and we ran to the water and jumped in immediately. This not only amused Joanna but also a small audience of people wondering what these crazy white people were doing.
We all agreed that this may be the our last time to see some of these sights and that it may be a good time to separate from Team “Fire it Up,” to head inland again (after a night at the beach) to see Jog Falls and the ruins at Hampi . Upon deciding this, we came up to team “Wheels of Glory”, broken down on the side of the road. They had already called for help at the next town, further up the road. Not wanting to leave them stranded on the side of the road (since you really never knew if help was coming or not…), we tied them up to the back of our rickshaw to give them a tow. About 20 minutes into the this towing situation, the rickshaw mechanic apparently had called them and told them he would meet them exactly where we were at that time. Not wanting to somehow miss this guy, they thought it was best to untie and wait for him. Talking to them via WhatsApp later in the race, we found that indeed he did pick them up and that their clutch had fallen to pieces…
Team “Fire it up” had headed solo north to Goa and we began to search for a place to stay. In this town (according to google maps), there was only one hotel and it was an Ecostay. Our definition of an Ecostay would be possibly a hotel with no running hot water or electricity. Although, we realized that this may be our really our only place to stay for the night and that we were exhausted… and I was also feeling exactly what Danny was feeling a couple days back…. Delhi Belly situation #2… :(
The Ecostay had a long dirt driveway which we slowly went down, passing rice patties and farms. After about 10 minutes, we reached a gate that opened up to this gorgeous cabin-like yoga resort. It was beautiful! We anxiously asked if they had rooms and they did. With a quick bartering process with their onsite business man, we got 2 cabins for $60.00 each. They were fantastic in their hospitality and really wanting us to stay longer then we did. They also helped us drive our rickshaw onto their private beach where we were able to take some terrific shots! As soon as we were finished with the photography beach session, we started planning our next day travels to Jog Falls and opened up a fresh Kingfisher Strong beer. This would have been heaven on earth…except that, it was also about right here that my Dehli Belly was hitting on full...so at 6 pm, I took Cipro and headed to bed…..(but I heard that Joanna and Danny had a great dinner).
Waking up the next morning, everything was much better. Although taking the Cipro is seriously a ride in itself. It causes you to throw up (usually) and also cause night sweats with a fever as it fights against your stomach infection…but, man, you feel better when it is finished. We were woken up with a great breakfast on the beach before we headed inland once again to see the Jog Falls.
The word on the Jog Falls is that it is about 4 times taller than the Niagara Falls. It isn’t monsoon season, but we figured it should be pretty impressive. It absolutely was!! And, when we got there, we saw one of the other American teams there, “Guys just being dudes.” They are one of only five other American teams (including us) in the race. After a brief hello and some great shots of the Falls, we continued inland to Hampi. Hampi contains an 8-square mile area of 16th-century ruins. We had been to Pompeii before and that, too, was impressive but this was something completely different. It was seriously like walking to an episode of Indiana Jones. Monkeys + elephants + temples = Crazy!
The ruins had Shaman and Dieties in all parts of the working temple. At one point, we were asked to take off our shoes before continuing any further. This would of been great except I am sure I stepped in something that quite possibly was Monkey Urine.
Kochi - Palakkad (continued)
Once we hit mainland we all agreed that Danny would start the driving since he was the most comfortable and we began our journey winding through the streets of India. Since we really wanted to go inland, we thought we would make it as far as we could the 1st day and around 4 pm start looking for a city to spend the night.
Joanna mapped out all the cities on this portion of the trip at about 45 mins away from each other. This was really helpful because it was really the only way we knew whether to keep moving or stop for the night.
And, yes, as everyone describes, India is extremely poor! Everywhere you look… At this point, we have not even begun to see the have and the have-nots… It is just the have-nots... The poverty is so overwhelming that I think at some point your mind just begins to overlook it. We had brought ball caps and pencils to give the children along this journey. I knew to expect some type of gratitude for this gesture. But it was at another level that these gifts were being received. These young children were so happy receive these gifts. And soon we would be surrounded by tons of kids, as word spread fast. I am so glad we decided to take something.
As we began winding up the roads, the faces we received driving in this pimped out rickshaw were classic! Most people were very happy to see us driving by, waving, cheering, giving us compliments…. Then you had those that just looked at us like we were completely crazy, and then you had the more conservative types that you could tell were not happy that we were here at all. This mixture of different attitudes absolutely kept us on our toes at all times on how to act or what to say.
One of the people that we had met on this journey described his home country of India as a Friendly Mess. I cannot think of a better term for this place. For the most part, everyone is absolutely helpful and would do anything to make sure your trip is going well. They also are very fond of their country and really wanting you to tell them how wonderful it is…
On our way into the mountains of the Western Ghats, things began to get more and more rural. The homes and buildings began to turn more into shacks and shanties and even the roadside convenience stores disappeared to now just shanties selling water or chai without any type of electricity (so everything was warm - good for chai, bad for water).
We pulled off to the side of the road to fill up and I heard our team say “Look, look, an elephant!" Sure enough, here comes probably the largest elephant I have ever seen, walking up the highway. Only led by a little man on the top, it appeared to be carrying a log of some sort in its mouth and tusks. This thing was huge. It must have been at least 17 feet tall. Its legs were chained - I assume to make sure it didn’t run off. As it walked by you, it absolutely looked at you in the eye. I am not sure about my other team members, but I was absolutely astonished by this enormous creature!
We got back into our rickshaw and kept driving on, searching for a larger town to rest for the night.
One of bloggers in New York City on Instagram does a series called the faces of New York City. As I meet these characters in India and they try their best to tell us who they are and try to figure out who we are, I am completely reminded of this NYC blogger. We could absolutely do something like that here called the Faces of India. I have been making an effort over the last few days to find such faces that really, really tell a story in their look. I will post these items as they come up.
All of the sudden, we passed horns blowing into the air and what appears to be some sort of street festival. We stop our rides to venture out to see what the commotion could be. Since there is a heavy Islamic presence in the state we are currently in, Joanna decides to stay back as I grab my camera and walk into the crowd. About 15 men, blowing huge circle horns, are playing sounding very much like a hurt deer. I understand that may not be the best descriptive word for this horn but really it did sound bad…. As they notice me taking pictures they motion for me to come closer. It is obvious they are very proud of this activity and love that a foreigner is taking interest. After a few minutes of filming they bring my right into the middle of the drums and all of them now are performing for me. The crowd of possibly 50-70 people are really appreciating that we are there and are coming up to introduce themselves. Then once again the faces of India begins. Young children are led up to me so I can also take their picture. Their parents knowing how beautiful they are, loving the idea that they are being photographed. I run back to get Joanna and Danny. This crowd has proved to be extremely welcoming and are loving the idea that we are there.
We finally found our hotel this evening. As we drove up it looked much like a hotel we would hav seen in Saudi. All marble walls and floors. They brought in our rickshaws and locked them up for the evening. After we had the best $3.00 dinner that I think any of us had ever had (Mushroom Rice, Vegetable Curry, Dal, bread etc…), we got ready to spend the night for only $35.00.