21
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Brad
POSTED IN

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 36 Comments

Fork Me: A Drive Across India – Part 2

<< Click to read Part 1

Every morning on our trans-India drive started out the same way; we awoke from fitful sleep by our talking phone alarm clock to the suffocating weight of reality pressing down on our chests. It was a terrible feeling, as if we had accidentally burned down the house with the entire family inside. We were damned to this fate, and there was nothing we could do to change it. After oatmeal and coffee we would tidy Nacho’s insides and then pull away from our petrol station camp spot to rejoin the decaying ruins of National Highway 7.

From our captains’ chairs we would catch the “golden hour” in full effect—that is, the window of time in the morning when the sun casts its golden rays upon the dozens of Indians publicly shitting on the highway, an act they carried out as candidly as they brushed their teeth, stared at foreigners, or tossed giant bags of garbage over walls. Hugging their legs they watched cars go by while decorating the road with hundreds of runny little piles of poo. Sometimes they congregated in small groups to converse while communally crapping and watching us smash our oil pan on dilapidated chunks of highway.

On the third day, while approaching a small village on a rare but short stretch of pavement we were captured on a police camera—certainly the only police camera in India—traveling at an excessively fast 48kph in a 40 zone. That’s 5mph over for the metrically challenged. I was stopped, given an official ticket, and fined $8 for speeding on the only section of National HWY 7 where it was actually possible to speed. It was the first speeding ticket I’ve ever received in my life, which is ironic since I have never driven so many consecutive hours under the speed limit in my life. Just as we prepared to leave, a boy on a scooter put in a feeble attempt to escape after being told to stop. This enraged the officer, who took chase on foot. When the officer finally caught the assailant he very professionally punched him in the head.

In the evening we caught up with David and Regina at a dirty roadside thatched hut where truckers sat on cots watching an absurdly loud TV. We huddled on a cot and I leaned back against a wooden post, placing my head squarely in the middle of a gigantic spider lair tended by at least one and probably more giant squishy-butted arachnids. My flailing arms uncontrollably swiped the sticky spider net from my head and I looked up to see thousands—hundreds of thousands—of gargantuan plump spiders infesting the restaurant’s thatched roof, only a couple of feet overhead. This prompted us to move outside into the dirt parking area to eat our gruel.

David and Regina had become similarly disheveled and overwhelmed by the roads and the mindlessness of the people who use them, and had likewise been driven to the use of profanity to express their thoughts.

“They call this a forking highway? This is India’s forking National Highway forking System?! And did you see the dead motorcyclist?” We told him that we hadn’t. “A couple of miles back, he was hit by a car and was just lying there dead in the middle of the road with a crowd of Indian men staring at him.”

 

The next morning, against all conceivable odds, the road conditions worsened. What was once a bomb-blasted crater field had been reduced to a dirt track dotted with plateaus of sharp protruding tarmac, and at last into several deep ruts in the earth filled with deep, sludgy mud and rocks.

Within a couple of hours we reached a solid line of unmoving trucks. Our reconnaissance man, David, snapped into action and discovered that a six foot deep pit in the road had filled up with sludge after last night’s rain and become an impassible, chest-deep pool. The trucks had no choice but to wait for it to dry out—yes, to wait for a swimming pool of mud to evaporate—before they could pass. Just a common nuisance, much like the ones faced daily on the primary national highways of the world’s other leading economic superpowers.

I was just about to explain to Sheena how India could go fork itself, when I noticed David talking to a motorcycle rider. The rider offered to show us an alternate route, an offer that seemed dubious at best, but we had no other choice so we followed him onto a seldom used path leading into a rice paddy.

For thirty minutes the rider wound us through a maze of mud paths into the countryside and away from the highway. Finally he stopped, turned off his motorcycle, and sauntered over to David’s window wearing a face that said “now you’re really forked.” It was swindling time. What he hadn’t accounted for was the fact that we were happy to be swindled for his services, and he almost didn’t know what to do with himself when David agreed to his first attempt at extortion of 200 Rupees ($3.25).  We paid up and continued down the diminishing mud path, through several tiny villages whose residents had clearly never seen a modern motorcar, let alone milky-colored faces, and finally into a section that seemed impassible for its mud and overhanging electrical wires. Knowing that this was the only thing standing between us and freedom, we put on our Navy Seals face paint and rally car hats, and a half hour later we reemerged on National HWY 7 to a flood of mixed emotions.

When evening rolled around David and Regina called in early while we carried on into the night. We stopped and filled our gas tank to an audience of staring men, as usual, and minutes later as we bumped along the road one of them gave chase on his motorcycle in a death-defying pursuit next to my window for a good fifteen minutes trying to get me to stop so we could be Facebook friends. He gave up and we stopped to camp at a nasty petrol station at a crossroads of two nearly impassible rocky roads, one of which was Highway 7.

The only place serving food was a dark mosquito-infested cinderblock hut with stained walls and no electricity, so we accepted our fate of dengue fever and Delhi belly, and reluctantly ordered. When it was time to pay up a boy brought us the bill, but when we tried to pay the hut’s owner decided that our white faces gave us a cheatability factor of 4, and the price was quadrupled. After a prolonged argument we paid his ridiculous price and tried to leave, but not before the socially-retarded bastard requested that we pose with him for a Facebook photo. Later on while we slept someone stole our bamboo mat, which had previously been half-eaten by a sacred cow. Un-forking-real.

David and Regina passed us early on day four. It looked like Regina was crying in the passenger seat, but I’m quite sure she was simply having a nervous breakdown just like Sheena. A few hours later we were startled to see them bouncing back toward us over the rubble. As they arrived David rolled down his window. He was looking pretty rough.

“We came back to tell you that you probably won’t make it.”

“I will fight you, David. You can’t make me go back.” The thought of going back was more than my frail mind could handle; the closest detour was a full day in the opposite direction, and was a secondary road, whatever the hell that means. I whimpered softly. This drive had killed my joy. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to sit in a cubicle, anonymously adding covers to TPS reports, for nine hours per day from here on out. I had just minutes earlier been daydreaming about the thrill of loading Nacho onto a truck and sending him to the nearest port to get the hell out of here. I wanted to go to Afghanistan to be captured by al-Qaeda. Anything but this. And now David was standing here telling me to go back. “You can’t make me!” My voice cracked.

“Well you can try, but we just tried it and almost didn’t make it ourselves. The road just turns into a series of deep mud lakes.” It was true that they had a 4×4 with enough clearance to drive over Nacho without high centering. But I was a desperate man.

“Turn that thing around. We’re going for a swim.”

The next two hours went by in a blur of desperate, adrenalin-fueled driving maneuvers through deep mud lakes, trenches, and freefalls into Nacho-sized craters. When things looked hopeless I would think about being stuck in India and let my survival response take over. We emerged through the whole 4×4 obstacle course by the skin of our teeth, pushing our powerful new engine to its limit and reshaping the road’s high center with our oil pan.

With 26% of the drive to Nepal still awaiting us, it was time for a pit stop. When we arrived in Varanasi—to be covered by Sheena in the next update—we had become mental basketcases. My conversation skills had long since left me and had been replaced by Tourettic outbursts of profanity. Sheena’s eyebrow twitching had gotten out of control and she spent most of her time staring at her feet, whimpering. I scraped Nacho’s side on a rickety old bus, but I didn’t even flinch. I was gone. But the time spent in Varanasi did do some good for our mental recovery. Just after leaving town our horn’s electrical contacts disintegrated and caused the steering wheel to seize up. Using nothing more than a Leatherman tool and a piece of bailing wire I was able to reconstruct new and functional horn contacts, verifying that we were at least mentally aware, and that I still clung to my American roots. Bailing wire! ‘Merica! Yee haw!

In the early afternoon we emerged from the dilapidated highway and into another featureless garbage heap of a town. We would have passed right through without incident if the villagers hadn’t taken it upon themselves to build a 10-foot high brick wall right across the highway in the middle of town, but they had.

“What the fork is this? What the FORK?!”

“Fork! You have to be forking JOKING!” It was Sheena. She too had snapped and gone off the deep end. I was happy to know that I wasn’t alone.

We consulted the Garmin as people quickly packed themselves around Nacho to stare at us. The GPS seemed to show a possibility of getting around this demonstration of idiocy by taking a small track along a levy. We backtracked and found the track—nothing more than a motorcycle path criss-crossed by deep channels where the levy had failed, and after some time we emerged down a steep drop off into the middle of a small slum. The occupants of the slum stopped what they were doing and stared at us as we drove through their front yards and back to the so-called highway, and in doing so smashed our oil pan in a cataclysmic way. I got out to check it and realized that, in addition to smashing the hell out of our delicate oil pan, the impact had caused our 3″ wide bumper support to sheer completely off, and now our bumper tilted backward at a 30 degree angle. Calling once again on my American roots, I attached a ratchet strap to the bumper and secured it to the top of our rear door.

The road from here onward proved to be the worst section of the whole drive. We continued on through the wasteland at 5-10 kilometers per hour well into the night, desperate to get out of India. We repeatedly smashed our oil pan, but by now I had stopped checking it. Subconsciously I knew that a split oil pan would cause engine failure, which in turn would give us an excuse to quit and go home. India had broken us.

As we ascended a hill in the dark we noticed two semi trucks that had driven together off the side of the road and smashed into the forest. This seemed pretty normal, as Indian truckers couldn’t keep their rigs on the road if their lives depended on it. We’d seen at least 50 accidents on this drive alone. As we passed, however, we noticed that they’d taken someone with them. Underneath one of the semis was a motorcycle, and its rider was dead on the side of the road. That made three motorcycle casualties in five days.

At around midnight we found a petrol station to camp at for the night. We were still 10 kilometers from the Nepalese border—an eternity. I was covered in grime and desperate for a shower, so I squeezed myself under the nozzle of a rickety hand-pump well in the corner of the parking lot and took a bath. Sometimes I have to look at myself and wonder, how did it come to this?

In the morning we set off at first light. Being that this section of road wasn’t all that important, to be used only for frivolous things like international trade, India had left it to be overtaken by nature. We crept through craters and over enormous berms for two hours to complete the scant 10 kilometers.

We reached Raxaul, India’s border town, and found our way to the customs office. We handed our Carnet de Passages and passports to the customs agent and watched him write out all of the information from all of our documents by hand, which took nearly two hours. It was as if he’d never seen the English alphabet before, and had to inspect and painstakingly imitate the curvature of each individual letter. In the end he photocopied all of said documents and stapled them to the page he’d just finished writing by hand. Is this man paid to be as stupid as humanly possible?

As we prepared to leave, David and Regina arrived and walked excitedly into the office. We gathered our things and headed out the door, and just as it closed behind us I heard Regina’s exasperated voice speaking to the customs man.

“Excuse me, but what is taking so long? This is a very simple task!” The corner of my mouth went up in an unfamiliar shape. For the first time in six days I was smiling.

We got in Nacho and headed north through no-man’s land, lost in a swirl of dust. Motorcycles zipped in and out of our view, and we bumped through deep potholes, and then we saw it. Through the dust an ornate arch appeared. It was beautiful. No, it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. It was the entry to the Mountain Kingdom of Nepal.

When we crossed under the arch it was instantly quiet. No horns. No dust. No potholes. Nobody stared at us like we were in a zoo. A few people walked around smiling. Smiling. We parked and walked into the quaint customs house set back in a grove of green trees. I can’t be sure, but I would swear that the customs agent was wearing a white robe and glowing.

“Take a seat,” he said calmly, putting down his book. “I hope you’ve had a good trip. Welcome to Nepal.”

The Worst Drive in the World, in Review

Distance: 2,259km (1,412mi)

Driving Time: 64 hours, 35 minutes

Total days: 5.5

Driving hours per day: 11.7

Average speed: 35kph (22mph)

Oil pan hits: >100

The last word: India’s National Highway 7 can eat a bag of %!@*$. Okay, I’m done.


36 Comments

  1. […] Fork Me: A Drive Across India – Part 1Hampi CampersThe Onam Food BabiesArchived PostsJanuary 2014- Fork Me: A Drive Across India – Part 2- Fork Me: A Drive Across India – Part 1- Hampi Campers- The Onam Food Babies- Nacho's ArkDecember […]

    Pingback by Drive Nacho Drive » Fork Me: A Drive Across India – Part 1 on January 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

  2. William James Long

    Brad….in spite of all of the glorious days you had in India, some good did come from it. You learned how to forking draw…..

    Comment by William James Long on January 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

  3. Rob

    Interesting trip & outlook on India, the second most populated nation on the earth.
    I’m glad you made it out….

    Comment by Rob on January 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

  4. Rich

    Look on the bright side. In the future whenever life seems to have taken a bad turn you can always look back nostalgically to this epic drive and say, “Well, at least we are not trying to get Nacho across forking India.” Everything else is downhill from here…. except, of course, for the fact that you may have to ship Nacho out of India… Doh!

    Comment by Rich on January 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm

  5. Love the artwork – and yes, that was an epic adventure. Looking at the big picture, you’ve got lots of stories to tell, and lots to remember fondly.

    Comment by Steve on January 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

  6. It’s amazing the capacity for you have for sanity after 64 hrs. I’ve done similar forking roads in other places, but never for multiple days in a row. Call me soft, I would have abandoned the vehicle and gone running into the fields long before I got to Nepal.

    After reading this, somehow my commute issues don’t seem that bad and my comfortable cube has just a bit more panache this morning. Thanks for feeding my vicarious adventure addiction once again!

    Comment by Paul on January 21, 2014 at 10:07 pm

  7. All those utensils! In the future I will look at the multitude of “feed me many quarters” car washes differently. Obviously there is a time and place. Unfortunately they aren’t together. DriveNachoDrive!

    Comment by Keith on January 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm

  8. Nepal!! Fork ya!

    Comment by James on January 21, 2014 at 10:11 pm

  9. Anoop

    Hello Brad,
    Looking forward to reading the forthcoming stories. I keep logging in every other day to check on updates… I live in Chennai, but split my time between Chennai and Buffalo, NY. I hear you on China, Why would anyone want to deter people from driving through in such a fashion…

    Anyways, going by the description of the highways, I am assuming you guys trusted your Garmins fully…But on a lighter note, glad you guys got to see the real India. The India the financial markets ignore and is not bothered about, that needs to be lifted up and taken along in the rush for development.

    I am hoping Nacho held up well… I am a little jealous of your engine transplant and the price you paid for it. Westy’s with Subaru engines are priced insanely here in the US.

    Safe travels & Cheers.
    Anoop

    .

    Comment by Anoop on January 21, 2014 at 10:14 pm

  10. mike scott

    Phew, glad you got out of that forked up country, even though it was great reading. A super power who don’t give a fork about the people or the infrastructure of their country, just nukes and more nukes and screwed up religions
    Looking forward to Nepal, also as a camper owner I would love to see more pics of your van
    Mike

    Comment by mike scott on January 21, 2014 at 10:17 pm

  11. Lee

    I don’t want to love this story, but I do. Painful experience, but makes for a great read! Glad you guys made it to Nepal.

    Comment by Lee on January 21, 2014 at 10:17 pm

  12. Chris

    I so love traveling vicariously! Thanks for the verbal and scrawled pictures of the epic 5.5 days journey. I only hope you two will avoid any months-long prison stays or human slave-trade passages…. I don’t know if my heart could take it! (I’d probably have to watch a Netflix comedy between reading paragraphs of your blog!)

    Onward!

    Comment by Chris on January 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm

  13. Mom

    Two major observations I’ve made: Ewen Mcgregor has nothing on you guys (“Long Way Round” trek around the world on his BMW motorcycle). Slumdog Millionaire was a lie (Jamal’s dive into the pool of outhouse crap. The lie: there was no outhouse by which the crap was contained).

    As your mother, I know that you, Brad, are one of the most positive people in the world—always seeing the good in people and the world around you. So for you to be broken in India shows me how horrific it really was for you.

    I am so glad you are out of that pool of crap! Brad and Sheena, keep smiling now!

    Comment by Mom on January 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm

  14. Mom

    P.S. Annoying Orange has nothing on you, as well. There is a future for your drawings!

    Comment by Mom on January 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm

  15. Karl

    India is doesn’t sound that bad, when you consider the alternative – losing your life before you ever get the chance to explore the globe as you wished. That’s the one thought that continually pops into my head as you bitch and complain about how others live and the conditions of their roads. My best friend lost her life last year, dreaming of traveling this way, never got to even start. What’s up with eating in infested dubious ‘restaurants’? Doesn’t Nacho have a fully-functioning kitchen?
    Anyway, carry on, seems the worst is behind you!

    Comment by Karl on January 21, 2014 at 11:29 pm

  16. Wow, what a read. I feel your exhaustion. Thank you for sharing it. I hope writing it was somewhat cathartic for you!

    If you had to do it again, what would you change? What vehicle would be preferable? Also, where are you getting such good maps for your Garmin? To show side tracks and levies, that’s impressive.

    Comment by nathan on January 21, 2014 at 11:30 pm

  17. @Karl, if you prefer I can just sugar coat everything for you. That way you’ll never have to know what I really think. And Nacho does have a kitchen, but after 12 hours of driving we usually don’t feel like cooking.

    Comment by Brad on January 21, 2014 at 11:34 pm

  18. @Nathan, I think a VW Vanagon is the best vehicle for what we’re doing; I’d drive the same vehicle again. I don’t think I’d change anything about our setup, except that maybe I’d do heavier springs (we already have the Gowesty HD springs), and I’d put a low profile oil pan on the Subaru engine. As for our route, there are things I’d change. India is very hard to get to but not that nice for overlanding. And as for the maps, for India we’re using Garmin’s India map. It’s for sale on their site, but they gave it to us with our GPS. It’s amazing; it has everything all the way down to little tiny dirt tracks in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how they do it.

    Comment by Brad on January 21, 2014 at 11:38 pm

  19. Thanks for the response Brad. I wasn’t challenging your choice of the VW for your overall trip. I was just thinking in terms of those particular road conditions in comparison to a larger vehicle like David and Regina’s. What kind of rig can take that kind of pounding, remain small enough to be nimble, yet large enough to ford through chest deep potholes :-)

    Comment by nathan on January 21, 2014 at 11:47 pm

  20. @Nathan, I’m not sure there is a perfect vehicle for these roads. David and Regina were having a pretty tough time too. If we didn’t have the low-hanging oil pan (Subaru conversion) then we would have had a little bet better time. Still, after six days we crossed the border at the same time. Maybe a Landcruiser with beefy suspension and low pressure in the tires. Something light. We’re heavy (overlanders in general).

    Comment by Brad on January 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm

  21. The artwork here is worth a hyperbole and a half!

    Comment by Juan Buhler on January 22, 2014 at 1:26 am

  22. Eric B

    Maybe you need a Burley oil pan guard or Small Car Subaru oil pan for your rig. The Small Car is quite thick and nicely done. I take it motor swap is an EJ series Subaru if so you might want to proactively order one if yours is already compromised.

    Comment by Eric B on January 22, 2014 at 2:06 am

  23. Sue

    I have never laughed and cried so much for you two or four as it were. I am so very glad that you didn’t let India beat you, but it most certainly beat you down in a couple places. So much death and filth and just sad sad conditions, but like so many others said, it is a land forgotten and not given a second thought as it were. Too bad you couldn’t experience the “better” parts of it. At least now when you get down on some things, you can look back on this and anything won’t seem nearly quite so bad uh?
    Stay strong it can only get better from here right? Drive Nacho drive, what an incredible machine. My love for the Volksy only gets stronger!

    Comment by Sue on January 22, 2014 at 2:24 am

  24. Ernie

    What occurs to me is most vehicles are designed to be driven on roads.

    For the roadless conditions you were facing the van may be perfect in size and weight. It would however be cool to have a 4 x 4 syncro with the low profile pan, skid plates, much bigger wider floatation tires and air ride suspension. The air ride would be especially handy so you could lower the vehicle when stopped for easy access in and out and good stability. Then when you are in potholes and deep ruts with a little road sprinkled in you can raise her up much as needed, the air ride would also provide a MUCH smoother ride and with flotation tires would give you the edge in soft road conditions and add stability with a wider track. we will have control to each air bag to you can level the van when parked or traversing steep side angles. Another cool gadget is floatation bags that can be strapped to your tires much like tire chains but add enough buoyancy that you can float/drive across small calm bodies of water. When you get back we will have to finish the transformation for future outings. Cheers. check this little baby out below. would have to scale back but you get the idea:)

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DVNwWf1r0HbA&h=JAQG69Hk5

    I feel bad for you and Sheena having to experience India’s poverty but feel much worse for the people that live there. I can understand their belligerence to life as it would seem they are born dead with little hope for a better future.

    Comment by Ernie on January 22, 2014 at 2:37 am

  25. Matt

    Hey guys – I’ve been following you guys since the start (also read the book) – thank you for this. Of all my overlanding aspirations, this is one I do not need to even consider now. Godspeed!

    Comment by Matt on January 22, 2014 at 3:23 am

  26. Yazdi

    My parents were born and raised in India. In 1984 as a 16 year old, we spent 2 1/2 months traveling through the country, mostly by the train system. Reading your posts has brought such a flood of memories. The staring, the never-ending beggars, the filth, the public crapping, all of it. I also remember, not wanting to leave the house to go outside; it was just too painful. But in the end, I became a better person through the experience. Never again have I cried about not having this or that, or not making enough money; and I’m eternally grateful to live in a country like America. That experience is why (for me) working in a cubicle from 9-5 every day isn’t bad. My life could be much worse. My mom used to scold me as a child saying “You live like a king and you don’t even know it.” I used to roll my eyes in disagreement. But how true it is, and that can only be fully realized by experiencing India.
    Through pain comes triumph and I’m sure you will experience never-ending gratitude on the rest of your travels. That’s a good thing. From now on you should be called “Brad and Sheena, the Lion Hearted” for being so brave.
    Looking forward to hearing about Nepal. We wanted to travel into northern India in 1984, but there was too much fighting. I hear it’s absolutely beautiful.

    Comment by Yazdi on January 22, 2014 at 7:40 am

  27. Jim

    First of all I’ve enjoyed following your adventures. And I like the desperate humor style of you writing. However, I’ve got to say a couple of things.

    First, the roads & conditions pictured in your blog look no worse than the ones we tackled back in the 70’s when we drove a 1970 VW van across Africa. Potholes big enough to swallow a semi, check. Police with their hands out, check. Villagers fixing potholes and then wanting a little payment for their work, check. Slow bureaucrats that take forever to do a simple task, check. No centralized garbage collection, check. Guys who stare at non local women, check.

    Maybe because we had lived in Africa for 3 years prior to our trip and really understood what a struggle it is to survive in poverty. So none of these things really upset us. One deals with it by: driving slowly, refusing to pay bribes, paying folks who have actually improved the road, chat up the ponderous bureaucrats because YOU are the most exciting thing that’s happened to them all week so don’t get your panties in a knot if they are a bit slow. Chill out, have a cup of tea and it will all work out.

    As far as creeper guys, and this will piss off some of the folks out there who feel they should not have to modify their behavior or looks when they visit other cultures, just how was your girlfriend dressed? True revealing arms and cleavage and wearing pants should NOT give guys any dumb ideas, but if the local women cover it all up and you don’t guess what? They are going to stare. Think of it this way. Lots of European women bath topless at the local beaches. What would be the reaction of many American men if they encountered this at their local swimming pool? Should these guys get all creepy and stare? No. Would they? You tell me.

    And finally, as you go through life, the two of you using more energy than an entire Indian village, don’t get so smug on your environmental credentials. There is no centralized garbage pick-up in MOST of the world. No wonder they thought you were nuts for not tossing the bag over the fence.

    Comment by Jim on January 22, 2014 at 8:58 am

  28. mashoud

    Hi Brad..,

    Forking my two cents worth, you can’t say you were not forewarned.

    Remember what I said… ” India would make you laugh deliriously, make you cry incessantly like a teething baby and astonish your innards with amazement…until you turn delusional and often all of it at the same time.”

    I am so glad you experienced it all, even if you would rather erase it from your memory. The problem is, you will never be able to and many travelers to India have been known to have acquired masochistic tendencies by returning there the first chance they can get. The only difference, though, is that these people did India on trains and buses and not with Forks Wagon.

    You both take good care and hopefully have a pleasant time in Nepal. All the best.

    Comment by mashoud on January 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

  29. @Jim, the men don’t stare at Sheena, they stare at us both equally. They aren’t ogling at her, they pack around us and stare as if watching TV-no expression on the face. And as for Sheena’s mode of dress, she is extremely conscious of cultural customs. She didn’t wear shorts the entire time we were in Asia (not only India), and while in India, whenever we were around people, she would drape a big black scarf over her shoulders and body. It would be impossible to accuse her of disregarding cultural appropriateness.

    As for our environmental impact, it may be true that we burn more fossil fuels at home, but in my opinion it’s more directly harmful to the environment to cover a country almost the size of America in a thick layer of plastic trash. Cows eat it, people live in it, the rivers are completely dead. India also dumps its raw sewage and much of its garbage into rivers and the ocean, making almost every river completely dead and toxic. They’ve ruined their country from an environmental standpoint. It must be seen to be believed; they’ve literally killed their nature.

    Here’s an idea that’s free: dig pit toilets (this would also cure anemia, caused by hookworm, that infects 70% of the population) and burn or bury the garbage. It’s not that hard.

    Comment by Brad on January 22, 2014 at 12:43 pm

  30. @Yazdi,
    Your message is absolutely true. We’ve definitely changed after having spent so much time in India, and will look at life’s struggles differently in the future. Sheena wanted to let you know that your comment is her favorite. And Nepal is absolutely amazing. It’s like night and day compared to India. The population is poorer than India’s, but the people are magnitudes happier, it’s cleaner, there are toilets and little to no public defacation, the list goes on and on. India should look to Nepal for hope. We fell in love with the place.

    Comment by Brad on January 22, 2014 at 12:56 pm

  31. Jim

    Brad:
    My comments might have come off a bit harsh. Like I said I enjoy your blog. And during the years that we lived in the developing world half of my brain was right there with you i.e. “Why can’t these people just…(insert rant here).” But the other half of me understood where poor ignorant (using the word properly, not stupid, but they just don’t know) people are coming from. Many of the behaviors we exhibit are truly puzzling to folks in another culture. I witnessed numerous instances of visiting Westerners doing really dumb things and then bitching about the locals. Take for instance the Aussies at the customs shed:

    “We gathered our things and headed out the door, and just as it closed behind us I heard Regina’s exasperated voice speaking to the customs man.
    “Excuse me, but what is taking so long? This is a very simple task!” The corner of my mouth went up in an unfamiliar shape. For the first time in six days I was smiling.”

    Great writing, a nice twist that brought a smile to my face. But I also cringed at memsahib’s colonial attitude. “why can’t these bloody natives move at a faster clip.” Think about his side of the encounter. The forms are in a second (or third, I’m always amazed at the number of languages spoken by people in other parts of the world) language for this guy. Maybe he’s never seen this actual form before. His pay is probably 2 or 3 months in arrears. And now some young rich Westerner is standing there letting his wife talk to a strange man.

    We never had border problems because worked with the customs guys. I did the talking. I gave the guys some space. My wife would brew up tea or coffee and serve it around the office. That’s the polite thing to do. At armed road blocks (Uganda & Zaire were both having conflicts) my wife stayed in the car. When the guys insisted on looking inside the van she gave them the silent stare that she learned from our African women neighbors. A look which says “You are a worm, you have no business looking through my things, didn’t your mother teach you better.” They always wilted within 2 or 3 minutes.

    I guess what amused me the most was you guys hauling around your garbage looking for the recycling center. Little known fact. The vast majority of the “mixed paper” we so carefully separate and recycle here in the US get shipped to China and burned as fuel. Think of the carbon footprint involved in that.

    Anyway, enjoy your trip. When you return home and walk down the street and nobody looks at you, when you stand next to a stranger and they don’t even acknowledge your presence, you might look back fondly on the times when YOU were what was happening. Those glory days when the whole town discussed your visit and spent hours arguing why you did certain things.

    Comment by Jim on January 23, 2014 at 2:25 am

  32. Meta

    I am impressed. You guys made it to the border in record time. Enjoy Nepal.

    Comment by Meta on January 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

  33. Just discovered your blog, fantastic read!

    I knew India was dirt poor in many places, but damn. Glad you made it through safely.

    Comment by Thegoblinchief on January 23, 2014 at 7:43 pm

  34. Jim

    My family and I take road trips all over the back country of Peru and I like to think of myself as a Nacho or Bumfuzzle “light”.
    Now you guys set the bar entirely too high!
    whats ten thousand pot holes on the road compared to your millions and your endless mud? We all look at a guy peeing on the road and you guys dont even blink at someone doing #2 anymore.
    I give up ;)

    Comment by Jim on January 23, 2014 at 8:52 pm

  35. Lizzie

    I thought I had heard some harrowing travel stories in the past (from you guys and from friends), but this one takes the cake. Brad and Sheena the Lion-Hearted for sure! Thanks for sharing part of India that most people will never see…possibly by choice. ;)

    Comment by Lizzie on January 24, 2014 at 12:52 am

  36. mistee

    haha, you’ve done your best, i’m still not convinced India is as idyllic as you paint it to be.

    awaiting a turn to drive through a chest high drying septic field? madcap adventurers!

    Comment by mistee on May 12, 2014 at 7:10 am

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