…A strange phenomenon; no sweating, no cursing, no nuffin’. You put in this condensed energy in the form of liquid, that someone somewhere extracted from the earth, and thanks to a series of noisy events I certainly don’t understand, you are propelled forthwith with great force.
From my throne on the back of old Dolly, I while away the hours watching the seemingly endless farmland, shacks with tin roofs, most with satellite dishes balanced on top, piles of plastic waste, and the thoughts in my mind. All arrive quickly and just as quickly pass by.
We pass oxen-carts piled high with sugarcane, just harvested, heading for the local processing plant, women carrying oversized piles of wood or sacks of rice on their heads, entire families working to fix the roads – a wonderful technique; the women and children fill big bowls full of tiny stones, that their husbands and fellow workers have manually broken down, and carry them on their heads to the broken section of road, where they tip the stones -from head-height- into the holes, then through the dust, a man covers the stones over with tar from a metal watering-can taken from the vat, precariously balanced on a fire at the roadside, and finally a guy may or may not roll over the rocky-tarry mess in a steam roller, I believe this last stage is often left to the passing traffic, who wheedle their way through, horns blaring, leaving mere millimetres between their them and the dusty scene, and everyone carries on as if the other is a mere obstacle to their progress, which I suppose is why noone gets upset by it all. Indian life is filled with obstacles and hazards, they’re used to it. You pass at least twenty just popping out for brekkie in the morning!
Thus we have travelled a great distance since I last wrote. We would have made it into our fourth Indian state (Goa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh all ticked off), were it not for a nasty feverish virus descending onto poor Joel just before sundown yesterday. We made it to the nearest lodge, and thanks to a kindly bunch of chaps who I believe work here at the lodge, although no work ever seems to take place; certainly no cleaning: I don’t know why these hoteliers with their fancy new brightly painted buildings don’t just clean them, and fix the electrics here and there, in no time they are covered with grubby hand marks, the reddy-brown spit-stains of ‘pan’ (a spicy mix including betel nut, wrapped up in a leaf, chewed by Indian men) all up the walls, or sockets hanging by a wire. This is standard behaviour even in the pricier hotels; even when we splashed out 700Rs (just under a tenner) for the poshest hotel in town, the bathroom was
unfinished with loose wires dangling over the mirror, and the room falling victim to neglect. It seems to me that the Indian mentality across the board is paint over the filth…..
Where was I? Ah yes, thanks to the kindly bunch of chaps, we ferried a shivering and pale Joely to the doctor, in the lodge’s 4×4. Thoroughly dosed up, we now just have to sit it out. The doctor said it was a virus, which we assume is the result of drinking three glasses of local water at lunch yesterday. I quote Joel here; “Think I’ll just take the risk, the Lifesaver [our filter]’s so far away” (Out the front of the restaurant, attached to Dolly). I guess this time he was unlucky. I also drank some, but only half a glass, thankfully with no ill effects. We’ve been drinking tap water the whole journey up until India, where we decided to use our filter (most of the time!), seeing as there can be some nasty things in the water here – BUT, we figured that our bodies might just have adjusted to the local water, with our gradual journey. (Evidently not.) There are mixed views on drinking local water here, from friends who gradually adjusted after drinking little by little, suffering minor tummy upsets to begin with but eradicating the need to buy unnecessary plastic bottles, which, in turn, are adding to the piles of garbage under which the Indians (especially in rural areas) now live. It is said that in such warm climates, we should be drinking 3l a day, so if you calculate that for a six month visit, you’re looking at potentially 540 plastic bottles per traveller. Which in my opinion, is not even thinkable. Many people do this! Even Indians, if they can afford it.
So with all this in mind, we’ve carried the best water filter on the market, The Lifesaver Bottle, up all those hills, all those miles. It even takes out viruses.. Anyway…
For the mean time, we’re in a fairly low-end noisy, smelly lodge, in Badnawar, Madhya Pradesh- until Joel’s feeling up to leaving. We feel like celebrities when we step out the door, especially if i venture out without Joel. You’d be amazed, you can be surrounded (all men) by about 30/40 people in under 5 minutes, the word spreads fast. When someone manages to say something to you, that brings another 10 or so who’d been cowering in the shadows, eager to hear this white woman speak. Maybe I should say something more profound…