Finally I had come off the freeways and back onto the smaller rural roads. Once again there was the pleasure of heading back into the mountains. From the city of Pune it had been a slow climb up and up onto the Deacon plateau, as with every up, eventually there must be the down. The mountains in this area are really rugged but covered with this beautiful soft green coating of dense forest. From a distance they looked like rolling hills carpeted with wash of vibrant soft greens, but once you are in it, it’s a dense entangled mass of trees, creepers and thorny undergrowth. Steep acsents and decent dropping and rising hundreds of meters over rugged rock that look like graduals of instant coffee.
From the high peaks in the Himalayas, and down to the foothills of the mountains criss-crossing the landscape of Kashmir, as the ice and snow slowly melts it quietly trickles down the valleys, building with each meter that the water travels from tiny little droplets into rivulets that grow into streams and finally converge into massive foaming rivers that are the life blood, the veins, of life in India. In some areas these rivers are worshipped, and ultimately are the Gods that sustain and breathe the life into the soil, that provides life to the bread basket that feeds this massive nation.
It was in the heart of Kashmir that I came across my first road tunnel. At the best of times they are a scary thing. Long dark and dangerous. Because of massive security I could not get permission from the military to run through the tunnel. There was only one option left open to me. I had to go over the top. Over 2000m up a mountain and a 5 hour hike. It was now about at the halfway mark that I hit the next one. Here I also hit a problem with access, but I was not going to take the long route so eventually I found a way to sneak past the security and make a dash through the tunnel. A scary run and promised to myself I would not do such a stupid thing again.
There is a very, let's call it, competitive mindset in India, but it all revolves around the ability to squeeze into the gap ahead of the next person. I does not matter how small it is, if there is actually a gap at all. even if the guys in front has stopped, to let a train pass at a level crossing, or a truck is turning in front of him, nothing matters if you feel that there is a slight gap in your mind, it's fair game, you can go for it.
It's been a bit of a slog along the massive N3 highway, but we had no option but to hit it as it goes directly south for quite a while. It finally went west which meant we had to hop off it so I could look for the bush roads again, and they came with vengeance. The first shortcut into the bush brought me to the edge of the escarpment that I had been running up for the past 500km. I could not believe it after all these weeks of running up hill I hit this goat track below a fort and in 2 hours I dropped 700m down, I was hoping for at least a 2 week down hill run in compensation for all the hard work and here the climb just evaporated in an instance.
I have always had this rule on adventures, an hour before dark, that’s it, call it a day and find a place to camp. If you try and push on in the dark things always go pear shaped. It happens every time, one thinks you would learn. We have had a few weeks of signal problems, especially with uploads to our site and Youtube. I had just run into Ratlam and the team called me, there was massive bandwidth here, so we decided to find a little shop with power, take a few hours off and catch up with the media. This meant I also had to stop and edit all my footage so that Nick could upload it. I also had blogs and pictures that needed to be sorted out.
The whole day had been crazy, the Mahadra Predesh province has not been our best and once again we had been kicked off the land where we wanted to sleep. Eventually the crew found a new spot, but just off a road and right in the path of local traffic which we try and avoid, as if you are seen, the bush telegraph goes out and every villager in a 3km radius will be there to come and have a look.
It had been another long hard day, camp is always a reward at the end especially if it’s a stealth one (one that we can get to without the locals seeing us, otherwise it's bush TV till it's dark). This camp was perfect, up against the side of the mountain no village, no temple playing music, just the quiet sounds of nature and a rare view. The view was down the valley and onto the rolling plains below. The nice thing was that there was a train line and a freeway far off to the right, we could hear nothing but could see all the vehicles like ants moving up and down, the odd train looked like a snake looking for warmth in the evening sun.
Nick and I had been filming a massive derelict cathedral in the town Mandu. From there I was to run on to the edge of the plateau and then down to the Namara river. This area has been such mental food and stimulation compared to the rest of the MP province so it was worth taking time off to look at these beautiful; old buildings. We walked around the back of the ruin following a path back to the road. The path wound through some really small little farms and orchards. Then we descended into a bigger guava orchard. On entering we heard some really strange load squawking of birds ahead.