India Challenge

It’s been our first day in the province of Rajasthan. What a change from Punjab it was just pollution, masses of people and traffic. For the first time we had found a nice open piece of desert to camp in, our own space and most importantly a little bit of silence. Ramveer, our driver, had once again managed to dig our van into the sand. I think the closest he has come to off-road driving is a pothole in Delhi. Anyway vehicle planted, we unloaded and got ready for the night. We had just finished eating, sitting in the darkness of the desert enjoying a bit of silence, the cold night air began to descend and with this came the desert mist. It was really eerie, as this curtain of mist slowly began to envelop everything. With is came a fine layer of moisture that coated the ground and all the little plants around us. I could see in the beam of my light how the little droplets of water collected on the leaves of the plants. Their only source of daily water, that keeps them going through the long hot day ahead. It wasn’t long and a little mouse came scurrying along the desert floor, scooping moisture from the plants with its long tongue. Nature, how special.

On so many of my journeys, the best part of it is just the silence. Running through areas of this planet that hardly any one has travelled, looking at the scenery, enjoying the silence and letting ones mind wonder. Every now and then the silence is punctuated with sounds of nature that are just part of it. I think this is what every one ultimately looks for, just a little quiet spot that you can reflect relax dream and enjoy what’s around you. India, 930 people per square kilometre on average, is it possible to find silence?

Over the years I have come across pollution in different cities that I have been through, I thought that the North West of China was the worst. There are even some days that I look over Table Bay where I stay in Cape Town in shock at the brown belt of haze hanging over the city. This is minor compared to what I have seen over the past month in India. Nothing can ever prepare you for the extent of the pollution that one will encounter in the south of Cashmere, Punjab and Haryana provinces, it's beyond and verbal description that I can think of, you just can’t explain it.

The scenery has been getting better by the day since we have entered Rajasthan; this has helped with the running, taking my mind off the road. The villages have also become sparser, smaller, poorer, but richer in heritage, architecture and natural beauty. It was just one of these villages that Andy and I had just run into. I was explaining to him where to eat, as through experience gained on the journey so far, I had found out that the best place to eat was the shop that made home made sweets, for some reason they were always the cleanest and made the best food. Dam, some how my formula had let me down in this village as this guy did not do food, only sweets, so we split up and each went looking to see if we could find a spot. Eventually Andy called me, he had found one. Off I trotted to meet up.

I am sitting here, and in a way I am still in a bit of shock, as I have not yet come to terms with yesterday’s events. Every thing has happened so fast. I woke up this morning in a strange room, in a strange town and there is no one around me that I know. I reached for my phone, just to try and find the crew to help me make sense of this, was it a dream, was I there. Finally a voice I recognised, and the first piece of the puzzle.

I think I must of mentioned it a few times, but the traffic in this country is a law unto itself, there are no rules in this game, if there is a gap, take it. It does not really matter on what side of the road it is or in which lane it is. Just go for it and quickly before anyone else sees it. Another important rule is that you must never indicate as this will give away your intention and someone else might steal your gap. Never look left or right when entering into a road or oncoming traffic or at an intersection, just go for it as a glance in any direction could mean that you loose that split second and ultimately the gap. These are a few of the most basic rules.

We were in a really nice camp site, away from the madness of the roads, down a valley just on the edge of a forest right in the bend of a river. What a privilege to end a day's running by plunging into a river, letting the ice cold water rejuvenate the legs and just get the day's grime off you. Exhausted as usual, I had an early supper, full of food, tiredness seemed to lame my whole body as I just sat on a camp chair staring into the setting sun. from the forest behind me I was suddenly awoken out of this slumber by the most amazing chanting to the beat of drums and cow horns. Hidden in the forest on the slopes of the valley above me was a massive temple that we had not seen. It was now just on 6 in the evening and the evening prayers began pouring out over the valley as darkness encroached, bidding everyone a good end to the day. We sat in silence mesmerised by the soothing chanting and drumming as it slowly seemed to lift each of us off and take us into our own far away place.

When I arrived in India, I knew nothing about life here. I had purposely read up noting on the religions nor the different cultures, I do this with all my journeys, i want to go in with an open mind, I don’t want a skewed approach that I have got from some other persons perception of a country. I want to experience it in my own way and then make an assumption first hand. So, this leaves me with my introduction to the cow, and I am sure that I will be writing a lot more about this animal as my journey unfolds.

The festivities had finally died down, but the large explosions of crackers still defend us, leaving our ears ringing. People were throwing them in every direction, there seems to be a strange manic attraction to trying to wait till the fuse has burnt to the last second and then throw them into the air. A few times I saw guys with these large crackers exploding in their fingers as they timed it in correctly, running off with bleeding fingers. I could see there was going to be no end to this for a few hours to come.

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