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Off-roading

By on September 18, 2013 in India with No Comments

Ajmer back to the middle of nowhere and on to Naguar

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The cab driver last night was a godsend, if you overlook the 1,500 rupee charge. He made a call to someone who knew someone, who happened to be a rickshaw mechanic. A real one no less. The driver explained our problem and where the rickshaw was and made arrangements for the mechanic to meet us at the hotel at 11am. He also came in …and relayed everything to the hotel staff.

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At 12:30pm the mechanic shows up in a rickshaw of his own and we all jump in, all the way back to the Pi-tuk. His engine sounds even worse than ours did which was a little concerning, and the ride takes even longer than the cab because they travel at 35kms per hour. He tells us there’s no way we should be driving one as fast as we have. Turns out, after much kajinkering, that we need a new piston because the previous mechanic didn’t know what he was doing and had put the thingy with the whatzit when it should have been kazoomazilled. However, with a broken hacksaw blade they do a bushman’s fix-it and with a bit of cranking the engine starts! I’m expecting we will owe money for being allowed to park in the hotel garden, but Gagan won’t accept anything and between him and the cab driver my faith in the human race is restored.

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The mechanic says he will drive us to the hotel, but for some obscure reason proceeds to take a 15 mile detour and gives me the hand when I ask why he’s not driving us there. This doesn’t frighten me as one might perhaps be when driven in the opposite direction you want to go, because I was so annoyed at all the delays and could sense Rick was too, that I figured with the adrenaline we could take out a gang of mafioso and a few monkeys if needed (well, maybe not the monkeys). I did move my knife to the top of my purse, just in case. So that you don’t doze off, I kindly summarized our day in a few sentences, but it was actually spread out over another gazillion hours, and we don’t end up leaving the hotel until 5:30pm. We are somewhat trepidatious, because the mechanic’s parting words (and another 3,000 rupees) were, translated by the hotel manager: “this rickshaw WILL break down again, you shouldn’t drive it, you need to get another one”.

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We set a destination we can reach before nightfall. There’s the occasional camel sighting and one donkey wearing a blindfold, plus a few guys who try to drag a steel gate in front of us yelling “road tax! road tax!” This is absolute poppycock and fortunately they were distracted by a cow, not subject to road tax, so we speed through, clipping the gate in the process. Unfortunately, while we reach the designated town by dusk, there are no hotels in sight besides one with no windows and pigs nesting in the front room. Blurgh, our next best option is four hours away. As we’ve lost two days we throw caution to the wind and decide to do the dreaded Night Driving. This is not nearly as bad as last time because no one in their right mind would have chosen the route we did. We certainly haven’t seen another rickshaw runner in days.

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Our journey went like this:

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Single lane paved road →

Single lane gravel road →

Single lane dirt road →

Dirt track wide enough for a rickshaw, we get edged off the road several times →

Nightfall hits →

Road stops altogether, blocked by a pile of brush →

Navigate through people’s back yards making several wrong turns to get back on track →

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Back on track and road disappears again. Just completely stops. There’s a washout in the track blocked by several 6 foot piles of rubble. A bit of a conundrum. Wave down bus. Oh there’s a detour, that’s helpful, where does it take us – Kansas? Bus drives off, people on bus cheer wildly. Three boys on a bike and one jeep appear from nowhere. The boys are yelling that we should go in one direction, the man in the jeep is yelling at the boys saying we go in another direction. The boys look smarter (and made it through the roadblock on their bike) so Rick clears away some of the larger rocks blocking our path and we navigate right over a tiny gap in the debris, between meter high drops on either side. Ah, now we see what the man was talking about. At the next village the entire road is under three feet of water for the next 100 meters. Umm, Rick, do we have 4WD on this thing? No dear, we only have three wheels. But the boys are awesome and have been keeping an eye on us, and very helpfully point us through some more back yards, and we’re on our way.

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We arrive in Naguar close to midnight and there’s a hotel that looks like a palace right on the edge of town. We cavort with glee. Crackers and curry flavored chips for dinner and I fall asleep facing the wrong way on the bed.

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P.S. Curry flavored chips are disgusting.

P.P.S. Only two days to go!

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