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Spot of tea anyone?

By on September 9, 2013 in India with No Comments

Goalpara to Siliguri

Today started well enough. The rickshaw decided to run after about ten minutes cranking in front of the hotel staff who kindly helped us push it out of their parking lot.  We reassembled the flag, not so high this time, and set off at about 6:30am – determined to make Siliguri by nightfall.  Twenty miles later we broke down again, losing us valuable time.  Still, for some reason the piece of junk refuses to die and eventually it started. We’ve bumped into a couple of other rickshaw folks – one group of guys had their roof rack break and had to find a welder in the middle of the night, and another group had their battery catch on fire and their muffler fall off. Is it mean that this made me feel slightly better? Much later, after seeing the one half dead and the one full dead body, we thought it was about time for a cup of tea.  We pulled over to a road side stall (quite challenging because it’s hard to tell which places are selling and which are people’s homes – although everyone here is so kindly it probably wouldn’t make a difference) and asked for tea.  They didn’t understand tea but offered us chai so all was well until we became like monkeys in the zoo.  One, two, within minutes about 50 people were surrounding our outside table, staring and taking photos while we ate (they’d given us some delicious bread and small sugary balls of something). One lady held up her little grandson. Eeek! He started shrieking and trying to squirm away.  I haven’t combed my hair in three days but I didn’t think I looked that scary.
When we went to leave they surrounded our rickshaw like a bees on a hive and kept taking more photos.  Everyone was very friendly.  We can’t understand much of what people say but everyone has heard of New Zealand (of course) and one or two even know of Canada. I was surprised at how well people seemed to remember my name, until I found out they were getting me confused with Justin Bieber. A murmur of disappointment spread through the crowd when they learned I couldn’t sing and that I wasn’t a teenage boy. Please do check out the three short videos I’ll share after this post as they are really cute.
Next stop, several dozen miles and several hours later. They didn’t understand chai but they knew tea so the world was still well. No staring village but 6-7 guys trying to talk to us, and us trying to talk back, and no one getting much of anything but in general having a right old time.  They were blown away to see that I had American $1 bills and were super excited when I handed a couple out as gifts. Unfortunately we were not able to communicate that we wanted food, so we bought a few bags of chips from the guy in the stall next door who’d also rocked on over to join the conversation.  He refused to accept any rupees but when I asked him what I could pay then, he smiled and said “One American dollar”.  He even gave us an extra bag of chips (“Tomato Mischief”). We were all pleased as punch and left to lots of waves and cheers.
Our final hour before ending the day was spent in traffic almost but not quite as hellish as yesterday. We (when I say we, I really mean Rick) drove through a spectacular but incredibly windy gorge with sharp drops, washed away pieces of road, and obvious evidence of where cars had plunged through and plummeted hundreds of feet to a sure death. It was very steep and didn’t help our engine problems or our not-so-clean clothes any when cars in front us got stuck in foot deep potholes filled with muddy water. But the crowning glory of the day was driving by about a hundred monkeys just hanging out on the concrete guard rail.  One was eating a pack of chips (Tomato Mischief maybe?) and there was even a little baby monkey just 6 inches high.  The photos I took are absolute crap but I’m posting them anyway so you don’t think I’m making it up.
We rolled into the first hotel we saw after fried nerves from the traffic.  I figured it might be a tad fancy when I noticed them sweeping the grass. It was way more than we’d paid to date but it had a pool and wifi. Nirvana.  They didn’t blink an eye at our ragged appearance and the rickshaw in the parking lot, just politely pointed out that we were leaking petrol.  Screw that, that’s tomorrow’s problem. Time for bed. Zzzz.

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