After blastoff, we reached a dead end and asked a couple of teens(one of our best sources of info as it turns out) which way over the tracks out of town. They pointed in the direction of “Mughal side” of the river and off we went. While on the bridge we spotted an elephant with a Mughal dude on top, acting all like the empire was still at peak. Then onward to a bunch of industrial strangeness and deisel fumes, haze, and trash. We could barely see the road through the fumes. Not the best moment.
Outside of the tourist towns there are no tourists. Zilch. None. So when we parked for breakfast and tea in a fly-ridden road stop we were wildly galked at. Just when things started looking really dire, we escaped the city ills and got into the countryside filled with green and mustard fields as far as the eye could see! A kindly gent sidled up to us on a motorbike and gave us an informal lead through the back roads.
The bikes didn’t feel great, but it was still early to judge too hard. The front end felt like it would detach from the back and the saddles felt like bumpy concrete beneath us. The one thing they did have was momentum.
The ride improved dramatically as we went through narrow roads, passing through tiny villages where we were met with innumerable dumbfounded stares. Kids on bikes would see us, practice their limited English and play leap frog for kilometers. Every passing moto would brake a little and both driver and passenger would look back. We stopped to take photos – the longer we stayed the more people would gather. Eventually about 30 people stopped, and we noticed the ringleader take special interest.
He introduced himself and asked about our travels. He said his brother was a reporter and hoped we would have several minutes to do an interview! We happily obliged and went to the “office” of the reporter – a spartan room filled with stacks of newspapers and a bed in the middle.
We interviewed over tea and cookies. After a few action shots, we went on our way, having declined an offer to stay overnight in the village.
The route we were on avoided the highway, but dead-ended at the Ganges. However, Abbey was positive that there would be a boat man to take us across – her confidence in this can-do society feeling strong. Success! We rolled down a sandy dune of a river bank past another cremation sight. Granted, it was grey and hazy day, but the scene before us has the uncanny feeling of a crossing of the River Styx.
There was actually a crow cawing at the top of the bow. Nevertheless, the journey was remarkably smooth and free from drowning.
The home stretch! The town we were shooting for was Gazhipur, the only close town big enough to have hotels, we were told. We rolled into the chaos(which is every big Indian town) and looked for the hotel we had found on the map. Full. So we went to the next one. Full. And the next. Full. After all 8 hotels had turned us away, we were beyond tired, sore, and dejected – and it was dark and rainy. Next stop: police station. We were desparate. After a lengthy intake process involving passport inspection and copies(per usual), our friendly police chief started making phone calls as we sat there nervously drinking our chai. After a half hour or so, we were told we would have a room waiting for us at the very first hotel we tried. The best we could gather, towns outside the tourist realm are very wary of foreigners and our of fear will keep their distance. We were then escorted by two armed officers to the hotel, where we went through another lengthy intake process and finally retired to our dumpy room, when we finally breathed a sigh of relief. The fun didn’t end there, though. The first bout of “Delhi belly” was in full swing…