Delhi has changed tremendously. The recently rebuilt airport is magnificent. The new highway to Gurgaon smooth and well maintained. After a five year absence from India, the great infrastructural advances were immediately clear.
Once settled in my hotel I made inquiries about getting an internet connection. A man would be sent to my room. An hour later he arrived and informed me of the rates.
“450 rupees for two hours or 850 rupees for 6 hours.”
I requested the latter and he thought for a moment.
“I’ll give you a special rate” he said “6 hours for the price of 2 hours.”
“That’s very kind, and it will be billed to my room?” A question to which I already knew the answer.
“No sir, for this special rate, I must be paid in cash.”
As he left, cash in hand, he paused at the door and turned to shake my hand. “Of course sir, the front desk should not be aware of our special rate.”
Not everything has changed.
In a few hours I have a flight to Guwahati from where I need to either hop into a jeep or helicopter and head down to Shillong. The internet connection will be very limited if present at all. To the mountains…
Marsden and Friend in the Himalayan foothills, 2004
Maoist rebels have busied themselves blowing up the infrastructure we will depend on. The monsoon rains have taken a serious toll on the roads we will be navigating. Infectious diseases lie in wait. The most reckless drivers in the world have massed. We are ready.
By the time you read this we shall be in the air, east bound for India. The journey to the start line will involve three planes, a train, three jeeps, and a helicopter. It will take us four days of near constant movement.
Our connectivity to the internet and the outside world will be limited and our updates will sporadic and there may possibly be none at all. We will be filming the entire trip and those videos will be trimmed down to an appetizing size and posted on our return.
The road ahead will be hard, dangerous and mentally testing. This trip is a dream 11 years in the making. While immense preparations have been made in fundraising, securing sponsors, renting the vehicle, raising publicity through press and social media, training, acquiring equipment and securing time off, the route is unplanned. Every morning for a glorious month we will wake up and face the unknown road ahead depending on the infamous kindness and hospitality of the Indian people to survive.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
We are now ready to roll on our most elaborate attempt yet to impress women. Ed, Jake and Patrick are all soon to be heading east to the Himalayas.
International driving permits are in hand, visas are set, flights are booked, sponsors are secured, funds have been raised, engines studied, first aid mastered, shots injected, malaria pills consumed, insurgent forces studied, compass knowledge updated and parent’s concerns soothed.
“I was thinking about this last night. Surely there will come a time, not long into the trip, when we simply have nothing left to say to each other. In the absence of girls, gambling and gin, what the dickens shall we do?”—Ed Templeton, Team Member
Griffiths, pictured center with Marsden left and Templeton right
Team member Ed Morris has veered away from the team due to a job interview taking a little longer than expected and poor health. He will be sorely missed. Aggressive bullying of another friend, Ben Griffiths, is currently underway with a ‘10% chance’ of commitment stated last night. It looks like it may be a team of three unless potential member Griffiths enlists in this foolish endeavor.
In other news both Templeton and O’Hear have realized their driving license photo cards (The British having an antiquated system of having both paper and plastic components of a driving license) have expired. It takes three weeks to renew. Their flights are in two weeks and a day. It may be a team of one…
In a brand spanking stroke of good luck I received a call from Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey who have graciously agreed to sponsor us. We are thrilled! The whiskey is excellent, a friend introduced me to it recently. The fact that the whiskey shares the same name as one of our team members is an absolute bonus!
From the Templeton Rye website:
"When Prohibition outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in 1920, many enterprising residents of a small town in Iowa chose to become outlaws – producing a high caliber and much sought-after whiskey known as Templeton Rye, or “The Good Stuff” to those in the know. Produced from the original Prohibition era recipe and aged in charred new oak barrels, Templeton Rye provides a smooth finish and a clean getaway."
We’ll be drinking as much of it as we can, sensibly and reasonably and all that, before we leave… and when we get back.
Team Veerasway is against drink driving. However we very much enjoy both activities independently.
Alex Templeton muses on his brother’s poor choice in undertaking this adventure:
“I’m immensely proud of my younger brother for his, or his blackout’s, decision to participate in this foolhardy venture.
Ever since he was dropped on his head as a baby by his nanny, he has been cursed with an unquenchable Tigger-like thirst for thrills, his impaired risk perception a source of wonder to all. This tricyclical peregrination merely the latest chapter in a litany of calamity - curse that frontal lobe of his, bruised as a peach.
I applaud his continental commitment to curry consumption and salute his new-found passion for elephant eluding. May Ganesh and St Christopher speed his passage, tho I’m sure the local cooks will do their bit.”
I am very happy to say that we will be flying the East India Club colours during our little jaunt. The club’s original members were ‘the servants of the East India Company and Commissioned Officers of Her Majesty’s Army and Navy’. The legacy of those early members, home on furlough from far flung lands, continues today.
“Very many people spend money in ways quite different from those that their natural tastes would enjoin, merely because the respect of their neighbors depends upon their possession of a good car and their ability to give good dinners. As a matter of fact, any man who can obviously afford a car but genuinely prefers travels or a good library will in the end be much more respected than if he behaved exactly like everyone else.”—Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness