We made it!

We made it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 25 –Walk from Bethamangala to Venkatagirikota: Into the eye of the cyclone

Yesterday afternoon as we retired for the day we noticed a few clouds coming over and it looked like it might rain. The weather since we arrived has been like ‘Groundhog Day’ with the morning clear and cool and the day gradually warming up, quite warm to hot in the early afternoon before cooling down by the late afternoon. Each day beautiful, clear and sunny, Not today!

During the night we noticed the winds were very strong. This morning we awoke, opened the curtains to look out and it was raining hard and by the look of the car park it had been raining for some time. Our first wet day and on only Day 2 for Kate and the kids. The other thing was that Bec and I had halved our luggage at our last stop from 4 backpacks to 2 to limit the amount of gear we had to take into each hotel. Ofcourse the wet weather gear was in the other backpack. Mum agreed to have Gus today and Ally decided she wanted a rest day today as she was feeling a little tired so the walk team today consisted of Indy, Mags, Maxy, Poppa, Kate, Bec and I. We plan to walk around 18km today.

We had to drive to the spot we walked to yesterday and start from there. The drive revealed that it had indeed been raining for some time as the roads were full of water and the dry dusty roads we were used to were now turned to mud. The anxiety levels in the bus were slightly raised as we tried to comprehend the day ahead. Kate gently reminded us that her last email asked if she needed wet weather gear to which we at the time responded “Nah, she’ll be right”. Famous last words. Between us we had four spray jackets, Popsy had his, Indy had hers and Bec and I gave ours to Maggie and Max.

We stepped out of the bus into strong rain coming in sideways due to the wind we were walking into. As we headed off down the road Maggie turned to me and said “Do you think people think we are crazy” to which I replied “Yeh I think so, sometimes I think we are crazy too”. A few further steps and I asked Maggie “would you prefer to be at Lakes Entrance with our friends the Buckleys sitting in uncle Paul’s leather recliner eating your favourite chips getting ready to go out on the boat OR be here walking in the rain”. This sent Maggie into a bit of a spin and she spent the next several kilometres chastising me for the fact that she was missing out on her favourite Christmas holiday to Lakes with our good friends the Buckleys instead here we were walking down a rural road in India, in the rain and mud. Maggie is very vocal in her views and a little physical, it was all in good fun.

We were walking down the road and I made the comment to the team that it looks like it is clearing up, a comment to which I repeat often during the day. The fact was that the direction we were walking all we could see ahead was a big grey cloud. The group make up a song about crazy aussies walking in the rain and despite the conditions the team is in good spirits. Our shoes are immediately soaked in water and we are wet through our clothes within minutes. It will be a long, wet day today. Maggie once again was singing her way across India, with Maxy joining in to make up a barbers duet. Bec and Kate aka ‘Prude and Trude’ were chatting away and Popsy and Indy were walking together. Popsy having felt unwell last night with stomach pains is showing no signs of this today and making good ground. As we walk along today we get some very strange looks from the locals, crazy aussies walking in the rain. Even the cows here have found their way to shelter and give us a smirk as we walk past. One man on his motorcycle takes pity on us and offers us to spend some time under his hay shelter to which we gratefully decline and press on.

The kids were getting a little preoccupied with their wet shoes and socks and after letting it go for a while I gather the kids up and share the story of Victor Frankyl. The moral of the story being that you cannot always control your environment but Victor believed and in fact demonstrated you can control your mind. May have been a bit heavy for the crew but seemed to do the trick. I also talked with Maxy about playing footy in the rain which perhaps was more impactful.

We walk along for some time, the kids bouncing along the road with great energy. We find our way to a small town, I mean a really small town, a dirt now mud road and a few shops scattered along the road. Prude and Trude yell out ‘coffee stop’ and I glance right to see a small galvanised shed with steaming coffee on the boil. We pull up to a small shelter where a number of people are taking cover from the rain, our team pull up looking I am sure quite bizarre. A couple of the men encourage us to come in under the shelter and make way to show a bench for us to sit. We shuffle the kids in to take a seat and order up our coffee. The barista stands at the old cobbled together wooden bench, gas grill plate on the go with a small metal saucepan that he fills with a few scoops of milk which he takes from a metal bucket on the bench. He grabs 6 small glasses, adds a spoon of sugar and then empties a sachet of coffee between the glasses. By this time the milk has boiled and he fills the cups with the milk. The next step is traditionally Indian as he grabs a small metal cup, pours in the coffee from one glass and does a long pour from the cup back to the glass, a routine he repeats 3 or 4 times. This is done to cool the coffee down ready for drinking. So here we sit in a small decrepit bench, by now people coming from everywhere to sit and watch these strange visitors having their morning coffee. And boy was that coffee good! So good we had to order seconds as we enjoyed a few minutes out of the rain.

I make some small talk with a group of young men in the shelter. After the usual which country conversation we talked the international language of cricket. I reminded the boys that Australia just went one nil up in the test series to which I may have struck a nerve. We then went through a range of cricketers names, I said Ponting, they said Batsman, I said Shane Warne they said bowler and so on and so on. The kids huddled together in the shelter on the bench, enjoying their Indian coffee, Kate with a smile from ear to ear as she is experiencing her first genuine Indian coffee. As we huddle all together in the shelter a crowd now swelling over 50, boys and men mostly gather to observe, we are obviously the best show in town on a drizzly Indian morning.

The team with health and energy levels restored we were off and running. We grab a few extra supplies at the next shop where Kate buys a few chocolate bars for the local kids standing by. We find a spot between two small buildings and huddle around to help Maggie change out of her wet t-shirt. Every stop involves many smiles and hellos with a few words shared and we always manage to pull a crowd. Off we go again up the road and into the rain, shoes sloshing full of water. The spirit amongst the team is remarkably high for the conditions as we make our way through the mud and the puddles and the rain. At one point a small van pulled over and asked if we needed a ride, to which Maggie and Maxy smiled and we said no thankyou much to the kids disappointment. The road we are walking along is more of a rural road than we are used to and so we are not as confident as usual about the direction we are taking. At one point we stop at a small bus shelter and find a couple of young boys on a motor bike who we took the opportunity to ask for directions. Fortunately we were on the right road and heading in the right direction. We press on.

The rain is relentless yet the kids push on. We decide to ‘call in the air support’ and phone Raju thinking it would take him an hour or so to get to us. Sure enough about 10 minutes further on Raju appeared. Maggie tries to convince Maxy to get on board but he wants to finish the walk so Maggie too stays with us. Kate and Bec decide they need to test out the ‘bush toilet’ after all the coffee they had consumed, they wait for Raju to head up the road and find a friendly bush to squat behind. The girls return to the team happier for the relief and managed to avoid the snakes, the thorns and had a successful bush toilet stop. Raju stops up the road a few kilometres. As we walk past I mention to Raju that “it is very wet today”, to which Raju replies “Yes Sir, it is the Madras Cyclone”. So we are now walking into a cyclone. Popsy recalls something on the Indian news last night that looked like large waves crashing into the shoreline somewhere, we just didn’t know where. We haven’t got internet access where we are so we are pretty much flying blind. Given the weather of the last 3 weeks the last thing we would have thought of was a cyclone, only in India and only on the coast to coast adventure!

On this final leg we cross the border now into our third Indian state. We started in Kerala, walked through Karnataka and today made our way into the bottom end of the state of Andra Pradesh. It will be short visit as we will soon make our way to our final state of Tamil Nadu. We walk the final 8 kilometres, making good pace walking around 6km an hour, some of the fastest waking we have done on the trip. Maggie is fine as long as you keep her talking, she is super fit and could probably walk 50km in a day. Max too is a very fit young man and managed to do the walk comfortably. We take our photo in front of the ‘welcome to’ billboard and our walk day is finished, over 18km in the pelting rain and wind.

Great day by the team, the kids especially were incredible! News from Raju suggests we may have up to 7 days in the rain ahead and as we depart from our accommodation tonight we are yet to receive confirmation of our next stay. We plan to head to RUHSA (rural unit for health and social affairs) the place where Bec and I came as students in 1996. The accommodation and food will be the most basic of the trip yet it is the stop I am most looking forward to. Many special memories for Bec and I and it will be incredibly special to share these with the rest of the family. I am sure there will also be many old friends for us to catch up with too.

No comments:

Post a Comment