Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 41
Ever since I started designing this expedition, I had wanted to sleep in the canoe. It is spacious, it is comfortable, and it is an experience. Last night that wish was fulfilled. However, my plan was to have a tarp sheet draped over the canoe. Last night I did not go through that trouble. Instead, I draped the tarp over my luggage, while I tucked myself into the sleeping bag, exposed to the sky. There were a million stars that helped me go to sleep, and I was reasonably cozy and comfortable.
However when I woke up in the morning, I found a whole lot of dew. Not that it mattered, and it did not affect my sleep. But my down sleeping bag was moist to the touch, and wet at certain spots. Down is very difficult to dry and my bag would be packed, without an opportunity to dry. The other problem was that I slept in my paddling clothes. They had dried sufficiently which is why I decided against changing. In the morning, all the sand that was stuck to my clothes and had dried through the night, found it’s way into the sleeping bag.
Two learnings. One, always have a roof over my head. And two, change into fresh clothes before entering the sleeping bag.
The paddle started a little after seven and the plan was to get as close to Dalmau as possible. Allahabad is just shy of 100 km from Dalmau and if I managed it, it would be very satisfying. A sixty plus kilometres day was certainly ambitious and I doubted whether I would manage it. Try I certainly would.
This is where I went wrong in today’s journey. I was focussed on Allahabad, and on reaching Dalmau. Psychologically it became a chore. Consequently, the paddle today was not something I enjoyed. It was emotionally draining every time I looked at the distance covered and the distance remaining. Big mistake.
What I should have done is select shorter landmarks, about three to five kilometres away, reach it, select another landmark and head to it. If I broke up the sixty kilometres distance to Dalmau into twelve or fifteen or twenty such shorter milestones, the day would not be as frustrating as it turned out to be. Result? I stopped the day fifteen kilometres short of Dalmau.
However, a couple of kilometres short of where I ended today’s journey, I witnessed a spectacle that made all the frustration worthwhile. Barely a few feet away from the canoe were half a dozen dolphins playing in the water. Thankfully I had my camera on, and I think I might have captured some good visuals. I have not seen the footage, but I hope the dolphins are a part of it.
I paddled on and came to a bridge, alongside which was a pretty large temple. Lots of people, cars, trucks. I was hoping to find a stall where I could have some tea, and maybe something to eat. Nothing was visible. All day today I had eaten one Granola bar, a couple of pieces of candy and some trail mix. I was running on fumes. I could have paddled another hour or so and notched the 50 km distance, but soon after the bridge I saw a couple of gents taking a dip. I was running out of water and I asked them if there was a convenient tube well I could fill my containers from. Sure enough there was. I reached the canoe, a conversation ensued and I decided I would park here for the night. It was either here, or on a sand bar a few kilometres ahead.
I secured the canoe, unloaded the luggage, and set up my tarp sheet. All good. Then some people arrived and suggested I sleep in the house of a local sadhu a few metres away from where I was. The added incentive was a cot and electricity. That sounded good and camp was dismantled and relocated. The lights were out, but I was promised electricity would be back soon enough.
I was offered all help I sought, even given some that I did not solicit. The village kids helped carry my luggage, others filled up my water containers, a cup of tea happened from someone’s home, the sadhu, his wife and half a dozen cows welcomed me into their home. I was shown the water bottle that I could use to carry out morning duties out in the nearby clump of trees. Some houses were fitted with en suite toilets, most were not. It is still the norm to head into the fields or in the shadows of trees when nature calls.
This is something I have noticed throughout the journey. Toilets are being constructed at a lot of places, but the behavioural change required of people to start using them consistently, will take a few more years. I suspect it is the children who will grow up with access to toilet facilities will ultimately bring about the change, it might be quite difficult for older folks to make the change given their years of using the wide open outdoors.
Everyone I met at Gidaso village was helpful, but I noticed a sense of mistrust between the different communities that inhabit the village. Each person warned me about the other. The caste hierarchy was evident.
One reason I opted to stay in a village was because of the access to electricity. I do have a solar panel, but it takes a long time to charge stuff. And by the time I set up camp, the Sun was setting, meaning I cannot charge the inverter. I am not really off grid, and access to grid power is so much more convenient … when it is available.
The power was out and I was famished. The highway was nearby and I took a walk. First stop was at a tea stall where I had a couple of cups of much needed tea and two samosas. While the tea was being brewed, I gulped down a bottle of soda. Then headed to a nearby restaurant and had myself a meal. I was happy. And I made myself happier in the company of the Old Monk.
Some kids came to chat up. The wife of the sadhu milked the cows and I was offered a tall glass of milk. I was a little concerned, since we in the city are not used to non adulterated milk, fresh from the source. I was worried that it play havoc with my system. However, I drank it up and it was tasty, not anything like the packaged milk one gets to consume in the city.
My phone is all juiced up. The camera batteries are charging. I would love to transfer the footage to free up SD Card storage, but I am feeling lazy. I also want to post the blog, but for that I will have to open the bag, take out the laptop, go through the whole shebang. Again, feeling lazy and fatigued. Allahabad is two days away, and a lot of catching up will get done there over the two or three nights I plan to stay there.
For now, I have my stuff charged and four cows as room mates. I hope to have a good night.