Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 27
Eighty kilometres done, aches and pains are starting to emerge from places I did not know existed in my body, and morning happened slightly late. The river is about ten clicks away from where we are parked in a Bijnor hotel and we require a taxi to transport the canoe to the river, like yesterday when the taxi transported the canoe to the hotel. The taxi guy was otherwise occupied and would be free only around mid-day. So, by the time I could start paddling it would be well into the afternoon, giving me just a couple of hours on the river. The progress would be about ten kilometres, and then to find a camp site, set up camp, cook, eat, sleep, etc. That did not make much sense. There is no point in travelling anything less than at least thirty to forty kilometres a day.
I took the decision to rest at Bijnor for a second night and proceed early tomorrow morning. I want to be in the river by nine in the morning, giving me at least seven hours of paddling. At about five to six kilometres an hour, I should be able to cover about 35 to 40 kilometres each day. So Bijnor it is for tonight.
This also provides me with the time, opportunity and electricity to catch up on work. Which is essentially charging all the camera batteries, the radio batteries, the phone battery, transfer the footage onto an external hard disk, write the blog which I have not done for a couple of days, post pictures on the website, etc. And recuperate and rejuvenate for the days ahead. A lot of work got done today and I am happy about this decision.
However, I do not want to be staying in hotels too often, however exciting the temptation. Luxuries like a hotel room are counter productive to an expedition such as this, and camping keeps one’s mind focussed on the task at hand ... paddling the Ganges.
Sam and Tara are thinking of going back to Ludhiana to catch up on work. Which is fine by me, except I will be straddled with a whole lot of luggage that is now being transported in the vehicle. What they are suggesting is to request Dorf Ketal to send a person to act as road support in lieu of them. Which means I have to train another person on how to be a road support. Also, the person who might come may not have a vehicle, and would have to hire one locally. I wonder how that is going to work. Sam says they will be back in a few days, but work does tend to pile up once back in the city and it might become difficult for them to join me back. If they do, I suspect it will be toward the end of the month, after the Base Camp India Festival.
To be fair, Sam had mentioned before we started, that he would have to go back for a few days and then come back again. And he had stated that Tara and the vehicle would continue to be the road support. Driving through Uttar Pradesh yesterday might have made him change his mind about leaving Tara alone at the mercy of the citizenry of Uttar Pradesh, who are largely big hearted and helpful, but there are some lumpen elements among them, much like anywhere else. I agree with Sam that one should not take chances. If, God forbid, something untoward were to happen to Tara, I would feel responsible and I do not think I want that burden on my shoulders.
However, had I known this could be a situation, I would have certainly packed differently, with much less stuff. Now, I will need a real close look at all the stuff and discard anything that is even remotely worthless for the journey. Nothing is really worthless, which is why all the stuff was packed, but there are things that I had packed to cater to three people. Three mugs, for instance. A large pan to cook in. Five canisters of fuel. Couple of cutlery tools. An extra tent. Now I will only keep stuff that I need for me and myself, and be able to carry in the canoe. Anyway, they are with me for the next week at least, so we have time to figure out how things pan out.
Fortunately, we are still in relative proximity to Delhi. I will certainly require the two 62 litre dry bags that I had discarded since most of my stuff was going to be in the car. Now, since the situation has changed back to a solo journey, I need to carry everything on the canoe. And I can carry only so much, and what I carry needs to be protected from water. There are no more sections where water might splash into the canoe, or even make the canoe capsize, but it is always good to have things protected. There certainly will be a fair bit of water on the canoe floor, water that will drip in with each paddle stroke. This sloshing water will make everything wet and I need dry bags to prevent that from occurring.
I have a lot of dry bags with me, but they are in assorted small sizes. What I need are large dry bags, the 62 litre ones that I left back in Delhi, and transfer the gear from the small bags to the larger ones. There still will be a need for a couple of smaller bags for immediate needs, but that is ok. I have requested my friend Mohit of Adventure18 to have some dry bags delivered to my house. I have also spoken to my daughter and asked her to bring the required stuff and deliver it to me at Garhmukteswar a couple of days later.
Plan C is starting to fall in place.
The canoe cart does not seem to be working. Probably because it is not supposed to be burdened with so much weight. Just the canoe, and it would probably work like a charm. But once the canoe is loaded with gear, the cart tends to buckle and in a while slips off the tracks. It even dismembered itself the first time.
The canoe will have to be hand carried whenever it needs to be portaged. Whether across the two more dams that will come my way at Narora and Farakka, or at the many temporary pontoon bridges on the route. Fortunately, Sam and Tara will still be with me the day we touch Narora. And the portage at Farakka is well before the barrage, just to negotiate the lock gate to get across and put-in once again in the canal that meets up with the Hooghly. I have to find some kind folks to help me portage when I come across the pontoon bridges. Fortunately, the population will start to get denser as I go down the river and I doubt if there will be any dearth of helpful hands.
My plan to sleep in the canoe and use it as an air mattress might also require a rethink. I have not really decided what to do. First, there will be water inside the canoe and in order to be able to sleep in it, I will have to dry it out. Secondly, where the canoe is beached, it may not be resting on level ground. It is extremely uncomfortable to sleep at an incline. Half my mind tells me to sleep in the tent, while the other half is concerned about the safety of the canoe itself. I do not wish it to be stolen in the middle of the night when I am inside the tent! One simple and possible solution is to find a secluded sand bar and pitch tent there. That should be much safer than sleeping among people. I might also keep the tent fly open and have one end of the canoe pushed inside the tent. Both ends of the canoe have painter lines attached and these could be strategically tied up as a trip wire to warn me if some hanky panky is attempted.
It is a two day paddle to Garhmukteswar. That brings me to Saturday. I am expecting my folks to come in only on Sunday with the stuff that I need, and to send back stuff that I do not need. Which means that I will have to stay over at Garmukteswar for an extra night. At least it is while my route is still within a fairly short distance from Delhi. Had I been further down the river, this option might not have been possible.
Life is so much fun when obstacles hit you and you need to think on your feet and find solutions. If everything came easy, life would become so boring. Sometimes I find people getting bogged down because they are unable to take decisions. In my mind, almost any decision is better than no decision, and the process I am going through, trying to juggle a hundred different possibilities, is really helping me focus. Life is not only about Plan A, there are 25 more letters. I have only reached the letter C!