Sep 01, 2018, D-minus-19

Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 9

Finally it is September and we are now into days. Exactly 19 days to go before A SLOW BOAT ON THE GANGES launches. No more months to go, there’s a long time before launch, there’s still time, it is now down to days, a little over two weeks. And, it is still pelting down. The skies are grey, the weather is humid, and the river is flooded. Let’s give the rains another week to quieten down. In case the skies are angry and the river still looks violent, I might have to decide to shift the launch by a couple of days. That is a decision that I will take once I am in Haridwar.

I was planning to leave for Haridwar Sep 17 to give me three days to acclimatise and prepare. But I think I will leave Sep 15 to give me an extra couple of days. With the rains, the road will be slushy, and the time taken to travel to Devprayag, and maybe even to Srinagar, might take longer than anticipated. And I need to go there to film the confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers that together give birth to the Ganga at Devprayag. I also want to film the Tehri Dam.

A Sep 15 departure from Delhi sounds like a plan. In case the weather is clear and the roads are dry, I can do everything that I need to do with much more ease.

A little while ago I received a couple of items of gear that I will need during the journey. A pair of neoprene gloves and a pair of tactical goggles. These are extras and I already have a pair each. But one never knows. I might lose the goggles to the waters, and the gloves might rip and tear. These new gloves are thick, cold weather gloves. They still have to form themselves to the contours of my hand. When I first wore the gloves a while ago, there were areas that were biting into the webbing of my fingers. That is where the stitching is inside the gloves, and this chafing will surely cause blsters. Don’t know if I want blisters on my hands. With a million and more paddle strokes expected, I am sure to get blisters, but with new, untested gloves, I am almost inviting the blisters home. I will wear these gloves over the next few days, whenever I am driving for instance, to get them used to my hands. Once they contour around my hands, they will become much more comfortable.

The tactical goggles are pretty good too. These have the smoke coloured lenses and pretty much cover the entire eye. The wrap-around design ensures that sunlight cannot enter the eyes from virtually any corner. When on the water, one gets hits from two sides ... the sunlight from up in the sky and its reflection off the water. Wearing these tactical goggles makes life a lot more comfortable.

As might be expected, I have been meeting and talking to quite a few people these days about the journey. A couple of people have asked me, “But, why are you doing this?” There is no answer I can provide that will satisfy them. I just tell them, “Because I want to and because I think I can.” I think I know where they are coming from. If the trip is not paid for and subsidised or sponsored by someone, why would I want to go out of pocket doing it. And going through all the trials, troubles and tribulations while going through it. Somehow, the sheer joy of the adventure I will experience does seem to dawn on these people. A SLOW BOAT DOWN THE GANGES is a great expedition, the grandest I have ever undertaken. I do not know what I will encounter en route. I do not know how much I can paddle every day, whether I will be able to paddle every day at all, where I will camp, where I will sleep, whether I will encounter any crocodilians that make the Ganges their habitat. Will I be able to witness the endangered Gangetic river dolphin? How will the people I meet along the way treat me? Will I be faced with antisocial elements, wanting to rid me of my gear and equipment? Will the police I encounter along the way look at me as an escaping terrorist or an intrepid adventurer?

For me, this is a journey that will make me a lot of memories. It is about the journey, not the destination of finally packing my canoe at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. Memories that will live with me till my dying day. Stories that I will possibly retell a million times, to the point that the recipients of these stories will tell me to shut up ... loudly.

No, I do not have an answer to the question, “But, why are you doing this?” Like Hilaire Belloc, the Anglo-French writer, orator, poet, sailor, satirist, man of letters, soldier and political activist once said, “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.” This journey, this expedition, this adventure, this travel, will fulfill me in ways that no one confined within a 9-to-5 job can ever understand. What pains me more is when people involved in some form or the other with the outdoor and adventure trade, ask me similar questions. My friends, you do not need to be rich to gather experiences.

Of course, money matters. Much of my time over the past couple of years has gone into trying to find the minimum funds to be able to undertake this journey. That was a difficult task and a majority of this expedition is self-funded. Money meticulously and zealously guarded over months. If I had some people or organisations who believed in this journey and the cause behind it, maybe I would have had some backers.

The way I am looking at it is this. Completing the Ganges expedition will provide some much needed credibility, enabling people to look at my next adventure more favourably. To that extent this expedition is an investment into the future. After having done what I have, I wonder why I would need to prove my credibility yet again, but if that is what people want, so be it.

To be honest, I would rather self-fund my expeditions. This will leave me not answerable to anyone. I just need to find a way to augment my income that will subsidise the cost of these expeditions. That too shall happen. There is something I am working on, that will be launched once I return from this expedition. I am bullish about it, and I am hoping will provide a fair bit of passive income. More about this later.

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