Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 23
Usually when I need to travel, I leave before dawn to be able to beat the morning traffic. This time was an exception. Not a last minute one because I overslept (I did not), but by choice. It is a relatively short drive of about five to six hours between Delhi and Haridwar and the only job I had today was to witness and film the evening prayers at Har Ki Pauri. I have seen this a million times before, and it never fails to amaze me. Thousands of people throng the banks of the Ganges to witness this spectacle to the Mother Goddess. But more of that a little later.
I finally left Delhi a little after ten in the morning. It was a peaceful drive pretty much all the way. And I took a road I had never taken before. Not the national highway, which would be the usual and obvious choice, but a road that went all along the Upper Ganga canal. This is not a wide road and does not have a central divider, but the traffic is sparse and the drive is not fraught with stress. There was only a small stretch where the road was under construction, but that was negotiated via the diversion in quick time, and I hit the main highway near Khatauli.
This part of the highway is very good indeed, all the way to Roorkee, when one hits a major city, and congestion. I was surprised at the deterioration of the road in Roorkee. It was never smooth, but this time it was littered with potholes. Probably a result of the recent rains. I wonder why roads maintained by the various Government authorities are so devoid of maintenance, whereas the “toll roads” built, operated and maintained by private entities are so much better. It is obviously not due to the lack of talent or expertise. I doubt if it because of money either, since the construction of toll roads is also awarded through a tender process run by the same Government. It is all about the lowest cost, whether constructed by the Government directly, or through private operators. The stretch from Roorkee onwards was a bit of a dampener. A little beyond Roorkee I stopped at a roadside shack for lunch and a beer, and reached my destination a little after three in the afternoon.
After three years in the making, I was finally at base camp!
The road support has really made me lazy. A few weeks ago, I was considering packing everything I would need on the two month journey, in two 62 litre dry bags. When I finally ended up packing all my stuff, they filled eight dry bags, albeit in assorted sizes, from five litres to 20 litres. Most of these will be transported in the vehicle while my camera and charging equipment will come with me in the canoe. I am no longer concerned about the amount of stuff I carry, or how they would balance the canoe. Nice. Once again, thank you Sam and Tara for agreeing to be the road support. I really appreciate it.
Let me step back to yesterday for a moment. I mentioned that one of the reasons my trip to Haridwar got delayed by a day was because of the solar charge controller. It arrived yesterday and I went to my friend’s place to get it fixed and to check whether it worked as it was supposed to or not. Unfortunately, the sun was setting, and we could not test it. There seemed to be something wrong, since the amount of sunlight there was, I have managed to get some electricity generated from my solar panels. It was decided that due to the solar charge controller, some loss was occuring and therefore the inverter was not charging.
This morning, before I left, I set up the whole thing once again, under direct sunlight, and the damn thing refused to charge the inverter. There was no point in carrying something useless, so the solar charge controller was dismantled from where it was mounted on the inverter and left back.
I do not know how this will affect the inverter, and whether over the two months it will go the Goal Zero way. But there is only one way to find out. I have equipped myself with contingencies and I am hoping that I will be able to complete the expedition without too much of a hiccup, at least as far as charging my equipment is concerned.
The second thing that happened really pissed me off. As mentioned before, I was planning to carry a 30W solar panel since my existing 60W panel was too big to be rigged up on the canoe. I took out my cheque book and as I was starting to write the cheque, he refused saying he wanted only cash. That pissed me off and I refused to buy the 30W panel.
I went back home and took a relook at my 60W panel to see if there was some way I could turn it into a 30W/60W combo. It was essentially a question of folding it, which I did. But once folded there was no way to ensure that it did not unfold. And I could not punch holes in the fabric for fear of cutting through internal wires. Duct tape came to the rescue and after sandwiching some cardboard in between several layers of duct tape, I had something that could be tied together.
I still need to make a frame on which this will rest. A visit to the local hardware store in the morning is called for. Not that I cannot be without a charging option on the canoe (remember the road support vehicle), but I do not want to be. It will be tremendously frustrating to run out of batteries on the camera or on the phone and having to link up with the road support just to replace batteries.
My experience on the solar charge controller and the 30W film has not be the best, mildly put. Particularly when my back was against the wall and I had already postponed my travel plan by an additional day because of the delay in shipment.
I have half a mind to order a 30W panel from Amazon US and have it delivered to me somewhere along the way. I will be on the river for two months, and the delivery should not take that long. Just to spite the guy who refused to accept a cheque, and demanded cash. And you know what’s funny? He is a friend for over three years now.
Anyway, let bygones be bygones.
The evening in Haridwar was spent at Har Ki Pauri, one of the holiest spots in all of Hinduism. Lord Shiva and Lord Shiva are said to have visited this spot. Priests even confirm there is the footprint of Lord Vishnu on a stone wall that is submerged below the churning waters of the Ganges. This is the exact spot, according to believers, where the Ganges leaves the mountains and enters the plains. A very auspicious and pious place indeed. And A SLOW BOAT DOWN THE GANGES flags off a couple of kilometres away from this spot blessed by the Gods, and it made sense to pay a visit.
One more day to go before the team is complete. Sam and Tara are expected here on the 30th. One day after that to relook at gear and pick up whatever else is required, and the expedition will be on its way. Cannot be soon enough. Really looking forward to it.