This is a post for all of you who keep asking, “Is it really going that well out there?” and accuse us of painting too rosy a picture of our life on the road…
If ever you want to travel the western Indian state of Rajasthan, each and every guide book and travel agent will tell you hiring a driver is the way to go. In a country where death lurks around every bend in the road, trains are painfully slow, and busses are downright disgusting, this is sage advice.
Our agent in Delhi arranged for a driver for our 10-day excursion into the land of the Rajputs and even found us a travel companion. 20-year-old Heather, whose family has just moved to Delhi, is visiting them from Utah for a few months and was eager to go on a whirlwind tour of her own. Since travel can be treacherous here for single women, the agent asked if we’d be willing to let her accompany us. Sure, we thought. The more the merrier and someone to shoot our pyramid photos at the Taj, where tripods are forbidden!
So after our Delhi drive-by and delousing, we boarded our Rajasthani cruise ship, a not so luxurious Toyota Qualis captained by our driver, let’s call him Kevin. After our unnerving taxi rides in Chennai, we were concerned when we noticed Kevin’s belt buckle proclaimed him “Hell on Wheels,” but we soon learned his manner and thankfully his driving are anything but rowdy. A paragon of professionalism, he doesn’t speak unless spoken to and always gets us to our destination in one piece without breaking any posted traffic regulations or rules of basic survival.
Even so, I have become a hostage to the Toyota. With the exception of the road between Jaipur and Pushkar, the roads have been rough (potholes, triple speedbumps…let’s call them speedstops, unsealed surfaces, and “diversions”) and the drives painfully long. Three of our numbers suffer from periodic bouts of motion sickness and must be given priority in the seating hierarchy. Four of our members share common parents and find it important when in confined spaces to argue incessantly with each other and make those parents temporarily regret conceiving them. One, whose gender I share, needs to make hourly toilet stops and often refuses to go once a stop is made. All under the age of 15 require my attention, my lap, and/or the limits of my sanity at some point during each trip.
After five days of Tom sitting alone in the front seat where his legs mostly fit and his stomach mostly settles, far far away from the nonstop action in the back two rows, I demanded he allow his fair-haired daughter to share his hallowed space. If not, I pronounced, I would have to leave her at the nearest village or fly home. My wishes were respected and things have quieted down a bit, but the roads remain too bumpy to read or write and the sun too hot to sleep. The scenery is fascinating, but hard to appreciate when bouncing violently…have I mentioned the roads are bumpy?
If we were controlling our own itinerary, we’d put on the brakes for a few days and chill out in a marvelous little town like Udaipur (BEAUTIFUL!), but the agent in Delhi, a train to Mumbai and a flight to South Africa on the 27th pull us ever onward through the Rajasthani desert.
Today I escape my sport utility prison and trade it for a vehicle that has only one seat—a large hairy hump. Let’s hope my ride through the sand dunes is a little quieter and a tad smoother. After all, camels are known for their gentle nature and graceful gait…right?