20-10-04 – Midair Journal Entry: Zurich, Switzerland to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
It’s another moment of change in my life. I’m about to step out of the sheltered, insulate form of backpacking Eastern Europe to bravely risk life in the wild unknown world of Southern Asia. I figure a relaxed heart and clear thinking will ultimately determine my experiences and general success in the crazy riot of trippy India.
The next few weeks will be vital preparations for a profound journey. Starting in Mumbai, I intend to travel to Pune, that’s an easy 150 km inland. After buying a motorbike I will begin a ride to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) via Goa before bicycling to Nepal, Tibet and Thailand from Delhi.
Here are some interesting statistics about India for you;
1. India rates as the 90th least corrupt country in the world. Worsening from 72nd last year.
2. 40% of all India’s economics uses black money.
3. The most significant black money use is by government officials (politicians, admin, police, etc) and large business’s (international and local) buying breaks and favour.
4. Females are considered to be so low in Indian society, it is illegal to know the sex of a child before birth to stop back street abortions.
5. Some town ratios of male:female have been 10:7 for large populations. Implying 30% female deaths by abortion or feticide.
6. Each year thousands of wives are murdered because of dowry disputes. These deaths are called ‘dowry deaths’. Disputes arise from unpaid increases in dowry demands or simple failure to pay.
7. Average city speeds are 20 kmh-1.
8. There are no driving rules, just etiquette. You can drive down the wrong side of the road for example.
9. And it is not law to wear a motorbike helmet in most of India.
07-11-04 – Touchdown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Mumbai, India.
I arrived in India at midday have a headache, and a bit tired, as I’d not slept the previous night. After checking into my hostel, deep within Mumbai’s outer suburbs, I slept in a haze of anxiety and unnerving disconnection. It’s disorientating and full of shutdown thoughts. It takes me for a ride every time I arrive in some place completely new. I know the feeling well. Thankfully, I purged the psychosis to awake at 2000 hrs feeling adventurous.
I appear to be the only tourist here. They see me and just stare. It’s freaky.
I reckon Indians are crazy! They seem in love with poverty and snail slow progress. Actually, nah, they’re not crazy. There just so loosely programmed (not systematic) that I can’t make out the sense of them within such a short time frame. I reckon their driving methods may hold some insights.
They’re definitely the masters of having methods to madness. Image an unruly horde of motorbikes, 3 wheel cars (auto rickshaws), cars, buses and trucks racing each other down a people packed narrow city roadway. It’s a near miss everywhere but I’ve not seen an accident yet.
Suburban Mumbai is a city built around rubbish. There’s a homeless mass smeared throughout its nooks and crannies. Poor hygiene, the constant smell and rip-off merchants sabotage my first impressions of India.
Tomorrow I leave for Pune.
08-11-04 – To Pune: How To Buy A Bike?
I’ve seen the dramatic poverty. I’ve seen people shit by the sides of arterial roads. I’ve seen a lame legged man drag himself and a bundle of bedding across a busy street. No one helps him or even watches this tragic effort. It surprises me. I’ve seen a man of 40 lying unwashed and bare foot beside the footpath. A bloated face with eyes reserved for pain and questioned fear. He looks outward, unseeing. People walk pass his prostrate body and show no outward signs of compassion or sympathy. It’s all just a too common a sadness for Indians.
I’ve had harsh experiences of the Indian’s perspective of a foreigner, especially because I’m traveling solo which always carries a significant degree of vulnerability. Now, having being aggressively ripped off and my trust betrayed many times, I’ve begun to harbor an unhealthy opinion of Indians. In Pune, the Indians act like dry sponges sucking the liquid life of money from me, it seems more like psychological warfare than friendly haggling. I need more experience to filter out the good people.
10-11-04 – It’s Mayhem: Lucky Breaks For A Lucky Bastard.
I spent much of the third day in Pune (said ‘Puna’) researching bikes and investigating loopholes in the process of foreigners buying motorbikes from within the market place.
The short story is I’ve bought a 2004 TVS (Suzuki) Victor GL 115cc One-Cylinder Four Stroke for less than 1000 AUS but I’ve no registration papers, license or insurance. The upside is a few hundred rupee will keep the coppers away. There’s also the choice of simply not stopping for the police, apparently that works too.
The longer story includes a hardcore crash course in Indian haggling; discussions on Islamic religion with Islamic scholars; dinner with an auto rickshaw driver and his family in the poor quarter; building a trusting relationships with an Oman student to buy the bike under his name; getting the bike serviced; and then hitting the road for Goa. It’s been bloody intense and a great beginning.
I’ve been directed toward a beautiful plateau village (Panchgani) overlooking picturesque valleys and rivers. It’s the location of the biggest plateau in Asia. Here, purely by chance, I’ve found a place to camp with international paragliders and seasoned travelers. The advice from these guys is priceless. Explanations on how to haggle, the entrenched corruption and the general lack of systems in India have been enlightening.
The contrast between city and country Indians is powerful. I believe that Indians are very similar to the Australian aborigine – emotionally connected to the land and disinterested in systems and mental programming. Both cultures seem most peaceful in sparsely populated environments where their hearts can breath. With India’s population creeping upward to 1.3 billion, most are found in the cities were their character becomes poor.
14-11-04 – Goa Ahoy!
Panchgani to Goa was an intense trip. I’d ridden part way with another motorbike but that didn’t stop the suicidal entertainment. Along the way, my friends saw an old man walk across the road and get killed by a car; they saw another accident moments afterwards. I almost got cleaned up riding down the winding ravines of Asia’s largest plateau. The car missed me by the lean of the bike as I was taking a corner. He cut across the road. That kind of stupidity is expected now.
The other day an old man walked past me and on seeing me yelled out, “HELLO, good morning, no, good afternoon!” as he rushed over to me. He then continued to say, “Me greet you healthily! 1 rupee!” I was stunned. I mean, what the hell? He wanted money for saying hello with vigor. I had wondered what society would be like if they could make you pay for saying hello and goodbye. Seems India is one place where this can happen. I gave him the money after trying to politely get out of it. He wouldn’t move without me getting angry.