At times, one is more than ready to make tracks, and as the callous winter Levante gusts mercilessly outside, I am having warm (if not wet!) dreams of exotic lands. Bombay dreams, to be exact.
In a couple of weeks time, Andrew and I are to embark on another ill-planned, ill-equipped and doubtlessly, ill-advised voyage to less occidental climes. This time we head for the miraculous menagerie that is India.
Andrew had said, after our most recent, and somewhat hazardous expedition to the far east, that this year he would like to opt for a more gentle sojourn. Perhaps the tropical paradise of Goa for a few weeks. Relaxing. Some Yoga, some yogis, a hammock, and of course, a cold glass of Indian lager. It sounded splendid.
I obviously took in all of his requests when forming a rough itinerary, unfortunately it seems I have unwittingly managed to ignore most of them, resulting in what could be, a bloody rough itinerary!
I have, of course, included the touristic state of Goa, as requested, within our plans, but have also added a few, shall we say, more adventurous locations. After all, who wants to recline on boring beach when one can just as easily lay back on a small 2nd class berth and chug all the way to a crumbling medieval fort on the porous border with Pakistan?
Who wants to float calmly in the warm Arabian Sea when one could so simply be rocking, unsteadily on an angry camel, lurching deep into the cold, starlit sand dunes of the harsh Thar Desert?
And who on earth would consider chilling out with a kick from a cocktail on one’s comfortable verandah? Who? When it is almost as convenient to kick back on a rickety night bus for eighteen hours – spluttering one’s fume-filled way through plains and jungles in search of an unfashionable city that no-ones ever heard of!
Who would prefer that kind of easy, safe, happy-go-lucky, no responsibility kind of trip? Not us. No. Not The Lola Boys!
After all, having once managed to stave off an attack by two doped-up Andalusian serfs, (replete with concrete filled shopping trolley and flick knife), a little grubbiness here and there is not gonna faze us. We’ll just about almost certainly cope.
It really does seem such a shame to visit a country of such diversity and not – diversify. A land where I am told adventures always occur, though not necessarily when you most expect . And never punctually, according to E.M.Forester, whose ‘A passage to India’ has partly inspired this, our latest adventure.
Our passage to India.
Or rather, our back passage to india! Much more relevant, as I am planning on us taking some of the lesser known highways and byways. The revealing back alleys and hind quarters that often give away much more about a country than the ‘attractions’ one is supposed to see.
I haven’t run this aspect by Andrew yet. But I’m fairly sure he’ll assuage my more ‘Whickeresque’ foibles and tag along . After all, there is always more fun to be had on the road less travelled – both good and bad.
I do hope Andrew agrees!
We fly to the great city of Bombay, or Mumbai as it is now known, at the end of this month. Nearly everything is in order. Hooray for Bollywood.
We have been immunised against most of the dangers, but of course there will always be some risks for which one cannot make preparations. But, as we have definitely decided on travelling together, there is not much to be done on this matter.
It will be just the two of us, two rucksacks and a bottle opener! There are no precautions that can be taken for this type of behaviour, so one can only hope that ‘Lakshmi’, the Indian goddess of good fortune, is grinning manically down upon us whilst we are making our expedition. In fact it would be good if she could glance this way at present too, to aid us with the art of applying for a Visa to enter the great subcontinent.
Applying for an Indian tourist visa has often seemed akin to gnawing off one’s own foreskin without the help of an anaesthetic! And that has been when the going has been fairly easy. Of course, I’m sure bureaucracy in Mother India is only so frustrating and unnecessarily complicated as the country was taught by the world’s best when it comes to pushing paper – The British!
It has taken me five international phone calls, four registered, handwritten letters, and twenty-seven emails just to secure an interview to make an application. I have learnt more about my forebears, whilst filling in the required documentation, than I would have if appearing on an episode of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. AND – we still ain’t there yet! We have yet to submit our photographs, as those on our passports quite obviously do not suffice. The required images have to be a particular size and shape, one that seems to differ to any other standard photo size in any other country, in any other universe. The only sure way of achieving the correct height and width seems to be to use the specified photo booth situated inside the office at the Indian mission – for a cool tenner ! Very industrious indeed.
Still, I have breathed away any irritation as any good yogi would, and am making sure we do whatever it takes so that we are allowed through that glorious gateway to India and onwards into the intoxicating unknown.
I can’t wait to get our bellies into Delhi. To dip our phalanges into the Ganges. To explore this wonderfully complex place. The ancient, the modern, the heavenly, the hellish, the unfathomable – we’re ready to experience it all, and then blab about it.
Well, most of it!
Who knows what we’ll find? Maybe ourselves!!!
I hope you enjoy our ‘back passage to India’ – and come to that, I hope we do too.
Wish us luck.
May Lakshmi smile upon us.