I was delayed 4 hours so missed my first chance to meet my new group all together. To tour the South of India I chose to go with ‘Dragoman’ they are an overland truck company and our trusty truck ‘ Kristina’ will take us overland from Mumbai to Chennai with 14 destinations along the way coveringon early 3,000 miles!
On this tour ( as some people are on the truck from Kathmandu, completing a circuit of India all the way around back to Kathmandu) there are 18 travellers and 2 crew. Jenny is the leader, a slender lady from Boston USA and when she drives this giant truck we get a lot of attention from the Indian drivers but she doesnt take any messing! ( ive only seen one woman driving here and that was in cosmipolitain Mumbai) and Martin is her co pilot from Cardiff in Wales, he is fairly new to Dragoman and has only been in India as long as me.
In this group there are a lot more Brits- 11 of us with 2 Canadian girls, 3 Mexican girls, 1 Italien lady and 1 Swiss girl. 19 new people to get to know…one of which is my new room mate Sarah from Kent. She has come to India even though she is pretty much scared of everything! Sarah is a great room mate with a passion for Skype, giggling, twirl chocolate bars ( from England) and pickled onion monster munch! ( from England) I keep thinking…what will happen when she runs out?
As I only had the one night in Mumbai I decided to grab taxi and go on a quick tour of Mumbai. I met Marge in the restaurant, another new arrival and she joined me. We got a black taxi with a yellow roof…the ones I have seen on films associated with India and visit India Gate, the famous Taj Hotel, the port and beach area all in just over an our. Mumbai felt very rich to me, coming over the big toll bridge on arrival, the sky line reminded me of Hong Kong…sky scrapers with lights and lasers coming out. I saw bentleys and other big fancy cars …err…white ones..
I saw very grand carriages, silver coloured with flowers, pulled by horses and steered by men.
I didn’t get to visit the slums as a lot of people do but on arrival at the airport I could see one area practically on the runway…hundreds of shacks huddled together, lots of little children running around and lots of little fires burning. More than half of the population live like this in Mumbai.
We leave very early on the truck to head out to Goa. It’s a loooong way! We have to wild camp. ‘Kristina’ has everything on board…tents, mats, tables, chairs, firewood, a stove, cooking and cleaning equipment.
We position our camp beside a beautiful lake…no one around for miles…and no toilets. So everyone calls it ‘ using the bush toilet.’ I’m pleased to announce I had no need to use the shovel…and let’s just say I’m not going into it!
We set up our tent…actually…that’s a lie…Martin does a demonstration tent set up and I bagsy it for us! We are positioned beautifully right next to a load of …what someone informs me is Rhino shit ( I’m sorry I always seem to be talking about shit! ) and then everyone tells me stories of how the another rhino might sniff it out and then sit on us during the night! Great!
In the tent next to us is Will Bill and Carol, a lovely couple ( nearly same age as my mum & Dad) I call him Will Bill as he said ” I have a lot of names…will, bill, billy…” but Will and Bill I remember most. They are from Stoke and they informed us that we have more to worry about than Rhinos with Will Bills snoring!
Jenny cooks us a delicious vegetarian spaghetti and we all crowd round the fire as the sunsets and get to know each other.
I don’t get much sleep as the ground is so hard and it gets so cold… I’m so happy when the sun rises…phew I survived…
I stumble out of my tent looking and feeling wonderful and then proceed to stand on a really sharp thorn and my foot starts to bleed (the first of many annoying aliments…) it swells and goes really red…but I still have to pack up my tent and the dirty stove ( my camping job) I can feel the annoyance of everything starting to bubble up…I have really dirty finger nails and would do anything for a hot shower but I keep smiling through my gritted teeth…my first real test of patience I’m thinking….
” God I hope Goa is nice” I start saying to myself… And I need’nt have worried…ahhhh