After four weeks of this special “togetherness”, there have been dramas on and off the bus. As is to be expected, cliques have formed, and no lack of gossip at each stop along the way. In the reality show version of this trip, these small conversations on camera would have been priceless. Some of the personalities on this bus are surely as eccentric or as completely “out there” as you would see on a reality show.
I knew I should have brought Leslie on this trip with us! Maybe then the royalties from the reality show could pay for the trip!
We have a 400k day today to Mumbai after four incredible days viewing outstanding ruins (Palaces and tombs within the extensive Fort and town of Mandu) and the magnificent cave paintings and stone carvings at Ellora and Ajanta. Although we still feel incredibly rushed through this 82 day trip of India, we have managed to get past the culture “shock” and are beginning to really concentrate on the culture. We have also started to take advantage of the opportunities to upgrade our accommodations when we really need some pampering (or we simply can’t stomach the choices Dragoman has chosen for us).
Our 82 day trip as many of you know is broken down into four sections. While there are five of us that are on board for the whole trip, there are nine-10 people that come and go as the trip progresses. About four of them will be with us for three for the four parts. So there is a core of nine people that are in for the long haul so to speak. Mumbai marks the end of the second leg, and we will be saying our goodbyes to Miro and Magdalena, who have been with us from the start. It will be very sad to see them go, as it was to see Silje and Nicolai at the end of the first leg. Both couples were full of character and spice and the dynamics will likely never be the same.
But such is life on the road. Four new people will be joining us in Mumbai and from the sound of it, three of the four are our age more or less which should be great. We meet them tomorrow night and the cycle begins again.
I have not been very good at updating you as to the status of our Dragoman vehicle that has been stuck in customs at some border since weeks before the beginning of our trip. We were notified at the end of the first leg of the trip that the situation is day-to-day but not terribly hopeful. In typical Indian fashion, the vehicle cannot be let out of customs, and cannot shipped back. Some crazy catch 22 that will probably bankrupt our tour company before it is resolved. Fees are being paid each day for parking the bus at the customs bay, paying off numerous people that end up doing nothing and fixers who claim to be helping but can’t promise anything (To the tune of $25,000 at last count which was three weeks ago. It has probably doubled by now.)
On the bright side, Dragoman has promised to issue a credit to all of us for $125 for each leg of the trip that we are without our truck and have to suffer the local Indian bus and drivers. This suits us just fine (although the Dragoman vehicle would be much better), since we now see another Dragoman trip in our future for free! So secretly, now that we are over our culture shock and quite comfortable in our Indian bus, we are hoping the Dragoman vehicle stays safely in customs until the end of our 82 days! The other bonus is no camping! And as the weather has finally changed from freezing to hot and sticky, the idea of communing with nature (and all the creepy crawlies that come with it) is far from the top of any of our wish lists.
Marc was hoping to write about our days in Mandu Ellora and Ajanta, but he seems to have another flu and may not get around to it for a few days, so I will simply add photos here from Mandu and if he gets around to writing I will add the photos of Ellora and Ajanta.