Wednesday December 30th, 2015
We were starting to become obsessed with the English breakfast of beans and toast with eggs that we had been eating recently most mornings. After getting our fill, we helped load up the truck and prepared for the long drive to the Indian border. We passed by several quaint little Nepali towns. Trevor mentions his adoration for the simplicity of life out here. I liked the colorful and beautifully decorated mansions randomly scattered around the rural shacks and small shops. It created an odd balance and symmetry that was pleasing to the eye.
There was a constant reminder of the fuel shortage every time we passed a functioning gas station. A mile-long line of cars, trucks, and motorbikes bordered the street as they waited for their turn to fill their tanks. As we approached the border to enter India, we saw a few petrol trucks heading in the opposite direction. We hoped that they were there to deliver the goods to the great people of Nepal rather than showing up empty-handed.
Before crossing the border into the town of Sonauli, we had to get our departure stamp from the Nepali side. This process was incredibly quick. We showed our stamp to an Indian border patrol official, crossed the border, and then filled out a similar form to get our Indian entry stamp. We handed Jules our passports and forms, exchanged some money, then returned to the office to retrieve our passports so the border patrol officials could see us in person as he returned them. This part of the process went just as smoothly as our Nepal departure, however we had to wait 15-30 minutes to get approval for the truck. At least that was what we were told. As we waited, we headed to a tiny restaurant nearby that served spicy noodles and momos.
I went upstairs to use the bathroom, a squat toilet of course, and it was already clogged. I did my business, not knowing how to unclog a hole in the floor. This isn’t the kind of plumbing I’m generally used to. On top of that, I didn’t have any toilet tissue handy. I cursed myself, then did as the locals do and used a bucket of water to shamefully rinse my bum. This was probably one of the most impure and unsanitary moments I’ll ever experience, but desperate times cause for desperate measures! Don’t judge me!
As I was miserably making my way back downstairs, to add insult to injury, the inhabitants of the building stopped me to take a selfie. Something you must know before traveling to India, EVERYONE wants their picture with you. You can probably find us in many family photo albums throughout India, and on random social media pages. It’s a peculiar thing, especially when you’ve just had a very unhygienic and distressing visit to the toilet, and now they probably think you were the one who clogged it! No bottle of hand sanitizer should be left behind, folks!
We were given an update on the truck. It would take another “30 minutes” to process. I quote this since their definition of time isn’t quite the same as ours. So we decided to wander around the dusty border town and get our first real feel for Indian life.
India is an assault on the senses and has some of the best people watching there is. A guy tried to sell us whiskey rather discreetly. Apparently, we were in a dry state. He pointed at a few stumbling drunks and a man passed out on the side of the street with poop-stained pants, while telling us that they were “celebrating.” We’d see an ambulance pull over to pick him up later. I’m honestly not sure if he was dead or not.
Another guy kept asking us for 10 rupees so he could buy cigarettes and thought the year was 2017 when it was only 2015. They really were celebrating around here. A few women toting around babies approached us sternly waving their palms at us begging for money. The border patrol officers were either dressed in uniform or were wearing fuzzy green vests. One of them that we would later name “Afro Ears,” had the fluffiest ears I’ve ever seen, and kept harassing us for reasons unknown.
Remember when I told you Indians have a different definition of time? About five hours passed before we had the truck back on the road at 4:30 pm. We eventually arrived in Gorakhpur.
It was nighttime, but the town was still very much awake and bustling. We got checked into the “Hotel President” and thought we’d finally be able to settle. The moment we entered our room, we were alerted by a very loud doorbell and greeted by one of the staff members who wanted to give us an anti-mosquito plug-in for our room. Five seconds later, the doorbell would scare the shit out of me yet again, and another staff member tried to hand us another plug-in. They were really gunning for tips! Hotel rooms in India, and some households as well, have many, many electrical switches on the wall which confused me. This was something I’d never adjust to, so turning a light on would become a daily struggle.
We did our best “Frogger” impression as we crossed the street in search of a place to eat. We ended up joining a few of the others at Pizza Hut. An un-adventurous choice perhaps, but I was too tired for any exciting undertakings. The pizza surprisingly, tasted just like it does at home, so my taste buds were pleased.
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety