The Long and Trying Road…
(set to the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road”, with alternate titles “The Long and Boring Road” and “The Long and Horrid Road”).
Indian National Highway 8 is a six-lane behemoth that tested every last ounce of our physical and mental capacity.
At it’s best, Hwy 8 is a straight, smooth, fast way to cover a lot of ground on the approach into Mumbai.
For much of it, though, especially in Gugarat state, it is a never-ending construction zone, loud and crowded, with traffic coming at you from both directions and not a lick of shade for hours. Some stretches offer hour-after-hour of wall-to-wall factories lining the way.
This is where I learned to really appreciate the value of having a good audiobook on my iPod. I listened to the same thing three times through as I thirsted for more distraction in the three extremely long days that we cycled Hwy 8 from Vadodara to the outskirts of Mumbai.
Adding to our problems were a nasty bout with food poisoning that we suffered after a stop at the ultra-modern ‘Sugar-n-Spice’ restaurant along the way. We weren’t even really hungry at the time, but out of boredom and wonder we stopped at this American-style diner and double-dosed on something nasty and got us both good and ill.
The other challenge that we faced was that hotels wouldn’t rent rooms to us. After a lot of frustration upon coming into a place with an empty parking lot and being told that it was ‘Full’, we finally came to understand that they didn’t want to rent to foreign tourists because they didn’t want to deal with reporting passport information to the government. Upmarket places might be willing to rent to us, but budget places were unlikely, and forget about roadside hotels.
This led to some frustration, but it also led to an interesting experience as we camped at a temple and shared chai Tea with a guru. As India struggles to deal with their terrorism threats, though, they are going to need to find ways to diminish threats without alienating well-intentioned tourists.