Home Comforts On The High Seas
It was midnight on New Years' Eve when we finally pulled away from the docks and left the twinkling lights of Bombay behind us. We were high up on the bridge watching the fireworks over the city and the flares over the naval dockyards. A chorus of droning horns reverberated across the water as the ships around us welcomed in the New Year.
We knew we were mentally and physically wrecked after nearly three months in the subcontinent, but we didn't realize just how much until we were engulfed by the giant blue stillness of the ocean.
When we weren't sleeping we were made to feel at home by the Norwegian captain and his international crew, especially Yapa, the ship's Sri Lankan steward. Each morning Yapa would put us on the scales in the kitchen to make sure we were putting back on all the weight lost in India.
Weird food bugs had been circulating around our bodies for some time. No sooner did we get rid of one, than another one would rear its ugly head. We thought we were doing the right thing by purchasing recycled five litre containers of mineral water - only to discover that the plastic container wasn't the only thing that had been recycled.
Somewhere in the middle of the Rajasthani desert Lowanna noticed her stomach was becoming increasing bubbly. She diagnosed and treated herself for Giardia and was back on her feet in no time. I on the other hand had a whole heap of other strange symptoms. For a moment we even thought I'd caught Malaria!
We tried to recuperate in Pushkar but ended up leaving the place thinner and weaker than when we'd arrived. Pushkar might have been great fifty years ago but today there is nothing spiritual about the place. Spirituality is for sale. You can buy it, hire it, rent it, smoke it, sleep with it and eat it. Even the coat hook on the back of our bedroom door was embossed with the company name: GURU.
Like so much of India, nothing made much sense in Pushkar. The holy lake was in a disgusting state; the ghats were lined with huge piles of rubbish and broken glass, yet we were still not allowed to wear shoes at the waters edge. When you're not saving your soul you can buy loads of brightly coloured local gear, thus generating one of those strange situations where everyone looks like everyone else used to look like before they discovered each others clothes.
Unfortunately due to all the sickness we didn't have the strength to do quite as much cycling in India as we'd hoped. Lowanna had lost a little weight, but I had dropped from my usual 70kgs right down to 60kgs!
Feeling too weak to cycle the last 1000kms to Bombay we experienced the delights of Indian train travel instead. We splashed out on an air-conditioned sleeper carriage (needing some comfort by this point!) and, after a maddening few hours trying to complete several huge forms in triplicate at the station, we had a wonderful time gliding our way through Rajasthan and Maharastra.
When the time came to board our cargo ship we could not believe how luxurious it was. Our cabin was so big it was practically a house, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fridge and a lounge area!
We spent many hours on-deck, talking through our Indian experience. Both of us felt completely spent of our desire to travel. For the first time on this journey we seriously thought about calling it a day and jumping on a plane to Sydney. It felt as though all the pleasure of travel had disappeared.
But the fresh air, hearty food, salty swims and endless sleeps on board the Hoegh Dyke gave us renewed optimism. And now that we have arrived in Singapore we are beginning to feel those little tingles of excitement about the next chapter...