Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Road to Manali

Saturday, July 14 - Onward to Manali
When we got off the plane in India last night, we discovered that our tickets to fly to Manali this a.m. were of no use. The only airline company to fly to an airport close to Manali decided to go on strike. Our leaders got us into the same hotel we will be staying in later in the week. To accommodate our 17 plus people, the Orphan Outreach leader and our Indian leader had quite a task. We arrived at our hotel at about 2:30 am here. We were more than exhausted having been 24 hours awake.

While we waited for the bus to take us to the hotel, there were many people hanging around the airport in the middle of the night. One person in our group saw a man walking with his family who had two knives strapped to his belt.

As we left the airport, I saw 5 guards parked in a jeep with one seated behind an automatic weapon, aimed a what, I don’t know. I saw another armed guard as we left the airport grounds.

After a short night , we met for  breakfast at the hotel restaurant and had an amazing Indian breakfast. I had a thin crepe-like fried pancake on which I put three flavorful sauces on different pieces as I ate them. The sauce flavors were coconut, like a basil pesto, and a mixture with lentils in it. There were other mixtures that included chickpeas and curry. Rice seems to be a favorite staple.

We boarded the bus and I was thankful to be able to go to see the children I've been imagining for so long.
Orphan Outreach has a full-time employee to arrange all travel, meals . . . in India. His name is Uma and he works very hard to accommodate the many changes like what happened to us. He said one good thing about this bus trip instead of flying is that we would get to see the countryside.

Going through the city of New Delhi was amazing. It was truly crazy. I will tell you as much as I can about the many things I have seen and am experiencing that are so different than our culture in the posts to come. I think everyone but Uma had their cameras up to the bus windows as we experienced India for the first time. We make jokes about tourist buses full of Japanese picture takers through the bus windows, well, I now am one. I have many photos to share as I have time to assemble them. I also hope to have a travelogue at church and with as many of you as would like to see them and to hear about this amazing trip.

Once we left the city, the land was flat and there were many fields of rice. I saw water buffalo for the first time. For lunch today, we stopped at McDonald’s. This is India, so on the menu, there were no hamburgers, but they did have a Chicken Maharaja Mac. While we waited for our food the electricity went off and on twice. As I walked into the building, I got to see and smell jasmine flowers along the sidewalk.   

We have been told that the men like to approach women who encourage them. Some of our young and beautiful team members didn't realize that the men we encountered were encouraged by the way they related to them when we would stop for a bathroom break. There was a car load of them that showed up many miles into the mountains at two of the breaks. This was scary, and we all learned not to make conversation, eye contact or do anything that might be thought of as encouragement. 

After about 10 or so hours the land began to become mountainous. 
(Here is what I wrote as the bus traveled into the mountains. Picture me sitting in a bus seat with my lap top in the dark typing like crazy so I'd be distracted from looking out the window.)

I will agree, it was VERY interesting. I will add to his thought, it is very good that we entered the mountains at night. This ride is interesting and a bit scary. Right now we are on the only road to Manali and it is a major truck route. It is 2 lanes.  Although it is 9 pm on Sat. night, the road has bumper-to-bumper trucks in both lanes. It is now dark, so we can’t see how close we are to the edge of the mountains. When I asked you to pray in the last blog entry, I didn’t imagine how dangerous the mountain roads would be. Our leaders had to sign a waiver to prevent us from suing them if there should be an accident. The roads are very narrow and there is only inches between vehicles when they meet each other.  The road has many switchbacks and the surface is very bumpy so we are bouncing and swaying. There are hairpin turns and very short straight sections between the turns. The mountain comes right down to the road and there is very little shoulder on the opposite side of the road. Another contributing factor is that in the straight sections there are  trucks parked along side the road on both sides to rest and stop for the night. Our bus driver has to have skill at turning this bus on the switchback roads and quick reflexes as cars are parked and are meeting us at the same time. Picture this: our bus, a long vehicle, has to make wide turns on these hairpin curves. (Remember, we are in the left hand lane  in India.) The on-coming traffic (which includes trucks, cars, and motorcycles) is coming toward us. So this is what we see: headlights coming at us IN THE RIGHT HAND LANE and we are over there making a wide turn, now factor in NO GUARDRAILS. Oh, yes here is one more factor. Because this is an uphill grade, some vehicles move slowly, so it means that vehicles must pass on this road.

I just looked out the window and saw two black cows wandering alongside the road. They are everywhere, just like you have always heard. Since they don’t wear headlamps, they are a bit difficult to spot in the dark.

I decided I couldn’t watch much more, so I practiced calculating Rupee–to-dollar tables in my head then I decided to write this. Anna just mentioned that our 35 or so pieces of luggage in the bottom of the bus helps lower our center of gravity and makes us more stable.

Let me say that all you have heard about Indian driving is true.  It has to be experienced to believe.

Uma said that traffic rules are just suggestions and the lines on the road are for decoration. When a vehicle comes to a blind curve, another vehicle, or pedestrian in the road, they blow their horn and just keep going figuring that the other people driving or walking have been warned.

At one hairpin turn a truck broke its axle. The nose was up against the mountain and the back was hanging out into the road blocking one lane and part of the other. There were rocks along the cliff side of the shoulder of the road. It looked like the truck had been abandoned, but then I noticed the door was open and I could see the bottom of two feet where the driver was laying down in the cab. I could see the axle laying on the pavement. Our bus came to a stop so our driver could decide if we could get around the truck without going over the cliff. He decided he could. He inched forward between the cliff and rock (guard rail) and the truck. There was only 2 inches between us and the truck as we went past it. I was on the side of the truck, I am thankful I wasn't on the side of the bus where I'd see how close we were to the cliff. 

(We heard later that after we passed through, there was a huge traffic backup. Others weren't fortunate as we were to get through.)

The good thing about this bus trip instead of the plane is that it has allowed us to share with one another, and to bond before we meet the children tomorrow. We also have had a chance to rest and recover from the jet lag. If we’d flown into Manali we would be jumping in tired and without this time together.

Oh yes, I see lightning in the distance. We were told that there could be a thunderstorm tonight. It is now 10pm. We left Delhi at 10.00 am. There are another 5 hours left before we arrive. Uma just said when we see the kids tomorrow and see how much they are looking forward to our visit, it will make this crazy bus ride all worth it  (I thought in my head, kinda like childbirth.)

Please continue pray for us. We meet the kids tomorrow and will be here until Wed. when we take this bus ride back to New Delhi if the airline is still on strike.

God is good. I have heard the stories of some of my team members. They are very inspiring. Last night when it ‘hit the fan’  and it looked like we might not be able to come to Manali  at all, our leaders and team members were very calm. I saw two team members with their heads bowed asking God to be in charge.. . . . and here we are on our way.

If you want to follow this trip there is also a blog and there is a photo of us with all the luggage last night at the airport. It was taken as we waited for the bus to take us to our hotel. John Balyo is with us from WCSG 91.3. He posted the picture on Facebook so you can go to their page to see the picture. He tagged me, so it might be on my Facebook page too.

BTW: India would be a great place to be in sales for vehicle brakes and horns.

Keep Praying,

No comments:

Post a Comment