It was Johnny’s first day and what a day it was. He is the son of my wife’s friend and joined me for the walk for a week; he is 19. It was so good to have company, and someone that understood what I was saying. It had been nearly 4 weeks for me without this simple privilege.
I was worried that Johnny might struggle to get up at 4.00am, what with being jet lagged and working on a different time zone. But the boy did good and soon we were walking together, watching the sun come up in the best scenery I had seen so far.
As we walked, we talked and it was obvious that we were going to get on just fine. I was wondering if we would get as much attention from the locals being two of us, rather than me on my own. In fact we got more during the course of the walk. 50 or more people stopped. I explained to Johnny that people stop because they might want to help, they are curious or mostly they just want a selfie of a white man that is lost.
I told him that some people stop and offer to give you a lift, but that most of the time, I refuse. On some occasions, however, for the experience, I accept. Then I told Johnny that I had got lifts on all sorts of transport during the walk, but only after I had walked a certain distance first. After all I am supposed to be walking across India, not hitching.
I didn’t why but that day, I thought a tractor would stop, and I told Johnny that. He just looked at me as if to say why? That’s a bold comment. We walked on through several villages and we were swamped by friendly locals all wanting to know why we were walking and wearing ladies hats. I saw a fire station and took a photo.
We continued and the heat was picking up. We had been walking for nearly 15 km, and I was conscious of Johnny not being used to this walking lark, even though he was more than capable and obviously a lot, lot younger than me. Then, just as I predicted, a tractor pulled over and before we knew it, we were sitting on the back of a tractor full of corn. Johnny just couldn’t believe it and even though I had predicted it, we were both in shock. We boarded and lay amongst the grain, thinking how and why did this happen?
We didn’t stay long on the tractor and were soon walking again, and being stopped by every other motor bike or person we passed in the villages. After about 4 hours of walking and socializing, we reached the out skirts of the town we were going to stay in. Another vehicle stopped this time, a large 4 by 4 jeep. The guy driving poked his head out of the window and said he would like to help us and show us around. We refused the lift but I took his number, his name was Shiva. He invited us to his brother’s wedding, even though he’d just met us.
We asked further about his brother’s wedding, thinking we could stay and attend, but Shiva told us it was in two days’ time, so we had to decline and get back walking.
We found a great hotel with AC and Johnny named it The Ritz. Compared to where we had stayed last night, when Johnny had arrived late from the airport, this was a palace.
I asked him how he was feeling after the long walk, he replied that the walking itself was ok, but everything else that had happening was overwhelming. We had just settled into the room when I heard some drumming and loud music playing outside. I thought it was a wedding but I was wrong – it was a funeral. I just managed to get a photo of the massive parade of people that were following the dead body being carried through the streets.
As we walked into the town earlier I had noticed a barbers, a real Sweeney Todd’s. I mentioned to Johnnie that maybe later, we should get our haircut as it would be a laugh, and he agreed. So there we were, a haircut and a shave for both of us costing less than £1.50.
After the barbers, we returned to the hotel with almost no time to eat. But this day just kept on going, and just as we were relaxing, Shiva phoned and told us he was coming to get us. He was here from Mumbai for his brother’s wedding and wanted to show us around. He first bought us ice creams and water and then drove us to his family’s home where food was made especially for us. He explained that his family own a timber yard and sawmill which we were able to look around. Hence the name of this blog.
He then drove us down to see the Godavari River; it was so dry. It was also so hot my phone and camera wouldn’t operate temperatures was over 45 degrees.
We were just walking back to the car to get out of the heat when I noticed a fire burning on the banks of the river. Shiva explained this was a funeral and the body was being burnt. It was the same body we had witnessed earlier from the balcony of the hotel.
We then went for a second ride and discovered Shiva had planned a boat trip. We stopped by the side of the road; again we were soon joined by the whole village as Shiva bought us sugar cane juice. What a guy! We had only just met him and he was treating us like royalty. He then said stop thanking me, this is what travelling is all about people helping other people. So true I thought, I hope I could return the compliment one day.
Just as we got back into the car with all his family and were about to set off to the boat ride, Shiva was told it was closed. That didn’t deter Shiva; the boats maybe closed, he said, we’ll go to the temple instead, so we did.
We approached the temple and soon Shiva and his family were showing us around.After being approached by more people in the temple, it was time to get away from the crowds and to the safety of the hotel. This is what it must feel like to be famous. We said goodbye to Shiva who was planning to meet us again tomorrow. But before he left us he went out to buy us bananas and water.
Johnny laid on the bed speechless. I just smiled and we were just about to call it a day, when Shiva phoned to say he’d got our bananas and water, but also that the local press were with him. They wanted to interview me there and then. I put the phone down, opened the door of the hotel room, where Johnny was laying on the bed, nearly asleep.
‘J’, I said ‘the press are here and are coming up to our room right now’. Johnny quickly got off the bed and sorted his hair.
They interviewed us for 10 minutes with Shiva translating and also gave us the bananas and water.
The next morning we had to catch a bus to the next village so we could safely walk the distance in the time allowed. An old guy got on the bus, he looked at me and then looked again, so many people stare at me I didn’t give it a second thought. Then he looked again and closely looked at the newspaper he was reading. Then he showed me the newspaper and there we were in the press of a local Indian paper. Unbelievable!
Soon the whole bus knew we were famous and were aware of the good reasons we were walking. We got off the bus to start the next day’s walk and everyone on the bus shook our hands and clapped us. We waved as the bus left and we put our rucksack on and started to walk.