So this was the plan: meet the family and we all walk the last 5km together. Sounds easy, but it is all in the timing. Michelle and the boys had flown out to meet me and were staying the night in Rajahmundry, because it would have been too late to meet up that evening. I was spending my last night in a place called Ramachandrapuram and we had planned to meet in Yanam, my final destination.
It was a bad last night. The hotel was awful and the noise of people talking and enjoying themselves had kept me awake for most of the night. When I got up at 4.00am, I certainly wasn’t feeling my best. But now I was working on nervous energy and was so much looking forward to seeing my family again, that one night’s missed sleep was not going to keep me down.
After a 1km walk to the bus station, I managed to catch the 5.30am bus into Yanam. I had figured out that I had almost three hours walking before I met the family. My last walk alone, and I didn’t really know what I was expecting. But, like most things that have happened to me on this journey, it was amazing. I had decided to take a path and walk the closest I could get following the Godavari on its last journey into the Bay of Bengal. Here the river and I had something in common: we were both coming to the end of our long journey.
After leaving the bus behind and really not wanting to see another Indian bus ever again, I was walking again. I thought I would feel emotional, as I have been for a lot of the days when I was walking alone for hours. But I really didn’t feel that way at all. I was just determined to concentrate on the moment and enjoy the present. This was the end and I was going to enjoy every last moment.
I walked through Yanam and I was really impressed by how clean it was compared to most of the towns I had walked through. People were just going about their morning routines of brushing their teeth and emptying their bowels on the streets, something that after nearly 5 weeks out in early morning India I have got so used to seeing.
It wasn’t long before I found myself walking next to the river. It was just a track and my friend, Google Maps, was guiding me all the way.
People were working on the river, and working hard. They were dredging sand from the bottom of the river and filling their boats to such a point it was unbelievable that they were not sinking. Shiva, a friend I had met a few days ago, told me that the collecting of this sand was totally illegal. I am not sure if this was true or not, but these people certainly didn’t seem at least bit shy, or embarrassed by what they were doing.
I had a thought, and wondered what damage collecting this amount of sand could be causing to the river. But this was big business and with the amount of cement this country uses, sand is a necessity. I met more locals and a guy on a motor bike followed me along the path, and got me to take photos of every sandgrounder that I passed, the workers enjoy posing for the camera. All smiles and cheers, as I clicked away. These guys were wearing nothing expect their under pants and a towel wrapped around their heads. This was heavy work, not just dredging the sand, but also carrying it to the shore. One guy poses showing his muscles and sweat, as the heat bears down at 7.30am.
Soon I left the river and followed a path inland, heading towards a small village I could see in the distance. I needed to find the main road where I had planned to meet the family. I came to a mass of open land, and here I saw children playing cricket. They called me over. I was going to decline my last game of cricket purely because of the time and the meeting that I had planned. But I couldn’t resist a quick bat and bowl. Right arm over, spin, with the rucksack still on my back. Some young kid played and missed; the ball just misses his off stump, the crowd groans. Then it was my turn to bat, and I stroked the ball through the covers but I didn’t run – the rucksack was too heavy.
I soon found the road and had to walk quickly to time the meeting of the family who are travelling by car to meet me. I spoke to Michelle on the phone and we arranged to meet each other at a petrol garage near a jetty that goes into the Godavari. The timing was slightly out and the car with all of them in pulled up alongside me. I told them to continue on and I would meet them at the garage. The driver of the car really couldn’t understand what was going on. But it just wouldn’t work, stopping the car on a single track road and all start hugging and kissing each other. I arrived at the garage and we all embraced.
But the walk had to continue and we all still had over an hour of walking to complete. But not without a dip in the water first. I have had many opportunities to swim in the great river and each time I have turned it down, wanting to save this for the end of the walk. The jetty I had in mind was not ideal, but this would be my only chance. The two boys and myself stripped down and got ready to enter the water. We were in a small fishing community and with 5 minutes, word had got around and soon we had about 30 boys and men watching us in amazement. The water was not too clean and the mud on the bottom felt like sinking sand but we still took the dip.
After a change of clothes, we were soon back walking. Andrew, my oldest son, was not feeling too well and walking in this heat was really not doing him much good at all. The driver that Michelle had paid to be with us all day just followed us as we walked along. I felt that at last I had a guide and the driver just thought we were all start raving mad!
The walk would finish at a tower called The Obelisk Tower in Yanam. This was the place I had tried to picture in my mind for weeks. From here you could climb up a 100 meters and see the Godavari entering the sea. It was also a replica of the Eiffel Tower and was in the middle of nowhere.
90 minutes later, walking with my family, I reached the end of this massive journey. Again I thought this would be an emotional moment, but it wasn’t. It simply just felt good.
We took the lift to the top of the tower and the last photos were taken.
We got down from the tower and the driver was waiting, my walking had finished. But all the memories will forever be remembered.