Up at dawn or earlier. It seemed earlier. And down the meet the car. Tom and Tim are meeting their driver for a day trip to Agra. But I’m off for a much longer trip.
Vikrant, my driver is from Dharamsala area and his family has been there for ages he tells me. He’s anxious to get out of Delhi before the traffic gets bad. Bad traffic in Delhi is taking the word “bad” to a whole new level just as hot in Delhi in August is another kind of hot.
We get out of town without much trouble – if you allow for the normal behavior of Indian drivers. Every truck and bus has painted on the back “Blow Horn” as if anyone driving in India needed to be told to do that. And the mysterious “Use Dipper at Night” which does not mean use the Big Dipper to navigate on the dark roads, but instead to flash your lights if you want to pass. This in place of blowing your horn.
Outside of Delhi the road is pretty good. A divided highway with median flanked by dhabas, combinations of tea houses and truck stops. A ways out, we stop for milk tea and whatever breakfast I might like. None. A every warning about health and eating starts flashing in my head. Nonetheless I take some hot milk tea with Vikrant. He buys some mysterious packaged food favored by Indian drivers and we’re off.
In a few hours, it’s lunch time. Seems like we’ve made very good progress. We pull over at a very sophisticated stop that has heritage gifts and a garden restaurant. Over to the edge if the parking lot a camel is tethered. The only camel I see while in India. Vikrant assures me that camels are normal here and everywhere. For his part the camel seems completely unimpressed by anything on the hightway.
The place (see pic) is clean and very nice. Vikrant noticed that I was not all that happy with the dhaba earlier. It’s already getting pretty hot. Vikrant announces that we are half way to Dharamsala. This is amazing, we’ve come far fast. This is a warning of things to come had I thought more deeply.
Food. I thought I knew Indian food but the menu is completely alien to me except for veg. Pakora and stuffed bread. Both of which I order and enjoy. I did get tricked by what looked like a green bean pakora. That turned out to be a chili! It was the only hot part of the meal.
A twelve hour drive has a lot of time in which nothing happens. We’re in that space now. Until we turn off on to a single strip of road heading into a hillier area. Good bye highway.