It is a car trip between Corbett national park and Agra. Like Dante’s imagined circles of hell with each circle increasing in devilish potency culminating in the traitors trifecta this all to real hell might actually culminate with my death.
The first circle innocuous enough is the inability to gauge how far we have to go with simple math. It is a circle where the destination never gets reached because everything is in kilometers and the basic rules to estimate approximate time don’t exist. I keep trying to estimate if we are averaging 40kmph and we have 160km to go to go we should reach our destination in approximately 4 hours. WRONG!!!! There is no such concept as an average speed limit you stand still for an hour you go 90kmph for 5 minutes. It’s anybody’s guess.
The second circle Is the previously mentioned honking. When used on the comparatively fast mountain roads the system makes some sense, when used in an urban setting with cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, pedestrians and over loaded carts, cows, dogs and goats it’s a nonsensical and painful sound of ineffectual driving.
The third circle is that it is apparently wedding season which fabulous in its own right is causing a variety of what I can only describe as street vendor dance parties everywhere. There are these amazing little street vendor carts decked out with what appear to be old gramophone speakers and crazy chandelier hats that are basically lights worn by men and music and dancing in the street with a full marching band and a guy on a horse which I would normally find amazing and interesting now causes me headaches with the extra loud music and subsequent 30 min parking lot it causes on a city street. We’ve passed over 20.
The fourth circle is the air temperature and quality combined with a possible upper respiratory infection and already compromised ability to breathe. It’s desperately hot but the windows can’t be kept open for long because the combination of smog, pollution and dust in the air making it both impossible to breathe but difficult for the driver to see out the window.
The fifth circle is the roads themselves if you can call them that even. I think only my Kenya DePaul compatriots can even come close to understanding the pain. The unfinished road from Nairobi to Mombasa pales in comparison to this journey. You will have nice roads for 10 minutes and then you’ve hit the surface of the moon with craters and ridges and unbelievable bumps and grinding gears and numb asses and heads hitting the ceiling and the window and each other. And that is of course before you factor in the 8 million other people, animals and vehicles on the road too.
The sixth circle is the constant near death experiences mostly from head on collisions but with a few t-bone scares as well. I cannot describe with any accuracy how many times I actually with complete seriousness thought holy shit we’re going to actually get hit this time–and I am not one for outright panic. Kris tends to be the worrier/anxious one of the two of us but like that night in Srinagar oh so long ago I am actually right there with her. I have so much adrenaline ebbing and flowing through my system right now I can’t do anything but type on my iPhone because paying attention to the road only causes me pain.
The seventh and final circle is not a traitorous trifecta but a dismal duo of friends who are simultaneously trying to cheer the other one up while wallowing in overwhelming thoughts of attempted suicide. Kris has imagined more than once chewing through her wrists to end the ride and I have thought seriously about opening the window, sticking out my head and taking one last gulp of soot and sand to choke down before passing out with a note that reads do not reseasitate. No amount of yelling MONKEY at each other or reminiscing about ridiculous conversations making no sense from the debaucherous evening before can make either of us let go of the pain that is this hellish journey.
Don’t get me wrong–I know we deserve a little trial–this vacation has been far to perfect in its equal parts planned amusement, adventure and insane hijinks, a dose of uncomfortableness is good for remembering that we’re still human and this can all go wrong any minute.