Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pondicherry to Thanjavur - January 2nd

Potholes...Potholes plus Trucks. Buses. Goats. Bicycles. Oxen. Cows. Children. Carts. School girls and Cars.

Today's video rocks! Be sure to rate it!!!!

When we arrive for breakfast, we are greeted with “have you seen the paper”? Having been up most of the night working on videos, GPS, blogs, and fighting with blogspot.com which simply stopped working, no, we had not yet read the Hindu paper. Fortunately, reading was not necessary since we had a full-color picture of us on page two.

Everybody starts the day with enthusiasm - but they don't end it that way. The day starts with a briefing "Today you will meet the Indian Trucker. Some of the finest drivers in the world."

The ride from Pondicherry to Thanjavur starts with a fairly easy jaunt out to Silver Beach to check off our first task. Everyone is racing and having a good time. We pass the recent aftermath of a bus vs. motorcycle accident where the bus lost it's front windshield. It's in the other lane and we fly by. Minor compared to the Podicherry evening mayhem. By the end of the day, there will have been a serious crash and rickshaw totaled - end of the road for Darjeeling Unlimited. Organizers Aravind and Marika skid off into a pond and both are hurt. The bunny rabbit breaks a leg and doesn't make it back - fortunately the team is not hurt. Wheels fall off, brakes fail for the Hungarians, clutch cables for the Americans; a caravan of Canadians limps in at 9:30. The Shark hits a motorcyclist. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, about half of the cars finish each year. The ARC is at par.

We on the other hand, have had a perfect day. The Three Wheel Tamil is buzzing along, our GPS work and map research has paid off huge, plus we've had a bit of luck. We're in or near the lead most of the day and even the Indian team is following us down country roads to the school we visit today. In the end, we're second in and one of only three teams to make the cut off. For the rest, it's harrowing stuff, and sad to see how tired they are, and the danger they've had.

The roads here are dominated by a single rule - Momentum. Velocity times weight gives you your rating. The Bus is king: It observes no rules and drives wherever the hell it wants, angrily honking at you and flashing its lights if you dare to take up a small part of your own lane when it commandeers from the opposite direction. Next we have the Ambassador automobile...sweeping past on diplomatic immunity. The Ambassador’s are always in white, and their peer, the jeep, in silver. It’s like a video game from the 80s where all the aliens were the same shape and color, though here they vary greatly by the number of people, or animals, in/on the vehicle. Motorcyles and autorickshaws buzz past on all sides and at all times. We fight it out with them as equals and I'm happy to say, we do most of the passing. Cows have special status, and we are deathly afraid of the repercussions if we hit one. More than one person has told us that if we have the choice of hitting a person or hitting a cow - it's sorry pal, but see you in the next life.

The Ambassador

When I see a video on Youtube I often wonder whether that's one-of-a-kind or a representation. Skateboarding dogs, singers on treadmills, Pepsi and Mentos - clearly singularities. The "traffic in India" video could be a traffic cam.

When we roll in, it's 5 o'clock- still light - and all is well with the world. We are greeted on the door by staff who offer us a blessing, oil anointing, a moist face towel, necklace and mango drink. Every day should be like this.

Something tells me it won't.

At night, all night, it's off to edit video, write blogs, do research, and get ready for the next day. We’re on a mission, and my chronic insomnia has infected Giamp. See today's video!

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