Friday, November 11, 2005

Day [-1] : The intreprid travel planner

Diwali eve! I was as ready as I could be, I had my visa and ticket, a bag full of clean clothes, even my jacket.

We had had heavy rains in the last few days causing train services to be disrupted. Bombs had gone off in terrorist attacks in Delhi. It hadn’t been a good week but things were improving slightly. The northeast monsoon that had thrashed the southern states seemed to have finally let up. I could hear the crackers going off outside.

I hadn’t done much in preparation other than having conversations with my friends from UK and friends who have visited UK.

JW (UK) : If you are going to Bath you could also go to Cirencester. Roman ruins. Oh and York – Viking center. Wales there are a few great places to visit.

NT( UK) : Hampton court, Kensington palace, Tower of London – don’t try to repatriate the crown jewels. Chatsworth – place similar to that of Mr.Darcy’s.

CV( India): Dont go to this place called Stonehenge. Waste of time.

SRP(India) : You got to see Stonehenge.

Me : Perhaps I could do a Kipling tour, with his connections to India. Oh how about Constable country? And perhaps Wales too? Shouldn’t I be seeing Southampton, after all that’s where the East India company ships docked.

CL(UK) : Lake district. York. Try the gingerbread shop in Grasmere.

My itinerary obviously still looked jumbled. I had concluded that with all these places to visit, I should keep things flexible. So I wasn't going to book any hotels, it was going to be a road trip. SR agreed cheerfully enough to drive, so I didn't have to plan ahead about trains etc. My sprain after troubling me for three days, after multiple pain balms, had subsided into a dull throb whenever I turned side ways. At least it looked like I could turn and see the countryside pass by.

I took my much-perused map and papers scribbled full of notes, stuffed them inside the bag and decided to settle for the night. The crackers were still going off, punctuated by boisterous drunken laughter.

CL from UK had suggested I read Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a small island’. I had dutifully picked it up the previous day. This I opened now. It was nearing one and I had to leave around 3:30 in the morning. It looked like they weren’t going to stop any time soon, I might as well read.

Despite my map full of yellow lines, I had managed to not touch most of the places he refers to in the book. That put the first damper. I started reading. He says right in the second paragraph – ‘If you mention in the pub that you intend to drive from, say, Surrey to Cornwall, a distance that most Americans would happily go to get a taco, your companions will puff their cheeks look knowingly at each other as if to say, “Well now, that’s a bit of a tall order”‘.

Uh-oh. Could it be they were right?

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