Bugada general

Daily Nest: India

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As  much as we have been walking these last 15 months, the sleeping thing remains a daily challenge.

India, like the other countries we have walked, forced us to think creatively about where we safely placed our heads for the night.

On the plus side, we have gotten more confident about walking up to people and asking them if we can bunk up  on their property. On the downside, it’s almost never a sure thing, and sometimes it takes a few tries and some extra knocks on the door in the dark before we can rest.

During this stretch of five months in India, we had the most luck getting the much-desired “Yes, you can sleep here” from schools, gas stations, highway toll booth operators, businesses with back rooms,  restaurants that turn into shelter for overnight highway drivers, and Sikh temples, called Gurudwaras.

We also had our share of hotel rooms, which were welcome during the cold, foggy and damp winter months and the weeks I couldn’t left and carry my backpack post-surgery.

Frequently,  the days we stayed in hotels, we left our backpacks in the room and did out-and-backs without weight, essentially walking 35-ish kilometers to some point on the route and taking a bus back to sleep in a private room, without people grouping around us. Hotel days are also usually laundry days, and the smell of freshly washed clothes  wafting up from window panes and invented clothes lines makes us happy.

We could count on one hand the number of times in five months that we slept in private houses with families, and on the other hand, how many times we had to free camp. Free camping wasn’t really an option because, like in Bangladesh, there are too many people living along and traveling on India’s roads, which brings into question our personal safety if too many people know where we are. There are also night creatures, like monkeys, street dogs, snakes, elephants and the elusive tiger (which we thankfully never encountered) said to wandering about some of the regions we passed.

Here are a few of the places where we stretched our legs and caught some zzzzs.

Restaurants called hotels

During the day, these platforms are tables for roadside restaurants. At night, these restaurants turn into a type of hotel and the platforms become beds.
During the day, these platforms are tables for roadside restaurants. At night, these restaurants turn into a type of hotel and the platforms become beds.

 

Sometimes in these "hotel" restaurants, the staff used the platform or rope beds to sleep on, and we pitched our tent on the floor in the back.
Sometimes in these “hotel” restaurants, the staff used the platform or rope beds to sleep on, and we pitched our tent on the floor in the back.

 

Schools, dorms and gas stations

Some schools let us sleep in their empty classrooms. Sometimes the desks and benches line up just right to make a platform for us.
Some schools let us sleep in their empty classrooms. Sometimes the desks and benches lined up just right to make a platform for us.

 

A few engineering students we met insisted that we sleep in their dorm/hostel room one night. They even cooked for us!
A few engineering students we met insisted that we sleep in their dorm/hostel room one night. They even cooked for us!

 

Gas stations are our now and again safe havens. Our first night in India, out on the sticks of West Bengal, we were so happy when the gas station manager said we could stay in the mechanic's storeroom. He gave us tea and pitched the mosquito net for us.
Gas stations are our now and again safe havens. Our first night in India, out on the sticks of West Bengal, we were so happy when the gas station manager said we could stay in the mechanic’s storeroom. He gave us tea and pitched the mosquito net for us.

 

The night we spent in this gas station storeroom started ok, but turned sour overnight. The day crew - and a passing police officer- gave us the green light to stay there. They told us to lock the door and make ourselves comfortable; they wouldn't accept money and we're sorry they couldn't offer us more. Somehow the message was not conveyed to the night manager and guard with the 100-year-old rifle. They tried to shake us down for "baksheesh," a bribe, and kept barging into the room the whole night. Morning couldn't come fast enough.
The night we spent in this gas station storeroom started ok, but turned sour overnight. The day crew – and a passing police officer- gave us the green light to stay there. They told us to lock the door and make ourselves comfortable; they wouldn’t accept money and we’re sorry they couldn’t offer us more. Somehow the message was not conveyed to the night manager and guard with the 100-year-old rifle. They tried to shake us down for “baksheesh,” a bribe, and kept barging into the room the whole night. Morning couldn’t come fast enough.

 

Businesses with backrooms

At the end of the day, we sometimes take a chance and ask a shop owner or commercial outlet if we can sleep in a back room. This night we slept in part of a rice distribution warehouse.
At the end of the day, we sometimes took a chance and asked a shop owner or commercial outlet if we can sleep in a back room. This night we slept in part of a rice distribution warehouse.

 

We couldn't afford the fancy resort rooms this night, but we negotiated a rate that fit with our budget for one of the empty cabana eating areas outside the main building.
We couldn’t afford the fancy resort rooms this night, but we negotiated a rate that fit with our budget for one of the empty cabana eating areas outside the main building.

 

Toll booths

Twice, we finished our walking day near highway toll plazas. We took a chance and asked if there was somewhere we could rest for the night. Initially, we got the OK to sleep in the small temple right next to the row of toll booths, but when the senior managers realized how the cold and damp the fog would be, they moved us to the back corner of the workers' canteen. A welcome change! On top of that, they filled our bellies with hot plates of veggies, fresh bread and tea.
Twice, we finished our walking day near highway toll plazas. We asked if there was somewhere we could rest for the night. Initially, we got the OK to sleep in the small temple right next to the row of toll booths, but when the senior managers realized how the cold and damp the fog would be, they moved us to the back corner of the workers’ canteen. A welcome change! On top of that, they filled our bellies with hot plates of veggies, fresh bread and tea.

 

Another time we ended at a toll plaza, the director and his staff treated us like guests of honor. We were given one of the officer's room, with a bathroom inside, and a TV. We had great conversations with a great team of people over a fabulous dinner. What a surprise!
The other time we ended at a toll plaza, the director and his staff treated us like guests of honor. We were given one of the officer’s room, with a bathroom inside, and a TV. We had great conversations with a great team of people over a fabulous dinner. What a surprise!

 

Family spaces

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When we crossed into India, we found ourselves on secondary roads without hotels. Luckily, kind families took us in and let us camp in empty rooms they save for visiting relatives.

 

We met an amazing guy who was building his family's home. We volunteered to help hin
We met an amazing guy who was building his family’s home. We volunteered to help him with the construction. We spent a few nights on the newly built second floor.

 

Sikh temples

Sikh temples often allow people to sleep in private rooms or dorms. Lluís will post more about these wonderful places of refuge, but the short version is that we are incredibly grateful for the kindness of Sikh people.
Sikh temples often allow people to sleep in private rooms or dorms. Lluís will post more about these wonderful places of refuge, but the short version is that we are incredibly grateful for the kindness of Sikh people.

 

And, when there was no room at the Gurudwara, a kind Sikh let us stay a few nights in an empty room in one of his buildings.
And, when there was no room at the Gurudwara, a kind Sikh let us stay a few nights in an empty room in one of his buildings.

 

Surgery setback

Surgery kept us in the hospital for a few days. I had the bed, and Lluís, as my dear caregiver, got to stay all four nights on pullout sofa near the window. All in all, it turned out pretty good for both of us.
Surgery kept us in the hospital for a few days. I had the bed, and Lluís, as my dear caregiver, got to stay on pullout sofa near the window. All in all, it turned out pretty good for both of us.

 

After surgery, our sweet new friend Namrita let us stay for a month in her family's empty flat in a new housing development. We are indebted to her for making my recovery period so comfortable.
After surgery, our sweet new friend Namrita let us stay for a month in her family’s empty flat in a new housing development. She brought over these foldable beds and lots of extras for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen especially for us. We are indebted to her for making my recovery period so comfortable.

 

Roughing it 

One night, after a rough solo walking day, Lluís finished here. It was a long, cold night.
One night, after a tough, solo walking day, Lluís finished here. It was a long, cold night for him.

 

The fog was so dense during this free camping night, that we had drops of condensed water falling on us inside the tent!
The fog was so dense during this free camping night, that we had drops of condensed water falling on us inside the tent!

 

Living large 

Some hotels we stay in are functional, no frills kind of places. Here, the two of us could barely stand up at the same time.
Most hotels we stay in are functional, no frills kind of places. Here, the two of us could barely stand up at the same time. The sheets, too, were pretty sketchy, so we put our shower curtain plastic tarp (which we use as a base layer for our tent) under our sleeping bags.

 

We got lucky in some hotels. We could stretch out and do aerobics classes with the space we had in this one.
We got lucky in some hotels. We could stretch out and do aerobics classes with the space we had in this one.

 

Hotel days usually are laundry days...
Hotel days usually are laundry days…

 

...they are also for rest days!
…and much-needed rest days!

 

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4 thoughts on “Daily Nest: India”

    1. Dear Nina,
      We do our best to find a safe place to sleep, which is one of our heaviest burdens and worries every day.
      Hugs!

  1. Jenn & Lluis,

    What a great collection of mostly makeshift sleeping arrangements! Your resourcefulness and determination continue to amaze and inspire.

    So glad, Jenn, that you made what sounds like a rapid recovery from your surgery.

    We too have been traveling–most recently for several weeks in Japan where the cherry blossoms were in bloom. We proceed by trains, cars and buses, and we sleep in hotels. We don´t exactly rough it, but we do tax ourselves from time to time. And of course we envy you your adventure!

    Yesterday´s International NYT had an opinion piece by a guy walking across the globe, Paul Salopek, whom I´m sure you know of. He writes about xenophilia, the kindness of strangers, a subject you illustrate in almost every posting.

    Further!

    Lakshumi & Roger

    1. Dear Lakshumi & Roger
      We do our best to find a safe place to sleep, which is one of our heaviest burdens and worries every day.
      Always further! Getting closer to home…
      Hugs!

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