Saturday 30th of July. D-day. Nearly 40 hours had passed since we left the Netherlands. The journey contained more waiting than actual flying (12 hours of waiting during clear daylight on Moscow and 8 hours of waiting during the night in Delhi). It had been one of the worst flights ever, with shitty food, no movies, little leg room and no places to sleep other than the hard ground. Except for Jeroen, he had top quality food, great collection of hd movies, plenty of leg room and only taken about half the time to arrive at the same destination at the same time.
Everyone was very tired, but still well-spirited. Jeroen had made some Indian friends in the plane on his journey and they were of great help in getting a pair of taxis for a good price. They would drive us for the next 3-4 hours from Guwahati to Shillong, where the start of the Rickshaw Run would be.
India didn’t fail to impress from the get go. Traffic was as chaotic as legends had foretold, horns were used as commonly as that people use bicycles in the Netherlands, cows were crossing the streets as local kings not bowing down to anyone and speed limits were… well there were no speed limits. We also learned that if you can overtake a car you should overtake the car, or at least that’s what our taxi drivers kept doing.
We arrived in Shillong mega-tired and in utter darkness. The address we told the taxi driver to go was an address Jeroen had found over half a year ago on the internet for the purpose of acquiring a visa for India – which everyone had blindly copied to acquire a visa. Nobody cared about it ever since or bothered to book a hostel ahead or something, so we were kind of stuck with something we weren’t even sure would exist, let alone have any room for us. The fact the taxi drivers didn’t know the place nor address only added to the drama. Yeah we know, we’re suckers for getting ourselves in these kind of situations.
Still being very well-spirited and enjoying all that’s different than everything that we’re used to, we asked for help from two locals about our age. Their names were Meda and Tobi. They were loud, friendly, spoke English pretty well and obviously had been drinking for a bit. They hopped into the taxis with us and successfully brought us to Stephen’s Hall, which turned out wasn’t a place tourists could stay.
After we paid the taxi, we went to something that must’ve been like five hotels with Meda and Tobi before we found something of a chance to stay the night somewhere – everything was completely booked. The lobby boy of a hotel knew a place and had given the address to Meda, who was still leading our walking expedition in search of place to sleep through Shillong with Tobi.
Happy we finally found a place, Meda and Tobi couldn’t help themselves but to think this place we found was too far away and kept dragging us into other hotels that were more close to see if they had any better options. This was starting to annoy us quite a bit as we just wanted to go to the place we knew for sure wasn’t completely booked. We kept running into misunderstandings and then a discussion before they finally decided we should go to the place we wanted to go.
It was especially irritating because they had the address and didn’t want to give it to us. Whenever we asked about it they would feel we didn’t trust them and get offended. After walking way longer than anything before and going through many dark shady looking alleys, without any indication of how far we still had to walk, some people of the group started to change their minds. What if these guys were indeed not bringing us to the place we wanted to go?
The suspicions of the group only became bigger when Meda and Tobi kept dodging our questions. It was getting very late and people were super-hungry and tired. This lead to a discussion within our own group after which the group split up. Jeroen and Paul were convinced Meda and Tobi were going to bring them to the right address and continued along with them – which was even more stupid in the eyes of the people being suspicious – as the rest stayed behind.
More than half an hour had passed and still no sign of Jeroen and Paul… They said they would only take like five to ten minutes, but of course there was nothing Bastiaan, Jesse, Joep or Raymond could do about it, as no one had any form of reception on their phones. Then out of nowhere, Paul came running back with Tobi. They had found the place!
Highwind Rise was a beautiful guesthouse with an entrance through a gate and a high walkway above a serene garden leading to the main entrance of the building on the third floor. We were welcomed with open arms. Food already had been ordered as they already knew we were very hungry not having had dinner.
The next morning was reserved for uber chillings and setting things right with Meda and Tobi. We had amazing breakfast in our guesthouse and then went to explore the city with our new local friends. Shillong was one big infestation of strong smells, dirty alleys but kind and interested people. Halfway through the day we took a jeep taxi out of the city. There were already 6 people inside, but somehow instead of getting another taxi we were told to get into the same taxi, leading up to a total of 14 persons in one car! It was definitely cozy.
We did a hike uphill through some forests, got soaking wet from some unexpected monsoon rain and then returned to Shillong for a big dinner and our first beers! We really felt we now had arrived in INDIA!
In the next blog: Preparations, shopping adventures, pimping the rickshaw and (hopefully) the start of the race!
P.s. The race is going to start today! And we can already tell you things are not going smoothly.
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