How were we to know that the rickshaw repairs we made first thing in the morning was going to be the best part of the day. I mean, it's sitting around while mechanics check and repair your ride. How could that be so great?! Well, it wasn't but compared to the rest of the day it was awesome! We did have our first selfie request by females so that's a positive. Here in India we get at least 10-20 selfie request, so pics of us with a, or a group of local men is the norm but women stay pretty far back. They'll smile and wave when we're far away or just passing by but men flock to us. During the repairs Arsha, who at 19 years old has taken over the family repair business from her father that passed away a few years ago and her 2 younger sisters wanted a selfie. How could we refuse?!
Lily was sounding awesome after the repairs! We've been wondering why we're so much slower than ALL other teams in top speed and found out the night before we're using double the petrel others are so the friendly fellow racer who checked Lily out last night told us there was one small seal broken in the exhaust was the cause of it all. A $3 part that was costing us $10 a day in added petrel cost and about 10km/h in top speed. Incredible! Now that we had it fixed we felt indisputable! Instead of having to 10-12 hours a day we could cut that down by at least 2 hours and spend more time stopping to get to know the locals and seeing more of the country... or so we thought.
Not only was today the hottest day so far but the roads were by far the worse. We had a relatively short goal of 190 km which under normal circumstances would have taken us 6 hours and with Lily's new super powers we were thinking more around 5 hours so we'd have plenty of time to cross the border into Nepal in the light of day. About 30 minutes out of Padrauna the days reality set in. The nice tarmac road turned to dusty roads in the national reserve, later into a narrow strip of asphalt not much wider than Lily that we had to share with huge Tata trucks and finally a mix of asphalt and dirt roads. Was the strangest thing, for about 50 km they were building a new highway to the Nepalis border but how they go about doing it is, sorry to say, fucked up! 100 meter of tarmac was followed by 1 km of dirt road and repeated like that again and again. There was no start of finish point of construction, just random sections completed with others seemingly overlooked.
Needless to say Lily didn't take it too well and all the nice welding work we got done on her upper frame went to shit. Poor Lily... fresh out of surgery and she's no better off than before.
In the national reserve we encountered a roadblock. It was a tiny road so no getting by it. I went and had a closer look hoping to find a way to get them to open the barricades for us. We are foreign and doing this race for a good local cause so was hoping that was enough to get through. This was a very poor community, not much different than some of the native communities I've seen in my home country of Paraguay... basically homeless and therefore set up a community on government land. Of course not a great solution but they didn't have anything else or anywhere else to go so that's what they did. Turned out after speaking with the community elder that the government had brought in the police to remove the "squatters" and of course they resisted, that was their home after all! Things turned violent and in the end the police injured some in the community. In protest they blocked the road which though a very small one is a critical route from their province to the next. In the end they gave us a personal escort around the barricade and send us on our way. Was a real eye opener to the plight of the most poor and seemingly helpless in this country. We hope they were able to get the respect and space to live that they deserve!
They say that India will break everyone eventually. Today was the day that it broke all three of us. I was the first to break. The roads got to me and couldn't hide my frustration and frankly anger. I could handle the bumpy roads, all 10 hours of them, but all I could think about was how each nasty bump could be the one that breaks Lily ones and for all. She's an oldie and not made for this kind of punishment so it was killing me to think we'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere after a breakdown just after servicing her! Dani was the next to crack about an hour before the border on similar grounds. We'd been going non-stop on shit roads for about 6 hours and couldn't take it anymore! Bram, who usually can find the positive in any situation finally cracked later in the evening. Can't give India the credit though... was all Nepal and here is why...
We finally got to the border around 7pm. After contemplating staying on the India side for the night we decided to make a run for the border. Why waste time tomorrow morning on the crossing if we could do it tonight, right? We managed to get out of India no problem but when we finally got to the Nepalis side Immigration had already called it a night. Even though their Indian colleagues called them to inform them that we were coming our arrival 5 minutes after their closing time was obviously too long to wait. So now we were in no-mans land... can't go back to India and can't go into Nepal. Add on some officials wanting bribes for nothing and probably the most mosquito infested hotel we'd ever stayed in was enough to drive him over the edge. I think Nepal wan this battle. Dani and me cracked after 16 days in India. Bram cracked after 2 hours in Nepal. Bravo Nepal, well played
Not all was terrible today. We found some more kids in need of cricket gear so stopped to play a little with them. We had street food that while eating it a local warned us that we shouldn't eat that... and survived. Most importantly Lily survived the toughest test so far like the steadfast iron (well, metal and fiberglass but whatever) lady she is.
Now Nepal. We'll probably only be here a few days but hoping the rest of the country is more friendly than the border town of Birrganj we find ourselves.