Donkey Days

I am walking again and today I hope to walk 15km just to get me back into things. I know I will need to increase this distance, but after 3 days of blister problems, I want to ease my way back into things slowly.

I followed the road and passed through a small town. It is 6.00am and everyone is awake and walking. People are smiling and waving at me as I pass by. I find myself following a lady herding donkeys, and because of my sore feet, I struggle to keep up with her pace. After leaving the town, I see donkeys being milked and the milk is for sale. I give it a miss.

Herding donkeys through town

I reached the Godavari River and it looked a lot larger in width since I had last seen it a few days ago. I stared at it. I felt a bit sad as I had planned to follow this river along its banks all the way. However, due to safety reasons (mainly leopards living near the water!), I realised that being so remote, this was not possible. So I follow it whenever it is safe enough to do so.

Godavri River is widening

I looked further down the river and I saw someone kayaking, which really surprised me. People are poor here, no one has time for leisure. Any spare moment is taken up by trying to provide food and shelter.

Pigs feeding

I moved onto a small bridge that crosses the river, hoping this would give me a better view down river. On closer inspection, I saw a man walking a donkey onto the river bank. There seemed to be a large pit dug into the mud (or sand) of the riverbank. He pulled the donkey by a rope and tried to get it to go down the pit, the donkey was having none of it. Stubborn burro, I was thinking, with a touch of Spanish.

Donkeys on the river bank

I then started to think about what Satis, the millionaire, had told me; that people eat donkey here. I thought the worst. Was this guy pulling this donkey into the pit to kill it and sell the meat? Surely not. I stood watching from the bridge, hoping I was wrong. And soon another donkey was pulled into the pit. I guess it was just a place to get them out of the sun.

I was just thinking about taking some more photos when two trucks, coming from opposite directions, looked like they would pass each other right where I was standing. I breathed in and leant over the bridge to avoid being hit; one truck just clipped my rucksack. That was close, I thought, then the whole bridge started to wobble. When the trucks had passed, I ran off the bridge to the safety of the road. Indian engineering has never been the same since us Britishers left!

Finally, I reached the hotel I was going to stay in. I had walked 15 km and it had taken me all morning. I knew I would have to increase the distance if I wanted to get across this massive country. Before I tried to check in, I sat at a little shack-come restaurant at the side of the road, (there are lots of them everywhere). I ordered my usual 1 litre of water cold water or thanda paanee (ठंडा पानी) as they say around here.

A guy entered the restaurant, saw me and came over to speak English. We talked in broken English and then it was time for me to get out my golden ticket. This is an English sentence, translated into Hindi, on a laminated piece of paper that was written by one of the teachers in the slum school. This sentence explains my mission. She said it would help and it certainly has.

People really can’t understand why I am walking. People stop on the road and offer me lift.  I refuse. One guy said ‘why are you walking, sir? India has a perfectly good transport system’.

Another guy asked ‘where is your vehicle? If you come from England, surely you can afford a bike?’

Anyway, the golden ticket was passed around the restaurant. This guy then bought me lunch. His name was Rushikesh. Later, the owner of the restaurant gave me tea and a cream horn. It is their way of giving to the charities I am supporting. It is amazing how wonderful these people are. It makes me cry and also makes me realise that most people in this world are good.

Checked into the hotel and went to sleep early – walking again in the morning.

Local huts