Better to be somewhere than nowhere

Last week we felt like nothing was going anywhere. Everything seemed to be floating and we felt we needed to something. And when nothing goes anywhere, one option is to go somewhere yourself.

So with nothing better to do we decided to ditch the idea of going to the mountains to enjoy life and instead legged it down to Mumbai-Bombay in 3 days to see about the shipping. It’s only 1500 Km so why not.

Pyry adamantly said we should stay in Delhi because of a hunch about the Pakistan visas, but Juho wanted to take the sure way and come to ship the damn thing out of India asap. Pyry wanted to go through Pakistan no matter what, but Juho has a kid and he wants to get home. The decision was quite simple.

MumbaiHighwayPromo2-2

We ended up in Pushkar for the night and it felt like a peaceful haven. We wanted to stay there for one day and two nights, but we got a message from the shipping company that we needed to be in Mumbai on Monday morning if we wanted to ship the tuk tuk this week so we woke up at 4 a.m. and drove 16 hours all the way to Vadodara.

The traffic was not as bad as we feared, but even so, it’s still a thousand times more chaotic because of the indecency towards fellow drivers. It’s amazing how a 3 laned highway can be blocked by just three trucks, all trying to pass one another at 30km/h at the same time. Once two trucks had stopped side by side diagonally to have a chat, blocking all the lanes on the highway ramp. Our Tuk Tuk does her share also.

People awe at our vehicle, drive like crazy next to us, and start chatting and taking photos. It’s nice to get the attention but it totally cramps the lanes for others, especially when it happens in the middle of a roundabout. But after various landscapes, a desertful of sand and billions of trucks later, we ended up in Mumbai ready for the shipping company.

It turned out that taking the initiative was the right thing, and the wrong thing to do.

The good thing is that everything went nicely with the shipping company this time and it will be quick and easy, if we decide to do it. The tuk tuk would make for Fridays shipping and it would be in Iran 2 weeks later.

We also met 3 journalists who work for 3 different newspapers and they got interested about us. They took some photos and we ended up in the Hindustan Times already for todays paper. Less than 24 hours we have been here and already we’re in the second largest newspaper in India.

We also had good luck in Finland since we’re in the third largest newspaper, that is also the most visited website of Finland. All together today we have about 7 million potential readers, and if the other 2 articles come out, another 2 million on top of that. Not too shabby for a days work.

Then, naturally, we heard some news from Pakistan.

We have apparently been granted the visas, and crossing Balochistan seems to be an option again. We might just have to drive back the 1500Km to get the visas by Friday and head off to Pakistan. We still want to make sure crossing Pakistan is possible before making this decision, but time is running out. If we want to cancel the shipment we have to do it tomorrow morning, and if we drive to Delhi we need to start by noon.

Decisions with limited information, again.

Last time a difficult decision was made Pyry drove to Mumbai because Juho wanted to get home sooner than later. Pyry still wants to go through Pakistan no matter what, so now Juho should be ready to drive back for Pakistan. In any case, we should be out of India by the weekend.

But before we go, we will learn a little about the Sikh people, because today we met some nice Bearded Sikh men who’m Pyry bonded with right away. They invited us for dinner at their home, and because earlier today we were talking about not having had the chance to spend time getting to know the locals, we took the chance and said yes.

Apparently his mother is an excellent cook.

Weighing Options

Pakistan is geographically in a spot that is extremely difficult to go around, with the Arabian Sea in the south, and the Himalayas in the north. Going over the Himalayas is not an option because our Tuk Tuk is not a trained mountain climber, and it would mean crossing Indo-Pakistan-Chinese borders that give way to Kashmir, which is closed off from foreigners. Going round south would mean going by boat, and to detour the Himalayas completely would mean driving all the way to the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos.

We’ve figured we have 5 options. All of these are preliminary and we need to see how things play out a little before making any final decisions. This Bon Voyage feeling we have again, is waiting for that Carpe Diem moment, so we can strike when the time is right.

Here’s the choices.

1) Balochistan

The only roads to Iran go through Balochistan. It is the northwest province of Pakistan, bordering Afganistan in the north, and Iran in the west. The northern road from Quetta to the Iranian border town of Zahedan is the shortest and most commonly used, but it’s close to the Afganistan border and not wholly under the central governments control.

This area is known for it’s kidnappings, and foreigners are requested to have an armed convoy while travelling through.

This used to be our primary option, but now they have temporarily closed the road leading to Quetta because of the military operation against the Taliban they started last week.

2) South Balochistan

The southern road would probably be the safer route, but as far as we know, the road and the border crossing is closed for foreigners. The only way to find out if it’s passable is to go and try.

3) Karachi

Eastern Pakistan is relatively safe and we could cross from Amritsar to Lahore, drive south to Karachi, hire a dhow, and sail to Iran. This would allow us to learn a little about Pakistani food, and the sea voyage would be short as possible.

The problem with this option is that yesterday Mr. Tahir-Ul-Qadri arrived to Pakistan and added some flavour to the situation.

Tahir-Ul-Qadri is a cleric turned politician, and the leader of a moderate Islamic Party. He vows for a peaceful revolution, but his arrival to Pakistan seemed to have brought more tension than peace. His flight was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore because of clashes between his supporters and police in Islamabad.

This means that our visas are pending until the situation in Lahore is clear. We have 2 more options just incase.

4) Ferry

We’ve heard rumours that there is a ferry link between India and UAE. We’ve heard of one ferry going Chennai-Karachi-Dubai, and one Mumbai-Karachi-Dubai. Mumbai is far south, and Chennai even further, and it will take us days to drive there. This option would be risking it, because it is based on a rumour.

This leaves us with the final choice.

5) Shipping from India

We will do all we can to not do this again, but life’s not always fair is it.

Our closest port for shipping is in Ahmedabad, but Mumbai seems to have more options. Both are south and in the monsoon area, so time is not on our side.

This is the list so far and the best we’ve come up with. None of these options seem like a good one for the moment, so if anyone knows a thing or two that we don’t, now would be the opportune time to speak up.

Kokookko koko kokko. Koko kokkoko? Koko kokko.

Would you please build the whole bonfire.

The whole bonfire?

The whole bonfire.

That’s what the title means. It’s time for JUHANNUS!

Back at home people are fleeing the city as everybody heads to the countryside. It is truly a magical celebration of good company, good food, and good drink. During the weekend Finns will dance around bonfires, spank each other in the sauna with branches, do magic spells in the nightless night, drink vodka like water and drown in numbers.

Fatalities are known to happen, because Juhannus is a celebration for Ukko. He is The Man, symbolising fertility and strength, so games and competitions are typical, and when drunk, it sometimes goes a little overboard.

Here on this side of the world we have run into a similar situation that has completely gotten out of hand. Pakistan decided to see who’s toughest by going to war, and they’ve decided to have their full on military operation right on top of the road that we were supposed to be driving on.

This is a little more serious than how we like to take things, so we will gladly spend Juhannus here, on Finnish soil, in the safety of the Embassy.

Hopefully all of this manliness will be over by the beginning of next week, with as few casualties as possible, so we could be on our way again.

Just in case it’s not over, we are searching for detours.

 

A new hope

After an agonising few days of disproving every lie and every excuse, we finally came out with our Tuk Tuk. To this day, we haven’t had to pay a single cent to corruption, and we didn’t even have to pay for the detention charges. Victory!

It was however, one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life. The good thing is that I found a new side of myself. A side I have kept hidden all my life, because I have feared it.

I had to harness every ounce of willpower I had for three days straight so that we got the tuk tuk out. They delayed everything with lies, deceit, and accusations, and we had to counter every one with honour and respect. It was without a doubt the dirtiest game I have ever played, but we were the only ones that came out with a clear conscience.

lorry

Now we finally have our Tuk Tuk back, but only 3 days to get to Amritsar. We thought we’d leg it to Varanasi on the first day, Delhi the second, and the rest on the third and hopefully have 2,5 days to clear customs and get to Lahore. We had to promise not to film anymore in India to get our visas, so it’s a good thing to go quickly.

We left Kolkata at 5.30 with our 3 wheeled Panther, and weaved through the giant snakes of trucks. Our tuk tuk is just the right size to squeeze and manoeuvre while the beast weaves itself along.

Every so often a toll collection point came, but our tuk tuk seems to bring out sympathies from people so we only had to pay at one.

It was nice to know that we were heading home again, because the sun set where the road led to.

rekka ojassa

 

We rode in the dark for the last 3 hours, and I felt like Luke Skywalker. I had no choice but use the force most of the time, because we needed to make time by going an average of 60km/h, and visibility was next to nothing.

Everybody, and I mean everybody has the long lights on all the time, which glares the eyes and makes it almost impossible to see. Luckily the dust in the air reveals the magnificent beams of light heading to the heavens, leaving only silhouettes of the trucks, tractors, mopeds, bicycles and people, which can be used to navigate through. Someone having tail lights was a one-in-fifty chance.

What made it even more difficult, is that sometimes there was row of headlight all coming towards, and they seem to be wanting to pass from both sides. Some drivers here find it more effective to get home, driving against the traffic on the wrong side of the highway. Mainly motorbikes, and tractors, but every so often a truck comes towards.

Luckily we found an ambulance on alert,  and used them to show us the way. They had good lights and a patient in the back, so no bumps, but as fast as possible.

We arrived to Varanasi at 10 pm.

Same thing the next day to Delhi, and the next to Amritsar. We could make it, but it would be suicide.

We will rest a day in the city
that is said to have the longest running continuous population in all of the world, and take 1.5 days to drive to Delhi.

We will get new Pakistan visas from there.

Varanasi

Incredible India – Playing the game

Incredible india

On thursday after all the hassle, we finally flew back to India. Immigration hadn’t forgotten us, and it wasn’t too pleasant a re-encounter. The same moustache bastard came with a, ‘I’ll come talk to you and act like we’re friends’- attitude, while trying to find a loophole not to let us in. This time there was none, and he had to let us in even though his moustache was itching with rage.

We found our way to the pre-paid taxi counter where naturally the cashier tried to con us by not giving the right change. He tried twice but this time we weren’t so easy. We caught him both times and he just smiled, waved good bye, and shook his head about.

This con at the airport opened my eyes. Incredible India isn’t to be taken personally, It’s just a game played without shame. There’s a Finnish saying that describes it nicely, ‘Ei se ole tyhmä joka pyytää, vaan se joka maksaa”, which translated would go, ‘It’s not the one who asks, but the one who pays that is stupid’.

It was an important lesson, for on Friday morning we went to the Shipping Company to play the, ‘how long does it take to get the tuk tuk out of the port’- game. We’ve practiced with the Immigration, High Commission, cashiers, taxis and many others, winning some and losing some, but our hand was good this time. All the shipping document’s were in Pyry’s name, he had his own documents to prove he is himself, and there were no loopholes.

We arrived at the shipping company and they were super nice and efficient. We handed the secretary our Bill of Landing, and she looked at it. Then she said something i would never have thought.

‘There is a problem. The consignee name of this document has been changed.’

‘Uuuhhhmmm. How is that possible? I have all of the papers here, they have my name, and I have not been informed abut this.’

‘The name has been changed.’

‘Whose name is on there?’

‘It is a Mr. Concealed Name.’

This was the name of the friend who we sent the DHL-packet to with our shipping documents when we were forced to go to Nepal.

‘No problem, I will call him and get him to give a document saying that it’s ok for you to pick up the goods.’

We then had a meeting with Mr. Manager and his Customs Clearance Agent. Apparently if the name would have been ok, everything would be easy, but because of the wrong name in the bill of landing, they said it’s impossible to get customs clearance.

A friendly start, but now we were deep in the game.

We started off small and asked if the name can be changed back, since it had already been changed once?

‘The name cannot be changed because the shipment has already arrived and customs have the wrong name.’

This was strange because we were to pick up the tuk tuk on the 28th, and the whole immigration mumbo jumbo was just as the tuk tuk arrived. So there is no reason for anyone to change the name before it arrived.

We asked if there is anything we can do and they replied that maybe something can be done.

‘Unfortunately it will take a long time, maybe a month, and will cost a lot.’

After inquiring a little we found out that everything apparently depended on the customs officer and how much he will charge fines and bribes etc.

To counter, we handed them a few Embassy Support letter’s that would help with customs. We also offered to go to the customs with them, but they countered with a blunt refusal.

Then we were talking to two walls for so long that we decided it’s better to leave and get a better hand. Customs is closed on weekends so Monday we’d find something out. We left and immediately got some wheels turning to apply pressure.

We contacted the Customs Commissioner of the Port with our shipping documents and numerous Embassy support letters that all have Pyry’s name on them, and sent a copy to the shipping agent as well as the customs clearance agent. We also mentioned to all of them that we will contact the Chief Commissioner if needed. India is a democracy and everyone has the right to go straight to the top.

Pyry called them on Saturday.

‘Pyry here calling for the tuk tuk, remember?’

‘Yes yes. We are amending the paper already and on Monday we bring to the customs’

Sounded like the pressure was working.

‘So Monday we get the tuk tuk?’

‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because Monday we take the papers to customs and it will take 2-3 days’

Today is Sunday, and we’ve played a good game so far. We’ve managed to get the time form one month, to 2-3 days. Pyry’s answer to the shipping agent was a simple,

‘I’ll make some calls and make it go faster’.

We have tens of Eagles and Crows soaring above us on the rooftops, and while enjoying the view, one Eagle glided against the wind, head hight from us only 2 meters away. It looked straight at me, and I realised how this game should be played.

With the Dignity of an Eagle, and the Cunningness of the Crow.

Good news for Uranus

BanglaJäbäjaPyry

We are not on an adventure to find beautiful places, we are on an adventure to find beautiful people.

We met a nice guy working in the local TV-business and the last days we have been living in a Bangladeshi commune close to an area called Khilkhat. There are 4 guys living here, and all are studying or working in the hospitality field. Ones tuition is made possible because of a nice man from Helsinki, and if I have the chance, I will pass on the thank you in person.

For the rest of the time we have learned to navigate the local buses to shuffle ourselves through the masses. We’ve gone back and forth to the High Commission of India and they have continuously asked us to sit and wait.

After coming everyday to ask about progress, they gave us a number to telephone so we wouldn’t have to go back and forth and nag them. This was the key that made me realise how to deal with Indian bureaucrats.

When you are asked to sit, be respectful and sit, but soon after stand up again to do ‘something’. Look around, stretch, do anything but sit. Communicate with the body that you can wait, but you wish not to sit. This makes them nervous, and it is a clear sign that you are disobeying their power. But be respectful, otherwise they get a reason to use their power again.

You will continuously be asked to sit down, but kindly tell them you are ok standing. Ask them questions, chat, see how things are going forward. Suddenly things start happening because they realise you are not a dog, and they don’t want to get to know you. You must either give them satisfaction and wait sitting, or then leave, but don’t leave until you have done all you can to get what you need.

Nag them, nag them, nag them, but respectfully. Respect is utmost important here because otherwise you get nothing but disrespect in return. It is I who need to stay respectful, because they must start off disrespectful. I think it has to do with the immense amount of people in the country.

Once I respectfully show that I will not be treated like a dog, but I’m also not going anywhere, I earn their respect. Once this happens, the barriers crumble and their inner beauty starts shining through the cracks. This can be very difficult with some because their barriers are made of titanium and strengthened with everything possible, but I’ve noticed that the bigger the monster shielding on the outside, the more beautiful and fragile the heart inside. The change at its best is like seeing a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, and it’s a shame most never get to see it.

We’ve learnt a lot from being kicked around, and we’ve become stronger. We’ve learnt that we get what we give, and that’s why staying focused on goodwill is numero uno. We’ve also learned that I must shine my inner beauty onto others first, so that they feel safe enough to show their inner beauty to me. It is rude of me to ask someone to open up first, if I don’t have the courage to do it myself.

We’ve also learnt that all of the horror pictures of the future, are just in our own head and completely useless. They are excuses the mind wants to make so that we would give up, but finding the strength to go on always pays off.

We feel like Rocky. We’ve taken the hits and we are seeing stars, but we will use that to our advantage. Since the dawn of time stars have been used to navigate, and this month is an exceptionally good one. The sun will finally shine in places where it just don’t shine, because tomorrow, On June 6th a harmonious sextile from the Sun to Uranus inspires us to make a change and may bring in new ideas and ways of looking at our world.’

This means that we will go to India shining brightly, and we will leave a trail of burning rubber as we speed through to Pakistan. We got our passports back from the High Commission and we are shifting course back into India. There is still no news from the port, but I guess we will find out when we get there.

But no need to stress!

As things have gone exactly like we planned, we are against the clock once again because our Pakistan visas run out on June 18th. Damn bureaucracy. We should be able to change visas just as easily as the bankers change interest rates!

But it is soothing to know that even in the 13th century, when visas hadn’t been invented, Genghis Khan also had difficulty going through India.

.

.

END OF CHAPTER 3

 

Still in Dhaka

Bangladesh maisema

We are still in Dhaka. Nothing seems to be moving.

Everything is soft as cotton, but there’s a strange feeling. Never in my life have I been in such a situation where I cannot do anything except be.

My mind is continuously trying to make sense out of it, but things just don’t make sense. I am powerless to do anything about this situation and all I can do is hope for the best. It is scary but exciting both at the same time, but that’s what adventure is all about. Finding yourself in unplanned situations.

Our next step depends on things we do not yet know, so planning seems pointless. We have options and we’ve gone through them, but they are all based on assumptions on how things might possibly go. We’ve done all we can, and now it’s time to relax and see what life throws our way.

The good news is that we have the Ambassador of India from Finland helping us, but even he is having difficulty communicating with his colleagues in Dhaka. Our papers should already be processed, but we need the stickers in our passports. Unless that is done, I don’t quite know what’s going to happen.

Tomorrow we go ask them if our passports are ready.

rikshaws