Well ahead of the appointed departure time Kaleem came to the rest house with some essentials for the first aid kit. That was another opportunity to understand the man better. He organised a cup of coffee before piloting us up to highway. Perhaps his presence helped us to leave in time as appointed. However, the morning rush hour traffic slowed us down till we reached Medchal. After that the road was good up to Adilabad. Kaleem had suggested that we experience a dhaba in Adilalbad. In the morning chatter we missed it. The road beyond Adilabad, particularly once we crossed over to Maharashtra, was bad and bumpy. The leaf springed Endevour is not so comfortable on poorly surfaced roads. Baiju, who was resting in the back seat, must have had his insides turned over many times. Lal and I took turns driving the stretch to Nagpur.
Shibu got back to us to confirm that the road to Gorakhpur via Chhatarpur should be avoided. The route via Jhansi, Kanpur and Lucknow was recommended. Advice from HVK Forum was extremely handy and all were so eager to help. I felt that we would never be alone on the roads in India. Thus, I had to reroute via Jhansi; I turned to Jethi once again and he, unhesitatingly, got me confirmed ORH accommodation in Jhansi for 2 days. We planned to visit historical and religious sites in Jhansi in the spare day.
Mirus Lifestyle, the agent I had appointed in Delhi, gave me the option of either couriering the passports to be collected from the Gorakhpur airport or to be delivered by hand through special messenger. I opted for the latter. All risks had to be covered since without the passport and the stamped visas we could not proceed beyond Nepal. The agent also compiled a dossier for the entire route detailing fuel stations, accommodation, climate, currencies, major do’s and don’ts, etc. They were also pushing Navo, the Chinese agency, to get the Tibetan and Chinese clearances for an early entry. The liaison required was quite substantial in view of the tight controls for Tibet. It was still not sure whether we would get our visas and permits through the Chinese Embassy in Delhi or Kathmandu. Therefore, I deliberately left the latter part of the Indian itinerary a bit loose. While we were headed for Nepal we could divert, at short notice, to Delhi. Mirus had indicated that 99.9% the visas and permits would be issued in Kathmandu. They promised to confirm the final position by Friday, 20 June.
It is not unusual for a few things to be overlooked, forgotten, when executing a project of the shape and size we were. The travel card purchased from ICICI was still in Cochin. It was located in Lal Jose’s flat. I arranged for that to be airlifted to Kathmandu. We were supposed to carry the flags used at the flag off so that they could be used every day. In the excitement of the function in Crowne Plaza I forgot to collect them after the function. UPMA agreed to courier it to Gorakhpur.
We arrived at the Railway ORH by 5.30 pm. Anup Satpaty, Sr. DCM Nagpur, had arranged two large rooms for our stay in Nagpur. The evening was spent with Parag Holkar and Manvesh (of HVK Forum), Jitu Gadkari & his friend (they were keen to know how to convince their parents and travel alone), Anup Satpaty and Hafeez (Sr. DPO). The discussions were lively and ranged from travel to philosophy to politics, and naturally, the Railways. Anup insisted that we carry packed breakfast so that we could start early.
During the course of the drive to Nagpur Lal developed a strong cough. Anup arranged to get homeopathic prophylactics that Lal wanted to start on. Baiju was completely down and out for the count. He took rest right through the day and remained on medication.