It was an amazing few weeks. We were tanned and had our fill of fresh fish and yummy pancakes. We had been on long drives and discovered some beautiful little isolated beaches. OM beach was one of our favourites. The only people there were old hippies from the sixties who were half naked, still stoned and had given up their passports decades ago.
I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive back to Mussoorie. I was well into my seventh month and quite a bit bigger than when we arrived. We packed up our camp and put everything into the jeep. After a few hours I could feel my feet swelling and I needed lots of toilet stops. Tony was the “see that tree?” type. We all saw the tree but that tree was somehow not good enough. By the time we stopped we were frantic. He was good this time. When I got really uncomfortable he stopped and I got out of the car and walked along the side of the road. He drove slowly behind me. I got lots of strange looks from people in cars, but I didn’t care. I could imagine people saying, “Shame, that poor pregnant woman must have had a fight with her husband and is determined to walk all the way home.” We had to stop more often, which meant staying in more hotels and spending more money than we expected to.
We were still a long way away from home when we ran out of money. On our last night, we got permission from the security guard in a hotel parking area to sleep there for the night. It wasn’t the safest place in the world but we had no option. We pushed the front seats forward and extended the bed onto the dashboard. Tony made up the bed and when it was ready we crawled in to find our place. I booked mine near the window. Tony locked all the doors including the back one. I opened my little window, excited about getting some fresh air. Within minutes we realised that air wasn’t going to be an option. There were SO many mosquitos. The girls and Tony were ok with no air, but as I lay there, I started to get more and more panicky. Tony kept encouraging me to try to get some sleep. It was going to be a long time before sunrise. I lay there with my eyes brimming with tears, trying to control my hormonal claustrophobia. Tony heard me sniffing and asked if I was ok. That was it.
“Babe, I need to get out of here. Like now. Tone? Please let me out. Can you please open the door? I really need some air. Tone!” He was doing his best to put his hand below the wooden bench to get to the door handle. I couldn’t wait. I opened my small sliding window and tried to get out with Tony telling me my stomach was going to get stuck. I didn’t care. I needed air. My legs were out when he finally opened the back door. I was close to hysterical.
We folded the bed back and the girls fell asleep quickly. Tony and I tried to get some sleep in the front seats. It was impossible. By that time we were wide-awake. Tony was buzzing and I was full of adrenalin. We looked at each other and said, “Let’s just get home.” We thanked the chokidar who seemed happy to have seen some action in his quiet parking lot.
It had been a long, full day of driving and we still had the whole night ahead of us. We had money for food and diesel and that was it. Night driving in India was full on. Every truck had “Please use dipper at night” and not one truck driver knew what that meant. There were thousands of trucks, bright headlights, no streetlights, bullock carts with no reflectors, bicycles, and animals and people running across the road.
I kept slapping Tony’s head and he kept slapping his face. We tried everything to stay awake. When we drifted off the road, we realised it was time to stop. We pulled to the side of the busy road and closed our eyes. Within half an hour a policeman was hitting our window with his stick, telling us to move along. There were no coffee shops to get a caffeine shot so we kept moving along.
By the time we got home Tony was speaking another language. The drive up the mountain was slow and scary. We got a few minutes here and there to close our eyes but exhaustion had overcome us. He was actually delirious. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. We left everything in the jeep and climbed into bed. Tony, still mumbling, said, “Babe, we have just driven a thousand kilometres.” I rubbed my tight tummy and swollen feet and said, “Yeah, I can feel it.”