As I crossed the finish line at Kanyakumari I was filled with elation and emotion. I’ve actually walked over 4,000km to get here - I had tears of joy streaming down my face. My girlfriend was waiting for me at the finish line, arms outstretched. There was a large crowd of locals gathered waving flags, cheering me on and embracing the grandeur of my amazing accomplishment.
The perfect ending…
The sun was shining, the air was cool, the conditions were just perfect. In the background, drums were beating in rhythm to the mesmerising sitar. I could smell the sweet essence of coconut mixed with jasmine. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, just like the movies.
I had arrived.
The King had finally taken his final steps of the incredible journey across the mother-land that is India. I was showered with rose petals and love by all those who surrounded me.
Create Your Own Adventure India - “the real story”…
The reality was somewhat different. I was on the outskirts of Kanyakumari the day before, in a town called Puthalam, about 12km from my finish line - the most southern point of India.
Kashmir to Kanyakumari - completed
There I was, being all nostalgic and mixing with the chai wallas, samosa sellers and local Tamils. Boasting of my escapades across India to anyone that would listen.
Gracious that a Western dude had chosen their country to embark on such a crazy adventure, they plied me with as much food and tea as one could consume.
The plan was to walk the last 12km the following day, allowing me to really enjoy the experience, whilst getting some great photos and video footage.
Yet, less than an hour later, I was pigeon walking back to my guest house trying not to shit myself.
I awoke the next day feeling like death. I'd been up most of the night being violently sick, and shitting through the proverbial “eye of a needle”. Being the relentless adventurer that I am, I pressed on with true grit and determination. However, within a few kilometres, I was doing that familiar pigeon walk yet again.
This was causing me some discomfort to say the least, but I continued to press on. The sun was out in force and old silly bollocks forgot to put any suncream on. I had no option but to put on “the stinker”, “the sweat sponge” AKA… my baseball cap that has been with me from the very start. After absorbing the sweat from the 25kg I had lost, it had been smelling pretty awful for some time. Cows crossed the street, beggars made haste and stray dogs tended to back away when I was wearing it. It had become a deterrent to some degree.
As I arrived on the main road leading me to the final destination I grabbed my camera ready to record the monumental occasion. But, at that very moment I could feel my stomach rumbling, I clutched the cauldron of death and resumed the pigeon walk, focusing hard not to embarrass myself.
Smile goddamn it, just smile!!
As I tentatively waddled to my final destination, giving my running commentary and growing a tad emotional (although not as much as I had expected, if I’m totally honest) only to find that I’d taken the wrong fucking turning. I ended up at a dead end about a third of a kilometre away from where where I wanted to be!
Second time lucky…actually make that third.
Yep, as I ventured towards the finish line, I managed to take yet another wrong turning and ended up at a temple. Again I had to walk back on myself. Five minutes later I had finally taken the right turning and was on the road to the exact spot I was looking for.
Anticlimax...just a bit
Hurray, celebrations and finally, yes finally, I had walked exactly 4,117km across the entire length of India.
But, by now it had started to rain and I desperately needed a piss. There was no welcoming committee, no girlfriend to cheer me home. A few lone people were milling around.
And then, the rains really came. Conscious of losing yet another camera to weather conditions, I slipped it quickly back into my bag and headed to find a toilet. Settling for a communal patch of land behind some fishing boats, I saw out the storm and returned to the waters edge to grab some photos and celebrate with my Indian brothers and sisters.
Cry, I most certainly did. Although, more out of frustration and sheer exhaustion than being overcome with emotion. Thank fuck it was finally over. I don’t mean that as a detriment to India or its people, far from it. But, the last four months has been absolutely gruelling as opposed to anything remotely enjoyable. There have been profound moments of clarity and reflection, absolutely. But, the whole experience has been so much harder than I could have ever imagined. So much harder!
But that’s what makes it an adventure, right?
The plan had always been to head off and celebrate with a cold beer. But, as I had given up alcohol over three months prior, I decided to head to a local restaurant which had been recommended to me and celebrate with a feast instead.
You guessed it, the restaurant was closed…
To be continued!