The Indian Undieworld


Let’s Keep It Brief

This week I’m trying to get to the bottom of an important issue.  Bodies should be able to be washed on a daily basis, perhaps with the help of a few pieces of silver to oil the works on our one 2 nighter journey out to the extreme east. Those with facial hair to maintain will of course have ample opportunity, at every one of  our wash stops, to indulge themselves in one of the great joys of the sub-continent, the Indian barber.

Photo by Tom Teneketzis

But there’s a more fundamental issue  which I’ve been stuffing to the nether regions of my virtual rucksack. How to maintain a fresh supply of clean undies during 15 days of constant traveling . Yes I know this sounds likely to be the least of your problems, but it’s worth giving some serious thought to. And in any case, it gives me the excuse to make a post all about underwear.

We are going to do this with a touch more panache, and a lot less body odour, than someone living like a rodent for the entire trip. Anyone who has done a significant amount of back packing around the subcontinent in their youth has surely gone more than a day, or two, wearing the same undergarment. It’s not nice, and it’s frankly not very clever either. But if you are in a team of one, and there’s no one taking photos of that disgraceful t-shirt you’ve had on for the best part of a week, no one is going to know.

Unfortunately for any of our contestants who may have slipped past my vetting process and are intending on stinking their way right round India,  everyone else in the gang is of course going to be carrying their own digital photographic apparatus with which they will surely document your descent into pitiful dishevelment. They are also going to be wanting to inhale from time to time, and you are going to be within 10 feet of them. Feet shouldn’t be a problem, they are waterproof and wash easily.

There are a number of obvious solutions to this issue

Bring 15 pairs of nicks with you, and an odour proof stuff bag.  That’s just about feasible, but there’s still the issue of what to do with that India stained t-shirt you’re having to redeem from the depths of your rucksack on the second, or, heaven forbid, even the third  cycle. At least one of us is going to be bringing a suitcase and intends to solve the matter with brute force, probably that of a porter I guess. But when did you last go on holiday with 15 changes of clothing ?. I usually take 5 shirts max including the one I’m wearing.

Wash them while you’re having a shower. I think this is the only viable solution to the t-shirt conundrum. Blokes can of course just put the sopping garment straight back on their shoulders, I do that all the time. That’s going to cause a bit of a stir in India though for the gals. But at least you can just drape it round the back of your back pack. Again though, this is not a recommended option for your frillies.  A few yards of nylon string may come in handy though. You can then turn your section of the train into a branch of Widow Twanky’s.

Just buy a batch of new ones In Delhi and Kolkata. Decadent I know, but I suspect that if you haven’t found an adequate solution to this issue once you’ve hit Kolkata, 2 quid for enough underwear to get you to the end of this ordeal will seem like a bargain. Those of you who are in the middle of a world trip might think of just stocking up in Mumbai and treating them as disposable.

Don’t take any at all. A friend of mine actually went on a week’s alpine hike with me a few years back with a novel solution to this problem. He didn’t bring any at all!. As a result he obviously had absolutely no issues with undie washing. He did however have to fumigate the pair of flash trekking pants he’d been wearing for the whole week. This method is not recommended for anyone possessing sweat glands.

Take disposable ones. I fell off my chair when this was suggested. But it might not be quite as daft as it sounds. Mick and I are going to test drive these first, but it could be a revolutionary solution to the problem. You’ll have to source them outside India, but  it could be an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Planning Update

I have just spammed no less than 20 different travel agents in Ahmedabad, plus the few I could get emails for in Jamnagar, in an attempt to get somewhere with an important missing piece in the plan. That being the critical  road section back to Jamnagar (previously Porbander). My best quote so far is Rs 3,000 + 4.12% tax, which is almost half my only other quote. We are going to get stung on this one, but it’s just critical we have this one in place.

We’ve now got 40 people claiming that they are coming, according to the facebook event. That excludes Mick and JP, who are certs, but includes 3 people who I know aren’t coming. It also contains 12 people who I have never spoken with, and who resolutely refuse to respond to any of my spam overtures. So it’s really anyone’s guess. Mid 20s still looks like being the real number.

The Assam section is now looking like this

  • A few rooms for washing at the President Hotel outside the station in Tinsukia upon impact at about 3:30 AM, about Rs 150-800 a room incl tax. There should be the option to take your own room if you want it.
  • Local train to Ledo at 08:40
  • Visit colliery, which is now officially open. I have no price as yet though for this.
  • Road to Singpho eco lodge for an authentic Assamese meal. Rs 250 a head. It’s supposed to be good according to an independent recommendation. At 250 it had better be.
  • May be go to the newly opened railway museum at Tinsukia on the way back to Dibrugarh for half an hour.
  • Road to Dibrugarh and hotel. I am awaiting quotes on a cheap, mid range and flash packer option. You can free play this if you want.
  • Following morning, local transport to Bogibeel ferry
  • Pick up on far side and Dhemaji in time for the evening train

I’ve got a quote of Rs 1,200 a day for a guide for this bit. That’s probably going to be about a quid each, which as such is a bargain in my opinion for both parties, and at that price he wont need tipping. It’s worth taking him for 2 days so we get the ferry sussed properly. The cars should be 4,000 each per day, and they take 7 plus the driver. The new plan of spending the night in Dibrugarh means we only need them for 1 day now. I think that’s a good deal.

If you are Indian and reading these prices and have just choked on your morning puris, you have 2 obvious options

  1. opt out
  2. help out, and do some sourcing. The Dwarka to Jamnagar section is a particular issue.

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