We had to make up for some lost time (due to aforementioned stomach bug) so we got a taxi ride to Gorakhpur where we were dropped at the side of the road (with our agreement). Gorakhpur is approximately 80km from the border of Nepal. As we assembled our bikes and backpacks, a massive crowd of people gathered in the busy town. They were very interested our bikes, especially the gears on our bikes, and travel plans.
It took two days to bicycle to the Nepal border. The first 20 miles was not quite as busy as the rest of India, though when we encountered people we received more smiles, waves, questions and only a very occasional disgusted look.
The beginning of the second day on the first 1/4 mile we pedaled past a family of monkeys (who typically are playful or apathetic) but today one snarled at us! We pedaled the flatland and, around lunchtime, were approached by a man who was riding his bike in the same direction. He was very excited to see us, our bikes and gear and what we were doing to immerse ourselves in India. He approached Nateon and asked with a smile “would you come to my house for lunch?”
Immediately the two possible outcomes flashed in Nateon’s mind, one was that it could be an incredible experience meeting a local and his family or…. he had a gang of buddies waiting in the next town to rob us. As we rode the next 30 miles he would offer us tea and food at the small tea shacks. We would sit and chat and he insisted on paying, even when he didn’t eat anything himself.
By the time we made it to his hometown of Nautanwal, we had a pretty good feeling about him. The first stop was at his young son’s community home school. There we met Neelu, the teacher and mother of the house, who had begun the school just 8 months prior as part of her sister’s organization Wahoe Commune (more on that later!).
At this point it was time for us to go have lunch with the man, Hari. Hari’s wife made an enormous, delicious meal of rice, daal and vegetables. The house was one room, a humble home, filled with books and house items. We sat on the day bed while Hari perched on a stool to enjoy the meal and talk with him, his wife and 7 year old son.
Turns out Hari is a book salesman and CFL repairman (they don’t recycle CFL here, they fix and make them work again), who travels to all jobs by bicycle. This can mean distances of 50 km each way per job.
We left he house to spend the afternoon at the Wahoe school and while Pam joined a class and talked with the kids, Hari hung out with Nateon all afternoon.
As they hung out, Nateon asked Hari if, as a book salesman he enjoyed books — he replied “books are okay, but I like people.”
Meeting Hari and his family was an unexpected gift on our way to the Nepal border.