Our progress is initially arrested after 45 minutes by "customs officers", armed with rifles, who suddenly materialise from out of the gloom and demand to search the boot. Tom leaps out to defend our luggage - not a wise move - and is swiftly marched off to be searched himself. Tom's release is negotiated by our drivers and only after the first of many push starts are we on our way.
There is a strict rationing of headlight usage. This means that first, other road users are only occasionally advised of our presence and, second, Anthony only permits himself sneak previews of the road ahead from time to time. Somewhat worrying given that the roads are narrow, there are no street lights and other vehicles seldom sport their full compliment of illumination either.
Tom falls asleep just before we collide with a lorry during one of our unlit periods. The drivers' response to this is to ignore the widespread damage to the side of the vehicle and concentrate on the dented number plate. The battery is now dead and everyone else promptly falls asleep leaving me to contemplate our situation. It is 3am and we are parked in the middle of the carriageway with no lights. Eventually I too succumb and fall asleep. Against all odds we awake intact.
We push the car to the next village and after several hours, during which our drivers variously disappear for mechanical negotiations and tea with relatives, we set off with the "new" battery installed. The lights rationing policy is in operation for a second night and this results, at one point, in Tom seeing the car being steered over a cliff. Only the driver's severe manhandling of the wheel prevents our demise.
At 9.30am, after 22 hours, we roll into Panjim, the capital of Goa, mentally and physically drained. Whether they ever managed the return journey was the subject of much speculation. We made the booking of a flight for our return a priority and eventually tracked down some tickets. We asked after the carriers. "Uzbekistan Airlines," said the office clerk with pride, "all Russian crew."Reuse content