An adventure without being lost is just a trip!–CC Quote.

The journey from Vizag to Puri was supposed to be around 425kms. We pushed through pretty hard during the morning taking advantage of the wonderful highways. Hearing about breakdown stories and horrible parts issue from teams “Chang Beer” and “Pink” Auto at Vizag made us run to a mechanic to make sure CoCo is checked thoroughly. We were fortunate to meet the Guru-Sishya team of Ramesh & Ramu. Our journey was delayed by couple of hours but we knew that was critical check point for CoCo’s survival (and ours). Enroute we found another team being towed by a truck. Apparently their carburetor gave its last breath also. All these stories made us search for good sandal wood to just thank our stars but then, we were also more prepared.

As we crossed AH45, Google Map and Sygic India suggested two routes to Puri. One that would take two and half hours and another that would take close to 5hrs. I am sure you know which one we chose. It said go via Nua Jagganath Sadak (New Jagannath Road). Nothing could bring more smile to us than seeing the word “New”. Like everything else in India, we are a bit in a hurry always. We predict we will win the next World Cup. We have been predicting we will be super power in 20yrs for the past 30yrs. And so is “New Jagannath Road”. It’s not “new” yet but it will be eventually as there is a huge plan to pave the roads in this area.

We found out why this area needs roads pretty quickly. Sathupally to Rajamundry in Andhra was just a teaser trailer. This was the real show. Chunga “Road General” promptly took over the reins of CoCo and started guiding her one pothole at a time. They say when it rains, it pours. Within ten minutes, visibility went to zero, which means, no more guiding and choosing which pothole to avoid. And then, the perfect storm scenario happened. One cellphone went out of charge and remaining went completely signal dead. Now, we knew we can’t rely on cellphone signal. That’s why we had bought the Sygic Map App that works on internal GPS. The Odisha Gods gave a big smirk as our Sygic app said “no GPS”. Can’t pinpoint anywhere. Before it all went dead, we saw 20kms left to reach Hans CoCo Palms hotel in Puri.(Yes, we chose that because it was the perfect resting place for our CoCo).

You might think you can’t be alone in India. It’s almost impossible with one billion people.On this particular night though, you would be wrong. We couldn’t find a single soul on the “Un-road” as “Road General” weaved in and out of dirt roads with what appeared to be small water bodies on some curves.We were absolutely lost in the middle of nowhere with no one to ask for help and no one to call, on a road that hardly existed and took us nowhere for over two hours.

I saw the stars on the sky and remembered a wonderful quote that said, “When the lights go out, those who dream with their hearts, find their way through the stars”. At that moment, all I could say aloud inside my head was, “Screw the quote..Get me a damn satellite signal for my phone!”. Sometimes when you curse whole heartedly, the Universe listens. The GPS started working for just a few seconds. The map showed we were off. Way off. And within few minutes,we found some human beings. Living, breathing,talking ones.

We immediately stopped and was happy to see everyone spoke Hindi in Odisha. A fully drunk, stinking guy gave a big lecture about how we need to turn back. We weren’t going to take a drunk’s word until it dawned on us that he was right. We have been going in a patch of land for over an hour with hardly any life on either side. If we continue on this road, Chutney will be spilled fully before Puri arrives (Indian dish pun). We asked them to at least guide us till the highway as we saw a bike (motorbike for those in US) in that shop. They promptly got on the bike and started taking us through a route that even if Google, Apple and every other GPS company had headquarters in Odisha, they wouldn’t be able to map. Road General’s multiple shaking of heads as they turned in each hidden street said it all. Each turn meant,”HTF were we supposed to find this route to get to Puri?”

Eventually they took us to a long patch of road and told us to go straight. Mihir and Amar were the two gentlemen who guided our way in the darkness in a motorbike. Rakesh and Rama want to thank them whole heartedly and wish them all the luck.

The cellphone signal arrived in patches on this road as the GPS map said we were 18kms away. So, we basically lost the plot after exactly 1km and were on a circular journey in a different part of unexplored Odisha!

We made our way back to Puri as we realized how much different this part of country is compared to south of India. 65 years of independence and still no roads to majority of the people in this state.We arrived at “CoCo Palms” by the Bay of Bengal after midnight as an eventful day in the life of “New Jagannath Rickshaw-wallas” ended!

The folklore of “Lost in Odisha” episode will be played ad nauseam for generations to come among the Rao’s and Rama’s family:)

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