July has been an extremely hot, humid and frustrating month in India. Faced with a growing list of commissioned stories to write and with deadlines looming, there was no option but to put the travels on hold and get writing. Unfortunately, the spectacularly frustrating and tediously slow bureaucracy of India has tried its utmost to thwart my best efforts at productivity and efficiency.
Trying to open a bank account and extend my Indian visa have drained Katherine and me of all our reserves of patience, persistence and politeness. As the month draws to a close, we have devoted many long days to the Ministry of Home Affairs and FRRO, but I still do not have my new visa (police verification of information still pending) and, after seven visits to the bank and sacrificing a small forest for all the paperwork we’ve had to submit, our bank account has yet to be approved. Amongst the many reasons given by Standard & Chartered for refusing to open the account, was that my signature didn’t seem authentic enough for them! India certainly seems to be trying its hardest to wear us down and this is compounded by the unrelenting heat and humidity of the monsoon season, which refuses to abate. This has not been our happiest month in India to date.
The good news is that (provided my visa gets approved this week) I will be headed to Ladakh and the Himalayas for 3 weeks in August. Having recently agreed with a publisher and sponsor the terms for my book India Whitewater, I will be collecting more photographic material and experiences on an expedition down the Zanskar River and through the Grand Canyon of Asia. After that trip I will join a friend, Ben Sheppard, for a climbing adventure as we tackle the 6,153 metre peak of Stok Kangri in the Indian Himalaya. So, fingers crossed, I’ll be headed to Ladakh at the end of the week.
Otherwise, the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about… I’ll be given 36 hours to leave the country and will be back in South Africa before the end of next week. Lets just hope that the Gods of Indian bureaucracy decide to be a little more friendly during August and deign to let me to stay and explore some of the great rivers and wilderness areas of the spectacularly wild and beautiful Indian Himalaya.