Single Indian woman ventures where hard-boiled, hardy types do not tread. Wanderlust addict Anjaly Thomas takes you deep into tropical jungles, up in the rare mountain air and far-out destinations no ‘normal’ woman has ever been, writes Kul Bhushan.
A passionate Indian traveller in her early thirties, Anjaly Thomas, travels alone and away from the tourist tracks. She has huffed and puffed to the top of Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, survived extreme humidity, exhaustion and blackouts on one of the world’s toughest treks – the 99 km long Kokoda Track (or Trail) in the jungles of Papua New Guinea – and jumped into the swirling, churning waters at the source of the White Nile in Jinja (Uganda); other adventures include trekking up to the haunted Bokor Palace and Hotel in Cambodia. Humble and honest, she describes her adventures in her new book Almost Intrepid to share her experiences of the beyond. Her responses to questions asked by me in an interview, add a new dimension to the experience of meditation.
Fearless, Daring, Bold… that’s Intrepid
As part of the Osho people who roughed it out in Rajneeshpuram, you are not impressed by any exploits of hardship or endurance. Many Osho people have travelled round the globe and survived many dangerous situations, eaten exotic foods, and slept in dingy quarters at times. So you think you are a tough cookie!
Of course, as a seasoned traveller you’ve been all over and done it all. You have travelled round the globe and survived many dangerous situations, eaten exotic foods, and perhaps slept in dingy quarters at times. So you think you are a tough cookie!
You will have to re-think when you get to know the adventures, exploits and feats of Anjaly Thomas…
During what she calls her ‘quarter-life crisis’, Anjaly chucked her boring sub-editing job in Bengaluru and boarded a train to Delhi all by herself without any plans. Her adventures started right from this journey and since then she never stopped travelling. She writes about her experiences with humour and candour and regularly lists her conclusions by numbering them.
Right at the outset, she notes her fears and hurdles as scared of being mugged or raped; getting approval of her parents; sleeping alone in hotels; ashamed or scared of asking for help; losing confidence in herself or regretting her decision; and being branded. After she set off on her travels, her fears melt away gradually, replaced with increasing confidence after every trip. Indeed she begins to love her own company.
OK, but travelling needs money, how do she manage? “I do not buy expensive dresses, cosmetics, handbags, shoes, jewellery and all the things women usually purchase,” she says, “I travel with the minimum gear in a rucksack on my back, stay in low priced hotels, eat street food and do not go shopping when I’m on the road. After every journey, I start saving for my next trip.”
Right at the beginning of her book she teases the reader about her ultimate adventure – the world’s toughest trek, the 99 km long Kokoda Track (or Trail) in the moist, tropical jungles of Papua New Guinea but this trip comes as the climax at the end of the book. Driven by wanderlust, she must travel to distant and exotic places all alone and off the over-crowded tourist circuits. Her uncontrollable desire for danger and adventure makes her hit the road again and again and meet all types of people.
Her trip from Delhi to Dehradun is the beginning of her journey. Her encounters with fellow travellers, mostly backpackers, are always memorable as she has a strong desire to do better than the hardy ones. After this trip, she travels to Dubai, not lured by the hypnotic shopping malls but to earn and finance her future trips. Instead of looking for rich sheiks, she finds a job with a local newspaper and also works for a radio station.
Her next foreign foray was Bangkok to go deep in the jungle to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai, a legendary location for the hardships British soldiers endured while building it during World War II. En route, she is assaulted but survives.
Next stop Jakarta, right in the middle of nonstop rains. Oh, the travails of the impulsive traveller! To escape from pouring rain, she air hops to Bali. Here in this paradise island, she is at the mercy of the sea god during a boat ride. Back in Dubai, she wants to climb the highest mountain in Africa – Kilimanjaro. Deciding rashly to embark on this climb, she arrives in Moshi, Tanzania, in the rainy season when hardly anyone climbs the mountain. No wonder, she is soaked to the skin during the ascent when her guide revives her with massage. She scrambles to the top to set a crazy record as the only woman to reach the peak without a bra! But it was her proudest moment! After this, her guide thinks he can now marry her. How she gets out of this delicate situation is described hilariously.
Next destination: Kampot, Cambodia, famed for pot, Killing Fields, ghosts and ghouls. Anjaly faces her full share of challenges and exploits, least of these was crunching on a fried tarantula! The two final journeys to Pattaya and Egypt are quite tame but she manages to find the unexpected in both places.
At the end of her book, she sums up her findings for female, solo travellers as being contrary to urban myths:
The world is not a safe place: Blame the media for making you believe that any place outside your mother’s womb isn’t safe enough.
You can get raped: The odds of getting assaulted on the road are practically negligible when compared to it happening from someone you know.”
Men are hostile towards female travellers: False. And hey, you can avoid that by not being too conspicuous.
You will meet the nasty types: It takes all kinds to make the world. There are sleazy, slime-ball types in your neighbourhood.
Pretending to be married helps: If so, there would never be reported cases of assault or rape and violence.
Don’t chat up strangers in bars: Going to a bar is OK, getting drunk and not knowing where you are is not.
Never tell anyone where you are staying: You are not carrying top secret information and telling a stranger where you are staying is not the same as giving the key of your room to him.
Never have sex with strangers: Heard of condoms? They are meant to be used.
Sleeping around is immoral: This is no more a moral subject. It simply denotes your choice of partners.
So what has travel taught her? She lists what she learnt: confidence, self-dependence, patience, responsibility, tolerance, prioritising, letting go, dreaming and most of all, love and compassion.
Kul Bhushan, Osho News
Read Kul’s interview with Anjali: Feeling and Experiencing Virgin Nature
More on her blog www.travelwithanjaly.com
Almost Intrepid by Anjaly Thomas (Konark) Rs 299. Available as eBook (Kindle) at: www.amazon.com