Today’s the day – time to get riding.
7:00 am. Hi Bev, Getting going. Will text during the day.
Up at a fairly leisurely 7:00 for the final packing of the panniers. Then loaded the bike and pushed it through the pedestrian-only streets to Sonam’s Kitchen for a good-bye breakfast. Too much stuff – the bike is heavy to push – but what to get rid of? Five shirts may be more than necessary but they don’t weigh much. I left behind my Lonely Planet (but I do have a copy on my Kindle). I am carrying no books – the Kindle, a last minute idea, was a good one. My heaviest stuff is the bike tools and I’ll need those.
A new bike, with a large load, made for a wobbly start but I soon got used to it although I don’t feel very manouverable. I pushed up the first few hills until I began to feel more comfortable as I took Tenzing Norgay Road out towards Ghum. Google maps doesn’t understand this route; it has Tenzing Norgay Road but it isn’t connected to Darjeeling.
10:00 am. Breakfasted. On the road for half-an-hour. Can hardly push the bike up the hills. Heart pounding. Must be the altitude ;-) KBO, as Churchill would say.
The Ghum-Kurseong road came quickly enough and the ride up the gentle hill to Ghum was no problem; then, downhill on State Highway 12, out of Ghum. Full-on brakes and hair-pin bends.
Into the trees and clouds. Pretty, peaceful surroundings without too much traffic – a jeep share-taxi or motorcycle every ten minutes or so, an occasional private car. The road surface is surprisingly good, smooth asphalt with few potholes.
13:00. Just gone through Sukya. Surprisingly busy main street but mainly pedestrians. Bell came in handy. Just stopped in the forest for a piece of cheese pie.
More trees and cloud. More up and down. Still wonderfully peaceful. Fun to be riding in these surroundings. Too bad about the line of garbage – snack wrappers mainly – along the side of the road.
15:15. Lots more forest in the clouds. Good road. Up and down, some of the up I can pedal, some not. Just passed the Nepali border crossing. Heading down towards Mirik now. Mainly down but I can see some pushing ahead. Looks like I might make it, jelly legs and all.
According to the map, the road wanders in and out of Nepal a few times but there is nothing to indicate this, apart from a few Indian army outposts and checkstops. I was not stopped or checked for anything, though. Passed a few viewpoints, where I had some tea; presumably, on a clear day, you can see the Himalayas, even Everest, from here. Not today though, in the swirling clouds. Too bad about the views but I don’t mind the relative cool for cycling.
As the road dropped down, forest gave way to tea plantations. The last few kilometres were a bit of a struggle: weary legs and failing daylight. But Mirik, eventually. Rode through Mirik to Krishna Nagar, a little settlement at a large man-made lake, where I found a room. Painted bright yellow but comfortable. Made it!
44.6 km, or thereabouts. My cycle computer may need some calibrating for actual wheel circumference but it seems about right.