October 27th, 2012 I slept reasonably and woke just after six; it was light outside and the big windows were only partially covered by curtains. Front tyre still hard: good! I loaded the bike up in the room, did a little Internet stuff, had a shower just to start off feeling a little more presentable and left the hotel, whose name I’d never determined, at about eight o’clock and pedalled slowly back out to the highway. Nothing was open for breakfast yet.
I waited at a level crossing for a goods train and a passenger train to pass and had time to reflect on the Indian approach to these crossings. As the booms lower, cyclists in particular hurry across. Those with bikes not heavily laden continue to cross, ducking under the boom, until the train is heard arriving. Meanwhile, traffic lines up on the left hand side of the road – as it should. But cycles and motorcycles continue weave through the traffic to line up across the right hand lanes. By the time the booms rise, there are two lines of traffic, each filling both lanes, engines revving, facing off across the tracks. Everyone starts forward at the same time, the cycles and motorcycles from the right – or rather, the wrong – lane try to cut in front of those in the left – the correct – lane to gain a positional advantage. But, of course, they tend to run afoul of the oncoming cycles and motorcycles performing the same procedure. Typically, gridlock ensues, horns blares, and a handful of two-wheelers get through ahead of their original queue position.
Shortly thereafter, I was back on the divided NH60, still with its smooth concrete surface. Where I had time to reflect on the Indian approach to divided highways. It is common to see vehicles approaching in what should be the fast lane in your direction. These are not drivers with a death-wish, just those not concerned sufficiently with the rules of the road to go the extra distance to gain the other lanes, the lanes for traffic in the direction they are travelling in, when it may be more convenient to stay on the wrong side of the median if they are only travelling a short distance. That approach would be literally short-lived in Canada or England. Or just about anywhere else!
More understandably, and less riskily, cyclists often approach me on ‘my’ shoulder.
After about 20 km, there was a lodge and restaurant, somewhat isolated at the side of the highway in the middle of the countryside. Had I known about this, I could have avoided the trip into Jaleswar. I stopped for an excellent breakfast: chapati and very good aludum (potato curry), a masala omelette and a delicious lassi. High quality food at very reasonable prices. The only downside was that there were a lot of flies that had to be shooed away; one, cheekily, landed on my Kindle and turned the page before I was ready.
The Kindle has proved to be a great idea. I have lots of reading with minimal weight. And some programming texts too, that would otherwise have been left at home. I’m currently reading, and really enjoying, Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd.
At Baleshwar, NH60 ended and the road became both NH16 and NH5. Still a good surface, for the most part, asphalt instead of concrete now. There were also signs for AH45 but I’ve no idea what AH indicates.
The rest of the day became quite a struggle: tired legs and sore wrists. My speed dropped and dropped so I settled for a 3:00 pm stop in Soro. There is a hotel (Hotel Zodiak, 700 rupees AC), overlooking the highway, nothing special but friendly staff. I opted for AC (air-conditioned) because the windows looked marginally more mosquito proof. According to the Lonely Planet (on the Kindle, of course), accommodation in Bhubaneswar is limited except in the more expensive category. I was going to book their top recommendation (it’s about 40% cheaper online) but searched a bit more and found a better deal at the Hotel Pushpak. I’ve booked in for four nights – there are quite a few sights in and around Bhubaneswar. And I’ll need some rest and some course/study time.
It’s about 160 km to Bhubaneswar, which will be two long days with my current energy levels.
Time to find some dinner; the hotel restaurant looks fine. And it’s not too far!
Day 14 Today: 90.2 km, Avs: 16.7 kph, Time: 5h 25m, To date: 1108 km.
October 28th I was up and ready to leave by 7:15 but food was offered so I had a couple of cups of tea, chapati and masala omelette to set me up for the day. Mindful of yesterday’s tiredness, I started slowly and easily, and continued slowly and easily. On the way out of town, there was evidence of an accident between two trucks; it looked like the obvious consequence of some Indian’s casual approach to lane direction – a head-on collision, impressive damage but it must have been at relatively slow speed.
The road continued to be excellent and it was a clear haze-free day. Because it is Sunday, perhaps? The sun was on my left for quite a while and I felt my left foot frying so it seemed like a good time to switch to my cycling sandals which provide a little more sun protection. And, with the road as it was, a good time to try the cleats again as I didn’t anticipate much in the way of emergency dismounts. At about 1:00 pm, I rested in the shade of a tree for a while, and when I resumed progress my front tyre was almost flat. So this tube gets its fourth patch.
Bananas for lunch. Everything is looking a bit more lush in the clearer light. A few hills breaking up the flatness of the plain.
Arrived in Chandikhol at about 3:30. Four trips up three flights of stairs to get my gear and bike to the room – now I can feel my legs.
Hotel MidEast is fair value for money at 300 Rs. The food in the downstairs restaurant affiliated with the hotel on the second floor (third floor with N. American counting) has reasonable supper. And I got to watch some football (Chelsea vs Manchester United, ref having a bad day) on the TV in my room. Not bad for about $6!
With my front tyre deflating again, I decided to try a new tube. The one in there now has four patches and is still leaking.
Day 15 Today: 100.3 km, Avs 17.0 kph, Time: 5h 54m, To date: 1208 km
October 29th Had masala dosai, masala omelette and tea for breakfast in the room and got under way around 9:00, anticipating an easy day into Bhubaneswar.
My cycle computer wasn’t working; no speed registering. I looked at the magnet on the spoke to check the distance from its signal receiver. Oops. I’d put the wheel in backwards when I changed the tyre last night – I must have been pretty tired. Well, it was a quick fix.
But it wasn’t the best of days: lots of roadworks (three lanes each way soon), tired legs and wrists, tons of traffic (both private cars and big trucks), heat. Maybe it had to do with expectations but anticipating an easy day made all these little things a bit onerous. Front tyre went down again; strange, considerng a new tube. Managed to make it to the hotel with one pumping job but when I returned to the bike after checking in the tyre was flat again.
My bike is in a ‘sort of secure’ area and I’ve removed the front wheel and brought it up to the room. I had a close look at the inside of the tyre and found, I hope, the reason for all these problems with the front wheel. These was a part of a staple, thin and sharper than a pin, sticking a few millimetres out of the tyre and into the tube(s). Maybe this is a legacy from the malicious puncture in Jaleswar. I removed it – we’ll see if that makes a difference. Meanwhile, I’ll keep the wheel in my room; the less my bike looks like a viable machine, the better, I think.
Day 16 Today: 65.0 km, Avs: 16.0 kph, Time: 4h 03m, To date: 1274 km.