An old friend, with a few more Indian trips under his belt than my four, describes it perfectly: “India, always a roller coaster ride if you fully embrace it…” And my time in Puri has been a bit of a low. A question of expectations, I suppose: it was a significant destination, the end of the first leg of my cycle trip, a time to re-evaluate my fitness for further cycling, a chance to relax by the sea. So, a noisy town and a dirty beach were not what I had in mind. And the problem is definitely mine, not Puri’s. Also, I have noticed that when I spend too much time in one place, the idea of cycling again, and continually searching for suitable accommodation, seems a little intimidating and overpowering. It’s not that bad when I get back on the bike and start pedalling – then there is generally a feeling of exhilaration.
Tomorrow, I’ll head to Barkul (about 105 km) where I have just managed, in a very Indian way, to book a hotel. First, I tried to book the hotel online but that’s not possible within 48 hours of check-in time. So, I tried to phone. No luck, but I have been having phone issues. No luck on skype, either. So I got the lady in the travel office attached to my current hotel to phone for me. Still no luck, the number is out of service. (Also, it’s Saturday and she can’t cash travellers’ cheques on a Saturday, but I walked down the road to a shadier operation, changed some money without a travellers’ cheque authorisation for not such a good rate, was short-changed 1000 rupees, got the money changer to recount it and was then paid in full – with a shrug instead of an apology!) So I went to the Odisha Tourist Development Corporation office, and a man there walked with me to the ODTC hotel in Puri, where phone calls were made to the ODTC in Barkul and my reservation was made. India: nothing is easy but everything is possible!
I had two pleasant day trips while I’ve been here, with a fellow guest from the hotel. We took a rickshaw the 36 km to Konark and visited the Sun Temple; quite impressive but not incredible in my somewhat subdued mood. The drive, however, was very nice along a nice quiet road. Yesterday, we took a taxi to Satapada (or thereabouts) for a boat trip on Chilika Lake. We had hoped for spectacular bird sightings but hadn’t done our homework sufficiently well; the main bird sanctuary island is too far. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant few hours on the lake, we had a brief glimpse of an Irrawaddy Dolphin, ate some tasty tiger prawn on a sandbar – 70 km long – that separates Chilika Lake from the Bay of Bengal and a pleasant taxi ride through the countryside.
There is an option of a ferry ride across the lake to Barkul which would save me 50 km. But I saw the ferry, a small low boat crammed with motor cycles and people, no shade or chance to move for three or four hours. I think I’ll cycle round the lake.
There is an album of photographs of Puri and area here.