I’d booked four nights in Bhubaneswar, enough to see the sights and to catch up on some coursework. In the afternoon of the first day (October 30th) I walked to the old city, found a nice garden to sit for a while overlooking the big tank Bindu Sagar, then looked at a few Hindu temples for which Bhubaneswar in famous. Very old (some from AD 650) but not that inspiring. To me, at any rate. The old city itself was more interesting, as was the coffee shop where I had a latte and ice-cream on the walk back to the hotel!
Not looking for more temples, the following day I visited the zoo. I’m not really sure why; I’m not a zoo person and have never visited the (apparently) excellent zoo in Calgary. But it was fun, to see some animals and to watch Indians on holiday or on a day off. There was even a tiger, lion and deer ‘safari’; a 30 minute bus ride through three different gated sanctuaries where we did actually see one of the zoo’s blue-eyed white tigers (about 50 metres distance), several lions (at about two metres distance) and even more deer.
Good value: 30 mins for 30 rupees (60 cents) and less than 10 cents per exotic beast. . Again, riding in the bus full of excited Indian tourists was the best part. I spent quite some time watching a hippo: exceptionally ugly, awesomely powerful and surprisingly graceful for an overgrown pig with bad teeth.
On my third day, I went to the Udayagiri and Kandagiri Caves carved out of the hillside for Jain ascetics in the second century BC. Again, it was the Indian visitors that kept me entertained (I mean this in the nicest possible way).
Internet (both the intermittent hotel wifi and from my modem) was very slow so course work took a while. I did book a hotel in Puri for a week, leaving a couple of days for a ride to Konark to see the Sun Temple en route to Puri. When Friday came around, I had to make a return trip to the Airtel office to add more data to my modem plan (I had added 1 GB of 2g access the evenig before and was instructed to test it before adding more) and it was noon before I was almost ready to leave. Then I couldn’t find my cycle computer so envisaged a complete unpack and search. And, it was raining. Seeing as I hadn’t been able to book accommodation in Konark, and my hotel in Puri was fully booked for the weekend, it just seemed like I’d be better off staying in Bhubaneswar for a couple more days until my reservation came up in Puri. Which I did. It did give me time to do more coursework. And to visit the coffee shop again for more latte and ice-cream.
November 4th: I did finally get out of Bhubaneswar yesterday at around 11:00 am. Not much to say about the ride apart from my legs didn’t seem to be bursting with energy after the few day’s rest. Traffic was busy to start, then eased off. There was a headwind for much of the way, which isn’t really surprising considering I was riding towards the sea. It also rained a bit but, being brought up in England, there is no surprise in the combination of seaside and rain. There has been quite a lot of rain recently, particulary overnight, but cyclone Nilam came ashore around Chennai a few days ago so maybe that is the cause. (The Times of India is reporting flooding in southern Odisha.).
Arrived at the hotel in Puri around 4:00 pm. The first leg of the tour is over! My bike is in its least secure storage so far, in an unlocked shed down an alley adjacent to the hotel. Visible, but chained. 100% safe, I am assured.
I walked down to the beach. First impressions were not that favourable; it isn’t Goa by any means. Walking north past lots of fishing boats hauled up above the high water mark, there were lots of fishermen shitting on the beach, some at the water’s edge but most just below the high tide mark. Strange to see men squatting together, bare behinds in usually modest India, chatting away as they crapped on the sand, or talking on cell phones. Meanwhile, kids played cricket or flew kites around them. And the Western tourist-cum-cyclist had to keep his eyes open and be careful where he trod. I didn’t feel encouraged to swim! Instead of the seaside donkey rides I remember from my youth, Puri offers camel rides.
Pizza at the Honey Bee restaurant for dinner!
Day 17: Today: 56.7 km, Avs: 14.1 kph, Time 4hr0min; To date: 1330 km.