Saturday 25th November (Ongole). Rest day. Went out for a shave and a buzz cut. Bought a shirt. Took some pictures.
Then back to the hotel and spent the day working on photos and the blog, with the England-India test match on in the background. With a couple of premier league football games in the background later. Pretty ugly weather in England.
Sunday 25th November (Ongole – Kavali) I had a very broken night and woke for the last time at 6:00 am. I checked distances on Google and considered a more moderate plan for the day. If I rode to Nellore (130 km), it would be another longer day (135 km), with some climbing by the look of it, to Tirupati. So, I’d probaby need a rest day between those two. Alternatively, a 75-ish km day to Kavali, followed by a 100-ish day to Gudur, followed by a 100-ish day to Tirupati could get me there at the same time. I decided to decide later, depending upon how the day was going.
I was under way at 8.30 after a light (complementary) breakfast in the hotel and settling my bill (having to remind them about the 10% discount I’d been promised when I checked in, of course). The day started well and I was making good progress when, after a couple of hours, I seemed to lose all my energy. I think the road was climbing ever so slowly, and my speed was suffering. And my thighs did seem still weary from a couple of days ago.
I came up behind a cycle-powered three-wheeler (not a rickshaw, more like a good’s mover with a flat bed behind the cyclist) with a covered rear. My first thought was this was a mobile home for a gypsy family but, as I passed, I saw a single holy man, walking along pushing what again appeared to be his mobile home.
A little further on, I stopped to eat a banana and waited for the holy man to catch up. He accepted a banana with what appeared to be sincere gratitude and a friendly smile, and placed it on a shrine at the back of the cart. There were a couple of lit wicks in little bowls of oil. Then he rang a bell suspended from the roof of his shrine – had I just been blessed? With sign language, I gathered that he was travelling about, with no particular destination. But I may have got it totally wrong, of course. He thanked me again and continued on his way. This was a timely reminder that yes, India is still a very different place, despite the national highway taint of residential sprawl, piles of garbage and ‘progress.’
Maybe I have a typically Western view of these frequent, ugly and malodorous garbage dumps everywhere. They are quite efficient with people sorting through the filth and recycling whatever is of any value, followed by the pigs, cows, goats, dogs and crows (and rats, most likely) searching for scraps to devour. Finally, the dump may be set alight and the process begins again. Certainly not a pretty as our ‘out of sight, out of mind’ or ‘civilised’ approach but more Earth friendly.
At one stage I saw a very dark man walking towards me. I thought he was wearing a dark loin cloth but as I got closer to him, I saw that he was naked. The ‘loin-cloth’ was his huge, football-sized, scrotum. He looked quite happy, ambling along with a smile on his face, but it didn’t look very comfortable.
I crossed over into the northward lane to get to a ‘Dairy Parlour,’ anxious to enjoy a half-litre of chilled milk but I was out of luck. No plain milk. I consoled myself with almond flavoured milk, mango ice-cream and a lassi.
Re-energized somewhat, the kilometres stilled passed slowly. The road passed through some young eucalyptus plantations so the climbing may have been real (land devoted to forestry is generally higher here). The countryside seemed less built up after this and there were a lot of people harvesting rice. My mood improved with the scenery. A man on a motor-cycle told me that the road was only five kilometres from the sea (the evocatively named ‘Coromandel Coast’); I had actually thought I could smell the sea earlier.
I noticed high buildings in the distance to the right of the highway and took a side road in that direction, fairly sure despite the absence of signs, that this must me Kavali. I had somehow missed the main road in to the town but I’m here anyway. In a restaurant that is adequate despite the unfriendly reception from the manager at the reception desk. Now I’d better find something to eat!
Day 27 Today: 78.4 km, Avs: 16.3 kph, Time: 4hours 48min, To date: 2372 km.
Monday 26th November (Kavali – Gudur) An unremarkable day. Overcast start. Usual NH5, not particularly attractive. Head winds slowed me down. Or was it my tired legs? Saw signs for Kanyakumari, although my route s a little longer. Hotel, VSR Residency, again ‘adequate’ for tonight but not for a rest day. (Reasonably priced, though: 700 Rs for AC.) So I’ll have to press on tomorrow.
Just went out for dinner (butter chicken and roti). The town has a nice vibe, stalls along both sides of the road, cows and newborn calves relaxing on the median.
Day 28 Today: 95.8 km, Avs: 16.1 kph, Time: 5hrs 57 min, To date: 2468 km.
I have been following your travels on and off for a month or so. Thanks for doing this. Your writing style is enjoyable. Stuck here in frozen northern Sweden this is just what I need to to remind myself that there are other things out there. Different world from Mumbai or Umeå!
Its been fun also to hear about small towns in India that I never had hard of and what they look like.
I heard of your blog when you wrote some time back in response to an article in the Guardian (or the Independent?). Good luck with the rest of your trip. I am now definitely inspired to see more of India.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. It was mainly for my own benefit but it is gratifying that some others are enjoying it too.
I understand your pain – I am normally freezing in Canada myself, at this time of year. And with the worst of the winter yet to come! On my last trip to India, a long time ago, I remember calling my wife in October, stuck inside a sweltering phone kiosk with sweating pouring off me, only to hear that it was -20 degrees in Calgary at that time. Suddenly, the heat didn’t feel so bad!