Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Day 202 - Chandigarh

Thanks for all you comments, they are good to read and I will try to answer a few in a mo.

Well I managed to choose a really bad route from Agra to Chandigarh and I think I saw all that is bad about about India compressed into 4 days. There are supposed to be a billion people in this country and I think I have seen most of them in the last few days!
I left Agra with Judith and Andre heading north. Soon the road surface was terrible and the traffic heavy. We had to weave about the road just to select the smallest holes to cycle through, whereas in some of the villages they were just rough tracks. It made the going very slow and far from ideal for anybody with a bad back, so if you read this Sonya, take note. Also you couldn't look at the surroundings as you had to concentrate on the 'road' the whole time, far from enjoyable. We split up at Hathras as J & A were heading for Nepal, I felt sorry to be leaving them for the last time, they have been good fun and company over the last 3 months, friends for life I am sure. At the junction there was a level crossing closed for a train, but being India there is no waiting in an orderly fashion so the traffic was stacked up the whole way across on both sides. I suspect it would have taken an age to clear so I just went underneath the barriers before the train arrived and made a get away. I stopped the night in Aligarh, a dump. The first 4 or 5 hotels I tried were full or at least they didnt want me to stay there for some reason. In one a fat slob lying on a grimey sofa asked "A/C or non A/C". "Non A/C" I said to which he answered " We are completely full, no rooms available at all". They charge substantially more for air con room so I suspect he couldn't be bothered to move his fat arse for anything less.

The next couple of days were more of the same, just worse, passing through filthy villages and polluted rivers (Photos). The weather was cool and overcast which probably made it feel worse. I stopped in Saharanpur which was really chaotic and walking along the street was like playing some sort of computer game as I constantly had to leap out of the way of motorcycles as they came at you from all angles, and that was just walking along the street not even trying to cross it. The Hotel a chose was a very bad choice. They had a power failure when I looked at the room but when it was restored I could see just how bad it was, dirty sheets, distgusting dirty carpet and a bathroom that I really didnt want to go in, let alone use. I asked them to change the sheets but I just got a different dirty set.

The following day was as bad as it gets from beginning to end. During the night I was constantly bugged by mosquitos so that every hour or so I had a swatting session. I ended up leaving the light on as I thought that might attract them, then the power went and the noisey generator was outside the window, not that the light came back on. At 5am there was a knock at the door which I ignored, then they kept pressing the buzzer so I told them to go away, but they persisted. I eventually opened the door and 2 staff tried to walk in without so much as a word until I stood in their way. "There is a leak in the bathroom" they said, "If there is I suspect it has been there for the last 6 months" I said "You can sort it out at 8:30 when I have left" at which I shut the door. They persisted with the buzzer but when I answered they got the full force of my angry voice, not often heard, and a very loudly slammed door. I didn't hear from them again. As I packed my bike in the morning, they stood there and watched me, so where had the urgency gone? It was an easy route out of town but after 30k I passed through Yamunanager, the dirtiest, most polluted, shitty town I have seen so far in a country full of filthy towns. This is supposed to be an emerging nation, a developing nation, but not from what I have seen. It might be in cities like Mumbia and Bangalore, but for the rest of it it will take generations and a completely different mind set and to be honest I cant see it happening. It took me an age to get through the place due to the congestion not help by yet another toppled overladen vehicle. At last I was on smaller roads but I started the day not feeling too well and by now I was going downhill and I still had no idea how far I had to go. I was heading for Chadigarh, built from scratch in the 1950's and supposedly the greenest cleanest city in the country, not that that is saying much. Route finding was difficult as there were no signs in English so at every junction I had to stop and ask the way, then stop again and ask somebody else for comfirmation. Before long I hit a completely blocked road, but thankfully I could walk my bike around it all. I never did see what was the real cause but I guess it was a couple of broken down lorries. In true Indian fashion vehicles in each direction filled both carriageways and the verges and with their organisation skills I could see it taking hours to sort out as vehicles were still queue jumping when I left. To make it worse the plonkers had completely blocked a level crossing as well, so a train was stuck too. A good example of the Indian stupidity and ignorance that I see every day. Oh dear, this isn't sounding good is it? As I eventually neared Chandigarh the road was closed and a diversion was in place which I took and soon saw signs for different sectors, part of the 1950's town planning. So I followed them with the only thought on my mind of getting to a hotel and going to bed, I felt bad. I couldn't make the sectors fit in with the map at all so I kept asking for sector 22 which was never signposted. I gave up trying to find 22 and asked a policeman where the hotels were and he told me there were none. "There are loads marked on my map in sector 22" I said. "Yes" he said "but they are in Chandigarh, this is Panchkule". Oh shit! That was the last thing I needed but at least it explained why I was lost! It was another 10k to Chandigarh, oh joy, and to make things even worse it was getting dark and there were no signposts. The place was a massive grid with roundabouts, a sort of Milton Keynes without signposts. It took an age but at last I found some shops and things, I even found the bus station and a hotel that was marked on the map. I still couldnt understand the map though and later realised the hotel was marked in the wrong place. I tried one or two hotels but they were very expensive. I almost took one as I felt so rough, but I carried on cycling around in circles until I found another which was still expensive but much cheaper than the others I had been to. Had had ridden 153k feeling bad for the last 100k, and not seen another hotel before this place. I turned off my cycle computer and the screen went blank. It's not supposed to do that, so a fitting end to the day. I got to my room having carried all my stuff up a long flight of stairs at 18:15 and didn't leave it until 13:00 today.

I feel a bit better today but still not great so I spent the day here. It is very different to anything else in India, no cows, pigs, or monkeys, more jeans than saris and only a few people urinating in public. A badly decaying Milton Keynes should paint a pretty good picture.

Ok, now to answer a few comments. Its good to hear from you Richard and that and your colleagues you are still reading this stuff. Punctures are a bit of a sore point. I had expected no more than 3 or 4 on the entire trip but I guess I have had about 15. I cant say that anything has gone through the tyres, most of them have been caused by poor components. The rim tape on the back wheel came adrift way back in France and that caused 4 before I could get it replaced. Then I had a series of slow punctures on the rear caused by a faulty seam on the tire, but it took an age before I could get the sharp bit out. That's all cured now. Then the rim tape came unstuck on the front and has been replaced, but then I had problems with innertubes. I assume they were affected by the heat as they were "falling apart". In Yazd I had 2 punctures in a day and didnt even ride the bike! Later I cut the tube open to see what was happening and it had a split that just kept getting bigger. I bought new tubes in Dubai and since then I have been trouble free, but I shouldn't really say that.

Tony, I haven't read "Blue Remembered Hills", but I need more books to read and I will look out for it here, though I suspect you are being far too complimentary. Thanks anyway.

Pete, I am surprised to hear that you are still reading this, but that's good too. Glad to hear all is going well. It sounds as though we are all enjoying our different routes since we have left Cap, but reality will hit me when I return, I am sure. I have always thought of your rocks and had been collecting them, I even slipped a few into Judith's and Andre's bags to slow them down. Now they have left it just too heavy, so I have ditched the lot, sorry.

Thanks for your kindly comments too Nick. I am not that tight really, but going into the Taj twice at 10 pounds a throw seems a bit extravegant to me, especially as that is much more than I spend mosts days here.

Crikey, I have wriiten alot. Thats what you get for me stopping in a day in a boring town and not wanting to do anything too physical.


Harpo said...

It's not that I don't want to say anything - I have been reading the blog avidly - it's just like reading a book. And generally I don't reply to books.

We've just been looking at the 'Post in time for Christmas' leaflet, and note that for India it was last Friday.

So as a desperate last minute greeting, let me (us) wish you a very happy Christmas.

I guess two weeks isn't really going to be enough time for you to cycle your way out of the grubbyness that you have got yourself into. Bad luck. (Bad planning!)

Steve said...

Gosh, John, what places you do go to! Well, I've crossed those off my visiting list. I'm sure it was just the same in England during the Industrial Revolution.

I assume you're saving your rupias to wine and dine my sister when she comes. Tewy says - and she knows about these things - that no visit to Delhi is complete without a visit to the Imperial Hotel.

Look after yourself.

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Miles Back said...

Hi John,

John Davies here of the Willesden CC. I’ve been trying to catch you up for weeks. I only heard of your blog a few weeks ago and have been enjoying reading your adventures and admiring your talent as a photographer. Now that I have finally caught you up, I find that you seem to be in Milton Keynes of all places? Very bewildering for a gentle resident of Willesden such as myself.

Your blog is very entertaining and privileged insight into the lives of the people you meet as well as the ups and downs of such a tour. Today was clearly a big downer!

A link to your Blog site has been posted on the Willesden blog (WillesdenCC.blogspot.com), so expect pressing questions about the availability of Beans on toast in the upper reaches of the Chittagong, as well as useful comments such as “Dig in!”

We all missed you on this year’s Paris-Brest. As you probably know conditions were not as dry and warm as you have been experiencing on the majority of your ride. Despite this I really enjoyed the whole event and finished in the same poor time as 2003. I shan’t forget the ride in a hurry, especially as I am keenly awaiting the return of feeling to my toes and fingers.

See you up the road.

John D.

Caff said...

Nice to "talk" earlier. Yes the mannekin was also good - forgot about that one!! I was intrigued that you are supposed to be in India but all the mannekins are white!!! :-)

Aaldrik said...

Hi John, see that you are still enjoying India... hope you can find some peace and quiet in McLeod Ganj soon.

Oh and those bad roads, were they the yellow ones? :-)

We'll keep tracking you (still in Agra) and who knows, you might catch up on us before we get to Kathmandu.

Take care on those roads, stay healthy!
Aaldrik and Sonya :-)