Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Day 280 - Dhaka

Well I am back in Dhaka and leave for Myanmar tomorrow.

The plan was to get to Khulna as early as possible to book the Rocket, or at least carry on cycling to Bagerhat. I got to the office at 12:30, but there was nobody there to issue a ticket, only somebody who kept telling me to sit down and I kept telling him I didn't want to. Then he told me his boss wouldn't be able to issue a ticket until 19:00. Oh well, it looks as though I wouldn't reach Bagerhat. I returned at 19:00 to be told to sit down again, but I felt even less inclined to as the mosies were after my ankles in a big way. By 19:30 boss man still hadn't turned up and Mr Sitdown couldn't find him, but assured me he would be there as 10am tomorrow, so my ankles were glad to leave, even without a ticket.

At 9:45 the following day I was back at the office and Boss man was already there, but the bad new was that the Rocket didn't leave until 3am on 27th, to arrive in Dhaka 6am 28th, 6 hours before my flight. I was also told it might be delayed due to fog and I guessed transport in Bangladesh is hit and miss at the best of times, so I decided it was best not to risk it. So it was back to the hotel, pack and get on the road again, somewhat behind schedule. I made it another short day stopping off and looking at the decaying mosques and monuments at Bagerhat before finishing the day at Perojpur. Bagerhat and Perojpur took the brunt on the cyclone in November, but other than the fact that there were more trees down than elsewhere, there was little evidence that anything had happened. There were still a few wrecked dwellings, but I guessed they belonged to people that didn't survive, so there was no rush to rebuild. Those I spoke to said that the people of the area are used to disasters as cyclones and flooding accur every year and there makeshift homes of bamboo and corrugated iron can be rebuilt very quickly. I bought a new belt on Perojpur, feeling very pleased with myself as it meant I could continue wearing my trousers that are now way too big for me. My current belt is useless, it just hangs there and I only wear for somewhere to keep the camera. To keep my trousers up I have to keep my hands in my pockets. I didn't feel so pleased with myself after I had broken it twice before I had even worn it. I threw it in the bin.

Yesterday threatened to be a long day as the road on the map looked very basic. After 4km there was a ferry crossing which I had to wait 15 minutes for. I made best of the time by having a quick breakfast. I got talking to somebody who was on a bus and heading for Barisal where I needed to pass through. That was good news as if buses were using the roads, they must be reasonable. I made it to Barisal in good time and decided to stop for some more food. Needless to say a small crowd soon gathered with the head questioner sitting opposite me. After a few minutes he left and within seconds his place had been taken and I was asked the same questions again. A few minutes later he left too and the same thing happened, somebody sat down and asked exactly the same questions again. I felt like saying `if you are so interested in me why didn't you listen to the questions and answers rather than just staring at me?` My patience was wearing thin, especially when he tried to stir my tea for me whilst I was trying to drink it. Being asked the same questions does get a bit tiresome, but my favourite, and one I never get tired of is `Are you one person?` Of course it is not always exactly the same question, the other day in a hotel I was asked `Are you two or three persons?`, `No, no` I said, `I am only one person, it's just that I need a new pair of trousers.` I reached Maradipur 7km back from the road. On asking about hotel I was told of the Circuit House, a government run chain that are usually very good, but it took an age to find, again no signs in English, but when I asked for a room he said I need the Deputy Commissioner's permission and waved in the general direction of where I had come in from. I decided I had no chance of finding him so went in search of another hotel and found 2 next to each other. At the 2nd I was told it was 80 Taka, but another man immediately raised it to 200, but having seen the soom took great pleasure in telling him it wasn't worth anywhere near 200 and went to the hotel next door instead.

Today was another dash for a ferry, needless to say after cycling hard for 62k, it left just as I arrived. I reckon if I hadn't have stopped for a pee with 6k to go I would have been on it. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long for the next one. It was a pretty small ferry with 4 buses, 3 lorries and 4 cars and nowhere for anybody to go on the 2 hour river crossing. I made the most of my foriegn cyclist's charm and managed to get a seat on the bridge, shaded, high up and with good views of all around. Once off the ferry it was a pretty easy run into Dhaka, I didn't even get lost and went straight to the hotel I stayed in before. I have some left luggage to pick up which I had trouble explaining to the guy on reception, I think it will be a real challenge to get it back.

So as I said at the start, I leave Bangladesh tomorrow. I wasn't that enthusiastic about coming here, but I have had a great time, the people are nice, there is a relaxed feel about the place, the food is good, the weather has been kind to me, I couldn't ask for any more. But I feel sorry for the people here, they have a tough life and work very hard, but they have little support from the government, who in honesty probably don't have the resources, and added to that they bare the brunt of natural forces too.

David and Lyndsey have asked a host of questions, so here are few answers.

(1) Are you going to write a book about your experiences?

Yes, I would love to, but in reality even if I did it would be unlikely to be published, I don't think my writing would be up to it.

(2) When you finally get to Australia, will you decide to keep going all around the world?

You are not supposed to ask that question! (Yet)

(3) Apart from friends & family what do you miss? (If anything!)

A washing machine and cheese sandwiches made with Tesco's crappy, cheap, floppy, rubbery cheese.

(4) Are you fed up of eating rice yet?

I get fed up with rice very quickly, even at home, but it is such a good food for cycling that I still actively look for it. In Bangladesh I just make sure I follow it up with their wonderful sweets.

(5)Favourite place/country visited so far?(you will get asked this question a lot when you get home, so good preparation!)

Tough one, there haven't been many places/countries that I haven't liked. Vienna was a great place but Bulgaria was the nice surprise for me. I didn't expect to like it but thought it was great and would have like to stopped there longer.

(6)Would you like to live in any of the countries you have visited?

No, I would miss my family and friends too much, not to mention Teso's crappy cheese.

(7) How many punctures have you had so far?

Tut, tut, you don't read all of the blog as this was mentioned a little while back, but I would guess it's about 15 due to failure of meterials, ie rim tape and innertubes. Since I relaced everything I have had one puncture in about the last 6,000km.

(8)Will Norwich make the play-offs?

No, but I keep hoping!