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13/08 – 15/08 – Amritsar – Chandigarh – Oh monsoon, do your worst

November 10, 2011
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I was keen to get on the road, and excited about heading to Chandigarh. It wasnt long before i had negotiated the gridlocked rickshaw crowd negotiating the flooded streets and was heading out of the city. My first target was Hoshiarpur, off the main route to Chandigarh – i was duly rewarded with a quiet, well paved road with close tree cover providing ample shade from the relentless sun. It didnt stop my from burning though – i soon realised cycling in my new vest was not such a good idea.

Before long i was topping 100km – which was great as i had planned to cover the 250 km to Chandigarh in two days. I stopped around 125, which was just the other side of Hoshiarpur,  and started looking for camp. I heard many stories about the challenges of camping in India – about the lack of privacy, and the difficulty of hiding away from curious onlookers. I had no trouble at all, and ducked off the main road down a track that was flanked by recently turned fields. I found a great spot of grass that ran between two of these fields, well hidden enough fromthe road and far enough from any serious vegetation so I wouldnt be too hassled by insects. There was a nice breeze and the ground was cool – it was perfect.

It wasnt long though before i was spotted, by the owner of the land. He came over and looked dumbfounded as to what i was doing. I gestured in my best hand-ish that I wanted to sleep here for one night, and he said in his best hand-ish that i could sleep in the temple for free. I told him i would rather camp, and he was cool, off he went. Result. I settled down to my first night, camping alone in India. Cooked up some curry, and had a blast.

It was hot in the night – too hot to put the topsheet on. I regretted this decision at around 3am, as the rain started in earnest. I got up and quickly covered my tent, and tucked into my dry spot, actually rather thankful that it was chucking it down – at least the temperature had dropped. The rain didnt ease up until gone 10am – I hid in my tent until then waiting for it to stop. It eased up just enough for me to pack up, only for it to start again, even stronger than before. I contended to cycle the next 25km almost blind in torrential rain. My bike computer gave up the ghost, but i was loving it. The fresh monsoon cooled my bones and cleaned my bike, and the feeling of overcoming such a hatred towards rain was really envigorating. Normally i hate rain, but in India, i love it.

It stopped around lunch time, and theheat turned up instantly. I got more sunburn (strange to get a drenching and sunburn in the same day) and had to stop several times for Mountain Dew breaks(slightly overdoing it on one occaision – three bottles) i reached Chandigarh before sundown and spent the remaining hours navigating its arrow straight and busy streets, desperately trying in vain to finda hotel in my price range where i could explore the city from. I duly failed, checking into a hotel on the edge of town for a hefty 500rupees a night (about $11 – outrage!) i got over it by getting the beers and the curry in.

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