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18/08 – 20/08 – Chandigarh – Rishikesh – Eagerness gets the better of me

June 4, 2012

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I fly out of Chandigarh, excited by the prospect that i’m going to Kathmandu and fulfilling the trip to its full potential. It’s boiling hot of course, so I use this opportunity to cycle in a vest. I almost instantly regret this decision. I find the road heading out of the city and I stop for a quick lunch in a roadside curry café, and I instantly feel the heat. I wipe myself down and half my back comes off in my towel. The other diners in the café look on at me with great concern, and point out that my back is completely blistered. I didn’t feel a thing, and it still felt ok after I changed my clothes, but the lack of pain didn’t last. I put back on my baggy tshirt and douse it in water, feeling a little dampened now about my quick getaway.

Further adding to my bad start, I leave Punjab Haryana and am welcomed into Himichal Pradesh by hills and unpaved roads. Not what I want for 120km/day to Kathmandu. I curse and start to climb towards Nahan, stopping occasionally on the roadside to have a soak in the natural car washes along with several bus full’s of sweating Indian’s.

I reach Nahan around 4pm, having only done 60km. Thankfully from then on the rest of the day is down hill and I quickly make up 100km. Another 20km in this heat doesn’t feel that tempting, again putting a damper on the day, as I would have to make it up tomorrow. The heat really is a factor that I didn’t anticipate. Luckily around the 110 mark I stop at a temple, and gingerly ask if they have somewhere I can camp. They instantly offer me a bed, food, shower and a change of clothes. Result! A couple of the guys speak tiny English and we talk all night about English girls, whiskey and monkeys (their job working at the temple mostly entails keeping monkeys out of the shrine)

Over dinner conversation turns to my passport (just out of curiosity on their side – a nice change after the nosiness and demanding nature of people in Central Asia) I go to my bag to retrieve it and to my embarrassment and utter foolishness – its not there. They at first don’t believe me. I don’t believe it myself, but it’s actually not in my possession. I quickly think back to Chandigarh and I realise in my haste to leave the Air India office that I left it on the desk. Luckily – oh so luckily – I have the mobile number of the guy I dealt with in the office. I borrow one of the holy men’s phones and give him a call. ‘Oh my god, I have been trying to reach you all day! You left your passport in my office!’ thank god for that. I am relieved and devastated.

The holy men tell me there is a bus at 6am tomorrow that will take me direct into Chandigarh. They allow me to store my bike and all my belongings in the temple for the day so I can retrieve it. If it weren’t for them and their hospitality, I would have been cycling back, for sure putting an end to my eager plans to cycle to Kathmandu, although this episode had pretty much put them to bed anyway.

I rise early the next morning and jump on the bus back to Chandigarh, hot foot it to the office and retrieve my passport. I’m back with my bike by 4pm, totally relieved and able to carry on cycling, although on the bus I decided Kathmandu was not going to happen anymore. I was disappointed, but the relief eclipsed that feeling very quickly out of my mind.

I got on the road again and put in a ginger 40km to Paonta Sahib, settled down for a nice curry dinner, then headed out the other side of town and ducked down a small footpath for a camp spot, which turned out to be the hottest, sweatiest and most unpleasant of the trip. I did have fireflies to keep my company though. And prickly heat powder, which I owe a hell of a lot to!

The morning was wet and much cooler, allowing me to get off with ease despite only 45 minutes sleep. I made the decision not to go all the way to Kathmandu the day before, which meant I had reverted back to me previous plan of rnr in Rishiskesh, which was now only 85km away.

The road to Rishikesh was relatively quiet and flat, with thick jungle and a host of angry monkeys. I got chased a fair few times, and one even lunged at me. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they saw me coming – a man on a big bicycle, but I didn’t hang around to find out. I narrowly out pedalled a pack of monkeys before my childish fascination with them turned into a distinct distrust and dislike for the little buggers.

Arriving in Rishikesh there were more monkeys than people, but they were a large degree tamer than before and more keen to pick pocket your fruit. I found a small ashram near the centre that wasn’t quite what I expected – just a small room in a largely empty complex, but it did for the night while I avoided the rain and ate more curry.


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