*** WARNING THIS BLOG CONTAIN MINGING FEET PHOTOS!! ***
It’s amazing how much better you can feel after 10 hours sleep…
A solid breakfast of eggs, toast and masala dosa with sambar and coconut chutney and we were set to go! We left the calm of the spa hotel complex and dived headfirst into busy roads to get through Vadodara. Getting back onto the national highway was a relief as there was more room for the same number of cars/mopeds/cows etc.
We made good progress and felt a bit more prepared to take India on. The roads were good, until we hit unmarked road works and everything ground to a halt and everyone is still cheery but we had less hassle than yesterday.
We have ended up in one of the few states in India with an alcohol ban and even the beer shop was alcohol free! Our first IPA will go down a treat but for now the food has been tremendous with lunchtimes aloo gobi being amazing.
The weather today was overcast and we were relieved it wasn’t so hot but it was certainly dusty so didn’t mind too much when we got caught in a monsoon 10 miles from the end of the day. It felt like being in a warm shower!
We’ve plumped for Hotel fun city which was great (except a cold shower) with nice rooms, WiFi, a/c and had another great curry dinner in the restaurant with portions even we couldn’t finish.
After a not quite so curry based breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches we rolled straight onto the National Highway again to join the chaos. We made good progress but soon had to stop for cash and lunch in Vapi….and then Stevie crumbled at the sign of the golden arches!
After a slightly spicier Maccy D’s than in the UK and selfies with the manager we rolled off again. It started to drizzle a bit… and then rain… and the pour… and then torrential…
Soaked through we pushed on further than we would have absolutely drenched. We had also got into the hills and there were signs warning to slow down for the local wildlife… with a picture of a leopard on which was more than a bit alarming!!
Safe to say, we did not slow down but carried on quickly and after a few “no room at the inn” at roadside hotels eventually plumped for a rather opulent hotel in Vasai-Virar. It could have almost had a tired charm but with staff that weren’t so friendly and rooms that weren’t spotlessly clean. Dinner was OK, but not as fantastic as we have been having and the a/c was full blast or had to be turned off.
The next day we stayed for breakfast so started late. We started in light rain and we umm’d and arr’d about waterproofs on or off. We were hot within a couple of miles and striping off already and the traffic was starting to build up.
The plan was a skirt around Mumbai but potentially we didn’t skirt enough as the rain got heavier so did the traffic. And then it rained more and got busier still…and so on until it felt like we were standing under a tap in a gridlock of traffic. When we could move a few metres it was treacherous due to the potholes hidden by the road that had become a river.
Some tricky rerouting to try and escape asap was made even harder with the rain and we kept missing the endless flyovers we needed.
Finally getting onto a more sensible road the traffic and the rain didn’t let up and we bailed into a biryani restaurant for lunch where they promptly provided newspaper for us to sit on. The young waiter was delighted to practice his English with us and we had the inevitable selfie with him.
It looked like it was going to ease up as we were about to leave and then without warning the heavens opened again to leave water flowing down the windows. Waiting out the worst of the shower cost us more time and we’d already lost hours in the city rush.
Braving the roads once more we were treated to some beautiful scenery of misty green hills and waterfalls cascading down. We even spotted monkeys just chilling out on the side of the road.
Just as we were starting to enjoy ourselves any descents were ruined by speed humps and then the roads deteriorated into a random mix of cobblestones, potholes and lose surface.
Fearing tackling these conditions in the dark we opted to stop at the next hotel to dry out everything… including our poor saddles that still go damp despite double bagging!!
We ended up in what would be a holiday resort in the dry season with basic cabins, cleaner than last night but not exactly luxurious. We frantically tried to get all our kit out to dry then a quick dinner before bed!
Has not been a great day.
Despite taking all the advice and heeding every precaution (no meat, no salads, no uncooked food, religious handwashing, prebiotics, bottled water etc etc) both our stomachs started gurgling yesterday evening and then through the night we both suffered, Laura more so than Stevie and combined with the phone randomly ringing in the middle of the night and power cuts made for a terrible night’s sleep.
The following morning we were both washed out and found water seems to have seeped in everywhere so Stevie ended up doing more drying will Laura fell in and out of sleep again.
The rain was torrential to start in and at least the saddles had been preserved by Stevie’s ingenuity last night and were tightly wrapped now.
The roads were still horrendous to begin with but did improve eventually. The rain continued to pour and we had to take a break to get something to eat, Stevie having eaten most of a pack of biscuits and Laura nothing all day.
Some sweet masala tea went down a treat though and Laura managed a small omelette. The rain eased it bit in the afternoon but never really stopped and a moderate 1300ft climb felt like a mountain pass. Rain and roads made for a tricky descent and after our late start we were chasing the daylight again to find a hotel. A last kick in the teeth of another hill and another downpour and we pulled over at the first place we saw, a basic but friendly restaurant/ hotel. The rooms were clean but a bit dilapidated and certainly not the kind of Western comforts we are used to. They looked after us really well and let us lock up the bicycle safe and dry without us even asking.
Still trying to recover from our GI upsets we were under mileage for the second day running and it’s not getting any easier…
When it doesn’t rain it pours…
Still a bit iffy on the digestive front we made a slow start out from the hotel, especially because the road was in the same condition as before. Dodging the potholes we made slow progress but at least the rain wasn’t quite as torrential. A new road is in the process of being built but this seems to be all at once with random sections being paved and others descending into gritty gravel and potholes.
We made a break for lunch despite having only made 40 miles but knew we had to push on to try and get the mileage in. The jungle and paddy fields were briefly visible through gaps in the rain with farmers up to their knees planting rice. It was a day of hills and the descents were lost to poor surface and road humps.
We briefly tried to cut a corner off along a road that wasn’t a national highway but soon backtracked after it turned into gravel track. Losing more time with the more roundabout route we rejoined just in time to start looking for hotels. These were few and far between in this more remote area and we were yet again battling the light after such a slow day. Determined there must be something just around the corner we felt we had no choice but to carry on.
Starting to panic about the lack of daylight disaster happened and we got a flat on the back wheel! A speedy pull over (to somewhere which was ironically a dilated hotel) Stevie performed and extremely quick change of tube but not before the heavens opened again. Changing a tyre in that sort of downpour with no ideas where would sound the night was a bit if a low point…
But we got sorted, put the lights on and tried to see how far we could go. After a few false alarms we finally stumbled across somewhere with an “ac/non-ac” sign; a dead give away for a hotel. But initially enquiries drew a blank, the we must have looked desperate as some more phone calls were made and then our saviour arrived in the form of a physics teacher and new Pricipal to the local school who not only helped us get a hotel 1.5km down the road with electricity (this one didn’t) and sorted us with dinner and a couple of beers!! He absolutely couldn’t do enough for us!
The hotel was basic though and we felt very remote at this point. With issues with the roaming sim card too we had been without Internet so checking up on what was to come was tricky.
The monsoon and roads had knocked us for 6… given this was a last minute plan we’d not fully researched the implications of the route and as left feeling somewhat daft in the middle of nowhere in a bit of a predicament.
It was Stevie’s turn to be up all night to the loo and Laura’s feet were in tatters, rotting with excessive moisture. We desperately needed rest and a bit of familiarity so knew we needed to push on to Goa but with this being 120 miles down the road we decided enough was enough and to have a “rest day” riding to the nearest bigger town.
Getting ready yet again to get on the bike felt like too much effort and we had some many worries it’s hard to stay focused, but we knew for sure something has to change to have any hope of continuing with our health intact.
50 miles was plenty today with Stevie struggling to fuel and both of us surviving on biscuits and crisps until a sweet shop lady offered us chai tea*. We took a break and were joined by a really friendly and keen cyclist from Goa who reassured us the horrendous few days of monsoon we have had are exceptional even for this region with a lot of places on red alert and also reassured us if we divert inland the weather and roads should get easier. He even bought our chai for us!
Finally we got smoother (if not flatter) roads as the roadworks on NH66 finally stopped.
We got into town with time to relax, replan and eat pizza and are feeling better already. We’re looking to be underdistance for India, but for now we need to focus on the challenges in hand and get ourselves back on track.
Another night with broken sleep and we made the descion to rest properly while we had a decent hotel, some Western food and a pharmacy around the corner.
We’ve been able to seek some medical advice and got stocked up on meds and sleep. But there’s always more to do… kit to wash, inner tubes to mend, brake blocks to change, routes to plan etc etc.
But the break has put us in a much better state to continue with feet and tummies on the mend, better prepared to deal with the Monsoon but with a plan to find better roads and weather.
Mileage: 537.59 miles
Punctures: 2 (1 back, 1 slow front)
Currys: 5 Pizza: 2
* yes, we have been warned about roadside chai too now! We’re hyperanalysing everything but it’s so hard to find “safe” things to eat! Not sure how we’ll fare for a month on biscuits, crisps and bananas!