We managed to get on the road earlier today but with only some leftover garlic naan and a few biscuits we knew we would need to stop again soon…
Unfortunately stops were not forthcoming and it was over 35miles we finally found a Dhaba that looked like it wouldn’t leave us with “danger-pants”. Some of the staff were obviously still to come on shift and napping under the fans in the corner but an authoritarian older man quickly established we wanted feeding and whipped the kitchen staff into shape.
As has been the case with the more basic places the curries were some of the best yet: a rich paneer tikka masala and and unidentified mushroom and aubergine served piping hot with freshly cooked roti.
The meaĺ sustained us most if the rest if the ride but the heat rose making a couple more stops for liquid essential. We were quite jealous of the buffalo nose deep in ponds. As the day closed we were treated to some cloud cover and then a sharp climb followed by a swooping descent with views over Lake Chilika. We were spoilt for choice with hotel and chose a pricy (£28) on with views over the massive lake.
A curry in the restaurant and a catch up on WiFi (it didn’t reach the room) and we were ready for bed pretty early.
It was a good start from the hotel and Laura spent most of the morning trying to spot elephants in the forest (there were elephant crossing signs…) but to no avail.
Having had a reasonable breakfast at the hotel we managed to make it to midmorning before a break and stopped for vada (like a savoury doughnut) with chutney and cheesecake with a burnt sugar topping for pudding…it was a bit good and Stevie had 2.5 portions!
A quiet lady sat down opposite and watched us eat, never saying a word and then followed us to the bike silently watching. We suspect she didn’t speak any English so we just gave her a wave and a smile as we left.
The food keep us going well into the afternoon, which was just as well as we hit Bhubaneswar and Cuttark with crazy traffic and drivers. We got our heads down to get out of there asap and a few close passes were a bit nerve racking. Back on quieter roads again we stopped for a green mango juice and we’re soon surrounded by a crowd- Laura decided it was her turn for a selfie!
We pushed on to try and find lodgings on the main road but the first one was filthy and weirdly Ste got queried where his facemask was (despite the hotel owner and nobody else wearing one) and refusing to tell us the price and the second saying he was full (despite looking distinctly empty).
We went to plan B and veered off the main highway to a nearby town. We stopped at the first hotel we saw which was delightfully upmarket, reassuringly priced and even had a bar!
The staff were as ever keen to help but seemed to insist we had dinner and drinks in the room. We couldn’t figure out if they genuinely thought we would be more comfortable or if there was some reason they didn’t want us in the var and the restaurant. The process of ordering drinks, ordering food, getting 1st drink, waiting for food, paying for drinks, getting starters, getting 2nd drink, getting main course, almost immediately clearing main course and then paying for the food meant our room felt rather busy with people coming and going. Finally we said we were going to bed and locked the door!
We had complimentary breakfast at the hotel and were offered omlettes which were small but tasty and Laura went to finishing packing while Stevie went to the bike. Immediately there was a knock at the door and 3 porters offering to take our luggage…at this point we had realised we had gone in rather high with the tip for taking the luggage to the room last night due to lack of change and were becoming suspicious that the over attentiveness had ulterior motives.
On checking out we were asked for an extra 300rupees for omelette and juice. “You said breakfast included and we dudnt have any juice” Laura pointed out but to no avail… The waiter/porter that had been most keen to serve us didn’t speak English but it was clear from the conversation he was insisting we had had juice! Spitting feathers we settled for the two most expensive omlettes in India and left before we were expected to tip anyone else!!
The whole incident left us feeling a bit deflated, we know we are probably paying a bit above and beyond as foreigners but it did feel we’d been taken advantage of somewhat.
We had an early lunch in a basic dhaba but it was spotlessly clean and decorated with lovely hangings with shade and a cool fan. What started as a simple meal of rice and daal was topped up with roasted vegetables and pickles and it seemed to be a bottomless brunch as the food just kept coming! Our faith in humanity was restored by such kind people and a wonderful meal.
Back on the road it was pretty warm and hitting a section of roadworks dropped our average speed, but at least nothing like NH66. Another brief dhaba stop for drinks and an old lady was busy trying to keep the goat out if the rice drying outside. Laura spotted a waterproof phone cover at the stall next door and came back to find Stevie sat with the elderly couple apparently having a conversation in a mix if English and Hindi (or maybe another Indian language). Something seemed to come across and we left feeling refreshed and also like we might have been their first customers in a long time as the gentleman had rather ceremoniously searched for change (even when we refused) and proudly presented us with a 10rupee coin he’d been saving for this occasion!
Finding a cheap/basic but again very clean hotel (on of the cleanest bathrooms of India!) we avoided going into Jaleswar centre to save time. There was a short walk to the nearest restaurant and when we got in the mosquitoes descended! We must be extra tasty as tourists but with extra bug spray and incense supplied but the restaurant they were chased off.
There was no official menu but we were happy to have whatever veg dishes we were given and a paneer and veg curry were delicious, but the portion sizes tiny! Too British to ask for the sane again we headed back to the hotel and managed to order takeaway daal and chapatis to eat in bed (followed by pudding chocolate) before a solid night’s sleep.
Pudding chocolate cooled under the aircon…
We were feeling tired and road weary and Stevie in particular was suffering with the mental strain of trying to navigate a tandem safely through India. Kolkata was still days away…
It was hot to start and we soon hit roadworks sapping our average speed. Having had biscuits for first breakfast we were delighted with chips for second breakfast! Ordering now consists of asking for “veg” and seeing what they come up with-its always good! We are encountering more people who are surprised, or even don’t understand, we don’t speak hindi which is a bit embarrassing given we’ve rocked up in their country ignorant of their language!
The roads and traffic continued to be crazy- allsorts passed us today: multiple buses full of orange clad Hindis blasting out music, coaches with dozens of people on the roof, some rather unfazed looking chicks on the back of a moped and a 6 legged calf being displayed and we think celebrated on the back of a truck!!
The road works subsided to be replaced by frequent sets of vicious speed humps, apparently designs to exacerbated all our aches, pains and niggles.
Another dhaba stop for late lunch and another tremendous meal was rustled up from a basic order of “rice + veg + egg”. The kind owner kept bringing us more and more delicious things until again we were stuffed! On asking for the bill we’re sure he undercharged us as he stated a higher figure then knocked it down and refused to take any more. So humbling when we are so privileged.
The weather broke in the afternoon with rumbles of thunder and lighter flashes ahead of us, luckily it moved faster than us and we only got a light dousing. Pushing onto Bankura paid off with a nice hotel and not long before we turn around and head for Kolkata having taken the long way around to squeeze in a few more miles.
Another dinner in the room but much more relaxed this time and another wonderful curry. We still failed to get an easy drinking beer though and ended up with an elephant strong 8% Calsberg which is not ideal!
Started hot. Even before we set foot outside the hotel…venturing into the foyer in search of WiFi from our 24’c a/c room we immediately sweated. After a substantial breakfast from the buffet we packed the bike quickly to ge launched into the busy town streets where everything was happening all at once.
Escaping back to the highway we had a few more bumpy miles of speed humps as the sun shone and the temperature rose. Just before our turn to Kolkata (and after several people asking where we were going told us we were going the wrong way) we pulled over for a cold drink.
Within a minute Laura and the bike were surrounded and Stevie had to battle back through with the refreshments. The crowd were very polite though and didn’t interfer with the bike or demand selfies and mutterings of “Eng-lisch” went around.
We parted the crowds (not unlike moses) and made it back to the highway. The heat and humidity continued to mount and another stop for liquid, bit with no shade left Laura dizzy and nauseous. As soon as we stopped the breeze stopped and the heat was oppressive.
Finally finding a restaurant with a/c we cooled off enough to feel better in the afternoon when it thankfully clouded over too.
As posh 4 star hotel to celebrate our penultimate night in India and we’re Kolkata bound tomorrow.
After a tremendous hotel breakfast we were more than a bit put out to find the bicycle had been meddled with despite being in the gated hotel carpark with 24hour security guards. Nothing was damaged and it wasn’t malicious but the cycle computer had been dislodged and the bike moved despite having locks on. We know the bicycle is a point if interest and understand people why people want to touch it but it’s really worrying that it could be unintentionally damaged causing us a catastrophe trying to getvit fixed…We let the manager know but needed to get on our way having had a relatively late start.
The national highway towards Kolkata was smooth riding and we got our heads down for the last leg in India. Just when we thought it was too good to be true we hit a toll that wouldn’t allow cyclists and we’re diverted onto the busy city roads. Missing the original main road it was easier to dogleg as the heat and noise rose and it became harder to communicate.
Finally approaching the airport we followed the GPS to the Holiday Inn we had booked. On reaching the airport the heat had got to Laura again and she couldn’t spot the hotel. Checking Google maps we appeared to have over shot significantly so had to back track down the busy dusty roads. Finally seeing the familiar signs (Holiday Inn is in the UK too) we pulled in.
It wasn’t until after we checked in we realised there were two Airport Holiday Inn hotels and we were at the second but as we had reached the airport we were pleased to finish our leg in India.
It all feels surreal, so much has happened and it has gone so quickly and yet so slow! We’ve suffered some of our toughest times of the trip with illness and rough roads and weather and some of the best meeting wonderful people.
One of these is Sumanta who had made a massive difference to our trip obtaining bicycle boxes, packaging and tape and delivering them to the hotel for us!! We had a great chat about India, cycling and Audax with him and his friend ahead if packing up tomorrow.
A wonderful weak 5% beer to celebrate and some downtime before we fly in the early hours of the 1st August.
It’s not over yet…
We had a lie in until almost 8am this morning and a leisurely breakfast and start with the full day ahead of us until our flight. As the wonderful Sumanta had dropped the boxes off this night before all we needed to do was split the bike and fill them…or so we thought!
Sumanta had come to lend a hand too bit as soon as we started dissembling the heavens opened and we had to rush for cover before the boxes got soaked. Ending up packing up in the doorway to the electrical room for the hotel was less than ideal and the stench from the drains and kitchen waste didn’t help matters. The storm hit in full force with thunder and lightning but we had no choice but to get the bike packed as quickly as possible.
Finally having taken much longer than expected we’d lost what was meant to be an afternoon of chilling out and napping but managed to get clean and fed (one last pizza!) before entering the choas of the airport. It took two attempts to get through security but now we are in we just have everything crossed for a smooth couple of flights before landing in Chiang Mai tomorrow morning…
Overall distance: 5304miles