Day 9 cycling: Baroda to Ahmedabad
Distance cycled: 119.57km
Ridetime: 6:27 hours
Average Speed: 18.67 km/hr
Grand Total: 867km
Overall, today's road was pretty good, and more scenic than it's been to date, although there were a few rough bits and was not a divided road for most of it. I was able to cycle at 19 or 20km/hr for most of the way, but was slowed down at either end as I negotiated my way through both cities. Had a few near misses - a woman & child ran acrosss the highway withway looking (!), and an autorickshaw swerved in front of me & slammed its brakes on hard, for no reason apparent to me. Luckily I couldn't recall the Gujurati swearword that Bhanu told me (she subsequently emailled & told me not to use it as I'd probably get a punch in the face if I did. I think the word involved one's sister ...). So I had to resort to one of the Australian ones I occasionally use. It does seem extraordinary to me how often motorists just pull out or stop suddenly without seeming to look in the mirror or to the side. This behaviour is of course reflected in traffic accident statistics which show India to be about the worst in the world. This, and the fact that so many vehicles are in such bad repair. One day, when I was cycling in South India (in 2000) I was cycling along when a truck came around the corner - the passenger suddenly opened the door and jumped out, then the driver, and the guy in the middle also tried to. The truck kept going in a straight line, into a power pole pulling the power lines down for quite some way in both directions. Presumably its brakes or steering failed, and I expect this is not all that uncommon. It's always in the back of my mind as I cycle along. This, and the memory of a dead motorcyclist jammed underneath a four wheel drive in South India, also encountered on the same trip.
But you have to love it when you see three young men on a motorcycle, or a family of 4 on a motor scooter tootling down the highway, invariably looking quizzically at you or else waving.
As I left Baroda yesterday, the road sign said Ahmedabad 100km, and then a little furthe on a sign said 106km. After I'd cycled 40km (and I know my bike computer is accurate), the sign told me it was 76km to Ahmedabad - my day's goal just seemed to keep getting further away. Similarly, at one stage there 3 successive road signs saying 50, then 51 then 52km to go (was I going in the right direction?).
Yesterday at Baroda I had a thali with Robert from Brisbane. He's taken the past year off from work and has been cycling for the past 8 months in Europe. He'd had enough, had shipped his bike back home, and was travelling India by bus. He was a nice bloke and it was good to chat about our respective travels and compare notes re cycling.
One of the things that Ahmedabad, which is otherwise a rather noisy, dusty, industrial city, has going for it is its restaurants. Last night I ate at a place called "Agashiye", a delightfully atmospheric open-aired terrace on top of a mansion (The House of MG). The service & environment were impeccable, and the food was very tasty. You had to pay in advance which was a little odd, and the manager mumbled something about needing to know in advance for catering purposes, which of course made no sense at all. I suspect some past guests must have run off without paying. Now, I'm sitting in the "biggest & chippest cybercafe" in town, having had a rather miserable breakfast of idli - which unusually came in a big tub of soup, and looked as if it had been nibbled at by a previous diner or something even more worrying to contemplate, and 'toast, butter jam' - which was like a toasted jam sandwich. The coffee wasn't bad. Had lunch in another restaurant in the same building - the Green House - and it too was excellent.
I'm staying at a place called Hotel Serena - not the flashest of hotels, but satisfactory. Their motto is "the proud of your service" and also "for the ecma of comforts". I'm not sure what ecma means, or that I really want to find out.