Monday, January 17, 2005

Nasik (or Nashik)

Day3 Cycling: Igatpuri to Nasik (Nashik): 47.68km. Ride time: 3 hours. AVS = 16.35 km/hr. MAX = 39.2km/hr
(Total Distance = 230km)
… i.e. about 200km from Mumbai to Nasik, which includes maybe 15 to 20km where I took a wrong turning. Road flat - i.e. little overall elevation over the distance, but variable shoulder - it often dropped away & was stony in many places.

The peace, harmony, and goodwill to others from the 10-day course was short-lived as I hit the road again, as I was regularly forced to the shoulder by other traffic. Even though I set off fairly early, and it was Sunday morning, the traffic was quite heavy. However the trip was a little more interesting this time - I saw several overturned trucks, and the results of a head-on collision, with police in attendance. I would be very mean spirited to think "serves you right", but it was hard to feel overly sympathetic for the drivers. And these graphic indicators of the potential hazards seemed to make little impression on the passing traffic - vehicles continued to overtake each other with careless abandon even at the accident sites.

I even saw an elephant lumbering along on the other side of road, with mahout (rider) on top and a fellow walking alongside, on its way to Mumbai - so I was told after giving them a small donation (at their invitation). With its huge yet beady eyes looming down at me, it sucked up the few small notes I put in its trunk and handed them to the mahout. I did feel a little uneasy looking into the eyes of this gargantuan creature, but it was quite fascinating at the same time. Other vehicles gave the elephant a little more room than they did to cyclists, but not much.

I’m also beginning to notice the signs of "bicycle hypochondriasis" -every new and unfamiliar squeak, rubbing or vibration - and there seem to be many - has me worrying that something is amiss!

So, here I am at the Hotel Panchavati, as suggested in the Lonely Planet guide (single room rates are 660 RP plus tax - about $19 AUD, which is reasonably lavish, but hey, if I’m doing it hard on the road, I may as well live comfortably when not travelling). The place was extremely hard to find without a map, with most of the street signs being in Hindi only, and the usual difficulty in asking directions. After enquiring of about half a dozen people wandering by I finally managed to find it. It’s quite reasonable, with friendly staff, hot water and shower, fan, TV and not too noisy - well, it’s pretty bloody noisy but tolerable. They wouldn’t let me take my bike into my room, which I rather prefer to do – one becomes quite attached to one’s bike – so it’s bolted to the wall downstairs under the steely gaze of the moustachioed security man (perhaps they’d let me if I paid for a double room ...). I’ll stay here a day or two to settle and figure out where to next.

I’m feeling a little anxious at present about where to next, and it may have been wiser to have cycled west from Igatpuri toward the coast, as this is now where I’m thinking of going. The map (Lonely Planet Road Atlas), which is OK but not fantastic, indicates a 96km journey to a town called Chiol, and then another 20 km to Pardi. Worryingly, my other map suggests something a little different, and doesn’t even include Chiol. Still, what’s the worst that can happen?! (hmm ... that doesn’t help me much). If I head west, I’m bound to hit the coast or Highway 8 eventually!

My rough plans are to head north into Gujarat - via Surat, Bhavnagar, to Diu and Veraval and back around to Ahmadabad and maybe one or two other places then on to Mount Abu where I hope to catch up with an old school chum Charlie who will be there in mid-February. He’s a member of a group called Brahma Kumaris, who have a ‘Spiritual University’ and museum there. After that, Udaipur and maybe one or two other places in Rajasthan. Depending on my time, I might then head down to Goa for some R&R. Knowing me, this plan is probably overly ambitious ...

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