Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Day 12 cycling: Bhavnagar to Palitana
Distance: 65.22km
Ride time: 3:42
Average speed: 17.85 km/hr
Max: 37.3
Total distance: 1173
Distance between towns: 1042

The road to Palitana was generally good, although became fair in parts, and there were several hilly bits. The traffic was challenging at times as the road was quite narrow. I stayed at a place called Hotel Sumeru, run by Gujurat Tourism. It was adequate, as was the attached restaurant, where I had vegetable makhanwalla, aloo mutter, dal fried, vegetable pulao and roti.

Many of these hotels & guest hotels amaze me by their utter obliviousness to the fact that people staying there might want to sleep at times. From 6.30 am onwards, doors slam, staff roam the corridors singing and shouting to one another, and it often continues late into the night. It's also interesting to ponder the obvious cultural differences in concepts of hygiene & grubbiness. Many rooms will appear pretty bloody awful to me eg muck all over the bathroom but this has clearly not registered with staff who've cleaned it. Kitchen and waiting staff will often have uniforms so grubby that you'd look askance at your local car mechanic if their overalls were as messy. Still, I notice my own sensibilities drifting - I typically don't react to things as I did earlier on e.g strange black items in my yoghurt drink, dried crap on the toilet seat, etc.

My Western sensibilities are also put to the test when I occasionally read the newspapers. One example: a woman became pregant after being raped by the son of her boss. Her family were demanding that he marry her or else they would have him charged.

There's a strange phenomenon I've noticed a few times: other westerners often seem to studiously avoid making eye contact when you pass them in the street or see them in shops & cafes. I even had this with an entire bus load of American tourists who arrived at Hotel Sumeru. What's this about? People's protective mechanism in managing India? (I don't think it's me)

Today, from Palitana, I climbed Shatrunjaya mountain, one of the Jain religion's holiest pilgrimage sites - it contains over 800 temples. The view in all directions was fabulous. It's a 600 metre ascent, comprising over 3000 steps, and took several hours up & back.

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