Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Day 13 cycling: Palitana to Rajula
Distance: 104.58 km
Ride time: 6:30
Average speed: 16.41 km/hr
Max: 29
Total distance: 1278 km
Distance between towns: 1146 km

My original plan had been to cycle to the port town of Mahuva, stay overnight there and then cycle on to Diu. However a worker in the Hotel Sumeru persuaded me to go via Jesar (not in the Lonely Planet atlas - it might have been the town labelled Dunghapur) to Rajula, which I did. I don't think he was aware of what an awful road it would be to cycle. The turnoff to Jesar was about 12km from Palitana. The road was slightly hilly, but it was quite scenic compared to many other roads I've cycled on the journey. Mt Shatrunjaya remained visible for at least the first 20km, and then another mountain with a huge temple on top took its place for some while. It was a laborious ride - the road seemed to really drag, and the wind was a hindrance. The road between Jesar and Rajula was bloody awful - full of craters and attempts at remediation i.e big clumps of tar. The average speed above contains a lot of variation - a few sections were reasonably speedy. Overall, the scenery varied quite a bit also - brown & dry in some parts; green, lush, fertile in others. Onions, cotton & other crops (corn? wheat?) were being grown, and the gentle sound of irrigation pumps was a nice accompaniement to the ride. Other motorists & their passengers were exceedingly friendly, and my face & arm became sore at all the waving & smiling I found myself doing. Many of the men were dressed head-to-toe in white - with white turbans, stove-pipe trousers that billowed out above the knee (jodhpurs I guess), and usually a big moustache. In fact, I had the uneasy feeling that it was the same damn bloke popping up in all these villages I cycled through.

One small oddity was that the Gujurat map I recently acquired showed two Rajulas, about 13 km apart. Luckily the one I arrived at had somewhere to stay (Hotel White House - which it certainly was - it felt like I was staying in a sanitorium). Very few roadsigns or mileposts were in English, and so I found myself doing what the worker at the hotel in Palitana recommended: stopping in front of a few people while shouting "Rajula! Rajula!" & emphatically pointing to my map . It seemed to work. I had one small mishap on the way. I'd stopped to jot something down in my notebook when a gust of wind blew all the loose leaves down an embankment alongside the road. As I went after them I took a bit of a tumble & drew a little blood. Luckily, nothing serious.

India is such a vast & fascinating place. So often I find myself exclaiming "what the ...!" or "how the ...?" or just "wow!". And I think I might generate this for a few Indians, who often struggle to comprehend why a Westerner would want to cycle through India. They'll often stick their hand out, moving their upturned palm up or down or sideways with a quizzical raising of the eyebrows.

Rajula itself did not seem all that captivating, but admittedly this was based on a short walk of one or two kilometers into the town.

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