Day 9 cycling: Bishnupur - Bolpur/ Shantiniketan
DST = 133km; RTM = 7hrs 41m; ODO = 725km; AVS = 17.2km/hr; cadence = 72; MAX =31 km/hr
As usual when I don't leave my bike in my room, the gears had been fiddled with. My plan was to do a massive amount of cycling today to get to Bolpur/ Shantiniketan - I ended up cycling 133km: the last 5km circling around town trying to find where the hotels were. It was also a slightly complicated route, a little off the beaten track. My Nelles map was not up to the job, and it seemed to deviate from reality quite a bit. I continuously checked with locals to make sure I was headed in the right way, and was continuously reminded how hopleess my pronunciation is. Typically, one person in a crowd of 10 knew what I was asking. I even had a prepared sentence from my Bengali phrasebook ("Is this the road to ....?") but when I tried it out people stared blankly at me. Such a lovely feeling when I encountered a road sign at an intersection indicating "Sonamakhi 30km" which was the first goal for the day. The road surface was excellent, pretty much the whole way, through forests (including eucalytpus plantations), rural areas & towns, but the traffic for much of it was taxing. My route took me through Sonamukhi, Pakhanna, Barjora, along the SH-9 to Durgapur & across the Damodar River - where I nearly came to grief. I overtook a stationary bus which then started to move as I got half way past it, and the sped up. I was on its right, near the centre of the road, and hurtling toward me at top speed was a blue truck. I planted the foot - I don't think I've ever pedalled with as much fervour & just managed by the merest margin to weave between them, in front of the bus & then to the side. Durgapur was undergoing some serious roadworks, and so I got a little lost for a bit until a helpful fellow was able to direct me in the right direction. He continued alongside for a little while & then asked if I would stay the night with him ..."You are so handsome!" he said. Sort of flattering, sort of "get me out of here...". I continued on. At the 86km mark was the turnoff to Suri, on SH-14, also called Darjeeling Rd. From here it was 22km to Illam Bazar & a further 19km to Bolpur. Th eroad surface became a little potholed just before Illam Bazar - the trouble with potholes is not just that they need to be avoided but, of greater concern, is that cars, trucks & buses weave with total abandon across the width of the tarmac trying to avoid them - and they're not concerned about cyclists that might be in the way.
I'm at Hotel Rangamati, at Rs 660 for an Ordinary/Non-AC room. It's quite comfortable, with a large bathroom & what is the strongest pressured hot shower I've yet encountered. It was bliss. Curiously, I looked about 20 years younger after the ride - my beard had become brown again (due to dust & other detritus) .