Day 6 cycling: Bhadrak - Jaleswar
Distance (DST) = 120km; Total Ride Time (TRT) = 6hr 52min; Average Speed (AVS) = 17.4 km/hr; MAX = 29km/hr; cadence = 74rpm. Total Distance (ODO) = 427km
Day 7 cycling: Jaleswar - Midnapore (a.k.a Medinipur)
Distance (DST) = 88 km; Total Ride Time (TRT) = 5hr 30min; Average Speed (AVS) = 16 km/hr; MAX = 27.5 km/hr; cadence = 73rpm. Total Distance (ODO) = 516km
The Blue Vine Hotel turned out to be a good place to stay - in the attached restaurant the food was good & the staff attentive if not solicitous, doling out rice & pieces of bread from their baskets when it looked like I was ready for more. It was amusing to watch some electricians at work while I ate the evening meal. It seemed they were checking out the wiring - after using various meters with presumably no clear results, one of them stuck his screwdriver in the socket... still nothing. One of the wall fans near me wasn't working, so the waiter got it going by giving the blades a flick with a fork. The mossies are savage here - covered in bites after breakfast, including huge ones on each thumb. I left the Blue Vine just as the ubitiquous hammering & general reconstruction work on the hotel began. Is there a hotel in India that isn't being refurbished?
The road from Bhadrak was quite poor in parts, and apparently road works were being done, but only some half-hearted work appeared to be actually happening in a couple of places. Meanwhile, there were continual road diversions - traffic was directed onto one side of the dual carriageway & then the other for much of the way. Which was probably why I missed the turnoff to Baleswar! For some inexplicable reason I just didn't see it, but realising I'd missed it I figured I'd forge on to Jaleswar. I was now off Highway 5 & on Highway 60, and it was excellent. No more traffic diversions, it was a double-laned divided carriageway, & the road surface was a delightfully smooth concrete. At one point during the journey I thought I was a goner for a split second: while passing a truck in the opposite direction on a tight sandy corner (at a diversion point) - I was about a metre, maybe less, away from it - it leaned so far over that I, with a start, thought "omigod ..!" convinced it was going to topple right over me ... Not so far fetched - I passed two 'toppled over' trucks today, one blocking the carriageway entirely, with grain & huge sacks of grain strewn across the road.
It was a long haul of 120km to Jaleswar. There's a railway station there & as far as I could figure it, two accommodation places. The Mid Town Hotel was full, and so the only other option was Shri Krishna Lodge, which most certainly wasn't. It was down an alleyway, across from the railway station. The owner wanted Rs400 for a room that anywhere else would cost maybe Rs150, if that, and wouldn't budge on the price knowing he had me over a barrel. At least I managed to procure a towel from him. It was a big room, with 2 tables, 2 chairs, 2 beds, 2 fluorescent lights, 2 ceiling fans & a mirror. A 2 person room perhaps? When he threw one of the pillows to the right end of the bed, a big puff of dust rose into the air. The 2 cigarette butts in the bathroom drainage grille & an empty whisky bottle behind the bed gave the room a 'lived in' feeling. The room was near the railway station, which'd be handy if I was catching a train as I could hear the platform announcements very clearly from the bathroom. Still, it's not the worst place I've stayed in, and it did have its own bathroom - although it'd be one of the grubbiest sinks I've ever encountered. The owner looked at me without apparent comprehension when I pointed it out to him. The day finished with dinner & a movie - dinner was a bottle of Fanta, some grapes & bananas, and I watched an old episode of Spenser for Hire on the netbook.
Room at Hotel Hindusthan
The road into Jaleswar after leaving the highway was about 8km, and the road out was a further 8km. Back on the highway, the road continued to be a lovely smooth concrete, and there wasn't much traffic, but unfortunately the accompanying breeze wasn't headed in my direction. If you happen to be cycling to Midnapore (aka Medinipur) from Jaleswar, then you need to continue past the Kharagpur turnoff & remain on Highway 60 until you come to the flyover with signs pointing to Mumbai in one direction & Kolkata the other. Take the left on-ramp (in the direction of Mumbai), then, 4 km later, turn right. A sign says 4km to Midnapore, but it really means 4km to the turnoff. It seemed to take forever to find the centre of town, if indeed I actually did. Indian towns can be very confusing when you arrive by bicycle. And finding a hotel can be hard work. It's often a good idea to head toward the railway station, but I had a devil of a job finding out where it was, and slowly experienced a sort of sinking feeling when asking what quickly developed into a crowd of people where the station was. Especially dispiriting given that the Hindi & Bengali word for station is pretty much ... station. Miming trains is not something I like doing, as I'm not very good at it. Still, there's always someone in the crowd who eventually & triumphantly figures out what's being asked, and points the way. In the end I came across the OK-looking Hotel Samrat; they asked me to wait for 40 minutes as the previous guests of my potential room still had to check out. I had a Coke & read an English-language Indian newspaper in the lobby until, after 20 minutes, the apologetic desk clerk advised me that the manager had declined to have me as they couldn't safely accommodate my bike. I was then given directions to Hotel Hindusthan (Station Road, Keranitole, Midnapore West). They were only too happy to let me have the bike in my room & got one of the lads to take it upstairs in the lift. Yes, it's flash enough to have a lift. And what a room! Heavy drapes over the windows & between the bed area & a sitting room space with 3 couches, bedspreads, yellow & blue walls - it looks like a waiting room in a brothel. Luxurious, Rs 800 a night, but then I reckon I could manage a bit of luxury after all the cycling I've done over the past 5 or so days. Good water pressure, plenty of hot water, white (clean) fluffy towel, and a decent restaurant on the ground floor, where I had a late lunch of Sechuan Fried Rice (the Indian version of this is pretty good), mango juice & coffee - add your own instant coffee & sugar to a mix of hot water & milk; it tasted great. I actually don't really have a clue where I am or how to get back onto the highway from here but I'll figure that out tomorrow. For now, it's back to the hotel for an evening meal of... maybe aloo mutter, maybe chicken tikka masala, maybe both. Tomorrow, Bishnupur, where I'll take a rest & have a look around. I may have been too slow getting started to actually make it all the way to Darjeeling by bike. I'll figure something out in the next few days.