DST = 76km; RTM = 4hrs 21m; ODO = 1180km; AVS = 17.4km/hr; cadence = 78; MAX = 42.7 km/hr
Day 18: train from Siliguri (NJP train station) - Kolkata
Back in Calcutta, this time staying at the Broadway Hotel, a big old hotel on Ganesh Chandra Avenue in the BBD Bagh area which contains much of the colonial architecture in Calcutta. The room is enormous & has no hot water but buckets of it can be supplied on request. The downstairs restaurant also doubles as a bar apparently, but the breakfast they turned out this morning after my arrival was surprisingly excellent. I wandered down to this nearby internet cafe to discover that I needed to have brought my passport with me to register. Upon my return, I was subjected to a complicated procedure, presumably to deter or detect terrorism. After giving my name, address & other details, I had to have my thumb scanned several times, my photo taken & a copy of my passport made ...
It was a beautifully sunny morning when I left Darjeeling yesterday morning after a satisfying breakfast at a place called Glenary's, and the views of the nearby mountains were the best I'd seen since arriving there (but still not terrific - the heavy background haze still persisted). The first 7km to Ghum was all uphill - at which point I encountered a massive, kilometres long traffic jam in both directions due to a broken down truck. The roads are so narrow that it was with great difficulty that I managed to squeeze through. A 70km downhill ride all the way to Siliguri followed! My wrists were sore from using the brakes so much. What detracted from the delight of such a fantastic downhill run was the extremely poor condition of the roads, the number of reasonably tight curves, many spots where the train tracks crossed the road, and of course the traffic, although this wasn't very heavy - just sporadic bursts of small convoys of vehicles. The narrowness of the road often precluded both my bike & trucks occupying it at the same time. The dodgy pannier was also providing some concern given the bumpiness of the road, and towards the end one of the supporting hooks came apart again. I hadn't quite noticed on the way up how bad the road was, as I'd been travelling relatively slowly. You can see from the average speed of 17.4km/hr that it wasn't all that quick a ride overall, but the max speed of 42.7km/hr indicates I could go fast at times.There was another massive traffic jam at Kurseong, and this time it was quite some a while before I could squeeze through. I heard the toot of the Toy train ahead & it was quite amusing to be able to catch up & overtake it. Overall, a pretty good ride, and the road picked up a little after the first 40km.
I planned to have a brief interlude at the Hotel Swastik Regency in Siliguri so I could freshen up, change clothes, check my bike in & have something to eat prior to the train's departure that evening. This was a bit of a miscalculation as I'd thought that NJP station was much closer to Siliguri than it turned out to be. It took me forever to cycle there, check the bike onto the train (not a straightforward task: I had to find the right office, fill in a large & complicated form & get the bike seat wrapped in hessian! Luckily there was man on hand to do this for Rs50. Phew!), get back to the hotel by rickshaw to do what I'd planned, then return to NJP an hour or so later to get the train. The train trip itself was relatively straightforward and so was collecting the bike at the end, once I'd found the correct office. The sight of the bicycle being wheeled into the shed I was waiting in was very pleasing, I can tell you. There were a few minor problems eg chain tangled up, back brake pad scraping) but otherwise AOK. I saved myself the hassle of cycling & got a taxi (later, I figured out that it probably wasn't actually a taxi) to the hotel. At first, there were no rooms available - I rarely book anything in advance - but the manager then proposed putting me in the family room until something did, which happened about an hour later.
So, I guess I'll hang out here for the next 36 hours before heading back home. The bike & I made it!