Tuesday, 4 November 2008
CUTTING TO KOLKATA
Since leaving Delhi it seems that I've been playing a bit of a survival game on the roads, particularly the first part of the route. About half the distance of this leg was through the state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. Through this area I was traveling on a narrow, crowded, bumpy road with 2-way traffic. If I said that I was run off the road a hundred times a day I wouldn't be exagerating by much (mostly on-coming overtaking trucks). Varanasi was my 1st rest stop, where I arrived in the chaos of traffic jams and narrow winding alleys. This city on the Ganga river is the most holy place for hindu's, and people come here not only to bathe but also to cremate their dead at the waterside ghats. I was fortunate to experience a pre-dawn row-boat ride up the river along the ghats (photo), from where you can see cremations in progress, hundreds of people bathing, people worshiping and ringing bells at the temples, and even "laughter yoga". After Varanasi I cycled mostly on a new highway, with a diversion to visit Boddhgaya - the origin of Buddhism. I visited the temple built at the place where the Prince sat under the Bodhi tree and became enlightened, thus becoming the Buddha (photo inside temple). While I was on the road India celebrated the festival of Divali, a big annual occasion involving lots of fireworks. In some of the towns one side of the highway had been closed off to make way for the festivities, and some people took the opportunity to dry their rice in the road or even use it as a threshing floor (photo). It is also common to decorate animals such as cows and goats at this time (photo of painted horns). In India anything goes, and the dual highway often became just two parallel roads with traffic in both directions (especially in the vicinity of towns). Now I'm in Kolkata, resting my backside and recovering from a sprained thumb and bruised knee due to a fall on the way in to this city (I was trying to avoid being crushed by a truck which was speeding up the off-ramp on the highway). Kolkata is a large (15 mil), interesting and chaotic (Indian) city, and I've walked and taken the metro around a bit to see the sights (photo: Victoria Memorial). Daily distances cycled since Delhi have been:- Garmukteshwar 101 km; Rampur 104 km; Miranpur 108 km; Sitapur 130 km; Lucknow 98 km; Sultanpur 146 km; Varanasi 158 km; Sasaram 125 km; Boddhgaya 143 km; Bagodar 134 km; Asansol 139 km; Burdwan 111 km; and Kolkata 115 km. Total distance since Cape Town is 29 052 km.