DAY FOUR… 63.44 miles (102.10 km)
This morning we rose at 6am for a set off at 6.30am. Not to be…. the bike lock had jammed and we could not get it off. Why did it jam ? True, the padlock looks quite puny and maybe someone thought they could make a quick win…but really ? Two bikes on the fourth floor ?? Set off rather late (7am) due to the lock incident (Tim picked the lock with his Leatherman Tool).
The road was quietish and the air, thankfully, cool. We rode all day on a dual carriageway. It was OK because only one car would overtake at a time, so it felt safe.
We met a sadhu (religious ascetic) who was cycling barefoot on a very heavy Indian bike, on a trans-India pilgrimage (Yatra) to visit all the sacred Shiva Jyotirlingam around India. How on earth he got up to Kedarnath in the Himalaya on his bike is a mystery! We gave him a banana to sustain him, but later spotted him in a roadside field laying out his breakfast picnic!
The road follows the coast so we are cycling past coastal marshland with numerous amazing birds; painted cranes, egret, kingfisher, ibis, spoonbills and skimmers, to name a few. The 4 lane highway is a comfortable, smooth road, but alarming in that traffic seems to drive in either direction. Sometimes I look up to see a car coming straight for me on the hard shoulder. It is OK really. Just a hint to stay alert.
Whenever we stop, even in the quietest of places, we seem to be approached by people who want to talk to us and offer food and drink. Two men approached us to offer green peanuts. Tim says ‘no’ but we accept their kind offer of a cold Maaza (a mango juice drink).
40 miles into the ride, there’s no sign of food anywhere and we are hot and hungry. We pull into a petrol station and ask if there is any food there. Obviously not! But we are invited to eat with the proprietor’s family. We desist, but then realise we are out of water too, and it is absolutely burning hot, so we agree.
We are taken on the proprietor’s motorbike (all three of us, and Tim is no lightweight) down a ropey track for at least 5km (meant to be 2km) to his home. This turns out to be a rural idyll, with large tree, swing, tables and chairs and water buffalo to complete the picture. We meet all the relatives; Uncle, Uncle’s children, Granny, Auntie, Father, Wife. We are given water in a copper pot. You drink from it without your lips touching it, and of course I did this wrong.
Then more raw peanuts (obviously the time of year for the peanut harvest), then chai, taken in a saucer (unusual tea vessel, but novel). Finally, some food. Unfortunately a very large pile of rotis; a gluten intolerant person’s nightmare, and a tomato dish. This was all washed down with a few glasses of buffalo milk “chach” (buttermilk), delicious. The garage proprietor’s wife (the cook) was only 25 years old, and no kids yet. Hope this won’t cause problems for this lovely family.
We said our goodbyes, resisted their urge to stay for a week, and made off at greater speed, replenished by the food. As we got closer to Porbandar, we hit rush hour and the traffic became more and more wild, with cars and lorries and auto rickshaws heading straight for us, seemingly without any qualms. Utter havoc and lawlessness.
Porbandar itself is a dusty looking town with hundreds of dogs, pigs and cows everywhere. It’s noisy and dirty, with as yet, little to recommend it. We’re staying in what we thought was a sister branch of our Dwarka hotel (same name, no connection). It’s a fraction of the price at £25 a room per night (compared to £70), but then it is not really that smart.