DAY EIGHT… 31.93 miles (51.38 km)

The heat is the main difficulty with our ride. It is getting up to 38c or 40c by 1pm, and only starts to cool by 4pm or 5pm, then its sunset at 6.15pm, so morning is the critical time. We’ve decided to get up even earlier and set off by 6.45am latest.

A lovely ride this morning out of Sassan Gir. Still really within the confines of the Sanctuary for the first few miles, but blissfully quiet at sunrise.

India Cycle Touring Gujarat
An almost empty morning road

Arrived in time for lunch at the Fern Leo Resort, having survived negotiating the frantic chaos of the Junagadh city streets. The Fern Leo Resort is a bizarre & surreal modern oasis in the midst of a crazy mela (holy gathering) at Junagadh. Before you even enter the hotel you are greeted by piped ambient (soothing?) music. It follows you as you move past the fountains and the security guard, through the door, which opens, with a smile and head inclined, ever so slightly, through to the lift, and the soft, nouveau design carpet, to your room. It is even in your room, floating like an insane thought that never leaves you.

India Cycle Touring Gujarat
Alysun happy to see our road-dust-covered panniers loaded onto a gilded 5-Star hotel trolley

Here in the world of the Fern Leo Resort you can feel strangely safe from the heat outside, sheltered from the noise of horn, and the shouting, the dogs, the dust, the sheer life of India.

In fact, outside, the mela gathers strength in preparation for the climax in a day or so’s time. People are pouring into the town, and setting forth, on foot round the sacred mountain, Girnar Hill (36kms), most barefoot, carrying their bags. After this they will climb up the Hill, 9,999 steps to reach the summit. The walking mela is called the Parikrama. I just have to add that there are no facilities for all these pilgrims. I really don’t want to think about where they go to the toilet.

India Cycle Touring Gujarat
Girnar Parikrama Pilgrims filling the streets