Thursday, 10 May 2012

the end of the road, but not the horizon

Siliguri to Ahmedabad, 2146km

Finally I was re united with my bike where it had been transported to Siliguri, West Bengal after staying in Nepal for nearly 3 months.
I eagerly removed all the careful packaging that the transportation company had taken time to protect my bike with, but I think in the end it was only provided to keep all the broken bits in once they started throwing heavy boxes on top of it.
My poor bike looked like it had a much harder journey than my 12hour bus ride from Nepal, feeling more guilty than ever for leaving it to survive India alone.
Finally after a few hours with tools and bits of rope it looked like we were back on the road again. I set off from Siliguri, and felt amazing to be riding again, complete, restored....Stone free to ride the breeze again!
Quite a large stowaway..!

One week later I arrived at Varanassi, my one day of luxury, well a shower and a bed. I arrived late in the evening with no idea where to go, hot and tired as the buildings got bigger and denser, the traffic and congestion of all kinds of walking, crawling, mooing, bleeting, honking was just intense, one of the dirtiest, noisiest, mess of a place I was fortunate to discover, fortunate only in the sense that it made the peace and quiet of my room and the refreshing shower so much more appreciated. I sat under that shower that evening abusing all water restrictions, watching the dust and grime and stress flowing away, soaking up this valuable sensation, such a simple pleasure that you do not appreciate unless you have had these contrasting experiences, the pleasure and the pain go hand in hand.
Hmmmm !

Varanassi, the most spiritual mess of a place I have come across, really is a must see place of birth, death and life, its all going on here, and if fate catches up with you here where Mr death taps you on the shoulder, well why not lets go, its 'the' place to die and get the best spiritual passage out of here.
Body being carried to Ghat
300 bodies a day to be burnt thats a lot of wood!

 I just reached Ahmedabad yesterday, finishing at just over 2000km. The last week was very hot at around 44 degrees, but some places where the sun was reflecting off the black tarmac must have been more like 50 degrees and got hotter the closer I got to here, impossible to cycle much after 1.00pm, so I was waking up at 4.00am and riding in the dark for about an hour, resting from 1-00pm and then continuing after 4.00pm. I never drunk so much water in my life, maybe 12liters a day and not needing to wee at all, really amazing how the body adapts to different environments and what it is able to do. I was hardly eating much food either, half a cup of porridge in the morning with some nuts and dried fruit, no lunch and just one bowl of rice with vegetables for the evening, just did not feel like it, too tired and just wanting to drink liquids.

....Well that is it, we have reached the end of the road. I thought at one point though the bike had given up, 700km back the back wheel developed a problem, started getting play in what I thought was the bearing on the sprocket side, and I did not have the spanner to fit the tool to remove the sprocket to investigate, so had to ride carefully avoiding as much of the terrible holes in the road as possible, not wanting the bearing to collapse totally. Eventually I found a place that had a spanner but carried on riding not wanting to disturb any bits of metal that might be somehow holding everything together, but finally I lost drive, the gears started slipping. I thought the freewheel mechanism had collapsed, so that was the time to take it apart and investigate.

I coasted to a halt at the side of the road and started removing the gears. I was right, bits of metal fell out of the hub, it has a sort of cush drive affair, where the gear shaft meshes with the wheel hub, made of aluminum, which had all broken so the gear shaft  had nothing to engage with the wheel hub. I started to look around for bits of metal that I could jam in, then slowly but surely the Indians started gathering, it takes about 30 seconds actually, anytime you stop to do anything, they start appearing from no where, heads wobbling, jabbering away in Hindi and slowly blot out the sun forming a cocoon around you, you know how frustrating that is when you are trying to think and fix things, then suddenly there are hands everywhere and small arguments going on between them of who has the best idea or biggest hammer to hit it with, so rather than getting frustrated you have to go with the flow.

Tired, hot and bewildered I let one of them take my wheel, and he sped off on his motorbike. Meanwhile the press arrived, then a TV crew and suddenly I am in the middle of an interview going through all the story again in this swealtering heat, incredible India........!

Fair enough though my wheel returned half an hour later and they managed to hammer bits of metal into it with a really big hammer. Looking at it I doubted the technique and I thought it would last about 1 km, but it got me here all the way with no problems, this is how India works, many hands working as one. I am very grateful to these Indians who helped me and wished for nothing in return, I hope good karma returns for them.

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