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Supporting appealmobile on his world travels

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Kolkata to Chennai

I was up early Saturday morning and was off over the bridge heading South . My destination was Puri or as near as I could get., as it was a full 470 kms. I was offered the expressway after crossing the bridge and thought I was prohibited as I was when entering Kolkat, so finished up crawling through some of the towns on the other side of the river. I stopped to watch an Indian pipe and drum band warming up for a march. The march was for Infinity a provider of graduate education in that area. They were having a sports day and I was invited to attend, which I did without hesitation. The set up was fantastic and their hospitality amazing.
I wanted to stay longer but these were early days and I didn't want to build up a backlog of delays, so stayed till lunch before making my exit. Wonderful people and so glad I met them.

I managed to find the expressway or highway as it's known and was looking to chalk up some miles, but with such a late start to the day I only managed to reach Balasore. I pulled in early enough to find a lodge/hotel but all I managed to find was the off licence, so loaded with a couple of beers I headed back to the centre and found a hotel which turned out to be really nice with good staff and a carpark. It was as usual early Sunday morning with traffic hammering along outside at six o clock. I was treated to chai in my room and was up and out fairly early.

All hopes of notching up a lot of miles were dashed when the whole motorway from Balasore was being ripped up and relaid. It was constant lane carriageway changing, rutted surfaces, dust and grit and wagons upon wagons. I finally reached the turn off for Puri and found the road in good condition, which was good as light was fading and I hate night riding on these roads.It was further than I imagined and arrived in what I thought was Puri as it went black, only to find it was another 10 kms. It was the worse stretch of riding in my life. Pitch black with pedestrians and cyclists in the road and headlights coming at you on both sides made worse by the dust on my glasses. I'm sure I ran over some people or hopefully they were the undetected speed bumps/. Apologies to any families who have suffered an unexplained loss in that area.

I arrived in Puri in the middle of a holiday. I have never seen so many people in such a small town. Again I spent a fair amount of time wandering aimlessly trying to spot a lodge that was affordable. After landing on the promenade that reminded me of Blackpool in England and riding past all the holiday accommodation I headed back to the town. I emerged from the darkness into a street with a lodge staring at me opposite the Jaganartth temple. I'll check the spelling for that later. A nice room and at 400 rupees was well worth it. I went for a walk and was collared by a tout who insisted he could find me a bar as I refused the ganga he offered. He found me an offlicence but as I was staying the following day I insisted it had to be a bar. A rickshaw ride later and we arrived. I knocked his request for 200 rupees down to 50 which included the rickshaw and settled into a couple of beers and enjoyed the company of a couple of Indian lads on holiday from Kalkota,.
I went walkabout the following morning, looking for a cyber cafe which I had been told was the other side of the temple. I couldn't find it so finished retracing the streets I had ridden the previous evening. Nothing looks the same in daylight and in fact everything looks the same and hard to find landmarks. I found the beach and had a paddle and a chai on the beach and had a chat with the only white European or white anything for that matter this side of Kalkota..She was a 70 year old from Holland and we had a good discussion about Hari Krishna George Harrison etc We crossed each other 3 or 4 times during the course of my wanderings, usually circular and arriving back at the same starting point. It was at this time that I found the cheapest way of bringing on premature death. The beri (sp?) It is the closest to a rolled cigarette I enjoy back home, but is just a rolled tobacco leaf that is tied at the neck end. No additives or paper and at one half penny each has given me great pleasure. I am now considered a real poor Indian now and people have stopped asking me for money. I got back to the hotel and loaded my dirty washing and headed back to the beach for laundry and bath. Both accomplished I rode back to the hotel and asked again. This time they pointed me in another direction and found the internet only 20 yards from the hotel entrance.

The evening I decided to go the same bar and continue chatting to my new friends who said they woulf be there that night. I walked around the corner and bumped into Robert my tout spive from the previous evening. I had some how promised him a beer if we passed and he had been searching the whole of Puri for me. We walked to a different bar this time and I bought him a beer which he only took one glass of. Apparently his wife likes a drop of beer from time to time son He had recapped it had it wrapped and off to give her a present that would hopefully put a smile on her face..After his departure I walked down to the other bar and found it empty. The staff were treating me really nice due to the twenty rupee tip I gave the waiter, the night before andwe were having a good laugh. I had had two more beers and ordered another when in walks two characters that changed the atmosphere completely. The staff jumped back to behind the counter and looked down and no chat or laughs and the Chinese owner I presume or just manager was making all kinds of signal to someone by the door . It had all the air of an entrance by a gang leader. Maybe it wasn't but the atmosphere turned decidedly tense and I decided to rush the last beer and exit quick.

I departed Puri and tried to find the shortest route back to the highway. It is 50kms the way the crow flies to the most eastern point on the highway, but took me three hours. The roads were ok at first but then came the usual dig the whole road up and relay. I was left ploughing through un crushed hardcore and dust and sand skidding sliding and shifting side to side.. I was exhausted whenb I emerged and headed for the nearest chai hut. Once refreshed I was off but it wasn't long when a guy standing on the central reservation eas waving me down. He was opposite a vehicle that had a green stripe and I thought it was an ambulance or something similar that was in trouble. I stopped and headed back to it, only to find it was an emissions contol check vehicle. I proudly showed him my certificate which is valid for another six months, only to be told it was only valid in Uttar Pradesh. As it was written in Hindi I was in no position to argue and was told that I would have to pay for an all Indian certificate at a cost of 100 rupees. I'm sure it was a con but for a piound I have a new all colorful certificate, with a nice rubber stamp on it. I set off again and took the fork to the left, determined to find some beach or coastline. The town I landed at was Dura Bahadurpetta. I took a left and headed for the beach. I passed through a village, where I don't believe that anyone has seen a living white person in the flesh. Every one stopped and stared as I rode slowly through. The beach was nice, but I couldn't park the bike in view and had no desire to haul my bag there so looked for a coastal ride. Unfortunately there is one wy in and one way out. This has proved to be the case the whole stretch of this coastline. Too many river deltas that stops you finding a route that takes you along there.Dissapointed I headed for Srikakulum. This also turned out to be a very busy town. Unfortunately it's not blessed with the number of hotels it d I spent the whole evening trying to locate a economical lodge. I eventually found one that wanted a thousand rupees which I declined but then said he had a room for 400. It was the pits but I accepted it as it was now 10.30 pm. I went to get my bags and then thought NO!. The young man who was interpreting for me said there was a better one a bit further along by the bus station. I went in search but had no luck in finding it so was returning towards the dump when I stopped to survey the buildings for the umpteenth time. A guy came out of nowhere and beckoned me into a lodge that had a sign obscured from view. I hesitantly entered and was offered a room at a thousand rupees. I asked if I could have it for 500 and he said "Ok then 420 rupees" Bizarre but went and had a look and it was like a palace in comparison to the other. I was in and asleep in minutes.

The next morning the effects of the hours in the saddle left me wondering if my legs were still on the bike as I could barely feel them let alone make them function. I loaded up and found a great breakfast stall and treated my self to an enormous currie with rice cakes and other stuff. The people at the stall were great and everyone wanted to help me, talk to me engage. Truly wonderful people.

I was only a few kilometers from town when I got waved in at a police check point set up on the highway. I dismounted and with my usual prayer handed gesture and namascar (Good Day) I was astonished when they just took one look at me and with that little wobble of the head that I have yet to decipher said "ok you may go" I was off quickly and landed at Visakhapatnam. This was where I was going to take a look around. It appeared quite modern and after turning to the east found lots of new build flats and houses. There was money arounf here no doubt. I ventured on past the new estates and eventually arrived at the beach. A rocky stip of beach, but with plenty of sand. It was hot and I decided to rest on the beach for an hour. I was disturbed by a couple of gospel christians, who wanted to take my photo and were really nice to talk to. Never even tried to convert me either..

I left the beach and had one beer at the bar overlooking the ocean before following the road along past the holiday resort. This could have been any resort on the costas of Spain. Large apartments flats etc spread from the promenade back a mile inland. It was a joy to follow the road around the headlands for the few miles it allowed, before I was forced to head back to the highway.

I set myself an easy target of Tuni and really wished I hadn't. It was market day and you couldn't move. I had located two lodges and decided to take the first one that offered me a room at 150 rupees. It looked ok in spite of not having a sower and having a squat toilet which my legs struggle with. The wash was a bucket and a jug, but hell I am by the ocean so I took it and decided to bath at the sea. I went in search of an offlicence/bar. There tends not to be bars but off sales with a dingy room behind where you can drink it if you haven't got a house to go to. I wasn't in any rush to go back to my windowless room so enjoyed a couple of beers and joked with the staff, who told me I had overstayed my permitted half hour.Thats all you are allowed apparently but they had given me an extension. I went back to my room and crashed. I was woken countless times by noises from other rooms. Ventilation is through airbricks and sound travels quite easily from one room to another. I also hadn't realised there was no blanket and I was lazy to unpack my sleeping bag so slept without. I was woken by the usual spiritual calling from the numerous temples close by and finished up outside at 6 am. Found chai and went back to load the bike. I sat on the bed and realise the room had not been cleaned for at least 6 months. There was a empty hal bottle of whiskey under the table with god knows waht was lying around it, I left and the old guy who showed me the room had the nerve to ask for a tip. I avoided the obvious 'try cleaning under the tables' gave him 5 and told him the room was disgusting and he should be giving me money. He didn't understand a word so off I set.

I had set a course closer to the coast than the highway allowed and it was slow and arduous with some bad roads and some good roads. I eventually found the beach near Podu. It was pretty much the same as it was at Puri. Long stretches of sand and an ocean I had no confidence in actually swimming in. I did another laundry and bathed the mosquito bites and was off as soon as the laundry was dry enough.
I arrived at Mallchilipatnam and set off after a chai to reach Chirila. I had directions from a local who wanted to talk so off I set to get there before dark. Somewhere I took a wrong turn or missed one and after stopping for directions I arrived in Machilipatnam again.I did however find a decent room and a bar for a nightcap and surrendered for the night.. I decided to sleep in my sleeping bag to evade the mosquitos,but however woke with one arm outside the bag with multiple bites down the inside of my arm. I left trying to find the elusive way out and rode by instinct and yet came full circle again. The problem being that there are only two ways out. I eventually found the way out with assistance following Ongole.

I had lost a lot of time in that neck of the woods so decided to avoid any beach hunting for the day and headed direct to Ongole. I had noticed that my forehead had a white top to a sunburnt bottom hal and had decided to remove my helmet for a couple of hours to even the divide up a bit. I also need to load my card and had only 500 rupees left. I stopped and spent my small cahange on noodles with fried egg while getting directions to a lodge. I arrived at the lodge and while it was only four hundred rupees for the room they insisted on a hundred deposit. That left me with nothing to pay for internet. so made the mistake of asking a friend in England to load my card from my account. It all went disastrously wrong andalthough I found a spare tten rupees and loaded the card myself, the result was an invalidated card, of which I can't sort with the numbers I have been given. I went to bed without a beer and morning asked my daughter to Western Union me some cash for the week. It took till four pm to sort, by which time I was gagging for food and a beer. I despatched both with gusto and went off to bed early, the intention to rided direct to Chennai, where I would regroup.

The ride to Chennai was uneventful, the scenery underwhelming as most of India so far has been, but the sun was unmerciful. I was still riding without a helmet too, while trying to get an even tone to my face. I stopped just outside Chennai for a tea and realised how hot the sun was. My arms from the sleeves of my t-shirt down were maroon red and stinging. I found it unbearable standing by the chai stall. One of the locals got me in the shade bought my tea and sent me packing with a pack of bidies/beris. I left and was riding along with other riders riding alongside eager for a converstion. Everyone was being so wonderful, especially the two young lads who came alongside and led me to the heart of Chennai. I was asked to join them for tea in the house they shared with eight others. They all worked in steel abricating and they all wanted photos and to try and communicate with the litlle English they had. They were all good lads and offered to put me up, but I had so much to do. After directions for the fifteen minute journey up to Central station, I set off down the back alleys of Chennai and amazingly found the station. The area around there is full of hotels in the narrow streets almost opposite the station and eventually found one even though it was pricey at 550 rupees. Mutton byriani followed but only one beer that was priced at 220 rupees. another hundred spent on Nivea for my forehead and a spell in the cyber cafe before retiring for the night

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