– The adventures of a solo round the world cyclist –

Day 756 (India Day 62)

With ear plugs and a cooling ceiling fan, I enjoyed a nice sleep in and it was after 8.30am that I felt awake enough to check the time. I lay in bed for a while longer, ate the mango I’d bought yesterday and pottered around tidying my room and rinsing my riding clothes, which I hadn’t bothered tending to last night. The hotel manager gave me a motorbike ride to a nearby bakery, where I got a couple of things for breakfast, which I ate back in my room. I did a fair bit of thinking about what lies ahead of me and came away from my mental work more enthusiastic than I have been over the last couple of days. I think I have felt increasingly unenthusiastic over the last couple of days mostly because I am adjusting back into cycle touring again. Getting so exhausted so quickly has made me think that I’m tired of cycle touring in general and need a serious break from it.

Yes, I just had seven weeks at home, but in those seven weeks I was still madly working on presenting the journey via my diary and social media etc. I mean a real break, doing something totally unrelated from travelling on a bike.

With the benefit of a sleep in and a relatively lazy day, I am coming to the conclusion I’m just letting exhaustion and soreness get the better of me. Once I am settled back into the physical challenge of touring again, my mind will be more occupied by the exciting places I’m getting to see rather than the torturous pain I’m going through. Particularly motivating is the thought that I will dedicate my next video to the Karakoram Highway, which extends from Pakistan into China. This is a much more inspiring than the alternative of making one video for Pakistan and another for China. My thinking also led me to consider skipping quite a few countries in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran) and instead spend a longer, more focused amount of time in Kazakhstan. It might depend on whether I can get a boat across the Caspian Sea between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. I like the idea of getting to know one country really well rather than blast through multiple countries relatively quickly. When I was done exercising my brain, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up properly until mid-afternoon.

I went for a walk and returned to the cyber café I visited last night so I could send my family a proper message. The owner was there this time and it turns out his brother-in-law lives in Perth. I spoke to the B-I-L over the phone and he told me about the Indian restaurant he’d just opened in Belmont. I promised I’d go there when I’m back home. Thanks to the connection and the generosity of the owner, I didn’t have to pay for my internet use. I walked home on a round-about route, stopping off at various places for snacks, including bananas, fried vegetables (probably a bad idea) and a fresh lime juice. I have spent the evening lazing in my room dreaming about opening a hostel. My legs are still very painful, so I have decided to rest up another day here in Patiala.

Patiala

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 18,186km
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Day 755 (India Day 61)

I thought the day would be hard and I was proven correct. It went pretty well though, so despite extreme exhaustion, I don’t really have anything to complain about. I broke the day up into rides of 30km, 30km, 30km, 20km and 20km. After my first leg, I pulled off the main road for a quick snack and lie down. The second leg took me to Kaithal, where I found peace in a large hotel tucked off the main road. I had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant and then found a shaded corner under some stairs where I lay out my sleeping mat and dozed through the extreme heat of midday. I got going again around 1.45pm, by which time it was just starting to cool. I accepted a helping hand (literally) on the next leg, when two guys on a scooter slowed down to ride alongside me. Our conversation was exhausted once we’d swapped names and I’d told them I was Australian and heading for Patiala. The guy on the back of scooter then said, ‘hand pull’ and I said, ‘ok’. I grabbed his hand and enjoyed getting pulled along at about 23kph. Every now and then I would have to let go and drop behind in single file as trucks raged past, but otherwise I enjoyed a very cruisy few kilometres getting towed until we got to their village. With a quick thank you and wave goodbye I was back to slow grind of pedalling.

Not far ahead I came across the immediate aftermath of a car crash. A little hatchback had struck a tree head-on. Two guys had just scrambled out of the wreck and seemed okay, but I could hear at least one woman wailing from inside. The two guys waved down passing vehicles which stopped to help. I decided to ride on without stopping. I don’t have any extraordinary first aid knowledge or skills and even if I did, it would be difficult to administer them without being able to speak Hindi. After the third leg, I stopped in a little town and bought a bunch of grapes, mango and a coke, I ate the grapes but became too full to eat the mango, which I packed away for later. I have found that in the extreme heat I can’t eat very much at a time, even when I feel super hungry. Instead I have to get used to eating small amounts often. Between the fourth and last legs, I stopped on the side of the road for ice cream being served out of a cart. I sat with some handsomely dressed old Sikh men as I downed the cold, sugary treat.

All that was left was to push through the last 20km. I spent about 30 minutes trying to find a hotel near the bus stand, but kept getting knocked back because they either didn’t accept foreigners or they wouldn’t let me store my bicycle. In the end I did what I should have done first and that was go to the hotel recommended in Lonely Planet. Chinar Regency Hotel proved to be both the cheapest and most welcoming of the lot. I got a large room with AC for 500r and they were totally happy for me to keep the bike in my room. I settled in and showered, then went for a walk to find some cash. I stopped in at a cyber café to send a quick message home to let them know all is well. Back at the hotel, I ordered a very reasonably-priced meal that was delivered to my room. I ate. I slept.

The things you find

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 129.76km
Average cycling speed 17.2kph
Total distance ridden 18,186km
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Day 754 (India Day 60)

Today didn’t go too badly, but it didn’t go as nicely as yesterday. My body was so tired I didn’t even hear my alarm so I got started about two hours after I wanted to. The ride was very flat, dusty and hot with an annoying headwind. I felt like I was struggling a bit too much, given my plans to ride twice as far tomorrow. I had my first break at a petrol station where I ate a little food in the company of the station workers. They didn’t speak English so we could only share very basic information. Later, I was invited into a shop by a couple of young guys and treated to cold Marinda. I didn’t have the same luck finding accommodation in Jind as I did in Rohtak yesterday. I found a spot labelled ‘resthouse’ on my Maps.me app but there was clearly no accommodation there. On my way back towards the town centre I accepted invitations from two groups of people when they invited me to stop for a drink. I was hoping to get some information about where I could stay. This proved fruitless at the first place (a medical centre for mentally ill patients), but the second group I hung out with (teachers at a small education centre) were able to point me towards a “cheap” hotel. The hotel wasn’t cheap, so I resumed my search around town. Unfortunately, all the hotels I saw were of the ‘garden palace’ variety (suitable for Indian weddings) and were therefore relatively pricey. I checked out several places before choosing the cheapest one, which at 1000r (AU$20) is still twice as expensive as I am used to. I checked in, showered, rested, then headed down the road to get some dinner, which I took back to my room. There is no WIFI so I had to use my Spot to send a message home to let them know all is well. I have also ensured I will be able to get away early, which is going to involve waking a guy up who can open the front door and let me out. I am a bit worried tomorrow will be too much of a struggle. I am aiming to reach Patiala after a 125km ride, which is big ask given the state of my body right now.

Making friends

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 69.86km
Average cycling speed 14.4kph
Total distance ridden 18,056km
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Day 753 (India Day 59)

I was just thinking of what the first words in my diary will be when there was a knock on my door. The two young guys managing the guesthouse I’m in wanted selfies. The one running the show must only be about 14 years old. Now I’m back in my orange and blue room, chilling out on a double bed under a ceiling fan, which is keeping me just cool enough to feel comfortable. It’s super hot in India at the moment. The morning’s paper contained news stories about all the people that have died from dehydration over the last couple of weeks. I have been drinking lots of water over the last few days to put myself in the best position to cope with the excessive temperatures I am facing on the bike and I’m carrying lots of electrolytes.

I woke up at 5am and had my bike prepared by 6.30am. By the time I finished breakfast (leftover biryani from last night and a tomato), my host mother was up and offered to make me sandwiches, which I gratefully accepted. I thought they were being made with lunch in mind, but then three sandwiches were presented to me on a plate. Figuring they would be best enjoyed immediately rather than get squashed and heated in my pannier, I ate them all, only just managing to fit them in on top of my earlier breakfast. It was then time to say goodbye to my host family and hit the road.

Getting back on it after so long was like…well…like riding a bike. It is such a natural part of me now that no settling-in period is needed. The huge volume of food in my belly fuelled me all the way to my destination, with only one break in between. I arrived at Rohtak at 12.30pm after about five hours of riding. I immediately devoured a footlong Subway sandwich, then set about finding a home for the night. The first place at which I inquired was perfect: great price, super clean and with a westernised bathroom. Such luck meant I didn’t have to go bargain-hunting in the hottest part of the day. One good thing about it being so hot is that it is no hardship to stay in a place without hot water – a cold water shower is perfect after a day riding in the heat. I had a refreshing wash and then lay down for a couple of hours. Once it had cooled down a bit outside I went for a walk through town and came home with four litres of bottled mineral water and six bananas. My guesthouse has an attached restaurant so getting dinner was just a matter of placing an order with the boys and waiting for it to be delivered to my room. I am feeling very happy with how today went. The bike performed perfectly, I didn’t suffer too much in the heat, I had a decent afternoon’s rest and I’m now full of good food. Let’s hope such luck continues.

Feast

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 78.42km
Average cycling speed 16.7kph
Total distance ridden 17,987km
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Day 752 (India Day 58)

False alarm. I haven’t started yet. I decided to stay another day last night when it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to say bye to my AirBnb host as he was staying somewhere else for the night. It took me a while to decide to delay my departure by another day, but I’m glad I did as it has meant I got out Newsletter 11, which in turn means I can start riding with fewer things on my to-do list plaguing my mind. All I need to focus on besides surviving each day is keeping up to date with Instagram posts and making as many videos as possible. I will try and make it a routine to do a bit of work on each of these things every night, wherever practicable. I have just enjoyed an incredibly delicious home-made chicken biryani, washed down with whisky. It was a late dinner so I really need to get some sleep for a big day tomorrow.

On the road (in the days ahead)

Accommodation Airbnb home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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Day 751 (India Day 57)

I had a good sleep in and then got stuck into route planning, mapping out alternative pathways to get to Amritsar, near which I will be crossing into Pakistan. My route options all involve riding about 80km to Rohtak tomorrow, but then they diverge to give me multiple choices depending on how I am feeling each day. The shortest path will take me five riding days, while the longest will take me seven. With some idea about how the next week will look, I turned my attention to the stuff sprawled across my room and started packing. When I got as much packed as possible, I spent a couple of hours working on Newsletter 11 about my time in Nepal. When I tired of that, I made some overdue changes to the design of my website. For the last couple of hours I have done my best to relax by chilling out on the bed watching TV. After nearly two months off the bike, tomorrow I throw myself back into the adventure once again.

Let’s do this

Accommodation Airbnb home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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Day 750 (India Day 56)

I acted as a model for the first half of today, taking part in a photoshoot in the streets of Delhi for a leather goods company. How? The family I am staying manufacture high quality leather goods which they distribute to fashion capitals across the globe. They will soon be publicising their own brand within India and they wanted me to ‘model’ some of their products. I gave my best steely gazes during what was an amusing/interesting way to see a couple of spots in Delhi I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. Back at home I got stuck into getting my bike fully ready: I set up my bike computer and pedals, fitted my PVC pipe that holds my tripod and other items, and pumped up my tyres. It is now ready to hit the road. I’m not though. I feel like I could do with another day to actually look at a map and work out the way out of India and into Pakistan.

Throwback shot

Accommodation Airbnb home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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Day 749 (India Day 55)

I’ve gone and landed myself in the middle of a heat wave. Today it reached 38 degrees Celcius. The extreme temperature, together with missed sleep and a time change has left me feeling a little off today. I got some things done though, starting with reacquainting myself with the gear I’d left behind and beginning the task of repacking everything into my panniers. I also did a bit of work on my bike: (1) I fitted new Power Grip pedals (but I still need to adjust the straps); (2) I fitted my new bike computer (but I still need to set up the actual device); (3) I refitted my headlight to my front rack; (4) I fixed my gps cradle, part of which had snapped off when I stacked it a couple of months ago; (5) I tightened the tension of my bike’s belt; (6) I replaced all the weight-bearing bolts that connect my racks to the frame; (7) I greased my axles; (8) I sent off a few overdue email messages; (9) I cleaned my video camera lens; and (10) I started charging my electronic devices and rechargeable batteries. I had numerous little lie-downs in between all of these tasks and I’ve been trying to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. The heat really is going to be a great challenge in the coming weeks and I really need to be attentive to my health if I am to get through it unscathed.

Reacquainted

Accommodation Airbnb home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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Day 748 (India Day 54)

My alarm rang at 3.55am and I got dropped off at the airport by my parents at about 5am. I ended up with plenty of time before my flight and I spent it trying to comprehend the change in lifestyle that is about to hit me. I dozed through my flight to Kuala Lumpur, where I had a six-hour stopover before my next leg to Delhi. Airport proceedings were very efficient and I left in a pre-paid taxi, arriving at my Airbnb home around midnight, nearly 23 hours after leaving home. Hitesh met me outside and welcomed me in. It is so nice to be able to walk into a familiar place and see familiar faces. I ate some fruit before heading to my room to shower and hit the bed.

Bye for now

Accommodation Airbnb home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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Day 747 (Australia – Home break)

As usual I have it to the last minute to get ready to leave Australia. I have been on my feet all day, most of it spent cleaning up the mess that had developed in my room over the last seven weeks and organising the stuff I am taking away with me. I have grown more nervous and anxious throughout the day and it didn’t help that I had to hunt down, and then pick up, a package containing a spare tyre that was meant to be delivered today. Mum helped me out by sewing a couple of things, including a new bottle cover, a strap to tie my sleeping mat onto my bike, and a new elastic strap on my eye mask. I haven’t completed everything I wanted to while in Australia, but I have finalised everything I have to do, and I can manage the remaining items on my to-do list while overseas. It’s 9pm and I can finally start to relax, or at least try to. Paul and Sarah came over for dinner, which was take away from Royal Cambodia. I have just packed up my check-in bag and as soon as I have written this entry I will pack up my carry-on bag. I probably won’t sleep much tonight as I think about what lies ahead of me starting tomorrow when I return to India.

Home

Accommodation Home
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 17,908km
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