Day 8 turned out be an interesting day! Among other things, I cycled fast due to fear, had problems with my cycle and lost time due to this, but gained by meeting Rameshwar [who himself had cycled all the way till Goa!]. Want to know more? Read on...
I want to reach Balugaon today - more than 150 kms away, so that I can go on a boat ride in the Chilika lake tomorrow morning !
My mobile sounded at 3:30, but I wake up at only 4:05. Ready to leave at 4:45. The room boy is demanding
a tip. He hasn't cared to even keep drinking water in the room, so I don't see any reason to reward him.
I have a small pain in the left hamstring - so too on the right; expect the pain to worsen as the day goes!
At most places, only one side of the NH5 is usable. A short tea break gives me some strength at daybreak. Near Palasa, I take a deviation from NH5 because the entire road is under repair. From here on, the road is flat and good, but not very wide. Anyway, don't assume that it is free of potholes! The roadside cashew trees and ponds hold my attention. Sorekai
and Bitter-gourd are also cultivated. But most importantly - shade providing trees on either side of the road serve to keep the temperature down and riding is such a pleasure! I enjoy the smell of burning cashew...
I make a stop for breakfast at a dhaba with the express intention of eating rotis. I am tired of eating dosas and idlis and need a change badly! Finally, I devour a hearty breakfast of parathas, subji and daal. The dhaba owner advises me against riding in the dark in Orissa. He says that near Rambha ghat (close to Balugaon), there are dacoits who loot and people generally don't go around after dark. He says that Orissa was previously unknown but since 15-20 years, it has become notorious for its thieves, robbers, and dacoits. A decent looking fellow sitting close-by warns me to be on the look-out after Berhampur, because after that there is no eating place for 40 km at least! I decide that it was OK to hear bad things about Orissa far away, but so close to the border ?
The shadow of doubt in my imagination is now growing. It has to be true! After all, there is no smoke without fire. The fear of Orissa is now growing in my mind - I tell myself - reach Balugaon before sunset
. This is going to be difficult, I know, because Balugaon is still 130+ kms away, and it is 9:00 by the time I leave the dhaba.
The only way out is to be fast - and you must have seen my speed after that ! I had been effectively brainwashed to believe the bleak picture of Orissa that people everywhere were painting, and my fear was reason enough to keep my pace near 20 kmph, even in the ups
I reached Icchapuram in double quick time - this is the last town in Andhra Pradesh. I get my cycle-chain and gears oiled here.
After Icchapuram, the road god just morphed into the street dog - with patches and holes all over! The road from here is narrow and jerky. Have seen two accidents already (compare with the 4 lane road which had no
Very soon, Girisola Gate
announces the arrival of Orissa...
Girisola gate also marks the beginning of my woes with the cycle. First symptoms I see are that the breaks are touching the rim - sure signs of a rim bend! So I free my back breaks and hope for the best. The persistent sound from the back makes me stop for one more look. Closer inspection reveals that the back tyre is rotating in an off-centric manner; something has happened near the rear hub - possibly a bad ball-bearing. A few kms later, I stop at a cycle shop and hope for a quick repair. The mechanic tightens a nut and shows me that everything is fine. Seems too good to be true and I am right! Some kms later, the problem manifests itself again.
I am worried - precious time is being wasted. I won't be able to reach Balugaon at this rate and where will I get the cycle repaired? A helpful cycle mechanic refers me to Khanna Cycles in Berhampur as a competant fellow. So I hurry to Berhampur. On a railway crossing, I drink two bottles of super-cool buttermilk - a cyclists' heaven and hell both together!
Berhampur turns out to be a sizable, dusty town with a large cycling population and very chaotic traffic. Locating Khanna Cycles in State Bank road takes its own time - it is a small shop without board and closed by the time I reach there! A nearby shopkeeper suggests that I visit one of the cycle marts near the Bus Stand. A helpful policewoman offers to guide me to a cycle mart. Quite unexpectedly, a well-built man shows up and tells the lady that he will help. Alarm bells go off in my head! daal mein kuch kaala hai!
Why should this man come to help without asking - my looks (with the helmet, shiny cycle) proclaim me as an outsider. But still I set off with him.
turns out to be a nice guy. He tells me that the moment he saw me,my helmet and my cycle, he knew
that I was on a long trip and in trouble. So he left his garment shop to the care of his assistant and came to help me. His eagerness to help me is easily explained -- 3 years ago, he himself had cycled all the way from Berhampur to Goa and Mumbai! He claims to cover about 200 kms every day, with his best being 240 kms. He boasts that he pedals at a consistent 21 km/hr. His cycle - a BSA Mach 1 (narrow tyres)! I am thoroughly impressed. I also get to know that he had put an "Save the world from AIDS" board, got a letter from the local collector to that effect and gone on his trip. On the way, he would show this to the local police officials, etc and they would arrange for free accomodation, food, and cash to boot! That was his idea of getting a sponsor! So my theory of why people have a "reason" to cycle is now proved!
Rameshwar helps me in a big way - he locates a Berhampur Cycle Mart
and talks with the proprietor and arranges for a quick repair.
As the cycle is getting repaired, I settle for an excellent meal at "Maa Durga Hotel" - rice, daal and rasam. The only speciality is that the waiter brings a lot of side dishes in a heap - over 1o items in all - and asks me to choose! A live menu... The food is tasty - I drink a lot of water also.
After lunch, it is time to wait for the repair to finish. S K Babu
repairs the cycle to my satisfaction (he has replaced a ring which had broken). Rajeev is the owner's son and he doesn't charge me anything for the repairs. He also advises me to be cautious about the chors
. I thank them all for their service.
Since it is already 3:15, my dream of reaching Balugaon has to rest for now. Chattarpur has emerged as an attractive alternative - it is only 20 kms or so away. And I am sure to reach there before sunset! (yay! And I will avoid the rambha ghat dacoits
in the dark !)
Before I leave Berhampur, I make it a point to meet Rameshwar again. He shows me one more shop that he owns, introduces me to his friend and we drink tea together. I also get to know him better at this time. He is a big Michael Jackson fan. He says that he was into all sorts of bad habits - smoking, drinking, and f**king girls. He lists his MJ concert visit to Mumbai as his best experience followed by his cycle trip (his 45 days of cycling alone almost drove him mad!). He is about to settle down, with a planned marriage in december. I wish him in advance. I note down his address, take a few snaps and take leave of him. At 3:45, I am out of Berhampur...
I reach Chattarpur at 5:30. It turns out to be a small, dusty town with even more chaotic traffic (mainly cycles). I settle down at Venkateshwara lodge (90 bucks a day, 10 extra for a blanket). Looks clean - but there are mosquitos.
The hamstring pain has worsened - I am walking with a limp. The hamstrings are feeling like rubber. Getting down the stairs (my room in the lodge is in the first floor) is hell
I go to a local hotel, eat dosa, shop for fruits and a toothbrush and am asleep at 7:30 !
Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
4:45 10560.8 Tekkali
5:50 10576.5 Tea @ Dhaba
6:35 10585.4 Palasa
7:20 10597.2 Haripuram
8:05-8:55 10608.2 Breakfast @ Dhaba
9:20 10615 Kapili
10:25 10630.9 Icchapuram
11:00 10636.3 Girisola Gate (in Orissa!)
11:45 10644.1 Cycle repair
[cycle repair at Berhampur]
[cycle repair at Berhampur]
3:45 10655.2 Leave Brehampur
5:45 10676.4 Chattarpur
Without doubt, today was an fantastic day - even the cycle problem turned out to be a blessing in disguise!
My plans for tomorrow are to reach Balugaon, enjoy Chilika lake - the birds and dolphins, and end up somewhere near Puri...
In short, more fun in store...