Sunday, March 12, 2006

My new website

I have my personal website up and running now. Head over to

Out there, you will find details of my last trip, the East Coast Rally, other trips and software.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Some Publicity

Check out todays' (7th Feb) Deccan Herald supplement MetroLife (Bangalore only). Look at page 3 for an article about me and the trip - nice pic too!

If you don't stay in Bangalore, too bad ;-) ! Not to worry - check this link (the online version doesn't have the picture)

Hope I get to meet interesting people due to this publicity :-)

And ere I end, let me thank Shwetal Kamalapurkar; Shwetal interviewed me sometime back - and the interview was truly enjoyable! Many thanks are due to Bala Chauhan as well. Bala is a senior journalist (I don't know her exact designation) and my chief contact in Deccan Herald.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Thank You!

I had a whale of a time during the trip! I have narrated all my experiences on this page - but they are in the reverse chronological order. If you haven't read them yet, then you are encouraged to do so - and you are invited to see the pictures also!

This trip wouldn't have been as successful as it has been without contributions from a few individuals, whose help I would like to acknowledge now.

First off, Harsha - he was a constant companion during my training for the trip and generally a great help. Many thanks go to my brother Santosh for the title of the trip "East Coast Rally" - it sure did good marketing for me! If at all I know any Telugu, then it is due to Vijay Sai. Vijay also helped in planning tourist places in Andhra Pradesh as well as booking the ticket for my return journey. Ashok Vishwanathan came out of his way to teach me Oriya and I greatly appreciate his effort. Abhijith B Rao pointed out the Lonely Planet Road Atlas to me and I used this extensively for my route planning. My manager, Malay, made my leave planning as painless as possible!

I cannot forget my many friends, colleagues (present and past) and relatives who encouraged me through their greetings, words, phone calls and emails - the only reason I don't mention any names here is beacuse there are too many to mention!

And, I enjoyed noting down my experiences. I have filled 150 pages during my entire trip (by contrast, I filled only about 50 pages during the previous trip). And the credit for this goes to you - all those who followed my blogs and asked (bugged?) me for photos! It is due to you that anytime when I feel bored later, I can come back to this page and relive my experiences!

Thanks for all your phone calls, SMSes, encouragement, comments and concerns during the trip. Many a time when I was through a boring stretch - a phone call was enough to brighten my mood! Without you, this trip wouldn't have been as successful as it has been !

I can't fail to remember the people whom I met during the trip - V V R K Shastry, Shubhan, Rameshwar Suhu, Durgacharan Swain, Kallol Mukherjee and Dharam Keshari -- You guys must get photos from me soon!

Anybody else I forgot ?

I will surely go on a similar trip in December this year (haven't planned where) - and hope you will all be with me then too!

Thanks again!

Tour Summary

So it is over! A short summary is required at this point:

I cycled from Chennai to Kolkata. I started in Tamil Nadu and passed through Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand (20 odd kilometers only), and finally ended in West Bengal. I covered about 1950 kilometers in the 15 days that I travelled.

I saw interesting places and met interesting people (two of them like me!) .

I spoke in hindi almost exclusively. I used some telugu and oriya also, but that was negligible. English wasn't required anywhere.

The nights I spent in lodges, dormitories and even a dharamshala. I ate the local food - vegetarian as a rule (egg is my non-vegetarian limit), and drank the available water (no mineral water).

The return journey to Bangalore was by train and bus.

And, the total cost of the trip (includes everything) comes around Rs. 7500 -- going around in a cycle is not cheap ;)

Anything else I missed ???

Monday, January 10, 2005

Days 16, 17 - The Return Journey

I wake up at a leisurely 8 AM! Today is January 1, 2005. A tea is a good enough refreshment.

I am already in a rewind mode. The train route retraces my cycling route backwards, with few exceptions...

Already the train is crossing the huge bridge on the Kendrapara river near Cuttack. I relive the bumpy moments and am narrating the same to some of my co-passengers. They show me another bridge (a new one), which is supposedly beter. Meanwhile, an old man(Dharam's acquaintance) is giving me some publicity in his group.

Me and Dharam are awaiting the arrival of Bhubaneshwar - this will be the time when the group from Kolkata will get down, and we will get back to our right places and be masters of the cabin (or most likely the masters of the bogie!).

After Bhubaneshwar, we are left staring at a more-or-less empty bogie- and yes, we are the masters! Not for long, though - our "kingdom" lasts till the next station where the aam janata decides to enter the reserved cabin. There aren't many of them, but our style has been effectively cramped.

Dharam has given me good company and more. We have talked incessantly for some time - mostly about orissa, bihar and the difference between them. His view is that Orissa is a nice place. The people there don't bother anybody too much. But Bihar is - well... terrible! (Biharis please don't flame me : I am just echoing his views). And he isn't talking after reading newspapers - he is speaking purely from personal experience. He did his XI and XII standard in Bihar, got fed up of the vile language there, and returned to Kolkata for his B.Com. He is currently doing his final year of the B.Com. course.

Dharam is well prepared for the train journey - everything from food, clothes to soap. He has even brought a cap -- he intends to get his head shaven at Tirupati, and the cap is for the return journey!

Dharam is an organised guy for someone his age. He does tutions for primary and high-school students and earns atleast 4000 rupees a month. Of this, some he gives to his father (his father is still working, but this is his way of playing his part), he saves 1000 rupees a month in his bank (now, how many software engineers do you know who save that much?), everything else is for his clothes and other things. He does go around in style! And going by his daily schedule, he is every bit a busybody. To top it off - he is very co-operative too. In short, an ideal companion for a long trip..

Meanwhile, I have had a crappy, insufficient lunch (supplied by railways) and a small nap. I woke up hungry - but help is at hand! It is Dharam offering me bananas. I eat one. I do have a mind to eat more, but I don't want to end his supplies.

As the train is crossing one station after another, I an remembering the wonderful things that happened, the moments, and all these tales I heap on a hapless Dharam - who seems to be enjoying it all!

We have quickly crossed Chattarpur, Berhampur and Icchapuram.

Dharam is worried about the "language problem" that he might face in Andhra Pradesh. I am quick to assure him that I've managed fine in AP. Hindi must work with anybody who has a TV set at home! As a live example, I pose a harmless question in hindi to an educated looking passerby - and get the expected reply.

Our other discussions center around the food differences, languages and places to see. Dharam has a walkman, which is turning out to be useful. I sing a few of my own favourite songs for his pleasure.

Two rural women who were in our cabin have been told to goto the general compartment by the TC. This leads to a discussion between me and Dharam. Our consensus is that it is generally the poor (read:ill dressed) who bear the brunt of such treatment. There were many others also whou ought to be sitting in the general compartment, but were travelling undisturbed in our bogie - and the TC had conveniently overlooked it all!

Our train is generally running on time or ahead of time. At evening, we get off the platform and we get more company - a person working in a courier office in Kolkata who is also going on his yearly piligrimage to Tirupati. He generally refuses to believe my story - till he sees my diary. He even wants to see my visiting card, but I am equally adamant in not showing it!

Meanwhile, my Airtel SIM card has become a useless chip - my balance has become zero mysteriously! Time to revert to Hutch; Hutch covers AP adequately, and as a proof, I get a phone call in the evening. Nice!

After sunset, we spend time staring at the engulfing darkness outside and munching anything that becomes available in the train!

After 7 PM, it becomes increasingly difficult to pass time. The train stops at Vizianagaram; and we are left ot fend ourselves against the mosquitos, with Dharam being successful atleast once.

Dharam has just told me about his terrible experience in Bihar:

They (him+family) were apparently going in a Tata Sumo near Bhojpur(in Bihar). They had over rupees one lakh in cash. A Hero Honda Splendour motorcycle with three rogues overtook and stopped them (the road condition was very bad - so there was not much the Sumo could do). They slapped the driver and demanded the moolah. The driver was a clever chap and well acquainted with Bihar - he had hidden the money under the seat. He told the rogues that there was nothing. Meanwhile, a pistol was slapped onto Dharam's head. Dharam had a gold ring, a gold chain and 2000 rupees in cash - and every mind to give away all that in exchange for his life. Meanwhile, the rogues searched everywhere without luck. They then told Dharam's parents: agar aapke bacche ko kuch ho jaata to hum aapko kya muh dikhate. Wow! The story had a surprise ending with the foiled dacoits leaving with a quiet apology for attacking the wrong vehicle! True gentlemen, Bihar style!

And please don't think that all this happened in an isolated place; it happened in the middle of a bazaar and everyone had downed their shutters and run away in a hurry! They must have been locally well known thugs.

And now I can see why, in the eyes of a bengali, Orissa is so good -- surely in comparison to Bihar -- which, in their eyes, is the greatest evil.

This incident is Dharam's nightmare. And Bihar's reality....

After hearing this incident, we quietly doze off - we are both hungry and hope that we will get something to eat at Vizag; which the train will reach at 11:00 PM.

It is 11:20 PM by time we reach Vizag. I remember Shubhan, but opt no to call him at this late hour. We get a masala dosa parcel each. Very tasty! I am not satisfied with one, so I eat one more. It is bananas after the doas and some idle chat after that. It is 12:30 by the time sleep overtakes us.

When we wake up the next day, it is 8 AM and the train is ready to leave Vijayawada. Time to brush up and get ready to while away time till the evening.

An average tasting coffee signals the beginning of the day. Chowbey (the courier chap from Kolkata) has joined us. So it is time to sing some songs. Some comic relief is provided by a beggar who has come around dressed as Gandhiji. I reward him with a photo and one rupee. Dharam has tried to learn some telugu from a local woman sitting opposite to him - and me and Chowbey are doubling up with laughter most of the time. I give Dharam some telugu sentences to help him along. I buy some doodh-peda to sweeten everyones' mouth and we all fall quiet again.

Post Tenali, and we have all got into wait-for-Tirupati mode. The train finally reaches Tirupati at 4:10 -- just ten minutes late. I give Dharam a hug and bid him goodbye with a heavy heart - when will I meet him again ?

I can see my cycle on the platform - already unloaded. I ask for my cycle at the luggage counter but they say that it will take some time. So, I goto the bus stand and learn that there is a Rajahamsa to Bangalore at 5:00. So I hurry back to the railway station, get the cycle and am back at the bus stand. I get a seat and the bus starts at 5:10!

I am back in Majestic at 11:00 PM. And back home at 11:25 PM. Yay! And my trip has finally ended with that - time to wait till December again for my next one.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Day 15 - Kolkata

Up at 5:30.

First tourist attraction of the day will be Belur Math, on G.T. Road. I am out of the lodge by 6:00 AM. The road to the Belur Math turns out to be easy, with me needing to take just two deviations.

I park my cycle at the cycle stand and proceed to have a look at the temple dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna.

Wow! What a place. The surrounding lawns are also tastefully done and well maintained. The main temple building is superb. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed even outside the temple! The temple houses a single marble idol of Sri Ramakrishna. There are small shrines dedicated to Swami Vivekananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna as well. And here flows the Hooghly - what a sight! A perfect photograph is there for the asking - but the rules say otherwise. All in all, an hour well spent!

Time for breakfast - sandesh (a sweet), poories and singada. Tastes good, except for sandesh.

Next in line is the Dakshineshwar Temple. Sri Ramakrishna used to meditate there. I reach the temple soon enough but finding a place to park my cycle becomes a major task - I finally settle for a nearby cycle shop.

Nice temple (see the pics!). All sorts of Pooja items are available nearby. This temple is also on the banks of the Hooghly. Actually, there is a boat from Belur Math to Dakshineshwar Temple. There is a long queue for darshan, so I skip it! Hope that doesn't anger Kali mata!

A special thing I see here is bangles made by cutting conch shells! They are cool.

Next stop - Shyam Bazaar - I don't stop here since it is nothing more than a routine bazaar. Nicco Park - an amusement park - comes next. Bad choice by me!

Next stop - Science City. There is some parking problem w.r.t. my cycle but the security guard helps me out this time (after getting to know about my trip). I am curious to see what's inside, so I pay the entry fee and get in. I opt for the cable car route to enter Science City. The ride is much better here than at Vishakapatnam. Among other things, there are several small assemblies in Science City which demonstrate basic scientific principles. Unfortunately, the parents haven't done their homework before coming in, so they are in no position to make their kids understand them. And I am running short of time - so I have to skip the goodies like space ride, some videos, 3D film show, etc.

One look at the watch is enough for me to exclude Birla Temple and Kalighat Mandir (I've seen enough temples, anyway). I head towards Victoria Memorial. This is an impressive monument made of marble. The surrounding lawn is not very well maintained, but it seems to be a popular picnic spot. I am terribly hungry at this time (nearly 2:00), so I eat atleast 8 poories and one large guava (guavas are quite costly here and sold by kgs - one kg costs 30 rupees). I also eat a fruit salad. The clever shopkeeper has hidden a mass of cucumber with papayas and is selling it as fruit salad! For now, all's well that ends in the well (my stomach!). I spend sometime looking at the memorial but am quickly bored.

Next attraction is the Metro Rail (this is the underground railway network in Kolkata). I entrust my cycle to a panwallah and go underground to catch a metro rail. This stop is Rabindra Sadan. I take a to and fro ticket to Tollygunge. The Metro Rail is impressive! The platforms are neat and well lit. The trains are small and light. Even if you don't get a seat, nothing to worry - you won't need to stand for long! I want to take a few snaps, but photography is prohibited here too (why??). The train picks up speed very quickly and blazes through the stations. Helpful messages about the current station, next station, which side to get down from, etc are repeated in Bangla, English and Hindi. In a short time(maybe 15 minutes max), I am in Tollygunge. I have to act as if I am going out and coming in to return back to the platform for my return journey. The ticket to Tollygunge has been swallowed by the machine at the exit! An important thing to note is that the trains run on time. I asked a guy when the train is and he said 2:12 - I was surprised at this precision (too much to expect an Indian Railways train to arrive correct to the minute!), and had almost started to laugh. The smile on my lips died as I sighted the train soon after! If you happen to be in Kolkata and want to go around quickly, I would recommend the metro rail - and sync your watch to its clock, please, for best results!

After this, it is time to see Rabindra Setu, the new(it is more than 10 years old, FYI. It surely is relatively newer than the original Howrah bridge) cable bridge over the Hooghly. Photography is prohibited here too - but the place is too good to resist. Nice bridge - go see the pictures. The hallowed Eden Gardens is also visible from here.

After the bridge, there is a mass of criss-crossing fly-overs. I select the one that leads to G.T. Road, with every intention of reaching my lodge. (It is evening by now).

At the end of the flyover, a signboard indicates the direction to take for a Botanical Garden. It is still 4:10 only, so I have time for a short visit. The garden is about 10 minutes of cycling away. Near the garden, the usual problem of parking doesn't arise as there are two competing service providers (!). There is a verbal fight between them for the rights to host my cycle - with one guy claiming precedence since he is handicapped. I settle for the other fellow - and reward him further by drinking tea at his shop. The botanical gardens turns out to be a big place - with many species of trees and plants on display. Everyone is busy with their friends, family or companion. I am bored quickly and end my visit in a jiffy.

After the garden, I head straight for the lodge. First thing to do is to drink a refreshing cup of tea at Pandeyji's shop. I am convinced that he is the best tea maker in Kolkata - nowhere else did tea taste so good. After the tea, I rest for awhile in my room.

Time to browse the net and see the response to my blog post (done yesterday). I chat with the WebWorld guy. He has heard of cycle tourists but hasn't met one. So he wants a snap. I am only too happy to oblige!

Back at the lodge, it is time to make my cycle a 'luggage' item - I am off to the railway station for this. Many enquiries later, I reach Gate 17. A coolie (old man) comes around to help me - service to others is service to self, isn't it? I have to fill a form, which I do, and pay 10 rupees to the guy who gave me the form. After that it is time to haggle with the coolie (porter). I am adamant that I wont pay a rupee more than 20. My argument is that the cycle is extremely light-weight. The form-guy comes to my rescue and finds one more coolie to do the job for me. The form-guy pockets an additional 10 rupees and the porter has to rest content with 20 rupees - 85 rupees goes to the railways.

On the way back to the lodge, I eat a crappy dinner. But I am not unhappy since I can eat more still! I rest in the lodge from 9:30 to 10:15. After that, it is time to pack up and leave. Before leaving, I take one last 'dose' of 5 rupee tea at Pandeyji's shop.

Reaching the railway station takes less than 10 minutes. Not many signs of new year celebrations are to be seen - all I can hear is a song blaring somewhere.

On the railway platform, I get talking with a fellow passenger. I tell him about the trip. Sometime later, he says that somebody else has also come on a cycle - and points to my cycle being pushed around by the coolies!

It is 11:30 PM by the time the Howrah-Tirupati Express comes to the platform. I just lie down in my reserved upper birth. A big group going to Bhubaneshwar wants to stay together, so me and Dharam (a fellow passenger going to Tirupati) are pushed by request to the next cabin.

A flurry of Happy New Year SMSes is enough to announce that New Year is coming. Unfortunately, I can't reply - I am getting a "Service Unavailable" error message from the phone. And changing to my regular Hutch SIM card makes no difference. Grr... Anyway, my prepaid balance must be less than 10 Rs now, so no need to shout at anyone!

It is a chilly night, so I put on my gloves and use my dhoti as a rug. The train leaves at 11:50 PM - just 10 minutes late. There are cries of "Happy New Year" from everywhere.

Soon, Kolkata fades into the distance...

And that marks the end of my trip. The return journey will take two more days, but no more cycling!

My final odometer reading was 11387.3 and the start of trip reading was 9617.9, so the total distance that I have covered is atleast 1950 kilometers! And I have had loads of fun!

Time to rest!

Day 14 - Kharagpur to Kolkata

I get a shock when I wake up - there is light all around me. How come my mobile hasn't sounded. The light is due to the tubelight outside, silly! I finally get up at 4:30.

After freshing up, the first thing I do is complete yesterdays diary - better be up to date.

I intend to leave at 5:45 - just before daybreak. Time to I put the new gloves ( I had purchased a pair yesterday for 25 rupees) to use! As an additional precaution, I drink a cup of tea - how I wish I could get some coffee here!

I am out of Kharagpur by 6:00. It is biting cold. The gloves aren't turning out to be as warm as I had hoped. I have noticed a small hole on the right glove. However, I still feel much better than without gloves.

NH6 is now the new road god. Till Kolkata, NH6 has been 4 laned - with few places still to be finished.

Along the road, the ponds, the fields and the people are enough to attract my attention. The road is mainly flat. I stop for tea at a shop. The shopkeeper knows not hindi; and I know no bengali. He says "2 takas" and I am taken aback! "taka is the currency of Bangladesh", I shoot back. He understands what I say, points to a 10 rupee note, and says "it is written taka there". No more arguments from me - but I make it a point to get that cross-checked somewhere...

At 8:50, I stop for breakfast at a dhaba. Aloo-gobi is good! I am just hoping that food will be good from now on, atleast! Kolkata is now less than 100 kms away.

Time to hit the road again after breakfast. I've pedalled almost non-stop till Kolaghat. The weather is almost perfect for cycling. Time to discard the gloves. My hands are still a bit stiff, but must get fine in some time. I am enjoying the scenary on the way - and just hoping that the weather and greenery continue till Kolkata.

A few tea breaks, a lunch break, and my watch is showing 2 PM. Howrah is still atleast 40 km away.

Kolkata, as you may know, has developed along the banks of the Hooghly (alternate name for the river Ganga). The part of the city on the other side of the Hooghly is Howrah (pronounced how-da).

Many ponds on the roadside have ducks. I snap a few photos from a convenient distance - luckily they don't fly away! Of all birds, ducks must probably be the easiest to shoot - and that includes the violent sort of shooting as well.

A signboard on the road reads "Safety has no holiday". Not a bad thought for the day!

A few hours later, I am driving in an almost urban setting - in short, I haven't realised where Kolkata has begun. Mithunda (Mithun Chakravarty) seems to be ruling over a few theatres atleast!

I take a right deviation after a short tea break - along that road, Howrah is 13 kms away. Near that place is a board which shows that I have to go straight to reach Delhi! That must lead to the Grand Trunk Road - which will surely figure in my future travels.

I am near the Howrah bridge by 4:00 and the hunt for a lodge has begun. I finally settle for Laxmi Lodge (125 per day) - I will need to pay for two days since my train to Tirupati is at 11:40 tomorrow. And that's the main reason I didn't go to one of the costlier lodges. The room in Laxmi Lodge has no attached bathroom - but this is not a necessity. The room walls have gone for three runs atleast, if not a six!

After freshing up, I am out of the lodge. My intention is primarily gathering info about the tourist places for me to see tomorrow. Everyone around is very curious about my cycle, my helmet and me! I give my cycle to the lodge-boy. He finds it very difficult to ride, though he is taller than me.

First person I meet after this is a local car driver - who better to ask for directions ? I tell him my intentions and solicit his advice for the route for a trip around Kolkata, with interesting places thrown in. In no time, the helpful driver charts out a nice circuitious route of Kolkata for me (At this time, I remember Tirupati, the car driver I met at Kanyakumari last year). I invite the driver for a tea, but he declines the offer. He points me to the tea shop opposite my lodge and tells me that it is the best tea shop around.

Pandeyji makes tea in Rs 2, Rs 5, and Rs 8 cups. I choose to drink the 5 rupee version, which turns out to be excellent.

Light is slowly fading and I hurry to take a look at the howrah bridge (old one). There is no good viewpoint around. I cross the bride and see a few "Welcome to Kolkata" boards. Immediately a fly-over has started. I am slowly getting a feel of the population of Kolkata as well. Everywhere I see people and more people . The city buses are slightly smaller than our KSRTC buses, and very old. Walking on the footpath agains the general "flow" of people turns out to be a difficult task. Sometime later, I am back at the lodge.

Time to sip a pure moosambi juice (no water, no sugar - 5 whole moosambis crushed to get the juice). All of a sudden, I have started feeling very tired. Something similar happened at the end of my last trip also. Deja vu ? After some time, I do a follow up act with pomogrenate juice.

Time to sip a pure moosambi juice (no water, no sugar - 5 whole moosambis crushed to get the juice) at the shop next to the lodge. All of a sudden, I have started feeling very tired. Something similar happened at the end of my last trip also. Deja vu ? After some time, I do a follow up act with pomogrenate juice.

I assign a local boy to watch the cycle. After freshing up, I go to Reliance WebWorld -- the lodge closes gates at 11 PM, and I still haven't had dinner, and I need to go to the railway station to enquire about how my cycle has to be transported - so all I do is post a short blog update!

I visit Amruth Hotel, a nearby pure veg hotel, and eat a thali - nothing special, really! After that , I visit the railway station (which happens to be close-by). A porter informs me that it is enough if I book the luggage 2-3 hours before the departure time of the train. Great!

Back at the lodge and I am asleep at 10:30 PM, after updating my book...

All I can say now is that it feels great to be in Kolkata ! I've done the hardwork till now and tomorrow will be devoted to go around in my cycle and see some places of interest. I seem to have covered around 1880 kms till now - if I hadn't taken the shortcut to Satapada from Balugaon (in Orissa), then I should have touched the 2000 mark!

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
5:55 AM 11223.0 Kharagpur
7:05-7:15 11235.2 Lachmanpur/Tea
8:15-8:25 11250.9 Dharamtore/Tea
8:50-9:30 11255.6 Breakfast @ Super National Hotel!
10:55-11:10 11277.3 Kolaghat/Tea
12:25-12:40 11294.4 Ulbhedia/Tea
1?:45-2:15 11306.0 Lunch
3:20-3:25 11322.0 Salat High Road/Tea cum deviation toward Howrah
4:20 11330.4 In Laxmi Lodge @ Howrah

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Day 13 - Baripada to Kharagpur

I have woken up to a cold morning - a planned time of 3:30 has slipped to a sensible 5:00 AM.

I have decided to minimize contact with water. It is terribly cold and my hands are stiff. I am worried - how will I grip the handle? So sad I got late to Baripada yesterday and lost out on a chance to buy some gloves...

My target for today is Kharagpur -a nice 120 kms away. Not much to do, really.

I am out of the lodge by 5:50. I make a welcome tea stop near the bus stop. Here, they use a different sort of stove. It is the sort of thing used by iron smiths- and they use wood charcoal for fuel. Turn the handle when you want more heat - cool!

After tea it is misery. The cold conditions are the culprit - I can't grip the handlebar. Very few people are awake, and those who are are either sitting near a fire, searching for one, or making one! Except me, that is. The tea stop at 6:45 is actually intended to warm up my hands. I make one more leisurely stop at 7:30. After this, the weather improves slightly. I am on NH6 and the going is fine till Jamasola gate (Orissa-Jharkhand border).

The breakfast at Baragora is not tasty - if at all food was tasty anywhere after Andhra, it was Berhampur!

The arrival of Jharkhand also announces the arrival of extremely bad roads. What's the new definition of NH ? National Holeway, what else! It is not a road - it is just one long pothole! I struggle to reach Darisole (Jharkhand-West Bengal Border) -- I haven't been in Jharkand for more than 20 kms!

Entry into West Bengal hasn't yielded the desired result - the roads haven't improved. My cups of woes is overflowing due to the bus and lorry drivers. They overtake, put on their headlights, and expect me to get off the road!

I eat a simple lunch at Lodhasuli (in West Bengal) and follow it up with a long nap - from there to Kharagpur is only 34 kms! I am extremely reluctant to start again - reason: the road is as bad as ever and the traffic is as bad as ever... There is no reason for joy anywhere - most of the time, I just prefer the "footpath".

On the road, I see a Karnataka lorry with Putturda Muttu (Pearl of Puttur) written on the back - I move fast but can't catch it. With Kharagpur about 15 kms away, the road condition improves considerably.

Inside Kharagpur (on the byepass), I make a small tea stop. I am told to take a deviation to enter Kharagpur town. M y hunt for a lodge begins as soon as I am in town -- Gole Bazaar is the place to go! I stop by Anarkali lodge. The owner is a kindly sikh who offers me some hot tea immediately. I am impressed by this hospitality and decide to stay in the same lodge! I occupy a single room (common bathroom).

As such, there is no place of tourist interest in Kharagpur. It is known for its IIT, and so also for its Railway Workshop. The Kharagpur railway station also boasts of the longest railway platform - over 1 km long, I am told!

I spend some time roaming in the bazaar. Tea is served here in small earthen cups. Then I visit a browsing center for half an hour of browsing, looking up comments and chatting - but I dont post any updates.

Time to visit the best hotel in town - Lalit hotel, near the railway station. This turns out to be an OK hotel. I eat 3 rotis, tandoori naan(very soft) and 3 side dishes. The waiter is frustrated by my frequent orders. I fire a five hundred rupee note at him - and he gets even with me by giving me lots of change - 3 fifty notes, lots of 10s and 20s. The bill is only thiry-seven rupees.

I pay a short and boring visit to the railway station and get back to the lodge. I fill yesterdays events in my dairy and then switch off the lights at 10:30.

Nothing interesting happened today, but I wasn't bored either. Weather was as bad as yesterday.

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
6:00 11120.0 Baripada
6:45 11128.6 Tea
7:30-8:05 11138.4 Kuliana/Tea
9:00 11148.8 Jharpokariya
9:30 11155.8 Jamasola Gate(Orissa Border)
10:05 11159.3 Snacks
10:30-11:05 11162.7 Baragora (Jharkhand)
12:05 11175.4
12:10-12:30 11176.2 Darisole(Jharkhand Border)/Tea
1:55-3:00 11193.7 Lodhasuli/Lunch
4:45-5:00 11214.6 Kharagpur/Tea
6:00 Lodge

So what about tomorrow ? Well, reach Kolkata and rejoice! Target is just 131 kms away. Can't wait to reach there!

Day 12 - Bhadrak to Baripada

After haggling with myself, I finally wake up at 5:50. The alarm initially was for 3:30.

Two cups of tea are enough to start me off. It is 7:00 AM by the time I start off from Bhadrak.

It is very cold. The cold is numbing my hands, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to grip the handlebar... I curse this earthquake, the resulting devastation at Chennai and of course, the tsunami. The tsunami has not only devastated a sea of humanity, but is affecting people as far as here! The locals tell me that the wind and the chilly weather started after the tsunami.

The cold and the opposing wind notwithstanding, I have succeeded in maintaining a steady pace till 9:00. The credit should partially go to a factory employee who is going to work on his cycle. I don't want to give him the bragging rights that he beat a shiny gear cycle. Sso I ensure that I stay consistently ahead of him.

The breakfast at the dhaba is the regular fare - peas subjee and dry roti - but the taste is good. It has also eaten an hour of my time. The cook is just too slow...

And as I anticipated, the proceedings are turning out to be dull. It is just the usual tea breaks and cycling till Balasore. Near Balasore, there is a route to Kharagpur which promises to cut short the distance to Kolkata by nearly 100 kms, but I am not interested in this route at all.

The wind is hindering my progress all the time and it I am feeling the chill even at noon. I enter Balasore town (known for steel production) - my intention is to post a short trip update on this site. The second browsing center that I enter has exactly 1 computer, a reliance connection and Win 98. Good enough for now, and I post a quick update. The meal at the local hotel is only so-so.

Baripada is 60-65 kms from Balasore and it is 2:00 PM - that will mean about an hour or more of night cycling. No need to hurry!

At 3:15, I stop by a dhaba, with the intention of sipping a quick tea. The way the dhaba guy tells me paani peeke aaraam keejiye, phir baat karenge is enough to convince me that this is just an invitation for a long chat! The dhaba is actually run by his father - and the aforementioned guy turns out to be Amar Khilar alias Bapy - nice guy.

A few glasses of water, a short rest, and a cup of tea, and it is talk mode all the time. What starts out as a routine talk about cycling soon turns into a full-blown discussion about Orissa. He says that Orissa may be a poor state (an estimated 60 people out of 100 have no slippers on their feet) - but they are certainly not thieves, or thugs or dacoits. And his observation is that it is generally the "outsiders" (read: Biharis) who do the things which bring a bad name to Orissa. The poor people are generally afraid, and my observation has been that the tribals are generally a shy lot - leave alone robbing you, they generally try to stay away...

So here is a petition from me! Everyone, please give Orissa a break! Let me assure you that Orissa is a safe state. It has no more thugs, theives, robbers and dacoits than anywhere else. Generally it is easy to get a bad name, and difficult to loose it - and this, I guess, is the case of Orissa. So if someone asks you - how is Orissa, please don't say that it is an unsafe place, but say that someone you know toured Orissa in a cycle (having flashy gizmos) - and he faced not a problem. You do that, and I assure you that you would have done your part in the upliftment of Orissa. Thanks!

We have chatted non-stop for atleast 40 minutes. One more cup of tea - and Bapy refuses to take any money. I take a few snaps and note down his address as well - he is surely the most cheerful person I have seen in this trip! Soon, Bapy fades into the background as I race towards Baripada...

I pedal till dark. At dark I reach a village - and Christmas celebrations are on. I stop for tea and snacks. I eat all available items at the small hotel - from singada to papad! The church is well decorated. The power goes - and surprise - the church remains illuminated. Must be a generator!

One guy tries to speak with me in english. What's the need, when I am already speaking in hindi?. I have seen through his little game of trying to impres the onlookers with his english - but I reply in english.

I turn on my headlight and am off for the final stretch. A motorcycle pulls up beside me - students from the Kalinga Institute of Technology and Sciences. They wish me well.

Near Baripada, I stop for tea. Strangely, the talk centers around Veerappan, and where he could have hidden the loads of money he supposedly got for the Rajkumar kidnap !!!

As it is becoming darker, it is freezing cold! I need gloves for tomorrow - must buy at Baripada.

It is late by the time I reach Baripada, and I have forgotten about the gloves! I enquire at Vishram hotel for a room - he quotes 100 rupees. I goto a nearby Ambica hotel also - no rooms there! I come back - the last room has been booked in Vishram as well. Ah!

Near Hotel Grand, a man accosts me - he turns out to be Kallol Mukherjee - an all India cyclist once upon a time! He tells me that he had gone, with two others, on an all India trip. They had travelled for an year! And the purpose of their trip - Peace and Goodwill ! Needless to say, they had their sponsors! He had also gone on a tour of Nepal! We chatted for sometime before Kallol left in a hurry.

Kallol found a decent Sri Krishna Lodge for me and arranged for free dinner at his friend's hotel - the Grand Hotel, reputedly the best hotel in Baripada!

After freshing up, I went to the hotel and had my fill (at whose expense??) and I thanked the owner Mr Jagadish Aggarwal.

There was one curious thing at the hotel, though! Apparently the well dressed (and well-off) people are served in porcelain plates whereas the common man is served in steel plates. It irked me, but I couldn't get an explanation for this apparent inequality from anyone.

Finally return back to the lodge and asleep at 10 PM!

So what started as a boring day warmed up by meeting Bapy and Kallol. And meeting these people was well worth the day!

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
7:00 11005.7 Bhadrak
9:00-9:50 11035.0 Breakfast @ Saurav Dhaba
10:55-11:00 11047.5 Begunia/Tea
11:55-12:00 11058.8 Tea
12:45-2:00 11065.8 Balasore/Browsing,Lunch
2:45-2:55 11078.0 Rest, bananas
3:15-4:00 11081.2 Tea, Chat at Dahaba
6:35-6:45 11115.8 Baripada/Tea
7:10 11119.5 Lodge

So what's for tomorrow ?? Kolkata is about 250 kms from here. Kharagpur is about 120 kms away and I still have 3 more days. One day is enough for sight-seeing at Kolkata, which means that I can aim for Kharagpur tomorrow!

Day 11 - Bhubaneshwar to Bhadrak

I have had a disturbed nights' sleep - courtesy misquito bites on my leg. I had slept in my cycling dress itself - would have been better if I had my socks on too!

The rules of the Dharmashala say that the gates open at 4:30 AM - so I wake up at 4:00. I finish my daily ablutions and am all set. The door is showing no signs of opening. So I end up utilizing the time to update my diary.

A quick visit to the Lingaraj Mandir (it is still quite dark) is enough to convince me that I have had enough mandir-seeing! The Lingaraj Mandir looks much bigger than it really is - and this is supposedly due to its architecture. I quickly return to the Dharamshala and vacate my room - time to move on.

Near the Dharamshala I see a board detailing the many temples of Bhubaneshwar. This is a list of over 30 temples. No wonder Bhubaneshwar is called the City of Temples.

The weather is becoming colder as I move eastward.

Cuttack is my next target. I hope to see the Barabati Fort (it is on the banks of a river). The going to Cuttack is smooth on NH5, which has morphed into a four lane highway again. But not for long; after some time, I start facing a steady opposing wind, and this is sapping my energy. I have passed by a village which has atleast 10-15 shops selling only sweets! Rosagullas in large aluminium vessels, which would be twice the size of our normal buckets! And more than three suck vessels in every shop! I am tempted enough to relish a few. The wind has ensured that I reach Cuttack a tired man.

After a few misdirections, I reach Barabati fort. This turns out to be a big disappointment - because there is nothing to see there! Where is the fort ? - I am still wondering. But I meet two helpful fellows there - ond one of them I had met yesterday on the way to Konark. They tell me that there is really nothing to see in Cuttack;it is only the former capital of Orissa. Nothing more, nothing less! Next I enquire whether there is anything interesting for a momento. It turns out that Cuttack is known for its feligri. A feligri is a silver item made of silver wire. I buy one from Mangalabagh, one of the markets. I have also eaten a crappy breakfast by this time. Time to get out of Cuttack - why did I come here anyway?

I am planning to end todays ride at Bhadrak - about 100kms away from Cuttack. By the time I am out of Cuttack, I am very tired. I stop for tea - this is primarily an excuse to get some rest! The opposing wind has strengthened. My condition is now miserable - the right knee is starting to hurt a bit. (The hamstring pain has luckily vanished, since when I remember not.) An hour later, I stop again at a dhaba. I drink two cups of tea and doze off without realizing it myself! And when I wake up, my condition is no better - it is only my will which keeps me on the road.

When the going is tough, the tough get going, yes, but surely even the tough must have some technique ? And here is a technique for you to use, if you face a similar position -- it might work for you, though I guarantee nothing. When facing such a situation, what I try to do is imagine either one of my happiest moments, or I visualize a person who I picture would be happy to see me do what I am finding difficult to do. The resulting happiness is generally enough to make me try that much more - and I feel not the pain at that time. My guess is that finally it all boils down to one's will, but to awaken the will one really does need somethig... (there is a similarity between this technique and Patronus Charm, as described in Harry Potter II.)

I need to replenish my energy, so, at 1:15, I stop for lunch at a dhaba. Food has become bland after I entered Orissa. After lunch, my motto is slow and steady finishes the race!

On the way, I try my hand at bird photograph, but without success. When I see a bird in a nice place, I try to stop, with every intention of getting a snap. But by the time I stop my cycle, dismount, pull out my camera and aim my shot, the bird decides to fly away! Needless to say, I am frustrated after a few tries. I am slowly beginning to appreciate that it needs a lot of patience. And patience implies time - which is in short supply. Sunrise is typically at 6:00 and sunset at 5:15, which means that I have less time for easy cycling.

I get exhausted again at 4:45. Luckily for me, I have a packet of dates in my bag. The entire lot vanishes in no time! I make a tea stop just before light fades away. I devour a few malpuris (a sweet) and singadas (small samosas) as well. The villagers there are surprised that I am not scared of cycling alone in the dark.

After the snack break, it is time to turn on the light and resume cycling. Nearing Bhadrak, I stop at a tea stop. There are four guys at the shop - the owner and three customers. And surprise, they are not communicative at all. I feel a bit uneasy and ask them what they do - they don't reply. So I ask the owner whether they do farming - he replies in the affirmative. But I hear one of the three say something in oriya. What it is, I don't understand, but I construct it to mean he hasn't heard of dakus. You can imagine how scared I would be. I also decide that it is prudent not to take out either my cellphone or my camera. I quickly pay my bill and depart without saying goodbye...

It is 7:20 PM by the time I reach Bhadrak - it is a district headquarters. I settle into Yashoda Lodge, which now displaces Kumari Lodge(Vizag) as the best lodge for my trip. It also costs 200 bucks a day. After sometime, I go to Kalinga Internet Center(airconditioned!), with every intention of updating my blogs - but it is full. I shop around for apples. Some thick rotis and bland subji at the hotel, and I am very upset. To compound my woes, I face low-voltage blues at my room -- the tubelight refuses to light up. The lodge manager tries for sometime and the lights come on, to my relief. The water in the lodge is very cold, but that doesn't prevent me from taking a bath. There is an excellent rug to keep the cold away while I sleep, which happens no sooner than 10!

All in all, this undoubtedly has been the worst day of the trip !

Today at a glance:

Time Odometer Place/Purpose
6:10 AM 10879.4 Dharamshala @ Bhubaneshwar
7:00 10886.9 Reunion with NH5
7:10-7:25 10888.9 Mini breakfast
8:25 10902.5 Cuttack
9:05 10909.5 Barabati "Fort"
9:15-9:30 10911.0 Breakfast
10:10 10913.1 Filigri time
11:20-11:45 10926.3 Tea-cum-sleep @ dhaba
1:15-1:50 10945.7 Lunch
2:05 10948.9 Chandikhole
3:00-3:20 10962.2 Tea
4:45-4:55 10979.1 Exhausted, eat dates!
5:05-5:30 10981.8 Tea stop
6:25 10994.5 Tariquepur
7:20 11004.7 Bhadrak

For tomorrow, I am thinking of reaching Baripada - no sightseeing is in the pipeline. There are many places to see around Balasore, which is on the way to Baripada, but nothing very near. Baripada is a tribal area, and was in the news a long time ago for the Dara Singh episode. (Those who remember it would disagree about the "long". I only defence I have, as the saying goes, is public memory is short!)

So tomorrow must also be equally boring... sigh!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Trip photos are online!

Yes, today is the 5th and I have updated my blogs only till Day 10! Schedule slippage, yes, but I have some urgent work and putting together the blogs & photos is more work than I had imagined.

I had shot more than 300 photos during the trip - that includes duplicates, photos with camera shake, etc.

Out of that I've selected and uploaded 148 photos for you to view. The photos have helpful captions - hopefully the captions for photos taken after Day 10 will make sense. If they don't then please wait for me to update details for Day 11 and later...

You can view a nice slideshow here:

Viewing Tip: Adjust the speed of the slideshow to suit your bandwidth!

If you want to pick and choose the photos to view (useful for a slower connection?):

And if you want to see photos from my other trips(especially my South India Trip of December 2003!), check:

PS: Don't expect any wheelies :)


Day 10 - Satapada to Bhubaneshwar

I wake up at a leisurely 5:20 AM. No point in getting up earlier - can't ride on rural roads in the dark...

A hotel guy tells me that to see the dolphins at 6:00 AM, I will have to rent a solo boat and that would cost Rs 300. He also warns me that the dolphins are not the trained ones that are generally seen on TV - they just come out of water for breath! This description reduces my enthusiasm - and Puri starts looking like a better option.

By now, I have lost my fear of the Orissa people - everything that has been said about them has turned out to be untrue.

The road to Puri is mostly bad, with some places under heavy repair. Puri is about 50 kms away. But the climate is perfect and the scenary excellent. The occasional pond with lotuses, the cashew trees and the paddy fields are a treat to the eye. Every now and then there comes a village with a tea shop - and this ensures that I am never far from food and drink.

I reach Puri at about 10:00 AM - time for a cool sharbat! Puri is a small place and the Jagannath Temple is the center of all attraction. As usual, no cameras are allowed inside (this seems to be a custom in the major temples - any idea why?). But surprise - here mobile phones are prohibited also. And there are policemen to check the devotees. Nice security for the lord !

The luggage counter is doing brisk business as a result, and is costly too. They chargs 16 bucks to keep my bags and shoes (probably the high cost is due to the mobile phone and camera inside the bag).

A poojari attaches himself to me silently and starts guiding me around the temple. He reels off statistics about the temple and the most interesting one is that the main temple is 66 feet high, He wants me to offer pooja, but I am in no mood to oblige. I tell him to find someone else and leave me alone. All the stone scultptures look good. Seeing all these makes me wonder how Konark will be like...

After roaming around the temple for sometime (includes a visit to the kitchen and the museum), I opt out of the rush (today is a sunday). If you happen to visit the temple, please avoid the museum - it has absolutely nothing of historical interest; instead it houses many clay(?) idols depicting (what they claim) is the story beind the construction of the temple.

It is 10:30, too early for lunch. So I settle for a breakfast of Poories and Singada (small samosas) - better stay away from these guys' dosas!

After breakfast, it is time to proceed towards Konark. - about 38 km away. The road is SH (State Highway) 50 and good for the major part. My pace is also good. One particular place is nice - a straight road with trees on either side with one row of trees on either side having lost their leaves. Fortunately, a car stops by and I get a snap.

Nearing Konark, I see the sea - this is the Balighai Beach. Time for buttermily and snaps. The road takes a sharp turn after Balighai Beach and before I know it, I am in Konark and saying hello to the Sun Temple.

The Sun Temple at Konark is recognised as a world heritage site (and so is The Brihadeshwara Temple at Tanjavur). I don't want to bore you with details that can be found elsewhere. The only comment I will make is that this temple has to be seen to be admired. Its scale has to be seen to be felt. I hire a guide for an hour to guide me around. The temple is in the form of a chariot driven by seven horses.

I buy a few momentos and time to say tata. It is 4:00 PM already and Bhubaneshwar is 65+ kms away - I estimate that atleast 4 hours of rigorous cycling are needed. And I still remain a hungry cyclist. I eat some bananas, tea and biscuits after a few kms. The bananas are small, costly and not very sweet.

The road is moderately good, and the weather excellent. And my speed - ah! I must be flying! I am averaging 25 kms/hr. Milestones are screaming past me I pass Gopi, Nimpara and Pipli quickly. And I am perspiring heavily too!

At Pipli I stop for an extended snacks session - dosas, singadam something like gulab jamun, bajji, ... The waiter is thoroughly confused and I enjoy the resulting confusion for sometime.

Bhubaneshwar is only 20 kms from here - and I reach there in an hours time.

Lodges in Bhubaneshwar are quite costly, so I turn towards Lingaraj Guest House near Lingaraj temple. Bad luck - no single room is available. Someone suggests a dharamshala, and I think, why not! The dharamshala has a simple room to offer - has a cot, a fan, and tube light. Other facilities are bad. The room has no lock - the manager is adamant that no lock will be provided. So I get my own lock. The shopkeeper's golden words are with 25 rupees as room rent, they can't give you a lock also! Well said and point taken.

I eat a chowmein for dinner and hunt around for an internet center - all are closed. I gotta hurry up - the Dharamshala closes gates at 10:30 PM!

Back in the dharamshala, I spend some time penning my experiences. I am asleep pretty soon after.

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
6:35 10748.1 Satapada
8:00-8:10 10768.2 Tea
8:40 10772.8 Brahmagiri
9:10 10779.2 Tea
10:00-11:35 10790 Puri
1:05-1:10 10810.8 Tea
1:45 10817.6 Balighai Beach
2:25-4:00 10823.0 Konark/Sun Temple
4:55 10835.9 Gopi
5:20-5:30 10843.7 Nimpara/Tea
6:00 10853.4 Kilat
6:30-7:00 10861.2 Pipli/snax
8:10 10876.4 Bhubaneshwar

All in all, a very good day - I enjoyed it thoroughly. This surely has been the best day of the trip - with excellent weather, fast riding and sight seeing to boot!

For tomorrow, my plans are to see what I can in Bhubaneshwar, visit Cuttack and reach Bhadrak.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Day 9 - Chattarpur to Satapada

I wake up at 3:30 and am out of the lodge at 4:45.

It is still dark. My fear of Orissa is now showing up! I see every man on the road as a potential chor. I stop at a tea stall and there is a man there with ruffianly looks. He shows me the road to NH. I am deeply suspicious of his intentions - in my mind's eye I imagine that one of his accomplices is waiting in the dark corner, with a shiny dagger in hand (for effect). Nothing like that happens!

I am soon on NH5. On the road, it is the same story w.r.t. my bag. The elasticity of the cord is reducing day by day - and so are incidences of the bag falling off the carriage. Somewhere a lorry driver asks me to stop, probably to ask for directions, but the fear of Orissa has got so much to me that I dare not stop. Instead I shout kuch nahin pata and speed away. By 7:00 I have reached Rambha Ghat - time for a mini-snack ! I ask the shopkeeper about the dacoits of Rambha Ghat and they all rubbish the claims of the outsiders... The resourceful shopkeeper draws a slight parallel between Veerappan.

I reach Rambha Ghat from there, and the whole story of dacoits turns out to be a damp squib! The ghat itself is only about 4 km long at the max!

My target is to reach as near to Puri as possible, after having a good look at Chilika lake. I have found by that there is a motor boat from Balugaon to Satapoda at around 9-9:30 AM. There is also a motor boat from Balugaon to Krishnaprasad. Krishnaprasad is about 20 kms away from Satapoda and Satapoda itself is 50 kms away from Puri. My idea is to do boating at Chilika, then take the boat to Krishnagiri and cycle till Satapoda.

4 kms before Balugaon, I see a board leading to a tourist office. This place is Barkul, the official boating site of OTDC (Orissa Tourism Development Corporation). I park my cycle near the lake and get into the tourist motor boat. The boat has a capacity of about 40 people, and a ticket costs 150 Rs. The trip is a 3 hour ride - first to a bird "sanctuary", then to the Kali temple and back. The unpleasant thing about the boat is the terrible sound the engine makes. This is a real turn-off!

After travelling sometime, we see a lot of birds sitting on the water. As our boat approaches, the birds start flying away - a whole lot of them. What a sight! Say hello to the bird "sanctuary" !

It is generally hot and humid. The water in the lake is not very deep - maybe 5 to 6 feet. Sometime later, we are pointed towards dolphins - or more accurately - the water splashed around by the dolphins. The dolphins are quite far to make any real difference.

Two hours of bird watching and we land at the Kali temple - constructed on a island in the lake. A boy in the boat tells me that the view of the dolphins will be better at Satapoda. I am excited by this - it is my next destination, after all! Half an hour later, we are back at Barkul with the clock showing 12:20.

I continue from there and reach Balugaon at 1:05. There is a naval base at Barkul, and a Gurudwara as well, but I have no time to search around for them. The motor boat leaves for Krishnaprasad at 1:30 sharp - with my cycle on the top of the boat!

The only difference between the tourist boat and this passenger boat is that the tourist boat has a better shape and better seats. The noise levels are equally high - and the engine is the same as well.

Durgacharan Swain turns out to be a talkative lad. He does some work at the local newspaper office. He sings well too - says he sings at a local orchestra. He started off by helping me load my cycle on the top of the boat. We are soon talking non-stop.

A typical orissa guy is curious about electronics items - from my mobile phone to my digital camera, my cycle and even my helmet! He also has this idea that everything is his to use - case in point, Biranchi (remember my stay at Rajahmundry?) used my mobile phone. Durga also tries; and I am not amused!

We see more birds as we go. Durga is carrying a binocular with him (the cheap sort sold on M G Road) - but that doesn't help since the birds are far away.

For time-pass, Durga sings a few songs - tum to thehere pardesi saath kya nibhaoge turns out to be his best. I treat him to a few of my own.

We reach Krishnaprasad by 2:45. The road after this is rural. The only good thing is that even though there are plenty of potholes, nobody dictates your pace there. Every hump, bump and hole is mine to negotiate, at leisure! I can't cycle to Satapoda, as I had originally believed. The road ends at Janniguda and from there, I have to catch a ferry to goto Satapoda. The last ferry from Janniguda to Satapoda is at 5:00, so I better hurry!

Enroute to Janniguda, I stop only to eat a few jilebis. I finally reach Janniguda at 4:35 and I sight the ferry at the dock immediately. It is coming for the last trip of the day. My cycle sits on the ferry. It gets a bus, a jeep and a motorcycle for company. Satapoda is on the opposite bank. At 5:00, the ferry sets off and reaches Satapoda by 5:30 - quick and cheap (at Rs 9 for me and my cycle combined).

The sun has already gone down - and with it, my chances of seeing the dolphins. I get a room in OTDC hotel for 100 bucks (the normal rate is 150) - consideration for a "poor" cyclist. I lie down for a short rest but wake up only at 8:15. A visit to the restaurant to have food turns out to be a pricey affair. I eat my fill of parotas and curry. My tip of Rs 5 surprises the waiter (I am a cyclist after all, and considered poor!) . After lunch, all that is left to do is sleep!

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
4:40 10676.4 Chattarpur
5:40 10683.5 Ganjam/Tea Stop
6:40-7:00 10697.4 Rambha/Mini-snack
8:15-8:30 10715.9 Narayani/Dhaba
8:50-12:20 10719.9 Barkul/Boating
1:05 10726.3 Balugaon
1:30-2:45 On the boat to Krishnaprasad
2:55 10726.3 Krishnaprasad
4:35 10747.4 Janniguda
5:30 Satapoda

Lots of boating today - generally fun; but did not turn out to be as exciting as I had expected...

Tomorrow, I will see the famous Jagannath temple at Puri, then the Sun Temple at Konark - and hopefully end up at Bhubaneshwar.

Day 8 - Tekkali to Chattarpur

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 accidents).

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.

Rameshwar Suhu 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
10:15 10629.1
10:25 10630.9 Icchapuram
11:00 10636.3 Girisola Gate (in Orissa!)
11:45 10644.1 Cycle repair
[cycle repair at Berhampur]
1:30 Lunch
[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...

Day 7 - Vishakhapatnam to Tekkali

This post gives details about 23rd December, 2004.

I am up at 5:50 AM, lazy me!

I had left all the packing also for today, and this eats up some time. My toothbrush is missing!

Checking out of the lodge has become problematic - with me having an argument with the lodge guy. He wanted an extra 50 rupees for the TV. All my explanations that I had paid for it had fallen into deaf ears. How he understood finally I don't know! Was it my livid face that did the trick or something else?

It is 7:00 by the time I am out of the lodge. A short break at Simhachalam and I rejoin NH5 at 8:00. This is a short-cut that I have taken - going along NH5 from NAD junction would have cost me atleast 15 kms more.

I find that there are several other tourist attractions I have missed at Vizag - they are all on the road to Orissa! Among them are an Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, a cricket stadium, etc.

I am feeling the pinch of the heat already - the hot and humid conditions do take some fun out of cycling. I stop for breakfast at 8:30. My chat with the hotel owner (in hindi) focusses on where to end todays ride. He talks about Srikakulam, Palasi and Icchapuram (last town near AP-Orissa border). I update my tour diary and the breakfast interval stretches to 45 minutes.

As Srikakulam (90+ kms) approaches, the hills of Vizag fade away. Sometime later, half of the road is under some repair or the other. This is annoying, since the heavy vehicles coming from the opposite direction cut down my speed. I eat a crappy ice-candy on the way (near Vizianagaram cross). Drink two maazas to cool down a bit. Nothing interesting till lunch at 1:30. The waiter at the dhaba is bending over backwards to please me - giving me extra curd, for instance! I also meet a journalist at the dhaba - he wishes me luck and suggests I could go till Palasa (aobut 100+ kms away).

After lunch, Srikakulam is still 30+ kms away. My pace has picked up a bit. The people in the passing busses, lorries and roadside children are all waving at me. I reach Srikakulam at 3:45.

At Srikakulam, I spend some time to decide where to stop for the day(the only criterion: place must have a lodge). Palasa is 80+ kms away. Tekkali seems to be a suitable place - about 50 kms away, so I won't be stressed much.

Just after Srikakulam, there is a park with a lake, and an island in the lake. I snap two kids on a cycle and show them their photos - and the joy on their faces says it all! I make a tea stop just before nightfall. And after-dark, it is just the routine affair with umpteen number of stops.

I finally reach Tekkali at 8:30 - it is a small town with a two lodges. I select the lodge on the NH5 - partly because it is cheaper! The small room is quite clean, has an attached bathroom and at 70 Rs, it is a value for money proposition.

I quickly freshen up and go to a local hotel. I have eaten a few mouthfulls of chicken biriyani before I realize that something is wrong. I blast the waiter without hesitation. For no fault of his! All his regular customers are non-veg, I must have specifically said vegetarian first...

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
6:55 10419.1 Vizag
7:55 10431.9 Join NH5
8:30-9:15 10439.8 Breakfast
9:45 10447.6 Anakapalli cross
10:25 10456.7 Vizianagaram cross
11:10-11:30 10466.4 Tea break/Bhogapuram
12:40 10482.3 Bheemavaram/Maaza!
1:30-2:05 10489.0 Lunch
2:50 10500.0
3:45 10511.7 Srikakulam Cross
4:40-4:55 10521.2 Tea
5:25 10527.5 Khardada/Tea
7:05-7:25 10549.1 Kottabommalli Junction/Tea, lots of chatting
8:25 10560.8 Tekkali

As you can see, today was a boring day - and so does tommorrow promise to be! I did cover about 160 kms, but without much fun. But the future looks exciting - I should be in Balugaon tomorrow evening - and that means Chilika Lake, and its lovely birds and dolphins,...

Day 6 - Vishakhapatnam

Vishakhapatnam (for those who don't know) is a major port. It is also known as Vizag and Waltair(not popular - only seen in some hotels, etc).

My first tourist destination is the Simhachalam temple, a famous temple dedicated to lord SLV (Shree Lakshmi Venkateshwara). I want to start just before daylight for two reasons:
  1. It is on top of a hill, and I anticipate the view to be good from the top of the hill
  2. Who wants to climb a hill when the sun is burning ?
Still, I've gotten up at a leisurely 5:50 AM (sun rises at around 6), today is a rest day, afterall!

By 6:45 I am off to see the Simachalam in my "tourist dress". After I reach the foothill, it is about 5 kms of laborious climb. I manage to reach the hill-top by 7:45. The climb has taken 35 minutes. I'd rate the effort about 30% of that required to climb Nandi Hills (near Bangalore).

Near the temple, my first priority is pet puja. The darshan queue is long and there are many types of darshan - free, Rs 10, Rs 30 and Rs 100. I have neither the patience nor the devotion to wait, so I am content to enjoy the scenary. I also take a stroll around the small bazaar stocking the normal puja items. After this is an excellent downhill ride (I've done the hard work before!).

At the end of the slope, there is a toll booth and a curve after that, I bend my cycle a bit too much (showing off?). My left pedal touches the road and the cycle shifts a feet of two laterally - not a bad stunt...

Back at the lodge, I spend my time washing clothes and resting. I've got a TV for 50 bucks, but there is hardly anything interesting. After this, I decide to update my blogs. The internet center is close by. The PC in the browsing center has WinXP (good for my digicam), but the dial-up connection becomes a major bottleneck. The result - I am able to upload only 20 photos and post a single blog message in a little over 2 hours! It is already 2:00 PM, time for lunch. Bhojanam at Hotel Annapoorna (only so-so). Time to attack Kailasagiri, a sea-side hill cum tourist park. I had imagined that it is close to the lodge, but I am told that it is around 20 kms away. I must have started earlier! My worry is that I might not be able to see all the places that I had planned originally.

The ride to Kailasgiri begins at 2:55 PM and I reach the foothill by 4:00. The guard at the entry gate initially denies me permission, saying cycles are not allowed. I tell him about my trip without result. Just as I dismount to park my cycle he says OK! The climb to reach the top is tough - more than 2 kms and very steep. The breathtaking view of the sea, with a seaside road, is a bit of a compensation. R K Beach is visible from here! I am wet with sweat by the time I am up!

Kailashgiri is a nice picnic spot. It has a nicely maintained garden (covering the hill), a cable-car, a temple. And of course the surrounding view. The ride in the cable ride is not all that exciting. A shiva-parvati idol with water flowing down the steps is a must see. Here I meet students of Institute of Technical Education and Research, an engineering college at Bhubaneshwar. They are all IT students and I have a jolly good time with them, cracking jokes, etc. And they are also amazed, which is along expected lines. Before I move on, it is time for a few snaps and collecting e-mail addresses. They also "exhibit" me to their lecturers and other classmates. They also advise me against riding after sunset in Orissa - saying that animals roam around. Human animals or wild animals, I am left wondering... I bid them all goodbye and zip off on my bike - it is a down, afterall!

Light is fast fading - going to R K Beach is no longer possible. Nobody around seems to know where Dolphin's nose is - so I settle for VUDA Park (VUDA stands for Vizag Urban Development Authority). VUDA Park is a regular amusement park. Good for a typical family; it has lots of lawns, amusements, a skating ring, boating, water-stuff, etc. But all this just bores me! Time to go back to the lodge!

The way back is 14 kms long. I stop at a SIFY cyber-cafe, but the operator does not allow my digital camera. I am out in a jiffy!

A short snack and I am back in NH5, riding towards NAD junction. I actually overshoot NAD junction by 2 kms (courtesy misinformation from a lorry driver). A refreshing glass of orange juice is good enough. I enter a nearby browsing center. Win98 again ! His software is also out of date, so a bad browsing experience. I update my blogs for days 4 and 5, chat on yahoo and before I know it, I've already spent 2 hours!

It is 10:20 PM already - I hurry back towards the lodge. I am running out of cash and the picture of Orissa that has been painted for me is so bleak that the last thing I want is being empty handed in Orissa! I withdraw some cash at an Andhra Bank ATM, have food and am back at the lodge. Sleep at 11:45 - very late!

Today at a glance:

Time Odometer Place/Purpose
6:45 AM 10362.8 Lodge
7:10 10366.1 foot of hill @ simhachalam
7:45-8:50 10370.0 At Hill top/Temple
9:15 10377.1 Back at Lodge
2:55 10391.9 Start off to Kailashgiri
4:00 10391.1 Foot of Kailashgiri
4:20-5:30 10393.3 Kailashgiri Top
5:35 10395.5 At foot of hill again!
[ after this I didn't note down anything :( ]

All in all, a fun day - in particular the uphill climbs were exciting, so was the view from Kailashgiri, and the chat with the students! I do miss seeing Dolphin's nose (the unknown seems better always, don't you think?).

My idea for tomorrow is to cross over into Orissa - atleast 200 kms away...

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hello from Kolkata!

I have finally reached Kolkata today (30 Dec 2004) evening around 4.

Feels great!

The lodging has been taken care of, so tomorrow I can do some sightseeing!

The trip is worth around 1880 kms, 14 days till now...

I will leave Kolkata tomorrow night; must be back in Bangalore by 3rd morning.

I am currently sitting in Reliance WebWorld. The facilities are great; but my lodge closes at 11 PM, and I haven't had my food!

I know, I haven't posted much about Day 6 onwards. I'll try posting tomorrow (only a feeble promise), but worst case by 5th Jan, you will get all the details of the trip.

In case I can't post anything tomorrow, then let me wish you all a

Happy & Happening New Year - 2005


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick update from Balasore(28 Dec, 2004)

Yes, I am alive and kicking (er.. pedalling!). The recent natural calamities haven't affected me; simply because I am too far. My return plans also seem to be on track; though I still have to confirm with the railways.

Ah well! I've got tired of saying 'sorry for no updates', so I won't be saying it again! I have tried accessing the internet to update this, but either the shops around here close too early or are crowded!

I am currently in Orissa - though tomorrow I should be in West Bengal. Today (28 Dec) is the 12th day of the trip. I've already finished about 1600 kms of my trip - Kolkata is still about 300 kms away!

Since my last update, I've seen the Chilika Lake (lots of birds, some dolphins), Puri Jagannath Temple, Konark Sun temple, a temple in Bhubaneshwar (it is the city of temples!).

Today I intend to stop in Baripada (remember the Dara Singh episode?) - this is about 60 kms from Balasore. Tomorrow, I will either end up in Kharagpur or Calcutta!

Meanwhile, thanks for all your wishes! (Can't see the new comments - I am again on a Win98 PC with out-of-date IE, so my blog page is acting funny! To compound my woes, IE keeps crashing... Same old story for the photos also!)

Will tell you about the 'dacoits' of Orissa in my next post! I won't promise when, but it should happen soon...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Day 6 : Vishakapatnam [info only]

Well, I will fill this tomorrow or day after (should be in Puri then).

In short, I had a nice time today - climbing two hills, seeing an old temple, meeting some engineering students from Bhubaneshwar, nice views - tell you all about it later - I've published the blogs for Day 4 and Day 5; so you have enough to read for now.

The internet cafe where I am sitting has a cable connection but Windows 98 :( (bad for my camera, very old version of internet explorer, etc). I had uploaded a few pics in the morning and they can be found in the normal place ( and check the "East Coast Rally" album). That's all I can do for now, it is already 10:10 PM, as I type.

I should be in Orissa tomorrow...

The engineering students I met have told me that it is not safe after dusk - but not due to people! Animals roam around, they say! About early morning they are OK. Anyway, Orissa promises to be fun -- Chilika lake, Puri, Konark, Bhabaneshwar and Cuttack are the anticipated highlights for now!

I had seen a few comments in the posts and maybe it is not too late to answer them:
One was regarding what I think about the entire day... Well, anything and everything from friends, work, past, future, next trip,...
The other was about my cycle: I had posted it earlier that it is a Hero Thunder MTB, 21 speed cycle. Weighs an amazing 12.5 kgs (my previous cycle was 22.5 kg).

Other comments (today's comments) I can't see - the IE here is not allowing me :(

Anyway, I am enjoying the comments - keep them coming, they sure are a nice way to communicate. In the future, they will serve as memories also!

I wish:
1. a happy christmas to some of you
2. a happy vacation to some of you (HP colleagues, sasken?)
3. If you don't fit into either 1 or 2, then enjoy your work :)

Anyway, I'll keep posting whenever I can.


Day 5 - Rajahmundry to Vijayawada

My mobile has successfully woken me up at 3:30. My main target for today is Vishakapatnam - 200+ kilometers away. I need to reach there for I have planeed that tomorrow will be a sight seeing cum rest day(meaning very less cycling).

First thing I note is that my left leg shin pain is gone. Yay! It has responded well to the "treatment" (cycling at constant pace and not exerting too much). The right knee is also better. There is a slight pain on the right shin as well.

I am off at 6:10; I say a silent bye to Biranchi, and say it loud enough as not to wake him up !

A tea stop happens as usual. People everywhere are trying to warm up, sitting around fires. However, I remain untouched by the cold - I'm cycling, after all! I do sense the fog - and can feel the cold wind on my face. An hour later, one more intended tea stop has turned into a mini breakfast. Vizag is still 190+ kms away! So near and yet so far...

I indulge in some night photography experiments, mainly to keep away from cycling too much! And in one particular place, I have everything lined up - camera ready, streetlights are on and offering a nice ambience, cycle ready for the shoot, my finger is ready to click... As I am clicking, the streetlights go off. Imagine my frustration at the result - a useless picture.

My estimates are that I can't reach there by 7 PM, so why hurry? But cycling in the dark is something that I don't relish, so I need a steady pace of around 15 kms/hr. The sun is already up and burning. After applying sunscreen, I feel a cool breeze.

The road is no longer the nice flat road it was till Rajahmundry. It now has ups and downs. I am constantly eyeing the Kolkata milestones. I stop after seeing "Kolkata - 1000" (Chennai - 700).
A short rest after breakfast motivates me to start again. Vizag is still 140+ kms away and the time is 9:20 AM.

Some kilometers later, I see a welcome sight - a cashew tree. The setting has suddenly assumed a coastal hue, with cashew, cocoa and mango groves. The hilliness of the road has also increased, sigh! The environment reminds me of my native place and I somehow feel happy. The hills cut down my progress. After Annavaram, the road becomes still more hilly! The rule for a cyclist seems to be : ups are mandatory and downs are complimentary!

A few churches are seen on the road - more signs of coastal area!

Near Tuni, I stop and much a few bananas. A couple of bananas also disappear at a short notice. At noon, I am still 100 kms from Vizag. Lunch at 12:45 brings some strength - but also a stomach ache! I rest for some time hoping that the ache would go away - but nothing of that sort happens. So I decide to make progress on the road at least. No idea what caused the ache - it continue to persist for atleast an hour more. After this I make a few stops - drinking water and eating oranges.

Near Yellammanchalli, NH5 work is going on, so welcome to bad roads. I race with a Victor for some time on the bad road - I don't win, but I don't loose either! Recovering from the effort takes a couple of tender coconuts. Sometime later, I see a college bus (Avanthi College of Engineering) overtaking me. The boys in the bus beckon me - and I oblige! The bus stops at a railway crossing. The general enquiries ensue. They just can't believe that I am a software engineer. I have to show them my visiting card at the end... I follow the bus for some more distance and give up after that (bus is going at 40+). I then pull over for a short tea break - Vizag is still 50+ kms away and the time is 4:20!

Post tea, I meet a fellow cyclist Rajesh. He is a X standard student, studies in a school at Anakapalli, cycles to school everyday (6 kms), and surprise: dreams of becoming a soldier in the army. Reason: desh sewa. Exemplary ! Aren't navy and airforce valid options ? Naah, he replies!

Light is fast fading and Vizag is slowly drawing near. 30 kms from Vizag (Anakapalli is the place), I stop for a dosa+tea. The general observation I have to make is that as you move north, the taste of dosas and chutney (in particular) is lesser. After the snack, it is time to switch on the headlights and god speed!

The toll booth (few night shots) signals arrival of city limits. Sometime later, a Splendour motorcycle overtakes me, and then falls back to maintain my pace (maybe 30kmph). Subhan is going to Vizag with his wife and daughter. He works in a chemical plant at Anakapalli, and visits Vizag every weekend to see his parents. I get to know more about Vizag (land rates included!). We stop at NAD junction. We get a snap together. And Subhan offers me orange juice - it is an offer that I can't refuse! I take general tourist directions, his address and cell phone number. His suggestion is that I stay near Gopalapatnam (which is nearby) since lodges in the city are costly. I take his advice and bid him goodbye.

I finally settle down in Kumari lodge. It is 8:30. Simhachalam(a famous temple) is also near to this place - and I intend to go there tomorrow morning. Kumari lodge is by far the cleanest place I've stayed in this trip - and also the costliest - 200/day. I book for 2 days.

I go around, shopping as usual, brush for washing clothes, ariel. Food at Guntur mess is OK, but nothing to talk home about. Asleep at 10:00 PM.

Today's birds-eye-view:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
4:10 10185.0 Rajahmundry
5:30 10200.0 Tea break, change torch batteries
6:05-6:20 10205 Mini-snack
7:05 10219.2 Duggampeta
7:40 10227.6 Yerravaram
8:30 10240.2 Kolkata-1000 KMS
8:40-9:20 10242 Breakfast
9:50 10248.8 Kathipudi (yummy ice candy)
10:10 10255.4 Annavaram
11:05 10265.9 Bananas!
11:20 10270.6 Tuni(cross)
12:00-12:05 10277.1 Tea break
12:45-1:25 10295.1 Bhojanam
2:40 10303.5 Water!
3:15 10311.1 Yellammanchalli
4:20 10325.0 Tea
5:50-6:10 10341.7 Snack at Anakapalli
7:40 10359.3 NAD Junction, Vizag/Meet Subhan
8:30 In Kumari Lodge

Around 200+ kilometers of cycling - today has been a OK day - not too tough, but not easy, either!

Tomorrow will be a general rest day and fun - sightseeing : Simhachalam (SLV temple), Kailash Giri, Dolphin's Nose, Vuda Park, RK Beach are already lined up. So is washing clothes!

I can already hear my right knee appreciating the rest !