Wednesday, January 05, 2005

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.


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