Sunday, January 09, 2005

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


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