Jaipur to Kishangarh – 95km
We had one final lovely breakfast with Manuma and Jassika before setting out on the first leg of our journey to Jodhpur. Our aim for the day was to get close to the town of Kishangarh, which would hopefully put us in a good position for the next few days. The road out of Jaipur was actually not too bad and where we had been staying was on the right side of town for us to leave. So, although we set out a bit later than normal, we were out of the city by about 10:30. To be honest there’s not much else to say about the cycling and that statement in itself is quite telling. There was still a lot of noise and traffic and cows and pigs and people all randomly appearing and disappearing all around us, but already this has become the norm. The road was fairly straight and flat so we made good progress, and our moving average was about 19.5kph which, for us, is very good. We stopped for yet another great lunch and finished up at about 4pm after 95km at a nice enough budget hotel along the side of the road. One thing that we did notice which was different today was the amount of sand along the way. We can only assume that this will increase as we get nearer to Jodhpur and the Thar Desert, which Jodhpur sits on the edge of.
Whilst we were in Europe we would assess the quality of the driving early on in each country and once have a feel for how erratic the drivers are, or not as the case may be, we have an idea of how likely that they are to do something unexpected/stupid. For example, in England there is about a 20% chance that a driver will pull out in front of you when you are already very close to them or cut you up when they try to overtake or turn off. In the other European countries this was fairly similar, except for perhaps Serbia where it was about 40%. Turkey was on a different level altogether where it was more like 60% but in India, it’s very closer to 100%! You don’t even need to ask yourself whether you think that the driver might do something stupid because they absolutely will do it – whatever it is. So, at least they have taken the thinking out of it for us…!
Also on our travels in Europe, when we were planning a route or actually on the move, we would constantly wonder whether we were allowed on the bigger, more main, roads. Obviously we’re not allowed on motorways and in some countries some of the bigger A roads are also out of bounds. When we were going to the Taj Mahal I asked Rakesh, our driver, whether we were allowed on the roads he was taking us on (some of which were 4 and 5 lane highways and toll roads) with bikes, to which his answer was ‘just do it, like Nike,’ – and so we do… there are no rules!
Kishangarh to Pushkar – 52km
Our plan is quite flexible and so we decided on the spur of the moment to have a short day and visit Pushkar, just 50-odd km away. Rakesh had said it was worth a visit as it was a holy site. Kishangarh appears to be the marble capital of India so going around the outskirts of town at the start of the day involved negotiating lorry mayhem! The last 20km-or-so, however, was on more rural roads and we went up our first real hills since coming to India, which really enjoyable.
Pushkar has a holy lake at its centre around which loads (over 500) of temples have sprung up over the years, along with 52 bathing ghats (steps leading down to the water) where Hindus go to wash to become pure.
A reasonably sized town has also grown around it to service the pilgrims and tourists that visit here. We found it to be surprisingly touristy and saw more western faces in one place than we have since we arrived in India – even more than Delhi. It’s still a nice enough place, so we had a wander around the lake to start with, had a lovely lunch overlooking it and then mooched through the tourist market. We think it’s on a hippy trail as the clothing stalls are of that type and we believe it is legal to smoke hash here. We also walked to the main temple, which was built to honour the god Brahma, one of the main Hindu gods. I’m not sure we understood much of what we saw to be honest and it did feel like a bit of a procession passing through it, so not the serene experience we have experienced at other religious sites. Finally we walked up to the top of a hill on the western outskirts of town to the Savitri Mata Temple which gave amazing views of the town and the surrounding hills.
Dinner was in a restaurant in the centre of the town and turned out to be delicious and excellent value – our accommodation and food whilst we are on the road is about £15 per day for the two of us at the moment. We haven’t had a bad meal yet…but then we both love curry and don’t mind a bit of spice.
Pushkar to Gotan – 92km
We had potato parathas for breakfast to fuel up and then we were off and once again had a few hills to negotiate early on. Nothing too strenuous and a welcome change from flat agricultural land – however, this flat land soon resumed after the hills. Pleasant enough cycling and we whizzed along so we had time for a chai stop along the way. As always when we stop we draw attention and a small crowd usually soon forms, and today was no different. We even had a whole mini bus of kids unload for a photo opportunity with the crazy freak westerners on bikes!
As we came into Gotan around 3:30, our stop for the day, we had to cross a railway track, and as a train was on its way the barriers were down. But in the land where anything goes, this didn’t deter any of the pedestrians or the majority of the motorcycle riders and passengers who limboed under the barrier and scarpered across the tracks just in front of the approaching train! Accommodation-wise we hadn’t pre-booked anything but found a basic hotel in the centre where we could keep our bikes locked up in a secure garage. Although we are doing reasonable distances at the moment we are getting to destination pretty early each day as it’s easy cycling.
A few things happened today though that has made us think about how we should go about things here: We stopped for yet another tasty lunch at a truckers’ stop and whilst we were there, a guy came over and noticed my GPS, which was on the table in front of me. He picked it up, had a good look, asked what it was and then how much it cost. He also picked up my phone, noticed it was an Apple and put it back down. Stupid of me to leave them lying and I know and I wouldn’t do that in London, so why do it here? It shows that we are getting a bit lax and this was a wake-up call. A little later on while we were cycling, a motorcycle pulled up alongside, as they often do, and one of the guys on it started a conversation. Not unusual, and it’s normally questions like what’s my name, where am I from, where are we going etc? This time he also asked about the cost of my bike (no I didn’t tell him), what my GPS was and how much it cost and a few other difficult questions along the same theme. We already realise that we stick out like sore thumbs here and look like rich westerners, which to the locals we are, but we need to be on our guard – probably no more than back at home, but again it’s a wake-up call. When we arrived st our hotel today even a small boy of about 7 years old noticed my GPS!
On a lighter note, being on the road here is often very musical – a lot of the vehicles, especially the buses and some trucks, have musical air horns, similar to the one they had in the Dukes of Hazard. (Martina calls it a “culchie” horn, which all her Buncrana friends will appreciate!). The tunes are variable and it’s as though they are all trying to outdo each other. But if buses and trucks are the kings of the air horn, then tractors have the crown for loud music. We see this all the time and it still makes us laugh…they have huge speakers strapped to them through which they blast mainly Bollywood-style music as they chug along. One even had the Indian version of drum and bass booming out – we can hear them for miles, which certainly livens up the journey!
Gotan to Jodhpur – 102km
We were up and out at 8am this morning accompanied by the usual crowd of onlookers. The owner of the guesthouse even invited himself into our room at one point to just look at us and if I hadn’t ushered him out would have stayed around whilst we packed our stuff into our bags and more importantly whilst Martina wanted a bit of private time in the bathroom if you know what I mean?! We’ve found that if we don’t lock the door then people will just open it and come on in without knocking. This has happened more than once, which is obviously just the way it happens here.
This area is obviously cement-central in India and we travelled through a few small cement-centric towns, villages and industrial sites for the first few hours with the accompanying dust that it produces – nice! Cement is big business here and it is advertised everywhere and adverts are usually painted directly onto walls rather than papered on…
Other than that it was fairly easy, flat cycling and the further west we went, the more arid and desert-like it became. We stopped for yet another fantastic value and tasty lunch in a truck stop – I’m going to stop mentioning these as they are so common. I will only report if there is a bad one from now on! However, this particular one was especially good as the guys providing the food obviously enjoyed their work as there was a lot of singing going on! But toilets were particularly unpleasant so Martina refrained and chose to go in “the nature”a little further along the route.
Nearly 100km along and we were on the outskirts of Jodhpur where we almost cycled into an army camp! The GPS was determined to take us into restricted areas and we had to backtrack at one point to avoid the main gate of an army engineers’ garrison. We even had a few fast jets flying overhead to give the full military effect! We are quite near Pakistan and the military presence here is very obvious as it has a history of being employed during the spats that the two countries have across their borders. It was also interesting to see school children in the back of army trucks being ferried to and from school in this area, accompanied by military personnel ……we can only assume this is to protect them from possible terrorism strikes
The traffic in the centre of Jodhpur was as crazy as normal, but as we are finding, it was manageable and nowhere as bad as ‘Delhi crazy’, so our initiation there served us well! Our accommodation, although basic, is fine and has a fantastic terrace which overlooks the Mehrangarh Fort, which sits on top of the hill overlooking the city. So, after 100+km in dusty conditions it only seemed natural to have a chilled beer whilst taking in the view! And a few more beers over dinner on the terrace when we had scraped the grime of the day off…
Here’s a couple of additional things from Jaipur…
Silly sign of the day award…
And a video of a tuk tuk ride we took – take note of Martina’s witch-like cackle towards the end of the clip!