Kalaburagi to Humnabad. 64km. Tues 13 Feb.
So in a reversal of fortune from the last few days when we have slightly fallen out of love with India and its people, we had a great day today in terms of people interactions.
However just to reiterate the current obsession with selfies in India (and it has to be a selfie – not just any old photo!), a friend sent us the following link – a very sad reality on Indian youths’ obsession with selfies. They are the leading nation to record maximum selfie-triggered deaths!
Back to our positive interactions…The first one was when packing up our bikes this morning and the hotel staff offered us chai to get us on our way, which only cost us a selfie : ) The others were over the course of the morning when we had lots of scooters, bikes and cars travel alongside us chatting ….inquisitive about our bikes and our journey and genuinely friendly.
Nothing remarkable about the cycling or the route really as it’s really functional riding to get us to Bidar tomorrow, which is a historic town of interest that one of our recent hotel hosts mentioned. We passed through lots of little towns and villages and you can tell from their reactions that they don’t see many westerners in these parts. Some hills to get over but they weren’t too bad apart from the fact that it was so hot!
On the way through one little village we saw this guy coming towards us …
We couldn’t quite get our cameras out in time to take a photo but as he turned into the village we stopped, hoping we would get a chance then. (“Oh the hypocrisy of it all!” I hear you say when we have been complaining about the selfie brigade, but it wasn’t a selfie we wanted – honest!) Anyway it was not to be, so off we went. About 5km later we heard a vehicle behind us manically beeping its horn. I say “manically” because it was more intense than normal, especially as the road was almost clear. We turned around and here was our man who had obviously noticed that we wanted a photo and duly came to oblige. I think he thought we were mad…probably wondering why would he be of interest to 2 westerners on bicycles as he goes about his daily work…!
By midday we were almost at base so after a not-so-quick lunch stop in the most inefficient restaurant EVER we headed to our hotel. This was one I had called ahead to book as there wasn’t an online booking option so we were a bit worried the booking wasn’t confirmed or that the price would miraculously triple when we arrived, but our fears were unfounded; and with the help of a small army of helpers our bags were unloaded, bikes carried upstairs to our room and we were settled in within minutes!
So the power of positive thinking has restored our faith in the human race and the knowledge that the majority of people in the world are nice people. And maybe the last few days were the fact that we were also just having a few off days ourselves that we let things get to us a bit. But all was well in the world of the lifecyclers again …
Humnabad to Bidar. 60km. Wed 14 & Thurs 15 Feb.
Our journey to Bidar was relatively short so we arrived pre-lunch and checked in to our hotel where we will stay for 2 nights. One of the really good things about accommodation in India is that you can generally check in from 12pm…none of this 3pm check-in that we have in Europe. However it may explain why so many of the bedclothes are not clean and we nearly always have to ask for them to be changed! Thankfully this wasn’t the case today and it was all straightforward apart from having to almost plead with the reception staff to give us a secure place to keep our bikes other than on the street….which they eventually agreed to after a bit of sweet-talking about how lovely the hotel was.
Our initial impressions of Bidar where slightly disappointing as it looked like any other small Indian town (260,000 people) and based on the fact that it had been recommended as a town of historical interest we expected it to be a bit nicer. It also claims to be the 22nd cleanest town in India which certainly didn’t look that way to us with the usual rubbish-strewn streets and open sewers. (More on rubbish to follow).
As we had an extra day here we decided to have a lazy afternoon and do very little. And being Valentine’s Day Nigel, the old romantic, decided to take me out for a curry for dinner….oh wait…he has done that every night recently….
As it turns out it was well worth having a day off in Bidar as our exploring on Friday took us to their famous fort which is on the edge of town. We saw a lot of forts while in Rajasthan in the north (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udiapur etc) and it’s what many tourists come to India to see, so we didn’t expect to be impressed by this one. How wrong we were! It’s huge with about a circumference wall of 2.5 miles and lots of mainly Muslim and Persian monuments inside. The gates opened at 9am and being the early risers we are we were inside at 9.01 and had the whole place to ourselves for about 2 hours!
By the time we got back into town it was time for a morning snack which then turned into a light lunch as the guy serving us was so delighted to have westerners in his restaurant that we offered us free samples of what we think he called “padoue”, but can’t be sure…
Regardless of what it’s called it was delicious and set us up to take in another set of monuments on the other side of town. This time it was domes structures, tombs and a mosque, which again were fantastic with very few people around.
Spot a tiny little Nigel in the pic!
The caretaker who was there took it upon himself to take us around and open up access to the mosque and other buildings so we could go inside.
What a lovely little man!
Unfortunately unlike the forts in Rajasthan, both the fort and these monuments are very badly-maintained and considering they had so few visitors are probably relatively unknown, which is a shame as they are just as interesting and probably more enjoyable because there are no crowds. There was definitely more exploring to be done here as well as in the surrounding towns of Kalaburagi (where we had just come from a few days earlier) and Bjapur which have similar architecture, but we only so much time And have to realise that we can’t see everything. But it was definitely a lovely day off and a welcome break from cycling and planning.
Back to my earlier comment about rubbish…We mentioned a long while back about the amount of rubbish in Delhi. Unfortunately that is indicative of the entire country…the cities, towns and countryside are completely littered with plastic and rubbish. Strangely people are obsessed with sweeping and ensure that the place directly in front of their property is clean…but they sweep the crap into a pile away from their front door and leave it there to rot or burn it, giving off black acrid smoke. We haven’t seen any municipal litter bins or seen litter collection so I guess they don’t have many options, but it is definitely a shame that the country is just drowning in rotting rubbish! And to be fair, by drinking at least 6 litres of bottled water a day between us, we are also part of the problem as we are also contributing to the mountain of plastic!
Bidar to Degloor. 81km. Saturday 16th Feb.
Up and out early as per usual from the hotel to head to Degloor, which is the half way point between Bidar and Nanded. We have realised that we have missed prolonged positive interactions with locals since leaving Hampi so we have organised to stay with Couchsurfing and WarmShowers hosts over the next few days..the first one being in Nanded. Nanded is a big pilgrimage destination for Sikhs so we decided it would be interesting to see more of that religion and visit a few gurudwaras, which we haven’t done for a while.
The cycling today was tough because the roads were really bad and both our bikes and bodies took some battering. There was a strong headwind and for a large part of the journey, the edges of the road were non-existent so traffic in both directions was battling for space in the single track in the middle. And as it’s the weekend and we were on the main road between Bidar and Nanded, there was quite a bit of traffic as well. Not the most enjoyable ride.
We passed through a few rural villages with lots of weekend activity…one of which was these group of mostly ladies, collecting water from their village well…
We are obviously in a region that doesn’t get many westerners as the attention we got at our tea stop was slightly more intense than normal…
…and on arrival in Degloor we got caught up in a big, loud demonstration, which had a very uncomfortable feel to it. When we tried to move away from it we couldn’t very easily as the people gathered around looking at us had caused a traffic jam – absolutely the last thing we needed when we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves! We discovered later that the demonstration was because of killings of 46 Indian military personnel yesterday in Kashmir by a suicide car bomber (the worse such event since 1989) and that towns and cities all over India had closed for the day to stage similar demonstrations in a call for their government to react to Pakistan. In the middle of the chaos one guy with very good English (Atif) asked us if he could help…at this stage we had a huge crowd around us taking photos and videos so we asked him if he could help us find somewhere to sleep as we didn’t have anywhere booked (we hadn’t been able to find anything online despite hours of trying over the past few days!). Atif walked with us to a local lodge (with a huge crowd of people following…which would have been comical had we not felt a bit freaked out by the demonstration), and although the lodge is probably one of the worst we have stayed in, we took the room as there didn’t look to be many other options. (Note “window” with no glass and only a flimsy curtain to keep out the mozzies!).
Atif was a great help arguing our case to take our bicycles inside – and he confirmed that the locals had never seen westerners before which is why they were so interested in us…all the more reason to have our bikes inside!
He also showed us to a restaurant that was officially closed along with everything else in the town other than the market, as people took to the streets to protest. However he obviously knew the owners and we were ushered in behind the steel shutters and upstairs to a restaurant where we had a lovely lunch away from the masses. Thank you Atif!
Rather bizarrely a few other customers came along whilst we were eating – we couldn’t figure out whether the restaurant had opened again or just taken the opportunity to take a few more rupees by using us as the draw!
Back to our room for the usual bucket wash and snooze where we could hear crowds chanting and shouting nearby. To err on the side of caution we decided not to venture out for the rest of the day so while the mozzies nibbled on us, we had a nutritious dinner of snickers bars, peanuts and chikki…and then I saw a mouse run across the floor….aaaagh!
We have mentioned the muslim ‘call to prayer’ many times in the blog and as we know from home, Christian churches use bells before mass or service. However the Hindus do things differently which was have discovered on our journey here….it can be recorded music or live chanting, any time of the day or week, but mostly weekends. And it’s generally very loud…
Degloor to Nanded. 82km. Sunday 17th Feb.
We weren’t eaten alive by mozzies or attacked by a giant mouse in the night so we headed off early and managed to get out of town relatively unnoticed. Easier cycling as the road was good and we reached Couchsurfing hosts in Nanded just after lunchtime. Oh the difference a good road and a bit of a tail wind can make in terms of how quickly we can travel!