Had a good rest day in Amritsar. Did all my washing, cleaned out the panniers, aired the sleeping bag (much needed), reworked the route (waiting to hear from Guinness) and spent 5 hours emailing and computer stuff. Ate 4 large meals.
This is no travel guide but I can recommend the Grand Hotel in Amritsar. Just look at the staff, so happy.
First cycling day after the transit and rest day. My support team suggested a modest 90 miles to ease me back in and I happily accepted. I am on Highway 1, or the Great Trunk Road (GTR). Like most colonial powers (I’m thinking of the Romans) the British were big on road building. It makes it easier to transport gin and tonic around. The GTR has been resurfaced a few times since, but it’s essentially the same road. Most of today’s surface seems to be new, the fresh blacktop quite prominent amongst the myriad smells of the Punjab.
I had started to sweat just putting the panniers on the bike this morning but once I got going it wasn’t too bad, for a while at least. It got real hot.
There seems to be no restrictions on who can use the GTR; loads if bicycles, tricycles carrying all manner of things, motorbikes, cattle, elephants, plus your usual highway traffic of cars, trucks, buses and the army. It gets busy. All these people need refreshing, so there are lots of juice stands and dhamas (cafes?) along the way, which is good for me. There are tricycle mounted, petrol powered mangles that press the juice out of sugarcane; my personal favourite, so sweet for a little hummingbird like me.
I got to my target at around five, found a very unfriendly Internet place, sent some emails and went to bed.
I set myself a big target today, Panipat in Haryana province. To be honest, I’m writing this on the 10th and I’m not sure I can remember much. I think this was the day I saw two elephants on the road. There was also a river, running in a very wide artificial channel, that was such a strong cobalt blue that I had to stop and watch it go by for ten minutes.
The only other time I’ve been in India was in 1997, with my brother Tom. We were in Ladakh and cycled over seven of the Himalayan ranges and then through the foothills to Shimla. It was quite a different experience to what I’m going through now. The terrain now is essentially flat; a couple of hundred miles to the north of here and you can be cycling uphill for 8 hours. I am just going for mileage here; we had a bit more time to absorb everything.
8th 9th May
Ate something wrong on afternoon of 8th, spent 9th in bed and bathroom.
Set myself another big target of 212 km but actually managed it. Particularly pleased because I still can’t stomach much food and had to find the energy in house, and the wind was not favourable. I’ll probably pay tomorrow, but let’s see what comes. Election day is is only 2 days away so the roads are busy with campaigners; in towns the streets are full of excited people attending functions and rallies.
Still couldn’t really stomach food during the day, too nauseous and diarrhea all morning. Sorry if you’re eating. Managed 175km to Lucknow, but so painfully slow.
I’m going to tin this diary style for now. I’ll upload some pics instead and write a longer blog later about what I’ve learned in the last couple of days.