Friday, 22 February 2008

Rajasthan Vol.6 They think it's all over.....

In an effort to suck up to the loyal readership, (Sometimes I fear this might actually only comprise of Mrs B)
Good news, you are finally coming to the end of the Rajasthan BlackSLOG – to be honest those of you who have managed to keep going this long and read all the sections, in all the different formats, have possibly managed to put in more effort then Mrs B and I did for the actual cycling. After all, the entire cycling element only took us just over two weeks. It’s now time to put you out of your misery and wrap up the BlackSLOG Rajasthan odyssey.

I'm not sure what a collective term for
cyclists is, possibly a saddle of ....

At one with the natives
In the city we were just seen as tourists, viewed as a potential meal ticket and little more. It was a whole different story when we got out into the countryside. I’m not sure if we were seen as a travelling freak show? (I can just imagine the adverts that preceded our arrival “Come and see the 16 British nutters cycling across Rajasthan during the hottest part of the day”).

Shadow cycling, a bit like Shadow boxing
without the danger of smashing your
knuckles into a wall

As our group went through towns and villages hundreds of people would run to the side of the road and wave and smile and generally celebrate our entourages’ progress. Sort of like the Tour de France on a negative budget, an example of this being our support bus, which was certainly functional but if described in musical terms more Bucks Fizz than the Beatles (aside1).

The bikes loaded on the support bus,
not exactly Tour de France style.....

I made it my mission to greet as many of “our fans” as I could and after learning the Hindu greeting “Namaste”, shouting it to as many people as I could. Unfortunately the accompanying respectful small bow with hands held together at chest or head height, proved beyond my cycling ability. After my 3rd near fatal crash I decided to abandon the action part of the greeting. Admittedly after a few days I was changing the greeting for the sake of variety and a number of villagers were greeted with a mixture of the following:-
  • Christmas day,

  • Your hamster is gay,

  • Were you born in May,

  • I’ve lost my way,

  • Would you like hay….
Basically anything that rhymed with day. I subsequently found out from my friend and Hindu linguistic adviser, Mala, that I had got the pronunciation wrong and the end of Namaste does not sound like “day”. Mala has also corrected me on every other India word I have ever attempted in front of her. It’s refreshing to know it’s not just English that I can massacre. No wonder the villagers were smiling and giggling every time I tried to converse with them. This probably also explains why, whenever the group stopped in a village for lunch or general recovery, we would be surrounded by curious villagers who seemed content to just sidle up to us and then stand just staring and listening . I was sure I heard some sniggering - I just thought they were laughing at my jokes from earlier on in the day and had only just got the punchline. It was all a little unnerving at first but it soon became the norm.

The circus hits town, while the villagers
wait patiently for a Nielanunciation

In an effort to avoid catching the Rajasthan runs (please note that this is not a cricket term), we became extremely vigilant in the frequent use of various anti- bacteria sprays, especially after washing our hands (brown water is very off putting). This had the effect of making me feel a bit like a latter-day Howard Hughes, without the money or the finger nails.
Over the top as it may have been it certainly paid dividends in keeping us healthy. I am pretty confident that I could have made it to the end of the holiday, without any unfortunate dash and splash episodes if my hygiene routine had not been hijacked by Sanjay, one of our guides. Sanjay, was offering around some crisps at one of the stops. While I was busy trying to explain that I needed to clean my hands first, Sanjay thrust a handful of the crisps into my mouth. This left me with the dilemma, should I appear rude and spit the crisps out all over him or swallow and take the risk of contamination from his less than clean hands…….

The food
Well it was curry for breakfast, with the odd bit of toast thrown in for variety, followed by a curried lunch, which sustained us until an evening meal consisting of, let’s see if I can remember, I hate it when you get those mental blocks………think…..think……..oh yes, it was curry.

Tempted as we were we decided to stick to the
curries - I particularly love the line on the sign
"Don't be fooled by imiltationes". Their spelling
not mine

The hardest thing for me was the four or five days where the meals stayed curried but lost a vital ingredient. Meat vanished from the menu, very hard for a confirmed carnivore such as myself but somehow I managed to survive this ordeal. Despite this spicy assault on our stomachs we remained relatively healthy I only suffered a very short dose of the dreaded Delhi Belly (or Gringo gallop, Aztec two step, Rangoon runs, Montezuma’s Revenge, Tokyo Trots, Affair with the Porcelain princess, depending where in the world you are when the contents of your body exist swiftly south at high velocity and frequent intervals) and I blame this entirely on Sanjay.

The joy of punctures
I managed just one, but that turned out to be a triple. After fixing two out of the three I gave up and replaced the inner tube with a new one. (If anyone happens to see Meatloaf in the near future could you let him know from me, that while “Two out of three ain’t bad” for some things, it’s a total waste of time for punctures).

When I say that I fixed the puncture I have
to admit that I had a bit of a helping hand
or six, my role was more supervisory.......

Trying to put a positive spin on the situation, it resulted in a lighter backpack for me and justified bring spare inner tubes. Mrs B failed to get any punctures, which proved a very sensible approach to cycling and one that I would very much like to adopt myself. Thinking it through logically it is my own fault, as I am invariably ahead of Mrs B, my tyres clearing all the thorns, sharp stones, nails etc from her path leaving her a clear run home. James proved to be the king of punctures picking up at least four that I was aware of, including one involving 7 holes. Clive of India decided to puncture his big toe rather than his tyres, which probably explains his flat footedness towards the end of the trip.

The roads
Initially the roads were pretty good, a bit too much cow dung and Elephant doo doo, for my liking, but not too many pot holes. This was just as well as our bikes, being without suspension, were real bone shakers. As the trip went on the roads deteriorated alarmingly, taking our bikes with them, as they developed all sorts of new squeaks, rattles and even started auto gear changing when you least expected or needed them to. The odd thing was that the roads between the villages were, in general, pretty good but once you got into the villages they became like a first world war battlefield, huge holes ready to swallow the unwary traveller whole. It was almost like the villages used the entire stretch of road as one long continuous speed bump.

And in the end.....
At the end of the trip we had covered 565 kilometres on the bikes, (not according to my bike computer which stated that we had covered just 15.7 kilometeres) consumed around 50 curries each and taken over 1,500 photo's. We saw some fantastic sights including a tiger in the wild (fortunately from a jeep and not the bike), The Taj Mahal (rather more impressive than the ones found in many British high streets) The Red Fort (No argument from me, it was definitely a fort and a red one at that). We met some fantastic people, both Indian and English and had probably one of our best holidays, outside of skiing. You can’t ask for more than that.

Three months after our return the bikes remained resolutely in bits in their boxes in the garage. I was so unenthused with the prospect of putting the damn things back together again that I went out and purchased a new bike. I just need to persuade Mrs B to do the same……(aside2).

I’m sorry that the BlackSLOG went a bit “War and Peace” on you and sadly not in a classical literary way, just in a damn long over-wordy one. Back to normal next time, or as normal as the BlackLOG ever manages.

The locals literally bent over backwards to entertain us

I wish this was my photo of a tiger,
while technically I did take the picture, it was
of a post card so probably does not count...

In case you can't work it out, this was my
picture of a tiger. In my defence it was from a
long way off, in fading light and from a
moving vehicle...............

Indian scaffolding and British builders
think that their jobs are dangerous....

An Indian mobile phone, they claim
that the battery can last for several
minutes at a time

The end of the BlackSLOG through Rajasthan. If you would like to see more of the Indian trip Photos let me know and I'll sort something out on Facebook...

(1) Incidentally I read recently that Cliff Richard attempted to rubbish the Beatles claiming they often played off key. Rather then start a witch-hunt I propose we burn Cliff Richard now (and no I don't mean onto CD) and put an end to audio suffering the world over. Even the people that attend Wimbledon in the rain deserve some compassion and not to be tortured by impromptu Cliff performances. I’m not sure about the misguided folk who purchase Cliff's music and/or attend his concerts. With no known cure for "Clifforrhoea" in site and the real fear of contamination, it might be better to isolate them from decent members of society. Care in the community has a lot to answer for!!. Incidentally while I would be prepared to travel the length of the Globe and through time itself, to see the Beatles (Sadly I was only 4 when the Beatles split and I was not in a position to demand that I be taken up to hear The Beatles play their last ever public concert, 30th January 1970, on the roof of No. 3 Saville Rowe) I would not even waste the effort of turning around in order to see Cliff. Harsh but true....

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A typical Bollywood style pose....

(2) I finally found some time and put both bikes back together. Through some miracle (i.e trial and error and a large dose of hammer action) I even managed to balance Mrs B's gears, so that they change up and down almost in accordance with Mrs B's gear selection. Something that has not actually happened since before the bikes were, I hesitate to use the terminology, designed.

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I did not have the heart to tell
the little girl in green that the
phone that she had swapped her
shoes for was not a picture phone
yet alone dual band....

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