1 October - Rishikesh – Muzzafarnagar - 113 km
It took a full 10 days for me to recover enough to be able to carry on cycling. By that time I also couldn’t handle the room anymore, so we packed up and left Rishikesh. It was good to be out on the road again, cycling along the Ganges. We passed Haridwar, another famous holy city for Hindu pilgrims located on the banks of the Ganges. I was definitely not feeling 100% yet, but it was better on the bike than in the room.
2 October - Muzzafarnagar – Ghaziabad- 85 km (& 20km by truck)
The surprises are never-ending. The roads are extremely congested with trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, buffalo carts and people. So I guess it was just a matter of time before I got knocked off the bike. What exactly happened I’m not quite sure, as the next thing I remember is half of India and Ernest trying to drag me out of the road. I must have been concussed for a while and felt totally disorientated. What a sight I must have looked with dirt all over my face and eyes looking squint!! Immediately I knew that I would not be able to cycle as I could not use my left arm.
While we were being stared at by crowds of locals, a passing motorist (who spoke English) stopped to help and phoned to police. The police then hailed an empty truck to take us to the next town (Ghaziabad) where we could find a room for the night. I slowly regained focus but the arm still remained useless. So now I’m not only feeling a bit unwell, but am stuck with a perfect black eye, a bruised leg, and a useless left arm!!
3 October - Ghaziabad – Delhi
As Ghaziabad is only about 20km from Delhi, I decided to take a taxi there (Ernest then cycle into Delhi, which sounds a lot easier than what it is). We’d agreed to meet at one of the budget hotels in the city (not the cheapest, but Ernest insisted on a TV – he’s probably expecting to be stuck here for another 10 days!).
Well, there’s little I can do now as cycling is out of the question. The weather is cooling down, but it’s still rather hot and humid (34 degrees C, and 55% humidity). Air pollution is particularly severe in Delhi; in fact we haven’t seen the sun for the past 4 days.
There is a definite pecking order when it comes to the traffic (pedestrians are at the bottom and give way to everything - bicycles make way for cycle-rickshaws, which give way to auto-rickshaws, which stop for cars, which are subservient to trucks). Busses stop for one thing only (not passengers, who jump on and off while the bus is moving). The only thing that stops a bus is the king of the road, The Holy Cow! The cows hold up traffic on 4-lane highways and at busy intersections, and no one seems offended! I have yet to see a cow which has been knocked down..
Here there’s a lot of kissing the ground, and every day I reach my destination I feel like doing the same thing, seeing that I’m basically at the bottom end of the pecking order.
Still, I love this place.
4 – 6 October - Delhi
I waited patiently for my injuries to heal, but nothing seemed to happen. The shoulder was not getting any better, in fact it felt like it was getting worse. I was basically useless with only one good arm. I also felt a bit frustrated, as I have not been well for some time and it was getting to me. In the meantime I decided to have my eyes tested, seeing that it was rather cheap and they could do it on the spot. Ernest and I decided to take the bus to Jaipur in Rajasthan and explore a bit by public transport instead of just sitting around doing nothing.
7 October 12 - Delhi – Jaipur (by bus)
We took the bus from Delhi to Jaipur, a 6-hour trip. I’d previously stated that the only thing which stops a bus is a holy cow, but that seems not to be quite correct. Shortly before reaching our destination the bus hit a cow, also doing some damage to the bus. Fortunately the bus managed to limp the last few k’s to Jaipur.
8 October - Jaipur
We spent the day walking around the old city, which is known as the Pink City because most of the buildings are painted pink. We also took a cycle riksha out as far as the Water Palace. There’s quite a lot to see around the old city, so I dragged Ernest around for a few hours before we picked up a few beers and took another cycle riksha back to our room. We almost didn’t make it back there, as our poor riksha wallah couldn’t speak any English, and it also turned out that he didn’t know where our hotel was.
9 October - Jaipur – Agra
An early morning bus was our best bet to get to Agra, so we were up earlier than usual and took a riksha to the bus station. The bus trip took around 5 hours and was not too uncomfortable a ride. Agra is a real tourist trap with tuc-tuc’s, cycle-ricksha’s and taxis all competing for business. We found a reasonable hotel very close to the Taj Mahal, which we decided we would visit the next day.
10 October - Agra
We were up early to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, just to find that the place is closed on a Friday!! It gave us time to walk around the Taj and see it from the back where we took a boat across the river to get a great view of the complex from a different angle. At least now we had the rest of the day to see if I could do something about my shoulder that was not getting any better. Luckily there was an X-ray place just around the corner from where we stayed, and the X-ray confirmed that my collarbone was broken and the shoulder was out of joint. I could only get the medical report that evening, but in the mean time I thought I’d just go to the local hospital to see what they can do. The hospital was quite an experience with mice running around and after the 2nd power cut I gave up and went back to the hotel. Well at least we booked a ticket for the following day on the train from Agra back to Delhi.
11 October - Agra – Delhi (By train)
We got up real early and were at the gate of the Taj Mahal at 5h50, just to find that there was already a long line of tourists waiting for the ticket office to open. They opened at 06h00 and then it was another 30 minutes or so just to go through security. The entrance fee of 750 rupees is rather steep but I guess once you’re in Agra one is not going to turn around and not pay the entrance fee!! The monument is as remarkable as seen in pictures, made of white marble with delicately inlayed semi-precious stone patterns - it is worth the entrance fee. We rushed back to the hotel, had breakfast and then we were on our way to the station to catch the 10h30 train to Delhi. Once in Delhi, there was still quite a bit to do, including picking up my new glasses. I had also decided to go back to South Africa for 2 weeks, as it was my Mothers 80th birthday on 16th October and I needed time for my shoulder to heal. I would take the train to Mumbai and fly from there to South Africa (much cheaper than flying from Delhi). So, I still had to go to the station to find out what the procedure was with the bike, and to confirm my train ticket to Mumbai. I also wanted to go to the hospital and see if there was some treatment for my shoulder. A friendly local man gave me a lift to a nearby hospital and walked me through the procedures. Once again it was a case of going from office to office where each one signs a piece of paper, but eventually they strapped the shoulder up and half killed me in the process (or that’s what it felt like). At least it’s free of charge, so with a prescription for pain killers and calcium I was on my way again. Now that the shoulder was strapped up I was even more immobile that before.
12 October - Delhi - Mumbai (By train)
The train to Mumbai left at 5.30 in the morning and I had to be there 2 hours before the time to sort out the bike and also a few hours before to confirm my seat. So by 03h00 I was already on my way to the station. First it was to the ticket office to confirm my seat (for which they wanted a bribe as apparently the train was full - does that make any sense?). In the end another official arrived, and I got the seat without parting with any further money. Then it was off to the parcel office to book the bike in - what a performance. Thank goodness Ernest was there to help, as it was up over the stairs and then back again with bike and all the bags from platform 1 to platform 16 and back to platform 3. With only one good arm it’s rather difficult to organize things like that.
I said good-bye to Ernest and at last I was on the train to Mumbai. My carriage had sleeper seats, and was comfortable enough. There were 4 people to a “compartment” if you can call it that, as it has no door - but at least there was a curtain that could be closed. Tea and coffee was constantly being offered and every now and again they came around with snacks like samoosa’s or Brijani, so there was no lack of food.
13 October - Mumbai
The train was spot on time, arriving in Mumbai at 07h35. Things were a lot easier than expected as there were porters waiting on the platform. So it was just a case of getting the bike and then a taxi to the Bentley’s Hotel. Not the cheapest, in fact quite expensive, but centrally located for when I return. I will also leave my bike and bags at the hotel and hopefully carry on South when I return. Ernest will be heading to Bangladesh so I do not know when we will meet up again. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Mumbai, an interesting city with slums on the one side and designer stores just across the road. It was great being by the ocean again. I had not seen the ocean for far too long!!
Mumbai is one of the cities with some of the most beautiful old architecture, and it was a pleasure just walking around the Oval with its art deco buildings and cricket playing men.
15 October - Mumbai, India – Cape Town, South Africa
As usual the flight to Cape Town was a long boring affair, but I guest that’s the price you pay for staying at the southern tip of Africa. It was great being back and seeing my family and friends again