Archive | February, 2013

My way on the highway

13 Feb

Hello. So my experience in India is almost over. I am in Guwahati, the capital of Assam and this afternoon I be strapping my bike to the roof of an overnight bus to Siliguri, only a few km’s to the border of Nepal. Last time I wrote how I would be embarking on national highway 150 towards Imphal. It turned out to be quite an adventure.

I spent a day longer than anticipated in Aizawl fattening myself up on some smoked beef and tandoori chicken. As I rode out of the city I descended down into a valley with great views back up to the city. The roads like the rest of Mizoram were great, quite thin but had little traffic and were very smooth,  so I made good time.  After a couple of days I made it to the border of Manipur, unbeknown to me (the map was of little use on this road), where the road instantly crumbled away to a rocky track. It was here that I had my first fall off the bike.

Now don’t worry, I was only going slowly. I was trying to negotiate a ridge between two very deep furrows made by tyres. It was covered in very fine dust and slanted, as I was going over it the bike slipped out from underneath me but I managed to hop off and roll into a tyre track, only banging my head a little, but I was wearing a helmet so I just dusted myself off and carried on. However, when I decided to stop by the river bank and spend an afternoon washing clothes and sunbathing. I found out that I had smashed the screen on my Kindle. It was in my handlebar bag which had taken a bit of a blow. This is a bit of a pain that will mean I have to send it back probably. So I have been without good reading material since then.

Anyway the next day I got up and carried on a few kms and realised I had to cross the river. It was the choice between a rickety wire bridge with a dodgy climb up bamboo poles with nails in (while carrying my bike) or getting wet. Getting wet was the better options so I made 3 trips wading over and carrying my stuff. It was at the next village that I found out that was the the river Barrack and that I was in Manipur and that there wouldn’t be any restaurants for a long way. So I stocked up on glucose biscuits, noodles and petrol for my stove. And those were the staple of my diet for a few days until I found some lentils and rice, but no spices or salt. That was pretty much my diet for the 9 days, supplemented occasionally with  some weird Burmese fruit purees and odd snacks such as dried fish. Near the end of the ride I found the delights of powdered milk and some bananas to  supplement my diet. It felt strangely to be running on reserves in a sort of ascetic way.

I wasn’t eating enough calories for the amount of exercise I was doing but I was drinking lots of water. I could almost feel the little fat I had on my body being used but in a strange way it added to the feeling off adventure the road provided. For about 150 km the surface was terrible, thick patches of bog, big rocks and fine dust. I also took a 16km wrong turning on an even worse stretch of road. I spent my time riding and pushing up for hours or gently easing my way down slopes. It was really tough going, but it was worth it for the views and the isolation. Some days only 3 or 4 vehicles would pass me. The villages were always tiny, tucked down near a river or perched on precarious hills and it was not until close to Churachandpur that they had electricity.

All along the road were police checkpoints what with it being a place where a lot of heroin comes in from Burma, and because of separatist movements. I must have passed about 10 of them, each one noting my passport number, visa number, father’s names (why do they never ask for mother’s?) and a general questioning about what I was doing. They all seem pretty baffled about what I was doing. The first one even packed me a huge meal of omelets, bread and a big pot of jam (weighing a lot and wasn’t used again until Imphal!). The road improved greatly after Thanlon, but still had dodgy patches. On my final day I cruised down a nice long descent to C.C.pur and then felt the marvels of a level road for 70km to Imphal which I whizzed along with the incentive of a hot shower, Super Sunday football a cold beer. The cold beer wasn’t found as Manipur is a dry state like Nagaland and Mizoram, but I managed to find some whiskey instead.

When I first arrived in Imphal I was waved down by a guy from the Manipur Cycling Club and invited in. They were a group of cyclists working to try get cycle paths in their city, promote cycling and make bamboo bikes. They were nice guys and met up with them again so they could interview me, have a few drinks and hang out. So that was very pleasant indeed.

After Imphal I rode up to Kohima, in Nagaland. The road was fine but quite busy with traffic, and a bit of a climb. I arrived and was looking for a hotel when I bumped into a guy who invited me to stay at his place, which I did. He was an interesting guy, he left his parents to become a monk at 15, but after 8month his parents found him. Later he got addicted to heroin for 6 years, but is now clean and married. He adopted or ‘bought’ as he put it from a woman who couldn’t afford to keep her (about 35 pounds if you were curious, like I was). Kohima was an alright place, there didn’t seem to be a great deal to do though, I did visit the World War 2 cemetery but that’s about it. I had a nice time staying with the guy though (I’ll leave him nameless).

After Kohima I cruised down to Dimapur, spent a couple of days loafing and got a bus to Guwahati. There was a very tense moment when one of my bags was pulled out from under the bus to be searched. Sandals, tea, bananas, map all came out then the stern officer points at a carrier bag which I opened to reveal a sealed bag of white powder. I had completely forgotten that I had bought some glucose powder on the NH 150 and the box got crushed. After a couple of minutes and close examination I was allowed to get back on the bus with a few chuckles and a sigh of relief from me.

And that about takes you up to date with what I have been doing. Tomorrow, if the road isn’t closed by the strike and my bus arrives I will be in Nepal. It should take me about a week to reach Kathmandu where I will have some fun for a while and then decide what I want to do. At the moment I am planning on teaching for a while somewhere.

I have uploaded a few photos, unfortunately my camera isn’t smart enough to do the views justice, but here they are:

I have also updated the map on my Route page Route