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      • City: Kanpur

      Day 12: Baroda to Ahmedabad

      The latest and laziest start of this trip. I finally left Baroda at 11 AM, after enjoying breakfast at Shardul’s place.

      The destination for the day wasn’t too far off. I had already spoken to Sudeep in Ahmedabad and was headed to his house.

      The road from Baroda to Ahmedabad was much better than the previous highways. Because most of the vehicles take the new expressway, rather than this old highway.

      This was my first time ever with aerobars on my bike. This was the 4th day of using these new bars and it was taking some time getting used to. My neck, shoulders and back muscles were stiff and hurting by the fourth day.

      Thankfully it was a short ride and I had a lot of time to recover.

      Aiding my recovery was a grand welcome by Sparky. Sudeep’s Labrador, or Spark Plug as he is officially known!

      The evening was spent talking motorcycles and ended with lots of chicken for dinner. An excellent way to end the day.

      You can check out the route on Strava.

        • City: Kanpur

        Day 13: Ahmedabad to Jadavpur

        The plan was to exit Ahmedabad and stop outside the city for a quick breakfast.

        But there was nothing outside the city as I rode through Gandhinagar. For the first 2.5 hours it was slow going on an empty stomach. The going made tougher with a strong headwind.

        I had never before toured in flat land. It was always in the mountains. You see the climbs; you go slow for the climbs and you enjoy the view. Flat lands have no climbs to see, no views to enjoy and if you are unlucky a headwind to knock you out. It is far more difficult than riding in the mountains.

        You are left constantly hoping and praying for a favourable wind. Because there are no gorgeous vistas to take your mind off it.

        Food along the way was a lot of vegetarian fare. Temperatures were steadily creeping up as I neared Rajasthan. The water in my bottles was getting boiling mad.

        I eventually stopped for the night in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny place called Jadavpur. There was a cricket ground next to my hotel, where a match was being played under floodlights! Far too much passion for that game…

        The cricket match in progress…

        You can check out the full route for the day on Strava.

          • City: Kanpur

          Day 14: Jadavpur to Udaipur

          I finally left from Jadavpur earlier than normal. Stoked about my progress, I thought my day was going to go superbly.

          Little did I know that when I left early, no shops had opened. After riding for a bit, I finally found an open dhaba, but there was nothing to eat. Since the cook had not yet woken up! I had to make do with chai and fafda.

          As soon as I crossed the border in Rajasthan, I stopped for food and tucked in a couple of plates of anda bhurji. It was welcome after all the vegetarian food I had in Gujarat.

          It wasn’t just the food that was more succulent, the people also were much friendlier. Of course, the first signboard you see when exiting Gujarat is that of the liquor store. Dry states are so pointless.

          After many days I finally got a tiny climb. It was fantastic to be back in the Aravallis. Even those small hills were a welcome distraction in comparison to the pancake flat land of Gujarat.

          The tiniest bit of climbing, is better than no climbing

          Thanks to the fear factor of the Covid-19 virus, I stayed 10 km outside the town of Udaipur. From the hotel I walked down the road to the nearest booze shop. Not for the alcohol, but for the food. Watering holes are generally good places to get non-vegetarian food and the chicken curry was a tad spicy, but great under the circumstances.

          I was beginning to love Rajasthan after Gujarat.

          Udaipur was also the first time that a member of the public mentioned the Corona virus and showed fear of the same.

          At that point of time it dawned on me, that I needed to get home fast. The road ahead was not going to be one of dillydallying and enjoying sights like a tourer, but riding hell bent for leather, endurance style!

          Check out the full route on Strava.

            • City: Kanpur

            Day 15: Udaipur to Katoda

            I had viral thoughts swirling through my head as I left Udaipur.

            The plan was to get my head down and cover as much distance as possible. 5 km later I was held up by a 3 km long traffic jam. So much for my plans!

            Thanks to the jam, I couldn’t stop for bread and butter and rode quite far out looking for food. Eventually I had to stop at a shady looking tea shop at a petrol pump. Shockingly, the bread pakoris I ate there were really good. Much better than what the fine establishment promised.

            The afternoons in Rajasthan were killer. The heat was enough to roast me in quick time. All that I could do was take cover. I would stop for a 2-hour long lunch break at a dhaba during the worst of the noons.

            Even though I was riding on arterial highways, the surroundings still felt like a backward region. It was as if I was riding through in the 90s. Chittorgarh being a bigger town, I expected to find a CCD or McDonalds there. Or something similar. Not because I am a fan of the food, but in the hope of finding a clean toilet.

            There was nothing. Not even a dilapidated dhaba. The only sign of modernity around Chittorgarh was a handful of women riding scooters. A rare sight otherwise in Rajasthan.

            The sun and me ready to set

            Touring had stopped and endurance riding had started and I rode my longest ride till that date. It was a whopping 189 km long ride. Aided by a tail wind and a long descent from Udaipur.

            For the night I found a ‘resort’ behind a dhaba. At least it was called a resort. It was basically a room behind a dhaba. Tirupati Resort might have been a bit of an oversell.

            Beggars can’t be choosers, because it was the last bit of decent accommodation for quite a distance. And I was lucky to find a place to stay the night.

            At the dhaba there I got the news that the Prime Minister had ordered a countrywide lockdown on the upcoming Sunday.

            Immediately plans started forming in my head of how to deal with this impending disaster.

              • City: Kanpur

              Day 16: Katoda to Kota

              In my attempt to get some free speed on my ride, I overfilled the tyres ever so slightly. I thought the reduced rolling resistance will help. Bad idea!

              When you are on a cycle, people are almost always nice to you. But every once in a while, you meet idiots. One such idiot was the owner of a dhaba. He was fiddling with my parked bike and I first told him nicely to back off. But he persisted and I eventually had to tick him off rudely in front of his staff.

              He of course got his revenge by charging exorbitant prices for the food. Only when you meet idiots, do you realise how nice everyone else is.

              100 metres after I left the dhaba, my tyre went phssssss. My first thought was that the dhaba guys must have messed around. I topped up air and rode ahead, only to have it go phssss again.

              Fortunately, there was a tyre shop right there and I got my tyre repaired in the midst of an increasingly curious crowd.

              The tyre shop guy refused to take money from me. He said, you’re riding on a cycle, what money can you afford to give!

              Luckily the puncture was at that point, because there was nothing for the next 20 km. It was barren land.

              Eventually I hit Kota and crossed a fancy new suspended bridge on the outskirts of the city. I didn’t stop for a single picture, because I was hungry and my bottles were nearly empty in the desert heat.

              I waited for the city. Unsuccessfully. I had gotten onto a recently built bypass. It didn’t have a single shop along its entirety. For 30 km I rode without food and water in that oppressive heat.

              It was so hot, that I had to invent games to distract myself. One such game was to pee down a drain on a flyover and count the seconds it took to reach the bottom. It never did. It was so hot, that it all evaporated within seconds, right in front of my eyes!

              Straight roads of Rajasthan…

              But that wasn’t the end of my adventures for the day.

              After what felt like a millennium, I found a dhaba. Curious people asked a bazillion questions of my whereabouts and I proudly said that I was cycling from Goa to Kanpur. Pride as they say, comes before fall.

              In my case, quite literally. As I was leaving the dhaba, I fell at 0 kmph. I couldn’t unclip my shoes from the pedals in time and bam I hit the floor. Much to the amusement of my audience to whom I had been telling great tales of my cycling valour!

              With enough adventures for the day, I stopped at a dhaba for the night as soon as it started getting dark. I didn’t want to push my luck.

              I got a room behind the dhaba in someone’s house.

              What could possibly happen in a room in someone’s house? For starters I found two rabbits under the bed. After the rabbits were taken away, I was given dinner.

              Dinner which comprised of ‘mirch ki sabzi’ floating in a bowl of oil. I didn’t know whether it was vegetable or pickle!

              One thing which struck me during the ride was the number of cow carcasses strewn by the side of the highway. On enquiring from the dhaba owner, he told me. That the farmers had started abandoning old cattle in the middle of nowhere. The cattle would eventually starve to death there. No one was now willing to buy or transport cattle anymore. The holy cow had become untouchable after it stopped making economic sense.

              View the full day’s ride on Strava.

                • City: Kanpur

                Day 17: Kota to Kasba Thana

                A kilometre after starting my ride I caught up with another cyclist. He was riding from Kota and going to his village, Baran, 40 km beyond.

                We started chatting and my plans starting heading towards the drain. First stopping for breakfast at dhaba only to eat biscuits. Dhabas in Rajasthan just don’t start with breakfast. You get food much later in the day.

                The going was slow as I rode at the pace of this cyclist from Kota. It got even slower, as we pedalled along.

                With the Kota cyclist

                He was riding on my right, and a motorcycle rear ended him. He was riding next to me and then suddenly he was flying in the air. I waited there for an ambulance to collect the injured and then deposited his cycle at a nearby dhaba before heading on.

                I lost a lot of precious time in the bargain and reaching Madhya Pradesh seemed unlikely. But I was just glad that no serious injuries happened in that crash.

                The heat, crash and barren landscape started taking a toll on me mentally. I was quite down.

                Right then I saw a milestone showing Kanpur. The first one I had seen from the day I started from Aldona. With the scent of home near, I got my first shot of adrenaline.

                The first Kanpur signboard…

                Which was followed by another shot, when a couple of my school friends did a video call on WhatsApp. I chatted with them while cycling, showing off the land I was traversing. The place started looking better already.

                Just then I got another call, this time from my cyclist friend who I met on the first day of this trip, Waman. As I chatted with him, I realised the landscape had not just changed because of my improved mental state. But it had physically changed.

                The place looked more like the Konkan Maharashtra I had left behind, rather than arid Rajasthan.

                Golden Harvest…

                Near a place called Shahbad, the road descended for 4 km. A proper green ghat section. It was an oasis in the middle of the desert.

                The road was fun to ride on. Traffic was light, the downside of which was almost zero dhabas.

                The ghat section…

                No people to stop and eat, means no people to sell.

                As I neared the MP border, I recalled all the warnings of dacoits I had heard of that area. The darkness of the night enveloped the land as I rode through worried.

                Out of that inky blackness two big black snarling dogs came charging at me. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time in my cycling life that dogs tried to intimidate me. I got off my bike, rested it on the ground and ran towards the dogs yelling. Confused, the dogs tucked their tails between their legs and went scurrying back to the tiny temple from whence they had come.

                No pahad in sight!

                The dogs were the last bit of humanity I saw for quite a distance. Eventually finding a dhaba for dinner. The dhaba owner refused to let me ride ahead. He wasn’t afraid of dacoits attacking me on that lonely highway, but leopards.

                Just 10 km before the Madhya Pradesh border I stopped for the night. Scared of leopards and non-existent dacoits…

                But even scarier than the leopard was the movie being played at the dhaba. A Bollywood flick starring, Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty. Such a horrendous movie is difficult to make, but Bollywood manages to outdo itself every single time!

                It was SUN day!

                You can see the full route on Strava

                  • City: Kanpur

                  Day 18: Kasba Thana to Chirgaon

                  The penultimate day of the ride.

                  Thanks to loud truck drivers at the dhaba I was awake by 4 AM and on the road before 7.

                  It was the Sunday of the nationwide lockdown. No one had any clue about what was going on or what was going to happen.

                  The dhaba guys were shutting for the day. I had to leave from there.

                  I bought 5 packets of ParleG for the curfew and attacked the road!

                  At the border, a policeman told me that the highway is open and I shouldn’t face any problem. I just won’t get food along the way.

                  The next village was named Tendua, which means leopard. I presume the warning of the dhaba owner from the previous night was spot on!

                  Police Station: Leopard, says the signboard!

                  Once I entered Madhya Pradesh things changed rapidly.

                  Women were more easily visible everywhere. From Rajasthan, a land where women didn’t seem to exist, it was nice to see a more open society again. It is strange that such a normal thing is a novelty after Rajasthan and needs be separately mentioned.

                  Along the way I filled water from the petrol pumps and many of the dhabas were open for a clandestine meal! The front of the dhaba would be boarded up, while people were entering and exiting from the sides.

                  The road around Shivpuri was long and lonely. A couple of friends called me up to give me a tongue lashing for riding around during the curfew. But I couldn’t have cared less. I was desperate to get back home, knowing fully well, that bad administration was in the works. There was no way in the world, that I wanted to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

                  As I sat at a dhaba for lunch, a bunch of guys started arguing amongst themselves whether I was Indian or not. The argument was conducted in Hindi, oblivious to the fact that I had spoken to them in the same language moments prior.

                  Finally, I told them that my home was just 250 km away. Then they started arguing about the reason for their initial argument. I immediately felt at home!

                  As the clock struck 5 PM, I found myself pedalling through Jhansi. People were getting out on their balconies to bang their vessels. I was caught between laughing at their foolishness or crying at the absurdity. The poor people actually believed that the virus was going to magically disappear with clanging of vessels.

                  Around 30 km after Jhansi I stopped in a small town called Chirgaon. It was the first place during the entire trip that I was charged a whopping 1000 rupees for a room. I immediately felt at home in UP, being ripped off like that. Just to rub in the home feeling, it was also the first time that someone asked me to lock my bicycle. Everywhere else, owners of the establishment would say, ‘don’t worry, your bike is in our custody, nothing will happen’!

                  You can check out the full day’s route on Strava.

                    • City: Kanpur

                    Day 19: Chirgaon to Kanpur

                    The Home Run…

                    I got lucky with a tailwind from start to end. Even with the accumulated exhaustion of the past few days, I still managed to ride strongly.

                    By then the aerobars had also become my friend and I could happily munch on biscuits while riding on the aerobars.

                    The previous few days had been endurance riding. The last day was an endurance race. I had roughly 200 km to ride and I was determined to sleep in my bed that night.

                    I made good time with minimal stops along the way. Constantly keeping an eye on the clock and my average speed.

                    The road was fantastic, except a short horrible stretch near Kalpi. It was also Gangetic plains flat. The land which was home to human civilisation for many millennia. In those 200 km, I just climbed 200 metres. You can’t get anything flatter than that!

                    Thanks to the pandemic the mood of the land was a bit off. Along the way highway cops stopped me and asked me where was I headed to. They were ecstatic on finding out that I had cycled alone all the way from Goa to Kanpur. They even offered me a lift in their jeep!

                    The last meal of the day was at noon for me. After that I didn’t feel the need to eat. I hit familiar terrain just before sundown and I knew nothing could go wrong after that.

                    I ran out of water with 40 km to go. I didn’t bother stopping. Water like most things at that point of time was irrelevant. Home, that’s all that mattered.

                    With 20 km to go, I was on my daily training route. I rode that stretch in the dark, knowing every bump, pothole and curve. Pushing as hard as I could on the pedals, my heart jumping with joy.

                    Exactly 200 km from my start point, I reached home. My longest ever ride till that date.

                    A mother’s intuition or telepathy I don’t know. But 30 seconds before I reached home, she walked out to the gate to look for me. And is by plan, there I was…

                    Finally, it was food, sweet food!

                    Check out the day’s ride on Strava

                      • City: Kanpur

                      As suggested by Mr Susheel Wadke on Facebook, I am adding a list of items carried in my luggage. Since I travel light, here’s what I carry:

                      1. Water Bottles x 2
                      2. Tubes x 2
                      3. Puncture Repair Kit and Pump x 1
                      4. Headlight x 1
                      5. Tail light x 1
                      6. Electric Tape roll x 1
                      7. Cycle Computer x 1
                      8. Allen Key multitool x 1
                      9. Phone, ID Cards, Cash, Debit Card
                      10. Slippers x 1
                      11. Towel x 1
                      12. Padded Shorts x 2
                      13. Baggy Shorts x 2
                      14. Cycling Jerseys x 2
                      15. Regular tee x 1
                      16. Socks x 2
                      17. Rain Jacket x 1
                      18. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
                      19. Chain Lube x 1
                      20. Camera and charger x 1
                      21. GoPro and mounts and charging cable x 1
                      22. Laptop and charger x 1
                      23. Phone charger x 1
                      24. External Hard Drive x 1

                      As evident, if I removed the electronics, I would be barely carrying anything at all!



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