Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy New Year

We got up and left Nagpur the next morning (New Year's Day) in the rain. The streets were deserted, and we rejoined the four-lane highway on the outskirts of the city after a few turns through the city. The lovely pavement lasted for about 50 miles. Then the road narrowed to between a lane and a half and two lanes, and the pavement also started to disappear, slowly, in small chunks, then in bigger ones, as we rode up and around the twisty route through teak forests.

Between the wet ground, moist, warm-ish air, and the dry leaves, it felt and smelled like a typical autumn day, and but for the lack of pavement, it would have been an enjoyable ride. Unfortunately as we climbed, the road continued to fall apart, and the truck traffic became especially heavy, even for India. At one point, as we followed a cargo truck through a section of twists, the truck hit a series of deep potholes in one of the many curves that lifted it up on two wheels. It was then that I noticed the UN Class 1 symbol painted on the back next to the word “explosives.” We passed the truck at the very next opportunity. 

As we approached the top of whatever hill we were on, we came up on a tailback of trucks stopped on the road. We did as all good Indian riders do and rode past them all. After passing between forty and fifty stationary lorries, we came to the source of the problem. Fanned out across the road and deep, muddy shoulders, were three northbound lorries trying to fit through a single-lane wide checkpoint. They were facing three southbound trucks arrayed in the same manner, also trying to get through the single-lane wide checkpoint. Three guards with four foot long batons were trying to unfuck the situation. The problem was, apparently, no one could back up because they were blocked by the trucks behind them. After assessing this circlejerk for a few seconds, we took to the muddy shoulder and squeezed our way past.  

Once we made it over the top of the mud-slick hill through the scrum of trucks, we stopped at a roadside restaurant to try to recover from the insanity we'd just ridden through and to steel ourselves for the thought of more of the same conditions for the rest of the ride. After a couple cups of coffee, toast and eggs, we got back on the road. And it actually improved. Dramatically. 
The rest of the way to Jabalpur, the road alternated between four-lane, buttery goodness, and two lane road that appeared to have been cluster bombed. All the riding in the rain and mud had left our bikes very muddy. At one refueling stop, I wished Re a Happy New Year and asked her how we were going to celebrate. After discussing various options, Re suggested we to something really dirty. Always one for a good time, I asked what she had in mind, and she said, “wash the bikes.” Awww. We made it to Jabalpur by around 3:30 pm and were happy to have survived the last five miles into the city. The roads here are chaotic, and Re and I thought that several times people were actively trying to kill us. Even though Jabalpur's streets were not identified in my GPS this time either, we were less lost and found our hotel rather quickly.

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