Manja to Nagaon 131km
Nagaon to Guwahati 125km
Guwahati to Howli 112km
Howli to Gossaigaon 136km
Assam would have to be typical India. There is just so much going on around you, it is hard to take it all in at once. They say, that if you've never seen something, if you stand on a corner in India, sooner or later you will see it. A lot of Indian's do exactly that, stand and watch the world go by. For some, this week has been a positive week. They saw a crazy old kiwi cyclist, dragging a little white trailer behind. Some (feels like lots)even got to get up close, because he slowed down or stopped near them. The real lucky ones got to take his photo, shake his hand, or even get his card. Now that makes them smile. I'm not getting the smiles, waves or Hellos that were so much the norm in the rest of Asia. I suppose, India has been plundered so many times by westerners over the years, they're not as happy to see us.
I've had some long days, but on reasonably flat roads, if not always the best surfaces. A couple of days have been mainly on "dual carriageways",
and the other two, even though I'm following the same size red line on the map, have been on small roads that have weaved through small villages and farmland.
The "dual carriageways" take some getting used to. At times there are as many vehicles coming towards me on my side of the carriageway, as are heading in my direction. It's not uncommon to look up and see both your lanes filled with on coming traffic. Then other sections have one side of the dual carriageway closed completely, which make a great cycle way. I can't work out the logic. Mostly there hasn't been too much traffic, but then you'll get 50 lorries at once, hauling gravel, coming at you in both lanes.
The weaving roads through the villages are great. Lots happening in every direction. Trouble is, you slow down or stop, and you get mobbed. Lots of questions, lots of interest, lots of photos. In one village, I was dragged into a tea shop by the local doctor. 50 guys followed us...I kid you not. He gave a stern warning to all.....don't touch Fiona. I don't normally drink tea, but how can you refuse, and cakes, and candies, and....... Another time I was convinced to visit the Environment Development Office. Once again, at least 50 guys,
crowded around, asking questions.
Over the last few days, I've been interviewed by three different TV channels. Now people stop, because they've seen me on TV, and want a photo. I'm scared that I will cause an accident, because once one vehicle stops, ten bicycles, five motorbikes, and twenty pedestrians join the gathering. We very quickly spread well across the road.
I've been extremely privileged to be invited into private homes. These are experiences you just cannot buy, and give me an opportunity to chat about more than where I'm going, how old I am and where is my wife. Some of the topics covered include:
How proud the father of a 15 year old was, to walk into his lounge, and witness his son speaking fluent English to a foreigner,
How I should not worry about the Separatist and Rebels in the NE, as they will not do anything that will harm the International reputation of this area,
How there is so much corruption in India, that very very little of the money designated for the people, actually reaches them,
How hard it is to pick an eleven man cricket team from 1.3 billion cricket enthusiasts,
How India deals with their different tribes, and castes, arranged marriages, elopements, and mixed caste and tribe marriages,
The importance of the stability of a government job,
How two million students take the entrance exam, for 50,000 places, in the main Indian University,
How health professionals in India prescribe drugs for everything, so that many middle aged, and older Indians are living daily on a cocktail of prescribed pharmaceuticals.
CWC fever has been rife, but today, Australia have beaten India in the semifinal. I've already had so many promises of support for the Blackcaps, that we can't go wrong.
So I've got about 250km to go to the Nepali border, maybe three days. Even then, I'm not sure I will be used to all that I witness here. I don't think I will ever be comfortable seeing the "conductor" on a transit van minibus, standing on the back bumper,
as the van speeds down the wrong side of a dual carriageway at 90kph. I do enjoy the way Indian women wear colour. Their saris and even their school uniforms are often stunningly colourful. I don't think I will ever get used to the intensity of riding through a city mid to late afternoon, navigating, watching traffic, and trying to find a hotel. I thought India was pretty up with the play when it came to technology, but as yet, I've been unable to find wifi, or get a computer in an Internet Cafe to make contact for more than a couple of minutes. However, all this, and so much more, makes for a fantastic adventure.