Riverside Temple to Chandigarh 40km cycling, 50ish in Truck, 50ish in Train.
I slept. Occasionally I heard the rain, and often I woke to muscle cramps. I had cramps in places I didn't know I had muscles. But mainly I slept. My buddy, in his tent right next door, had an alarm....what? Damn. I wanted to sleep, but it was really sensible, as it ensured we were ready to ride in the cool of the morning. Only problem was, my gear was packed and ready, but was my body ready. The cleansing is still happening, the medication hasn't worked (perhaps I took the wrong tablets), and this old body just doesn't feel like cycling.
But we kick off, in opposite directions. I'm immediately cycling uphill. There are hundreds of trucks going both ways. I feel distinctly uncomfortable, wobbly, squeezed into a very narrow piece of road, and lacking the strength and brain power to use my natural self preservation skills. This is dangerous. I've biked 500m and I'm knackered. Four rest breaks later, and I've biked 3km, and the hill levels out. I stop for some food and drink. It's going to be a long day. But even then, I struggle to eat. The best I can do is finish yesterday's packet of chips, and a couple of mouth fills of cake, and my stomach is in revolt.
The next 10km of flat and downhill, I manage, slowly, but I know, from my Indian cyclist friend, that there is a 15km uphill, and I know I will not be able to manage it. I cross the bridge at the base of the climb and do the Indian equivalent of putting my thumb out. I'm in survival mode.
A truckie, he's already stopped and getting his tyres pumped, wanders over. He has no English, but he offers me a ride. I think I tell him where I'm heading. The truck is loaded with gravel. I need to climb up and remove a couple of boards so as I can slide Fiona on top. I struggle, with the climb and the removal. Damn I'm feeling weak. He tosses all my gear up to me. I would have been content with sitting with the gravel, but he waves me down, and hoists me into the cab, and we're off. The cab has a drivers seat, and the rest is thick soft cushions. He throws me a couple, motions that I should lie down......and I sleep. I don't know how big the hill was, because I see nothing until he shakes me awake as we turn into a cement possessing plant. It's very hot, and we are on the flats.
Fiona and I ride out of the truck park (there must have been 1000 trucks waiting to unload), and turn left.....hmmm, I better check a map. Oooops, should have turned right. After 5km I spot a restaurant . I really do need to eat and drink. I order a cheese sandwich, no make that two.......but only manage half. I do drink a litre of water, and 700ml of Replace. A group of Indians want me to eat with them. They speak no English, and keep offering me food. How do I tell them "I'm feeling like crap, your food is too spicy, no thank you". I will be remembered as the rude foreign cyclist.
Back out into the heat. The road is flat, and a dual carriage way, so the going should be reasonably easy, but the heat is sapping, and there are no shade trees. After about 5km, I cross a water channel, perhaps from a hydro station. There are steps down to the water. I go there. I lower my feet into the water. It is very cold. My legs cramp. I sponge the water over my body. More muscles cramp, but it is soooo good. After 20 mins, I'm sitting on a step, fully clothed, in water neck deep. For the first time today, I feel alive.
Less than a km back on the bike, and all my clothes are completely dry, and my skin feels as if it is basting. This is not good......and a train passes me. At the next small town I ask about trains. Yes regularly, from 500m away. I go to the station. The next train for my destination is in 3 hours. I'll wait. I try to find the coolest spot, with some breeze. I find I'm panting. I'm definitely in distress, and just sitting, and I'm the centre of attention, because I'm foreign and have a fancy bike. "Please, please just leave me alone", but no one speaks English.
I'm concerned about where I should board the train. They are all very long. Is the place for a bike at the front or back? There is much discussion. The train finally approaches, and a young strong guy directs me towards the back, but we can't find a baggage car. He decides we need to board through a normal entrance, and we begin to lift Fiona on board......and the train starts to move. I'm still on the platform, lifting the trailer. "Get on, get on" in the call. I haul myself aboard, dragging Fiona and the trailer with me. My helper is running along the platform supporting the trailer. Jeepers. Nothing is simple in India, and I'm knackered. Feels like I've just run a 1500m race.
The train journey is pretty uneventful, except even with the windows and doors all open the breeze doesn't cool. Several people come to chat, but none have English. They seem to think that if they repeat something enough times I will suddenly understand. It doesn't work.