Trip Start Jul 07, 2008
270Trip End May 27, 2010
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Where I stayed
Hotel Foodlands Restaurant and Lodging, Rajapur, Maharashtra, India
Cool and refreshing
Ratnagiri - Lanja - Rajapur (80kms)
Today was the longest ride in India so far. It was quite a hard day as it was very hilly and very hot. We topped the day off by passing by the hotel we're staying in saying 'there's bound to be others in town' and cycling down a very steep hill into the 'city' only to find nothing. So back up the bloody hill to Foodlands. Remember the law of cycling, there's always a hill at the end! Rajapur is a bit of a dump, so if you're planning on being this way I would either stay at Lanja or perhaps ride on to one of the other major places.
We had little choice but to join the national highway today and to be honest we were dreading it. However, we've both been very pleasantly surprised by the condition of the road itself, which was excellent, and also by the lack of heavy traffic. I had visions of it being clogged with trucks belching out black smoke (there were a few of those) but that wasn't the case. What did get under my skin though is the bloody honking of horns. I know they are just saying 'hello', but, some of the horns they use are flipping loud and make you really jump. If you were sat behind me you would hear me shout 'SHUUUUT UUUUUP' several times a day. This may turn into SHUUUUT THE F**K UUUUUP if they REALLY get on my nerves.
Scenery wise, rolling hills with dense forest either side of us which means it's great monkey territory. A troupe of them (Yvonne, we need you here to identify the different types!) came bounding across the road in front of us today. They are so graceful when they are in the trees but when they're running across the tarmac they are quite heavy on their feet, and you can hear the pads on their hands and feet as they bound across the road. They don't seem a bit concerned about us, I suppose they are used to people. The smells at the moment are amazing, there are lots of trees and shrubs flowering, including my absolute favourite - frangipani.
We decided to vere away from the usual curried breakfast and go for 'eggs omelet' (is there any other kind?). It had quite a lot of onion and chilli in it but it was still a very welcome break from misal or dosa.
When we were in Rajasthan, 20 years ago, we ate at the dhabas on the side of the road, little cafes where the truckers stop. When we ordered a thali sometimes we would get curd and it would come in a little brown pottery dish. We would eat out of the dish and then the dish would go back to whoever makes the curd and they would refill it. Now, of course, that's all changed, it comes in little plastic cartons - funnily enough like yogurt cartons - yet another item that can be thrown on the town 'heap'.
This is the way in which we have observed rubbish being dealt with. There are no bins. I have tried many, many times to find bins to put rubbish in and have not found a single one. All over the place you will find smoldering heaps of leaves and paper. Someone (sometimes several people depending on the size of the place) will come along with a sweeper (made of twigs usually) and brush the debris up into little piles. Then another person comes along and sets them alight. Quite often this is done in the early evening and as such serves a dual purpose, to create smoke and get rid of the mosquitos. Then in the larger towns or small cities there will be larger 'dumps' on the side of the road where the animals will be herded and they will eat the rubbish. I saw a cow eat a black plastic bag with all it's contents the other day - I kid you not. The cattle then process the rubbish in the usual way and it passes back out onto the road where people (usually women and children - I've yet to see a man do this job) come along, pick it up, dry it out and use it for fuel. Recycling at it's best I suppose, although I'm worrying about the black plastic bag the cow ate! Then there's always the local river bank or ditch and depending on the type of place it is there could be several of these and they really are unsightly and I'm pretty sure not healthy places.
It's quite clear that poverty does not mean squalor. We have passed through villages where everything is very ship shape, roads are clean, houses and yards are clean and tidy (despite having dirt floors they still manage to keep them looking nice by repeatedly damping down and sweeping, until they take on a compacted, hardened look) and yet those places don't seem any more prosperous than the village down the road that dumps all it's rubbish everywhere, nothing looks clean and you'd rather just move on through. I think it's called civic pride. However, the way in which they dispose of their rubbish is probably as described above, but just out of sight.
Today a couple of Babas (holy men) were in town and the masses were out visiting him. Everyone was out in their finery, the women looked stunning in their saris with garlands of flowers in their hair. The colours were so beautiful, and because most of the South Indians have very dark skin they can wear the dazzling, even garish, colours and get away with it.
We are three days away from the state of Goa, which is only 70 odd kms long. We will head for Arambol, one of the old resorts 40kms north of Panjim, and if we like it we'll stay there a few days. The idea is that we are close enough to Panjim to do things like sort out glasses (I'm desperate to get my new prescriptions filled maybe then I'll be able to read in the evening!) try and get some contact lenses (much easier to cycle with) and to get online, That way if we have to wait for things we can move on south of Panjim but still have easy access either by bus or we can cycle. We want to try and find a nice little spot to spend Christmas Day. Neither of us are big fans of Christmas, but it's a good excuse to give ourselves a little treat and there's something a bit depressing about being in some horrible roadside hotel on Christmas Day.