Today was an A to B day that took us from mountain terrain to the desert. It was a chilly start at 900m, even though we had treated ourselves to a lie in and started at 8 after breakfast at the hotel. We even put gloves on – but they soon came off again.
We ambled along the valley and soon came to a ‘decision’ – whether to stay on the ‘main’ road to take a little cut through road marked on googlemaps. The smaller roads are always a risk in case the road surface disappears but often takes us through the prettiest or most interesting parts. This one did both! It started off well paved taking us through very rural villages but then turned into a sandy track. Luckily it was firm and did not last too long and after a few km we reached a proper main road. This was a well paved highway with proper traffic – although still light. Then delight of delights we had a proper ‘descent’ on a well paved road swooping down 400m down a pretty gorge with steep hills either side until it spat us out onto the Rajasthan plain.
We were suddenly on ‘flat’. In fact better than that – we were on a very, very gradual downhill. Our pace picked up dramatically as the road cut through flat scrubby desert, interspersed with the occasional village, presumably where water can be found.
You would imagine that ‘flat’ is the cyclist’s dream but it has it’s own challenges. Flat usually mean a geographical landscape that had few features so soon there is little to hold the interest. The legs churn round and round and it can be quite meditative, but can also become monotonous. Different body stresses pitch in as the body position is much more fixed. However, the landscape was new enough and seeing the km flow by kept us happy.
The other problem with ‘flat’ is the cyclist’s nightmare – the headwind. By late morning the wind was picking up and of course was against us. Not blowing a gale but a constant push against us. As usual, David fronted up the wind while I tucked in behind, a few cm from his back wheel – takes a lot of trust and concentration to match my cadence to his, but I haven’t crashed into him yet!
A stop at an unpromising looking ‘restaurant’ (a few tables under a canopy’ and a few tents resulted in delicious spiced tea (black, no sugar) and veg pakora, straight from the pan. We left fortified by the tea and feeling the pakora settling in our stomachs as we ploughed on across the plain.
By 2.30 we had done 100km and were cruising into Pali. This town was chosen because it a) had hotels and b) was 100km from our last stop and c) it was a convenient 70 km from Jodhpur, our destination for tomorrow. Other than that Palia had little to commend it and we may well have been the only tourists in the whole town. It did not feature at all in the guidebooks.
Our little budget hotel was fine (once we had found it) but when we decided to venture out later in the afternoon the air was chocking with dust, pollution and smog. We still strolled the 2km into the centre, just in case there were any redeeming features – but there were no obvious ones. There was a government sponsored sign setting out the local sights, but it had been plastered over with election posters so we never knew what we were missing.
Not every day of a cycling trip can end somewhere fantastic, but we have had more than our fair share. Unlike travelling by car or bus, you can’t just carry on to the next place. But it does show us every side of India, which has interest in itself.