Today was a breeze – in all senses of the word and hardly felt like doing any serious cycling at all. We packed up and left the anonymous but friendly hotel in Pali, and turned South to access the Pali by-pass.
This was a 2 lane highway with a shoulder – flat as a pancake with a following wind. It was Sunday morning but there were quite a lot of trucks about, although with the 2 lanes they gave us wide berths and loud toots on horns that played tunes as opposed to just sounding warnings. The packing of these trucks is a serious and impressive business. They carry vast quantities of goods with tarpaulins over top, bulging out at the sides and back, all held together by a complex system of ropes. It looks as if the whole load will shift off the side or back at any point but we have never seen this happen. Added to that, they are brightly painted and have numerous instructions and commendations on the sides, all in English. The utility of these must be questionable as I am not sure how many drivers can read English!
The first 34km passed quickly – indeed we did 21km in the first hour alone. That may not seem a great speed for those on road bikes but we are loaded with panniers and our bikes are built for endurance, not speed. Come to think of it, that description may apply to us as well.
After about 30km, we passed the most bizarre Hindu temple yet – all constructed around a Royal Enfield motorbike and with young bikers paying homage to the gods of the bike, seeking good karma for safe journeys. The Triumph Royal Enfield has a “Rolls Royce” or perhaps “Harley Davison” type status amongst the millions of motorbike riders in India. When Triumph motorbikes ceased production in the UK, someone from India bought the rights to the name “Royal Enfield” and design and began manufacturing them in India. The design must have been improved over the years, but the same shape and Easyrider style has been retained, and they are hugely popular.
The temple is said to have arisen when a young man was killed at this spot, when his Royal Enfield hit a tree. The police retrieved the bike but it is said to have mysteriously keep moving itself back to its lasting resting place, by the tree. This caused the legend which led to the Temple. It is now visited by bikers who are (slightly paradoxically) seeking good karma and safe travels on their bikes. All very strange but, in a delightful way, the merging of the ancient and the modern in a very Indian way.
We stopped for “tea” at a roadside café, just as we were due to leave the main road. The boys running the tea stall had some English and were very excited by the prospect of foreigners on bikes at their restaurant. Their attention to Bernie was a little too close! I suspect they may see foreign women in a slightly sexual and negative light, no doubt influenced by the media. They also tried to overcharge us for the tea, no doubt thinking that as foreigners we were clueless as to the cost of anything. To their surprise, we stood our ground and paid the usual rate, which they of course accepted. Even that was probably more than they charge locals, but then locals don’t make the weird request of having black tea without sugar!
The next 40km were on flat side roads with a good surface (outside the villages) that were largely unoccupied. It was a total delight. Without irrigation, the land here cannot be cultivated. But there is water and large sections were developed fields, with an unseen system of cultivation. The road more or less ended at each of villages and we cycled over hard, rough sandy paths. This had (I assume intended) the effect of slowing the (very limited) traffic to a walking pace. Small children, women and men all gave us cheery encouragement when we passed. Touring cyclists are a rarity here but maybe not as much a rarity as elsewhere.
By lunchtime we rolled into Jodhpur, a city of a million people. The old city remains intact and is dominated by the fort (which we will visit tomorrow). The network of alleys is designed to keep cool in the summer. They are so narrow that even tuktuks cannot go down most of them. But that does not prevent motorbikes doing so, often at quite high speeds. So anyone walking the narrow alleys does so at their own risk and with eyes and ears fully awake. We wound our way through the tiny alleyways to find our guest house.
In the afternoon we ambled around the market, read and I did more book chapter. Then we had a delightful vegetarian meal in the evening and bed. We had dinner with a young Dutch man who comes here to buy textiles for his online business in Holland. He has done so for 7 years and was fascinating to talk to. He expressed the view that the British are bonkers in trying to leave the EU and go it alone in the world; a view with which we agree and may even be shared by an increasing number of people in the UK. Sadly, the leadership of neither of our main political parties appear to have moved away from Brexit la-la land but we assured him that there are small signs that collective sanity may be returning.