Today the short version is we cycled 146km (which is about 92m). It was the longest day on our several trips, as ever loaded with panniers. As I write this there is only one word – Exhausted!
The longer version is not much longer as almost all we did today was cycle, cycle, cycle across the mainly flattish desert of Rajasthan. We got off to an early start having been given an early breakfast by our helpful hotel (with extra bananas today!). Not quite as early as we might have as just as we were wheeling the bikes out David noticed yet another puncture. A quick change of the inner tube but we set off with trepidation, both knowing we had a very long day and worried about the spate of punctures. Luckily we were puncture-less for the rest of the day.
Our first 65km to Lalsot were mostly downhill to begin with and were easy – on a main road so a very good surface but not too much traffic and flat/slightly downhill of course. With fresh legs we polished off those km by 11am. Boring cycling but the brain settled into a semi-meditative state that helped the hours go by.
Just after Lalsot we had our first real disaster of the trip. David was being passed by a car when an old man who was walking by the road suddenly veered sideways into his path. With the car overtaking there was nowhere to go. His bike hit the man and came to an abrupt stop and David went flying forward over the handlebars. I was behind (luckily not too near so had time to brake) and saw it in the sickening combination of split second/slow motion. If I had been leading at the time then it would have been me who hit him.
I hesitated while I decided whether to check David or his bike first (joking!). David was flat on his back in the road but I soon ascertained he was a) alive, b) winded but able to talk, c) moving all 4 limbs. He was able to get up and sit by the side of the road while helpful passers by picked up the bike. A quick assessment of that too showed no major injuries but lots of muscle pain. The man was either drunk or confused as he just mumbled a bit, seemed totally oblivious of what had happened, stepped over the bike and ambled on.
David was obviously shaken, his elbows were grazed and his back hurt where he had landed on it. We turned down offers of hospital, medicines (I explained I was a doctor). Not too badly injured but with true grit he was back in the saddle again within a few minutes. We did stop soon after when we had turned off the main road and I cleaned up the grazes and dosed David up with painkillers. If anyone ever wonders whether it is worth wearing a cycle helmet then look at the split at the back of his helmet that we discovered and be thankful that the helmet did its job. It very substantially absorbed the blow and the split was not on the back of his head – even if it left David with something of a headache!
Cycling another 80km is probably not what the doctor usually orders after a “tumble”, but David being David, he managed to press through a combination of residual fitness, immense determination and frankly luck that he suffered no serious injuries.
The afternoon was on a more minor road. Mostly it was ok albeit that we went slightly uphill for 60km against a moderate headwind. The 1% or less slope is always there, making the peddling that little bit harder, just as going down a slight slope is that little bit easier. As for the wind, it was against us going to the East and now was against us going West. Shucks – that’s cycling.
There was one section where the road disintegrated and progress became very slow. Morale was definitely dipping as the afternoon moved on. At the next main junction we had two options – luckily a helpful man directed us to go on the more minor route saying the road was good whereas staying on the more major road was still bad. We trusted the advice of locals (which has invariably been proven right) and the next section was on a lovely tiny road with a perfect road surface.
The last section into Jaipur itself was the usual nightmare of cycling into a city. This time though the suburbs started about 15km out – and by then we had exceeded our previous longest day and were knackered and David was feeling pretty battered and bruised. However, what we have learnt through our previous trips is that you can always keep going when you have to and you always get there in the end, and so it was today.
At last, at about 5.30 we arrived at the Ashok Club, where Adit, our friend in Delhi, had booked us a room. We had a lovely suite and steaming hot showers and we were safe and sound. Whether David will be able to move his muscles enough tomorrow to keep cycling remains to be seen, but at least we have a day off planned and we can always amend our plans for the last few days if needed.