Introducing my Roadie

My other wife aka the MTB, got the exposure that she needed, meanwhile the overlooked beauty prodded me to be put on this blog. So, introducing here and now, the fast, light, fickle, slick tyre beauty:

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The lighter but faster touring Roadie.

This is several kilograms ( kgs. ) lighter than my MTB, but it’s just as fickle if stretched or fiddled with. The MTB can take our typical roads, smooth as butter in one stretch and then absolute mayhem in another. This one doesn’t cut it. On one of my 400 km. runs, it gave up on the way back, a cup in the hub that houses the ball bearings gave up. Today, it’s rear tyre burst and took the tube with it too. I had to drag it and myself for 20 odd kilometres with the no-rules traffic zipping by on the highway. Luckily, this was just a photo op run and I decided to limit myself to within 50 km. of my residence. If I had gone on further, I may have had to haul it over a lot many miles ( or kilometres ).

The roadie suffers from several shortcomings when touring in the Indian subcontinent. It has no suspension and the potholes here can be brutal. Then there are the uneven bumps on the better roads too, which can jar a rider if travelling at a good speed. To be honest, roads are now much better than a decade back, but still a no go for a roadie with slick tires. On the plus side if it gets a smooth as butter stretch it can clock 40 kmph.* with ease. 

*kmph. — kilometres per hour

When I had purchased it, it was a fixed gear roadie. It’s tyres are 27 x 1 1/4″ and the frame is steel. Worked on it and have added 21 gears to it, adding gears is not so easy as it seems, more of this later. The gear freewheel is non indexed and has thumb friction shifters. Have replaced the front and back mudguards with self made cardboard ones, they look a bit crude, but are much lighter and do the job of keeping the dirt in. The pedals are Keo compatible clipless type and I have shoes that lock into them. These pedals are comfortable on the long hauls but can be demanding when negotiating the chaotic Indian city/town traffic. A lot of practice is required before they can be used on our roads. Saddle post was replaced and a cushion seat cover added. Other accessories like a rear view mirror, front basket and a front light with an odometer were put in later, making it a short touring bike. 

Am trying to replace it’s tire frame with lighter alloy stuff but 27 inch wheel frames are rare and am considering fitting in alloy 700 cc wheels. I may replace the transmission with a freehub/cassette combination and compatible shifters. But, this is still in the planning stage. All in all, have travelled a lot on this bike and it has served me well on my shorter runs. That finishes the intro of my Roadie beauty. Keep checking back for more of my travel tips and tours!

 

Lawless Highway Code

Imagine huge 5-10 tonne beasts roaring loudly, racing past each other on an asphalt tarmac. The ground trembles under the combined assault of this gigantic pack, racing at speeds reaching 80-120 kmph.*; the beast overtaking the others nearly breaks out of the tarmac and leaves behind a plume of dust and debris. Thankfully, there are no collisions and the winner rushes ahead oblivious of the tremors that it created. The dinosaur pack vanishes into the distance; and out of the swirling dust and debris emerge tiny beings choking in the wake, bewildered and disoriented.

*kmph. — kilometres per hour 

Sounds like a Hollywood thriller featuring gigantic beasts battling to control the world ? Err .. No. Welcome to the real life Indian highway traffic. This is almost a daily routine here. At risk are the inconsequential cyclists, the tiny beings, like me, who have to keep a constant watch in the rear view mirror and be ready to dive out of the road. The thought of being plastered on the front view of these speeding beasts keeps gnawing in the mind of those like me. There are no rules on our national highways linking states and cities. The unwritten code here is : The bigger and noisier the beast, the more it deserves to be respected, traffic rules be damned !

If you haven’t guessed it, the dino* beasts are buses, trucks, lorries and dumpers; at the head of the traffic food chain, then the middle sized SUV’s**, mini-trucks and pickups with the cars and then the motor bikes completing the hierarchy. Our highway traffic follows it’s own rules based on the hierarchy above. Cyclists like me are the lowest vermin with no rights on the highways. Since there is almost no traffic rule enforcement, I won’t even discuss the highway patrols here, and focus on the unwritten lawless highway traffic code.

*dino – dinosaur, **SUV’s — Sports Utility Vehicles

Let’s get down to business and start with the pirate code; for starters your vehicle size matters. The bigger the beast you ride, by big I would say it’s both weight and size, the more you can flex your might on the highway. At the top of the food chain would be the beast trucks hauling several tonnes of load and often overweight. They are to be feared as they can just about do anything, including crush you like a mosquito. In the nights these beasts become true predators, with their liquor soaked drivers driving them into a speeding frenzy. Their presence can be heard from a distance, with crude music blaring from their driving cabins and the roar of their engines. To be fair most of the trucking drivers here are underpaid and overworked, and they do have an obstinate, dangerous streak about them as they drive these monsters. If you want to survive, keep your distance from this top predator.

The middle tier of the food chain is populated by swanky SUV’s, pickups and mini-trucks. The SUV’s are the things to be watched out for. The new ones have a fast acceleration and can zip up to 120-150 kmph. without breaking a sweat. The drivers of these beasts are often not concerned with the world outside, locked up in their own air-conditioned cocoon often with stereos belting out desi aka vernacular music. To add to this it’s common for the SUV drivers to talk on mobiles and have a hearty chat with the other occupants, while zipping on these things. This leads to predictable results. For a lowly cyclist like me, SUV’s are a terror. They can weigh a tonne and have a sizeable girth. One kiss from this baby and I could end up with Saint Peter. Which leads me to the other beasts in the middle tier.

The pickups, mini trucks and vans make up a dicey mix. They are often loaded up to the brim with stuff intended for local markets. Like vegetables, bread, milk and maybe sacks of flour. The main thing to remember is that they are in a tearing hurry to get that load to the market. Add that to the reckless driving culture with the load that they are carrying, and the picture is complete. The early morning ones are the worst. If that does not horrify one, let’s add more spice to the mix, most of these vehicles are not road worthy. I saw one whose chassis was inclined at such an angle that the vehicle looked like it was travelling sideways. It’s best to bail out of the bicycle if this beast heads for us and needs to brake to a halt. Braking is a no go with these vehicles, with the speed and the load that they are carrying. By the time they will halt it would be game over for the cyclist.

This brings us to the cars and the mobikes*. These are the fastest ones on the highways, zipping in and out, weaving to and fro between the dinosaurs. A Formula One driver would be put to shame at the manoeuvring undertaken by the warriors behind the steering wheels on Indian roads. Again, when the split second calculations fail, it’s a sad end. Cars treat dino trucks as slow trolls, weaving between them and zipping away. For the cyclist, this means keeping a watchful eye as there is no lane discipline when cars try to overtake a heavy. If they hug the outer lane where we travel, it’s best to drop off the road.

mobikes — motor bikes*

Mobikes are the fastest, with the latest ones running faster than most cars. They pose the least danger as they have to be careful too, being just a rung above the cyclist. Most mobike riders will often slow down for a friendly ‘on the road drive-as-we-chat’, which I have found to be a bit disconcerting as well as comical. Cyclists have to maintain a lateral as well as vertical balance without any motor power and chatting while cycling is tough. Then there is the traffic following on behind us that keeps blaring their horns to break this impromptu conference on the road. In some cases, I had to stop at the roadside if the conference continued for too long, just to let the traffic behind pass through. Fun facts apart mobike riders will get nasty if a cyclist is stuck in a traffic jam, cause the hierarchy kicks in when it’s jam time. The mobikes get priority while the cyclist has to wait for the jam to clear.

Moving on to the other rules in the lawless code; there is no such thing as a cycling lane. Cyclists travel on the outer fringes of the road, inside clearly marked side lanes on highways. But as lowly vermin we have no ‘actual’ lanes, speeding beasts will often hog the whole road while overtaking and cyclists have to take the dirt track next to the road, when that happens. Then there is the unique Indian highway traffic phenomenon of a wrong side reverse traffic flow on the ‘supposed’ cycling lanes. Mobikes, jeeps, auto rickshaws and passenger loaded tempos will often travel on the wrong side using the cycling lane with their headlights on as a sort of warning to the incoming cyclist. If we do not heed the horns and the headlights, it’s game over as they travel on the wrong side at high speeds. This mostly happens near small town settlements but is in no way restricted to such, and one has to be always on the alert.

Once all this sinks in, we are ready to tackle the highways. Helmets are very conspicuous here as most Indians think they have a head made of unbreakable titanium alloy. A cyclist with a helmet is considered as rare as a Martian, since even mobike riders on highways here don’t use one. It’s advisable to wear one though. The post is not meant to discourage prospective cyclists. Many of us out there are actually doing it despite the insurmountable odds. Drive slow, drive safe and be alert.

Will keep adding more to this post, so do check back and try to take up your cycling, you won’t regret it !!

घुम्मक्कड़ी साईकल

साईकल की कला समझने के बाद मानो मुझे पर लग गये थे। ऐसा लगता था की अब तो बस ब्रम्हाण ही मेरी मुट्ठी मे समा गया हो। मैने हर हफ्ते १-२ लम्बी दूरी की साईकल यात्राएँ आरम्भ कर दीं। अब मै अपनी मस्त चाल मे देहात की अपेक्षाकृत स्वच्छ वायु का आनन्द ले सकता था। २०१७ मे शीत काल के आते-आते कई सौ किलोमीटर की दूरी पूरी कर चुका था। आरम्भ मे तो आस पास के छोटे कस्बो मे मेरी लम्बी दूरी की साईकल यात्रा को देख कर लोगों को बड़ा कौतूहल होता था, लेकिन अब मेरी सवारी को लगभग कानपुर के आस पास सभी ढ़ाबे और साईकल वाले पहचानने लगे हैं। 

सवाल भी बड़े हास्यास्पद होते हैं। ‘आपको क्या सरकार साईकल पर घूमने का पैसा देती है ?’ ‘यह क्या कोई नई कम्पनी की साईकल का प्रदर्शन है ?’ ‘तुम क्या साईकल किसी संदेश का प्रचार करने को चलाते हो ?’ शहरों और कस्बों मे जब जवान बच्चों को मै बताता हूँ की मै १००-२०० कि.मी. बिना किसी विशेष कष्ट के साईकल भ्रमण कर सकता हूँ तो उनके चहरे पर अविश्वास की झलक रहती है। यह एक चिंता का विषय भी है। शहरी समाज अब मोटापे, मधुमेह और अन्य रोगों की चपेट मे पूरी तरह आ चुका है। साईकल चलाना अब स्टेटस के विरुद्ध है। देहात मे मेरी साईकल यात्रा को लोग आज भी समझते हैं। मध्य-प्रदेश के दमोह ज़िले के देहात मे एक सज्जन ने सटीक बात कही थी — ‘यह एक यात्रा है।’ भारत मे यात्रा का विशेष महत्व रहा है, लोग अपना घर बार बेच कर तीर्थ अथवा अन्य किसी लक्ष्य से यात्रा पर निकलते थे और कई एक बरस के बाद वापिस लौटते थे। आधुनिक भारत के काले अंग्रेज़ अब यह सब भूल चुके हैं, लेकिन देहातों मे अभी भी लोग इस परंपरा को मानते हैं।

२०१७ अक्तूबर तक मै कानपुर-प्रयागराज और वापिसी की यात्रा ( लगभग ४०० कि.मी. ) पूरी करने के पशचात ५०० कि.मी. की यात्रा का प्रोग्राम बनाने लगा। बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ों का सौंदर्य के विषय मे मै यह कह सकता हूँ कि उत्तर-प्रदेश मे अगर कोई वन संपदा बची है तो इसमे बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ एक बड़ा भाग हैं। मैने खजुराहो जाने का मन बनाया, जो कानपुर से लगभग ५०० कि.मी. की दूरी पर है। यह पूरी यात्रा बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ों मे से होकर जाती है। कानपुर से हमीरपुर-महोबा-छ्तरपुर और फिर खजुराहो।

दिसम्बर, २०१७ तक मैने अपनी खजुराहो एवं पेंच की यात्राएँ पूरी कर ली थीं। दोनों यात्राएँ अलग हैं, खजुराहो की यात्रा से लौटने के कुछ समय बाद मैने पेंच की यात्रा आरम्भ की थी। 

खजुराहो और उसके भी आगे पेंच वन्यजीव अभ्यारण ( जो मध्य-प्रदेश और महाराष्ट्र की सीमा पर है ) की यात्राओं के पूरे लेख अभी लिखने बाकि हैं, परन्तु उनसे सम्बन्धित कुछ वीडियो और फोटो आपकी सेवा मे इस लेख मे डाल रहा हूँ। पेंच वन्यजीव अभ्यारण पहुँचने का रस्ता कानपुर से छतरपुर और फिर आगे दमोह, नरसिंघपुर और सिवनी जिला तक है। पेंच अभ्यारण सिवनी जिला, मध्य-प्रदेश मे ही है। कानपुर से पेंच के तुरिया गेट तक ७०० कि.मी. है, आना-जाना १४०० कि.मी पड़ेगा।

नीचे के फोटो व वीडियो कानपुर-खजुराहो मार्ग के हैं:

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हमीरपुर का यमुना पुल।

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 छतरपुर-खजुराहो मार्ग।

खजुराहो के पास रानेह झरना जो रानेह वन्य अभ्यारण क्षेत्र मे आता है।

आगे के फोटो कानपुर-पेंच मार्ग के हैं:

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बतियागढ़, दमोह के पहिले एक पहाढ़ी क्षेत्र है, यहाँ के एक ढ़ाबे मे पड़ाव डाला था।

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लखनादौन, सिवनी जिले के पास वन्य खेत्र मे सूखा नाला, इस खेत्र मे सूखे की मार का आभास हुआ।

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पेंच वन्य अभ्यारण मे एक सरकारी चेतावनी पटल। इसमे लिखा है कि बंदरों को खाना देना एक दंडनीय अपराध है।

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बतियागढ़ के वन खेत्र मे मेरी रेंजर साईकल।

 

मेरा साईकल प्रेम

कुछ वर्ष पूर्व रोग और मोटापे से जूझते जूझते आयुर्वेद का सहारा मिला और गुणवान आयुर्वेदाचार्यों के मार्गदर्शन से मेरा जीवन पूर्णत: प्रभावित हो गया है। इस संदर्भ मे मैं कानपुर के त्रिपाठी औषधालय, परमठ, कानपुर का विशेष तौर से आभारी हूँ। एक समय ऐसा भी था जब मेरा निज भार ११० किलो के ऊपर था, हर एक कदम पर साँस फूलता था और हर दिन दवा और सूई के सहारे पार पाता था। आज मै एक ऐसा नौजवान हूँ, जो कई सौ किलोमीटर साईकल चलाने पर भी नहीं थकता और २०-३० किलोमीटर की दौड़ मे भाग लेता हूँ। मेरी आयु ४८ वर्ष है और भार लगभग ७५ किलो और मेरा निवास खास कानपुर शहर मे है।

आयुर्वेदाचार्यों के मार्गदर्शन से यह ज्ञान प्राप्त हुआ की एक भिक्षूक समान सादगी से भरा जीवन ही स्वस्थता का मूल मंत्र है। भोजन जितना सादा हो, उतना ही पाचन योग्य होता है और पाचन ही जीवन है। कूलर, ए.सी. एवं फ्रिज स्वास्थ के लिये ठीक नहीं हैं, और फ़ास्ट फूड तो अतयन्त हानिकारक होता है। २०१५ मे मैने आयुर्वेद को अपनाया, आयुर्वेद एक जीवन शैली है, और कुल ६-८ महीने के अंदर ही मै ११० किलो से ८० किलो पहुंच गया, मैने दौड़ना और साईकल चलाना भी इसी वक्त आरम्भ किया। दौड़ने से कुछ चोट आई जिसके उपरान्त मैने साईकल पर विशेष ध्यान दिया।

साईकल का किस्सा बड़ा हास्यास्पद है। जब मैने साईकल लेने का मन बनाया तो घर वालों और रिश्ते-नातेदारों को जैसे सांप सूंघ गया, हमारे शहरी समाज मे साईकल पर चलना स्टेटस को नीचे करने के जैसा है। परन्तु मै नही माना और लगभग पांच हज़ार रुपय की रेंजर साईकल खरीद ली। यह बात २०१६ की है, तब मै साईकल का क,ख,ग, नही जानता था और बड़ा साहस करके १०-२० किलोमीटर का सफर तय कर पाता था। ऐसे मे मैने अपनी रेंजर मे गीयर भी लगवा लिये परन्तु इनका सही उपयोग सीखने मे ४-६ महीने का कठिन परिश्रम करना पड़ा। बीच-बीच मे गीयर टूट भी जाते थे और बनवाने का १२००/- रुपल्ली लगता था, धीरे-धीरे मैने यू-ट्यूब और अन्य मध्यमो की सहायता से स्वयं ही गीयर ठीक करना जान लिया। 

देसी गीयर के पूरे सामान का मूल्य ५००/- से १०००/- रुपये था, जापानी शिमानो अथवा विदेशी गीयर का पूरा सामान १०,००० /- से लेकर १,००,०००/- रुपये तक का होता था। ऐसे मे मै देशी और विदेशी गीयर के सामान को मिश्रित करके अपनी साईकल को चलाने लगा। यह सब काम जानने के बाद मुझे साईकल से ऐसा प्रेम हो गया की जिसका वर्णन करना कठिन है। अपनी साईकल से न तो विषाक्त धूएं का उत्सर्जन होता है और न ही वो तीव्र गति जिससे सड़क हादसे होते रहते हैं, मोटापा भी दूर भागने लगता है। अब और क्या कहूँ ? धीरे-धीरे टायर पंचर बनाना भी सीख गया और पुरी साईकल खोल कर उसके एक-एक अंजर-पंजर को बदलना या तेल-ग्रीस डालना और सफाई करने की कला मे भी निपुण हो गया। इस कार्य मे पास ही के देसी साईकल मिस्त्रीयों का भी कुछ सहयोग मिला।

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मेरी रेंजर गाड़ी जिसका पूरी तरह रूपान्तरण हो चुका है।

अब मेरे सफर ४०-८० कि.मी. तक होने लगे थे, अधिक्तम गति भी ३०-४० कि.मी. प्रति घँटे की होने लगी। गति बढ़ाने के लिये मैने एक और हल्की रेसिंग साईकल लगभग ५०००/- रुपये मे ले ली। इसमे भी आरम्भ मे ६ और फिर २१ गीयर लगवा लिये। अब मै १००-२०० कि.मी. की दूरी एक ही दिन मे करने लगा, और मेरी अधिकतम गति भी ४०-४५ कि.मी. प्रति घँटा हो गयी थी। ऐसे मे २०१७ के आते आते मैने कानपुर के आस पास के शहरो मे साईकल से जाना आरम्भ किया। इस श्रेणी मे मैने लखनऊ, कन्नौज और फतेहपुर को अपनी साईकलों की पहुँच मे लिया, फिर दायरा और बढ़ाया और प्रयागराज, हमीरपुर और आगे के गाँव और कसबों तक जाने लगा। बुँदेलखण्ड से मेरा विशेष लगाव रहा था और मैने अपना पहली बड़ी यात्रा मे मध्य-प्रदेश के खजुराहो जाने का प्रोग्राम बनाया। यह कोई संयोग नही था कि खजुराहो तक पहुँचने के लिये मुझे बुँदेलखण्ड के मध्य से जाना था। 

खजुराहो और उससे भी आगे महाराष्ट्र तक के साईकल सफर के किस्से मेरे अन्य लेखों मे पढ़ें।

 

The Mother Tour — Return Leg

Following up from Kanpur to Pench Tiger Sanctuary, it was time to turn back. This time around things were different with a possible bad transmission and a hellish 20 km. road stretch going back into the valleys of the Reserve. Predictably inquiries from roadside motels confirmed my guess that they were not budget-oriented. So, I chugged back on my bicycle negotiating the hellish road. On the wayside I did see one or two motorbikes which had simply given up, their owners were clearly panicking as they wanted out of the forest that was teeming with wild animals. Unfortunately, I could be of no help to them. 

Just when I was about to give up on finding a reasonable motel, an inquiry at a local bicycle mechanic shop netted me a good roadside Dhaba. The mechanic disputed my version of the blown transmission and advised me to go on, which turned out to be wrong later on. The Dhaba itself was run by a Maharashtrian gentleman and had good facilities. I was given a cot and had a hearty lunch. It was the 23rd of December 2017. We had a leisurely chat and I decided to attend to my MTB.

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The beauty at the roadside Dhaba, Pench Tiger Reserve Forest

Servicing and cleaning the MTB confirmed that the transmission was going to blow, and I decided to take it slow while trying to exit the hills and valleys of the Reserve. The local mechanics were not good in my opinion and I rued the fact that I had not brought along the complete kit to change the bicycle chain and gear flywheel.

The night was the same liquor-soaked shouting and loud convos; the local lads and truckers were at it again. It was late night when I could sleep and then took off very early in the morning. I stopped for a quick snack at a roadside sweet shop and then started negotiating the uphills. The settlements were at the bottom of the hills while the hilly forests seldom had any human presence. As it turned out the gear flywheel was wobbling bad and I had to keep stopping in between to keep the transmission floating.

In the middle of the hilly forests, I saw deer crossing the highway in a panicked hurry and my heart skipped a beat. Very soon, I heard a tiger roar from the valley below and that gave me wings, my MTB rocketing away from the scene. The predator was herding the deer and would have crossed the highway in their pursuit soon after I left. The speeding stint wrecked the flywheel a bit more and soon I was making regular stops along the way. Tiger or no tiger there was no way out of this. Trucking traffic was zooming up and down intermittently.

The transmission gave up as soon as I crossed the Reserve area with the gear flywheel spitting out shiny steel ball bearings. There was no option but to head to Seoni, the nearest town, and replace the gear flywheel. Somehow the MTB hobbled on about 40 km. to Seoni and I was directed to a small but able bicycle repair shop. 

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In case you didn’t know, the above is a geared flywheel that screws on to the back wheel hub of a bicycle, the chain wraps around the various sprockets of the flywheel with the help of a derailleur ( not shown in the pic ). It’s from my other roadie bike.

I had a spare chain and gear flywheel but not the flywheel unscrewing tool, the repair shop people replaced the transmission ( flywheel and chain ); and handed me a spare tool all on a nominal charge. I was offered lunch which I had to decline because this repair had cost me precious time. The repair shop owner also gifted me with a nice diary and some fancy stuff. India is full of nice people! I took off in the afternoon and doubled my speed but had to make small stops to fine-tune the gear system. 

Again, it was some tough uphills and an inquisitive gentleman on a moped caught up with me as I was huffing and puffing up the slopes. He guided me to an outhouse maintained by a local Dhaba. The funny thing is that the outhouse was guarded by about half a dozen Pomeranian mutts. They were smallish but acted aggressively by feigning a charge. It was enough to scare any local who tried to venture near the outhouse! The nights were cold and I managed to sleep a bit, taking off early the next morning.

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The outhouse where I stayed for the night.

I crossed into the Lakhnadon region and made good speed stopping only for tea-samosa and lunch. Stopped to take in some breathtaking scenic views too.

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Nearly dry lake/river bed. Near Lakhnadon.

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This river bed was completely dry. But, it was hauntingly beautiful.

Stopped at a roadside hotel, about 120 km. from my previous location, it was on the North-South corridor. There was a scenic pilgrimage site before the hills leveled out, called Barman on the banks of the Narmada river. Made a halt there to soak in all the beauty and record it on my mobile cam too! The hilly region gave away to plains a bit further on, it was smoother cycling and I stopped for a quick food break.

Barman pilgrimage site on the banks of river Narmada.

Started again early morning and made good speed to cross into Damoh district, encountering gradual uphills along the way; stopping just 20 km. short of Damoh town, again in a Dhaba. My bottom was too sore at this point to care for any more smartphone pics and there were just towns/settlements and zooming traffic to see. More importantly, I was beyond Damoh town and the surrounding small settlements as quickly as possible. The hilly forests of interior Damoh district restored my spirits somewhat although it was quite hot. There was an incident of my chain wrapping itself all over the gear flywheel which took about an hour to restore.

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Yours Truly with the world-famous MTB, at a chai-samosa stall in hilly forests of Damoh. The white garment is called a ‘safa’ and is standard wear amongst these parts.

My clothing was deliberately chosen to make myself appear as local as possible. It’s best to blend in rather than stick out when traveling alone. The run was now getting enjoyable and I was tending more to slow down and soak in more of the greenery and forests. Made a halt at a known Dhaba near Batiyagarh and started the next morning, making a stop shortly after seeing a couple of foxes foraging around in dense forests.

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Dense forests near Batiyagarh, with the beast aka MTB in the background.

The forests around Batiyagarh had a good population of wild monkeys and foxes, locals told me that there were bears and leopards in the interior parts of the forest. The ubiquitous road repairs further down the hills had the same irritating results plastering me and the bike with dust. After this, I managed to make good speed and crossed Chhatarpur, M.P., and kept on going until I reached the outskirts of Mahoba, U.P., where I lodged up in a roadside motel. It was the 26th of December, 2017.

The route back to Kanpur, on the 27th of December, 2017, was quite familiar, Mahoba-Kabrai-Hamirpur-Kanpur, and I remember lazing around Hamirpur, trying to take in all the greenery and fresh air before entering the stale, toxic air of Kanpur. Heavy trucking traffic starts about 60 km. from Kanpur after evening hours and it becomes very difficult to cycle through it all. This is also true for most highway traffic in India. I made it to my residence in Kanpur at about 8 pm.

Evening and night cycling should be avoided at all costs since there is negligible traffic rule enforcement on our highways. Truckers regularly stock up on booze and sleep on their steering wheels while driving in the night. Road driving in India is on average extremely rash and risky, with the highway roadsides littered with carcasses of smashed vehicles. Most heavy vehicles use high beams while driving on highways and make sparing use of dippers, this can disorient cyclists. Another aspect to be remembered is that there is an abundance of debris on the highway lanes used by cyclists. I had encountered numerous instances of glass debris, making sure that I avoided them as best as I could to save me from a tire puncture. Overtaking buses and trucks give out a special horn signal here and one has to be very alert to heed the call and leave the road or be knocked down since there is no lane discipline here. The overtaking vehicles mostly hog the whole road, in which case the only option is to hit the dirt track next to the road. A rearview mirror is a must.

The whole journey was unimaginably rewarding to me, as I could for once escape the toxic aired concrete jungle that my city had become. Viewing all that greenery and wildlife gave me hope that some parts of my country are still untouched by the so-called development here. Although vehicular traffic and blaring horns followed me up the forests too, I did negotiate patches where there was fresh air available. It was good to be out there. I think my MTB would agree to this! 

P.S.:- Have edited the Barman pilgrimage part, as I had mixed up its location as post-Damoh earlier while posting, whereas it is much before Damoh district by a good distance. Made some additions in the Damoh part too. Apologies for the Barman mixup.