Yes, that’s right: 190 k. That’s about 115 miles – just shy of my previous longest ride of 120 miles.
It wasn’t supposed to be that long, but when they took Alan to the hospital they discovered that 60k of the highway we were supposed to ride was torn up and unrideable, so they scouted a new trip that added a lot of distance.
The thing I’ve discovered about riding here in India is that it takes exponentially longer to cover mileage here than in the states. A combo of the road conditions, trying to navigate, being flagged down to talk … whatever it is you count on a ride here taking longer than an equivalent ride at home. I covered the 115 miles in 10.5 hours. That’s a long time. And I was one of the first in … many were out there over 12 hours.
It was a beautiful ride though for the first part thanks to the detour that made it a long day. We passed teak and bamboo plantations, monkeys, butterflies and miles of beautiful deciduous trees.
Then we passed into very rural farming country. Cotton, corn being harvested, sunflower fields. People would flag us down to ask questions or pull up on their motorbikes while we were riding to talk. That’s sometimes OK on wide open road, sometimes not when there is traffic. This area reminded me of the country we were in the first week that was so rural. Villages were much more basic. We were much more of a spectacle and drew crowds. People didn’t really know how to act with us – they get very few tourists.
We ran into some of the same behavior by kids we saw the first week: this frenzied excitement that gradually evolved into touching, hitting, rock throwing. Kids not in school or in school uniform. Obviously poor and probably the children of laborers working the fields.
I think a lot of that behavior is genuine curiosity that turns to frustration when you don’t stop-you just smile and wave and say hello and keep pedaling. Then it becomes a game to them: how can they make you stop? What does it take to get a reaction? The bolder ones lead with each more aggressive act and are rewarded by their peers cheering them on and by our negative reactions to what they do.
From our perspective of course we have190k to ride – we can’t stop at every village or crowd or kid waving and running across a field towards us. And after a couple of aggressive acts, you don’t want to stop. You see every kid as a possible problem and get more wary and less friendly to them, which likely makes them more frustrated. And some riders react more strongly than others, and some presume more ill-will at the sight kids than others.
The town of Gadat where we stayed reminded me in some ways of Agra (sans the Taj Mahal). It’s an industry town with textile mills and farmers co-ops. It has the same dirty feel as Agra did- garbage piled up, people defecating and urinating off the main street, cows and goats and pigs roaming around eating garbage, courser behavior by men in particular towards women in our group and very few local women even visible. Very similar to Agra behaviors.
It was very much like what I would assume happens when less educated people bring rural behaviors into the city. And the city doesn’t have the resources for sanitation and basic services. So folks do what they did in the country. I saw people going to the bathroom next to the same water source being pulled into jars for drinking. That’s as basic as sanitation gets.
A shopkeeper in Pushkar told me that the biggest difference in India in the last 20 years wasn’t happening in the cities, it was in education in rural areas. I’ve certainly noticed that in areas where kids are in school, the communities are better kept and more prosperous than areas where kids are roaming when they should be in school. So it’s hard not to draw conclusions there, though they are no doubt incomplete.
Day 3 Gadat to Hospet:
Well, suffice it to say that this was my least favorite ride day yet of the entire trip. Boring with nothing to see along highway until we reached a heavily trafficked area on horrible roads and riding became a survival skill. I flung more than my share of choice words and flipped off several drivers – and I’m pretty sure the bird is clearly understood on every continent.
|Waiting on the train on the way to Hospet|
So I won’t dwell on it. But I have decided that for the most part truck drivers are good drivers- professional and capable of making intelligent decision that keep everybody safer with some exceptions (very much like US truck drivers). Civilian car drivers are hands down the worst and very arrogant and aggressive. Any form of public transportation from bus to tuk tuk will stop or pull over in front of you with no notice to pick up or drop off. But, I’m dwelling on it… so I’ll go have a beer instead and move on.