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Today’s 145k ride was beautiful – the definition of good cycling in the way folks who ride long distance recreationally would typically define it.  
Lovely scenery, mostly good roads with minimum deterioration or construction or traffic, a climb that was just challenging enough, a couple of excellent descents and an easy flat in.
Funny, but it’s amazing how “normal” can quickly seem boring.
Not that I was bored today, but it was a real change from the mental alertness required on previous rides to navigate potholes, traffic and village chaos.
We started heading through the hills that were in front of us yesterday. Long winding climbs –probably 8% grade. Truckers were very courteous and yelling and cheering us on up the pass – clearly a bunch of helmeted colorful westerners crawling up a mountain is not a normal thing they see.  But they were for us – lots of thumbs up and hollers and cheers.  We passed a broken down bus where everyone was walking (somewhere- we were way out from a city so not sure where they could go on foot) and they all cheered us by.  Very sparse population up there, few people, cars and some lovely clean air.
After the descents we flattened out onto a busier road lined with trees. I understand the trees are courtesy of the British who wanted troops shaded while moving.  Those trees are wonderful … it’s striking what a difference they make. They arch over the road and are not only lovely, they provide blessed shade. The bottoms are painted red with white stripes on the top making them into a natural version of streetlights to guide cars in the dark.
The look of the people has changed, too. Women now are as likely to wear the Salwar Kameez as a sari.  They rarely practice purdah- or covering their face.  I saw several women with skirts pulled up through their legs actually showing skin- these seemed much more practical work clothes than the full sari.
Men are in mostly western style clothes though I still saw a few turbans and the white loin cloths (think about what Ben Kingsley wore in Gandhi – many men we’ve seen are dressed that  traditionally.)  This country did not look prosperous, and it was more sparsely populated. But I suppose that’s where dams tend to be built – way out in rural areas.
Tonight we are camped in a field behind several huge greenhouses that are full of long stem roses I assume waiting to be exported.  This feels like a throwback to what it must have been like in colonial times… it’s a bit odd.
We are in huge tents with carpeting, a separate bathroom and a porch.  We have heavy wood porch furniture, bed frames and mattresses off the ground, nightstands and tables and a freestanding toilet, sink and shower basin. There is a water system sourced from a huge water tank that apparently 2 men with buckets filled bucket by bucket.  The water is linked on a continuous line to each tent.  It doesn’t quite work… there is enough water pressure to fill a bucket if you hold the nozzle really low and not enough for the sink.  Not sure what happens when you flush the toilet and where that goes … not sure I want to. 
It’s completely ridiculous, in an ingenious sort of way.  Especially for me who is perfectly happy in a backpacking tent and peeing in the woods.  It reminds me of those movies you see of rich people who go on safari and (unseen on screen)have their staff of 50 minions doing days of advance work to ready them for roughing it in their luxury tents and dining rooms. Or maybe it’s a throwback to colonial India … you can totally picture the British moving around the country in the 1800s just like this. Which makes us like them? 
Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA