1,654km from Hyderabad to Kolkata, India by bicycle in September-October 2012.
Saturday, 6 October 2012
The 6 am Ferry Leaves at 7 am
The 6 am ferry leaves at 7 am of course. Yesterday when I had found my hotel 6 kms from the ferry I thought I would check the times with the port people. So I cycled into the town and asked what time it leaves and how much. 6 am and 45/- was the reply. So back to my hotel, eat dinner, set alarm for 5 am and early to bed. When I arrive at the ferry at 5.50 am loading is in progress and I load my bike and stake out a bit of deck. It is here I am informed that the 6 am ferry leaves at 7 am and will cost me 100/-. Time for breakfast.
After feasting on various bits of street food and chai I return to the now much fuller boat clutching a bag of cakes and an extra bottle of water. I must pause to praise the sweets I have bought. Normally I avoid these Ghee based things as they make me a bit nervous from a hygiene point of view. However these ones were so fresh I had to try them and they were exceptional. Ideal food for cycling as they must pack a hefty calorie punch.
7 am and we cast off for a great crossing of the Chilka Lake which lasts nearly 3 hours. As our stately craft powers across the lake I am slowly eased towards the gunwale by a large grandmother and her screaming grandchild. I am totally unable to sit cross legged like Indians of all ages seem to be able to do, so I sit with my legs dangling overboard. This has the double benefit of cooling my feet and easing my poor old aching bum. Unfortunately the upright bamboo pole holding up the sun shade is not attached as I imagined it to be and when I lean on it, it comes away bringing down the sun shade on everyone. Much embarrassment on my part, much hilarity elsewhere and it allows the telling of all the `stupid foreigner` tales people have.
One of the things I noticed as we crossed the lake was the tendency by everyone to use it as a dumping ground. This lake is the life blood of entire communities, home to countless birds and one of the last remaining habitats of freshwater dolphins, yet it is being polluted every day. I have asked a lot of people about this littering thing and the only explanation I have heard that sounds plausible relates to the Caste system. All the Castes except the Untouchables, whose job it is to clean up after everyone else, simply throw things to the ground when they have finished with them. Once they have done this, things cease to exist in peoples minds and are beneath their concern. This ignoring of things allows people to litter (and worse) in even the most pristine environment without any concern and/or guilt. Maybe this explains why countries like the Indonesia or Thailand are so much cleaner than India. The only part of India approaching clean is Kerela and that's run by the women.
We disembarked and 48 kms later I arrived in Puri having passed the 1000 km mark sometime in the morning. My hotel is OK and the food good so I will stay for 2 days. Puri is one of Hinduisms most important centres and receives many foreign tourists so it should be interesting.