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February 16th, 2011 | Asia

Wet and Windy Ride to Lucknow…

I woke at 6.00am with what sounded like pebbles being thrown against my window… I staggered over to the curtains and pulled them aside, peering into the darkness of the early morning…

It wasn’t pebbles, but wind-driven drops of water…!! I remember groaning out loud as I let the curtain fall back into place…

Not only would I have to contend with the usual hazards of riding in this madhouse that was India, I now had to worry about rain and slippery road surfaces too…!! Beee-yoooo-tiful…!!

The wet weather seemed to be keeping most drivers off the road... Thankfully...!!

I loaded the Big Fella with the rain teeming down around me…

“But why are you going….??” asked the hotel manager… “It is raining…!!”

He seemed incredulous that I was actually preparing to ride out into the darkness of the early morning in such bad weather…

“Because I am not sure the Immigration authorities will accept this as an excuse for overstaying the expiry date on my visa…” I answered tersely…

Onto the highway and my first goal, Kanpur, is a wet and windy 285 kms away...!!

By 7.00am, I had crossed the Yamuna River and cleared the eastern edge of Agra… I was surprised to find most of the roads empty of traffic, and despite the rain, took this as an excellent start to the day… Rather rain than kamikaze Indian drivers…!!

Colourfully painted trucks on the road to Kanpur...

I blew a long, hard blast as I passed, "giving the people what they want"...!! All large vehicles have this message painted on their rear panels... It's for drivers too lazy to use their side mirrors...!!

The sun tries bravely to break through the heavy cloud...

Just short of Kanpur, the rain stopped and the road dried out… Then a wind got up and blew like a banshee…!! At times even stronger gusts pushed us around from one side of the road to the other… I still managed to cover almost 240 kms in the first three hours, which in India, is quite a feat…!!

Traffic was unusually light, but as we got closer to Kanpur, that changed drastically…!!

Neatly stacked and ready to go...!! Dung is sold in various shapes for fuel... Better this than chopping down tress... Africa take notice...!!

I had ridden through farming countryside since leaving Agra, and all along the roadside, “dung patties” were stacked for sale to passing motorists…

Water buffalo are used to plow the fields, so there is no shortage of dung in this area… Villagers gather the dung, mix it with water to form a thick paste and then press it into various types of moulds to form a “cake”…

I saw at least five different shapes for sale, from some as small as a pudding bowl, to the bigger ones in the photo above… I wished that Africans could adopt this idea to stop the deforestation taking place on that continent…!!

"One less missile for me to worry about...!!" was the first thought that went through my mind... I had been forced off my line so many times by trucks like this one that I never gave a thought to the driver until I looked at this photo again... He would have been on the side which was crushed...

The mother of all traffic jams greeted me as I rode into Kanpur… A truck had broken down, and in usual Indian fashion, every other vehicle was forcing it’s way in the remaining gap on the highway, eventually causing an accident which blocked the road completely…!!

I switched the bike off and went to sit among a group of well dressed businessmen who were frantically calling their offices to change their appointments…

“These bloody drivers…” one said, his voice trailing off, as he saw my eyebrows rise…

“You guys all drive like nutters…!!” I told him… “In my country, you’d get shot if you drove like this…!! South African drivers are a hot-headed lot, and do not take kindly to being cut off and hooted at…!!”

This last statement made them lapse into a sullen silence… I saw them stealing surreptitious looks at me, probably to see if I was carrying a weapon of some sort…!!

With an hour still to go to get to Lucknow, I began weighing up my options... I was mentally knackered after a long, wet and windy ride of more than seven hours...!!

I stopped outside Kanpur, after missing the exit I should have taken when the traffic jam had finally been cleared… This little error cost me about half an hour, and I was not in the best of moods when I finally heeded the coughs and grunts coming form the beast underneath me…

I noticed that we had covered 420 kms on the current tank, which cheered me up considerably…!!

“Now that’s what I call earning a drink…!!” I told the Big Fella… More coughs and a growl got me searching for a petrol station…

The manager invited me in for tea and listened while I explained the route I was planning to ride…

“There is a shorter way to Nepal, you know…!!”

We sat poring over a very basic map he drew on the back of his receipt book, and I immediately saw that while his was the shortest route to get to Nepal, it was not the shortest way of getting to Kathmandu…!!

His way did cut the distance I would have to travel inside India, but tripled the that which I would need to travel inside Nepal, which after three seconds of careful consideration, I immediately accepted as a brilliant idea…!!

While we chatted, I noticed that his gang of petrol attendants were wiped the Big Fella down, removing all the dirt and grime we had collected on the ride from Agra…!! The Big Fella must have been using his mind control tricks again… He has a way of making folk go all “mushy” over him…!!

The Hotel Mera Mann...a beacon of light after a long and dreary day...!!

The doorman snapped to attention as I arrived...

Lucknow is the capital of the Utter Pradesh province, and as such was a crammed with traffic…

By now, I was in the “Indian groove”, and shoved my way through it all, not once looking back to see the chaos I was causing… The irate hooting gave me a pretty good idea anyway…!!

I passed a few seedy looking hotels, determined to find one on this the main road that led to Faizabad, the next town on my list of places to pass through on the way to the Nepalese border…

The Hotel Mera Mann drew my attention as I was negotiating my way around a huge traffic circle…

I was trapped on the far side of the stream of maniacs who were all trying to squeeze through non-existent gaps in the traffic, and had to ride another few kilometres before I could make a u-turn and head back towards the Mera Mann…

The Big Fella stands in front of the hotel's private shrine... Not only was he safe, but could not get up to any mischief either...!!

This proved far more attractive than another three hours on the road...!!

After a hot shower, I went for a walk down the main road, to check out my surroundings…

Street scene outside my hotel... A lunatic asylum, and the inmates are in charge...!!

The pavement was taken up with little spaza shops for the most part, which forced pedestrians into the stream of traffic… After being clipped by a rickshaw, I decided that being in the hotel was a far safer option, and legged it back to the safety of the lobby…

"Mr Chetty, my phone doesn't seem to be working...!!" cried Mrs Moonsammy... "Well to be sure and all, I'm not surprised Madam...!!"

Now this is what I call a "hole in the wall" joint...!! This old fella sells biscuits and other "bits and bobs" from this over-sized cupboard, just around the corner from my hotel... Business must have been slow at the time I was passing, as he was conscientiously studying the the back of his eyelids... A very common pastime in India...

The smell wafting from the restaurant alerted my addled brain to the fact that I had not eaten since the previous afternoon…!!

A huge bowl of something called American Chop Suey....

Fifteen minutes later, a huge plate of food was set down in front of me by a very attentive waiter, who could not stop telling me “what a nice motorcycle I had”…

He could not believe that the engine was bigger than most of the cars he had seen…!! Suzuki’s are by far the most popular car driven here, and are assembled in their factory in Delhi… Most of them are in the 800cc to 1000cc range, and are perfect little cars to zip around in…

The green sauce on the left is an eye-watering, sphincter-loosening, chilli paste... After just a small sample, I made a mental note to check on my stock of Imodium when I got back to my room...

I was extremely wary of ordering anything I could neither pronounce or get a clear and concise description for, so I had settled on the “American Chop Suey”…

It proved to be one of the most delicious meals I had eaten in a long time, and after twenty minutes of concerted guzzling, I had to call it quits and send a third of it back to the kitchen…

Later, I stood watching the traffic swarming around and through the traffic circle below me… This kept me entertained for almost half an hour… It was mesmerizing to say the least…!!

I was certain that folks back home would never believe my description of it, so I set up my video camera and let it roll for a few minutes…

I then spent the next hour studying weather predictions for the next few days, and searching for routes to ride in Nepal… I also made contact with a few shipping agents to prepare them for my imminent arrival, and advised them to get their crate-makers ready…!!

I did not want to tempt fate too much by dwelling on Nepal, as I still had more than 350 kilometres to ride before I got onto the calmer roads of this mountainous country, so I rather concentrated on my route for tomorrow, praying that my last day on Indian roads would be safe and without any major incident…!!

This portrait of the quintessential Indian beauty, with her coy smile, took my mind off all the crones I had seen during my ride today...

©GBWT 2011

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