Monday, Mar. 2, 9:43 PM
Hanovar, Karnataka, India
Last week, Amy busted her hand (with a fracture of the ring finger in the middle of her hand) and earned a bright pink cast that she’ll be wearing for 6 weeks. We thought this was Game Over, and we’d only been on 3 rides! The orthopedic surgeon came on a special visit from his private practice in Panaji to the Manipal Hospital right by our apartment in Dona Paula, and upon telling him of our predicament he said to her “I can make it so you can ride, but not so you can fall!” and he wrapped her up with a curve in her hand so that she can grip the handlebar. This seemed somewhat preposterous, but we gave it a couple days to mull over, let the swelling go down, we took a couple test runs, and surprisingly it seems do-able. Game On! (Only in India!)
Touring in the heat of south India as summer approaches is no joke. We’ve already covered nearly a few hundred km (along with our guest cyclist on the 6-gear Indian Queen bike she acquired for cheap) and we’re going strong. Midday temperatures yesterday topped 39C in the sun, 35 in the shade (nearly 100F), so we start out very early in the morning, aiming to take a break around lunchtime for a few hours at a beach (or at least in the shade), and then maybe ride a bit more in the late afternoon-dusk. Yesterday, after 40kM with some serious uphill battles, we lunched and floated in the ocean in Agonda, a beautiful and quiet beach 10km north the fabulous Palolem beach, (and last stop in Goa). It takes a strong will to keep it going, even for me with over 1700kM under my belt, but even Amy with 1.5 hands is making it happen with impressive deftness.
Our first day out of Goa was our hottest challenge yet. We biked through a port city called Karwar, had a fabulous(ly cheap) lunch at a local canteen, and killed a couple of the hottest afternoon hours in town doing errands. At 3:30 we hit the road again, and had to contend with some serious commercial traffic and hills… I had just made it up a big hill when a motorcyclist told me my friend was in an accident and needed me… I zoomed down the hill to find Amy sitting on the side of the road, surrounded by 30 or 40 men, many in uniform. She was shaken, her bags had come off her bike, but she was not hurt. Trucks had come too close, forcing her off her bike, and the truck actually had to back off her bike and bags, which were trapped underneath. I wasn’t there, but it’s a miracle she came out of it OK. Funny thing is, on my way down the hill to fetch her, I noticed a huge gas truck on its side in the ditch, maybe 30 yards before Amy (hence all the cops and military personnel who were supervising the port). I thought that was HER accident, but it wasn’t. Perhaps just a contributor to the disorder and traffic in that junction. After a little time-out and some much-needed hugs, we continued on.
We were kicking our butts that day to make it to Gokarna, which we thought would be a 70km ride but actually turned out to be more around 100. Evening fell, we were still 15-30km from the city (depending on who you asked) in a village named Ankola, so we found a budget hotel. I hated our room from the start, it was unbearably hot and I found a giant hole in the bed under the mattress, and requested another room (none available) or at least a price reduction to which the manager agreed to at first. Then he had a boy put a piece of wood over the hole, Fixed!, and demanded full price. The girls were dog tired, so we settled-in. Amy was asleep in minutes but I stayed awake, writing in my journal. Within 15 minutes I looked at my travel pillow and it was infested with bugs, maybe 10 all over and in the seams! Not sure if I brought them from our hut in Palolem or not, we scoured our belongings killing bedbugs until they seemed eradicated. I drowned my pillow for the night in soapy water. After an hour or two of this, Amy went back to sleep. I crawled into my sleep sack (treated with Permethrin, and insecticide) and hoped for the best. A few hours later I woke up covered in bugs. They were everywhere. I started squashing, and now my sleep sack is covered in blood (despite the stain stick). We went down to Jamey & Sara’s room to share the bed and try to get a couple hours of sleep. Next morning we were on the road by 7am, and I was moody because I had no fewer than 200 bites ALL over my body. I wish I could remember the name of the place, as I’d write it up on TripAdvisor.com, who ironically sent me an email 2 days ago entitled “The Dirtiest Hotels Ever”.
Day 4 with the new group found us in Gokarna, where we biked right to our huts on the beach and stayed for 4 nights. Gokarna is an ancient and very holy village, where Indian pilgrims flock to year-round and outnumber the other tourists 50:1, so it finally felt for once like we were truly in India. We were racing down the coast 200+km to reach the town and catch the last day of the Shiva festival that was going-on there the week before, but unfortunately the big processions were formally over by the time we arrived. Town was still crowded, a big carnival and market on the beach were still present, and we made the rounds to see all the big temples. We also laid in many hammocks, ran into friends from Goa and made new ones, and hiked an hour+ to the beautiful and relatively secluded beaches nearby (Cudle Beach, Om Beach, and Paradise Beach.) So far in both states we’ve found them (first in Maharastra and now in Karnataka), Paradise Beach lives up to its name, and it’s a debate among us which is our #1 and #2 favorite beaches of them all so far. Both required us to hire a private boat to ferry us there, and at each there were only a hand full of people. Fantastic!
I can’t believe it was only this morning that we left Gokarna (on the road at 5:30!) Our biking for the day was done by 11, and we reached our goal, Hanovar, a day trip away from the tallest waterfalls in India, Jog Falls. Unfortunately, for a couple different reasons, we might not be seeing them tomorrow: Amy’s stomach is trying to kill her (I don’t know how she made it today, but she’s a trooper), and the falls are mostly dried-up, as the rainy season ended months ago. At least this town is OK, the hotel is good and cheap, and everyone around is friendly. The restaurant downstairs tried to kill me with the spiciest malai kofta (or any dish I’ve tried for that matter) since the onset, but that comes with the territory of heading into the heat of Southern India, where every day will just get harder and hotter.