I left Chandigarh knowing that I had a tough few days to get through. I had decided to ride directly from there to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh – a distance of around 870km, which I wanted to get done in five days and in six days maximum.
This would be the furthest I had ever ridden in such a short amount of time and the only thing that made me think it was possible was the fact that I knew the road was pretty flat and that I was planning on travelling on Indian National Highways which I hoped would be in good condition.
In order to cover this distance I would have to do just over 170km every day. I had only ridden over 170km once before on this entire journey so I was not sure how I came to think that I would be able to do it for five days in a row on India’s unpredictable roads. I was going to try though and hope that I would be able to average around 20kph for each day…
The first day started well, I managed to get off just before 7am and I flew off south. The roads were as I had hoped, flat and smooth and I was zipping along.
I stopped here for a break, where bad spelling can save you from copyright claims, or bad location anyway:
As I rode into the afternoon it quickly became apparent that it had gotten hotter during my few days in the north of India and the sun had gotten stronger. I had to put sun cream on and I could really feel the sun beating down on me.
I also had to change my route as I went. I had originally decided to take the shortest route that googlemaps gave me but it quickly became clear this wouldn’t be the quickest way as about 10km after leaving the highway as directed the road totally disintegrated and became a series of potholes in a rock strewn packed gravel horror.
I turned around realising if the route continued anything like that I was never going to make my destination in the time I had set, or indeed make it anywhere.
Back on the highway I continued quickly while wilting somewhat in the sun, I eventually had to pull on my long sleeved cycle jersey to keep the sun off my arms.
I was glad to finally find somewhere to stay that night after 200km of riding as I felt just about ready to collapse.
Finding somewhere was not as easy as I had hoped – the first place I rode into was a bit more expensive than I wanted and the restaurant was totally vegetarian. So I asked the owner if there was another cheaper hotel nearby. He told me that no there were no more places to stay from here to Delhi for 80kms. This sounded unlikely and in fact a barefaced lie so I decided to ride on a bit further and chance it. And lo, a couple of kilometres up the road there was somewhere else to stay – equally expensive but with a better restaurant…
The next day was very similar except I was now more ready for the sun and started out wearing my long sleeves as I didn’t think my arms would be able to take another day in the sun. I also had to recross Delhi something that I had not expected to have to do originally.
It was no where near as daunting as the first time and I managed to get through the city in reasonable time. I had more trouble with the next town of Faridabad which is a suburb of Delhi.
Here traffic was almost at a standstill and all the cars were spilling off into the sides of the road which had been churned to mud. I was riding on surfaces worse than any I had had to ride on in the deserts of central Asia in the most urbanised area of India. My mudguards almost got clogged it was so bad.
Eventually I was through and had nice clear highway for the next few hours before I laid up for the night again in a roadside Motel in the state of Haryana.
Riding along I was a bit of a sight, and everywhere I passed people would whistle or scream for my attention and as I rode through towns I would hear ‘cycle something’ everywhere. If I stopped for a snack or a call of nature it wouldn’t take long for me create a crowd and people would surround my bike and poke it and ask what various bits were for.
I was on target so far and this continued for the third day’s riding. The landscape was changing now and was moving from totally flat fertile plains to slightly more undulating and much more barren countryside.
I crossed this massive river too:
That night I reached the town of Morena just across the border in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It was a bit of a dump to be honest and the hotel I ended up in was a lot of a dump. Where I spent the night being savaged my mosquitoes and hoping nothing in the bed would eat me alive.
Riding on the next day the road got harder as it started to degrade in parts and making ground was a lot tougher. I was chewing dust and avoiding potholes for longer periods than I would have liked. In the afternoon the sun got really bad. I was now wearing a long sleeve cycle jersey, a sun hat that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the foreign legion and full gloves. I’d also tied a scarf round my right leg to keep the sun off my calf as I rode as it was burning quite badly.
I was starting to wonder if fleeing the cold in central Asia had been such a good idea after all! Thankfully having managed to cover just about every inch of exposed skin and with the breeze from riding cooling me the heat was just about bearable and I could continue.
That night I would reach Orchha, a pleasant tourist town with a few sights I had enough time to just about catch before night fell.
I’d been waking up as early as possible to start riding at first light to get as much time as possible in the day and to ride when it was a bit cooler. This meant I got to see some beautiful sunrises.
In the morning and the evening the sun really does hang there like a red gold orb for half an hour before it sets or rises.
Starting the final day of this section was tough and riding it was tougher. I could feel that my body had had enough and forcing it through the nine hours of riding that day was a chore. I managed it though and managed to ride around 900km in five days, my knees were creaking and I had unusual sun burn patterns but I was there in one piece at Khajuraho, a world heritage site I had decided to spend my rest day.
I managed to find myself a reasonable hotel and after washing and securing my bike I went to find something to eat. I was happy to find a restaurant that served decent pizza – a rarity in Asia, so was able to go to sleep full and happy.
The next day I went to look around Khajuraho, which is well known as being the place with the Kama Sutra temples and it has to be said there are definitely some interesting carvings amongst the temples.