The moment we laid our eyes on the shimmering lights dancing on the gurgling waters of Ganga Ji, we forgot that we had traveled 16 hours through hostile traffic of UP and Haryana.
The pain of a 215km grinding ride was washed away by the joy and bliss that comes down flowing along with the icy waters of Ganga Ji!
It’s good to team up with partners who are physically fitter than you. My trekking companions (Pandit Ji in particular) always motivated me to work hard on my fitness. More so when I would lag behind them by kilometers in the mountains and it’s only then I would realize why it is not a good idea to prefer beer over exercise.
Saurabh and I casually thought of going for a double hundred after we completed our first hundred ride to Kurukshetra. While Saurabh worked real hard for his double (Kasauli, Chamkaur Sahib Yatra), I simply immersed myself in whiskey and beer and what not!
I had to dive deep in the curvaceous bottles of Old Monk to find a way out of my fitness predicament. Eventually, I ended up being the weak link in our chain.
A brevet is a ride of minimum 200 kilometers, usually completed in 14-15 hours. A brevet is also called Randonneuring and it is often practiced as a non-competitive, unsupported cycling event.
0300 Hours: Chandigarh
I had been following Srini Swaminathan on Twitter that motivated me even more to ride despite my broken back and damaged knee. Have a look what this guy and his team are up to.
— Srini Swaminathan (@srini091) November 26, 2016
Sheer awesomeness, isn’t it?
Unlike our last major ride together, we didn’t drown ourselves in the viscous fluidity of Hoegaarden the night before but decided to sleep early, which turned out to be a good decision. Because when you are riding in the hinterlands of Haryana, you need all your focus on the last inch of road that’s available for you.
Ambala is 50 kilometers from Chandigarh and a cyclist gets all the respect he deserves on this stretch of road (only) in the wee hours. You can ride peacefully on the shoulder and nobody would disturb you because none can see you.
From Ambala Cantt, we entered a different world altogether. Wide open lanes passing right through the middle of sugarcane fields. Only in Haryana and Punjab can one dream of such wide roads passing through half asleep villages.
The rule of three holds true for cycling as well. We decided to divide our ride in three parts, a stopover for every 70 kilometers. As planned, we took our first break at Saha and discussed pros and cons of #demonetization with our ‘chai wala’. Unlike Diya Mirza, I am not an expert of economic affairs but I was glad to see everybody lambasting Kejriwal and his gang of stooges. An old Sardar Ji gave a two minute speech brimming with choicest cuss words directed at dynastic politics of our country. All this made us happy beyond measure and with a happy heart we embarked on the second leg of our journey.
Saharanpur – Caught In a Time Warp
We don’t want to cross Saharanpur in the wee hours.
“Not after sunset either”, quipped Saurabh.
Yeah, it wouldn’t look good to be robbed of everything in the middle of nowhere.
“Two hairy men stranded on road wearing nothing but a ‘cycling kachha’ wouldn’t make a good sight”, quipped Saurahb again.
That was the only thing we discussed before the ride. Not our travel time, not our backup plan, not our return route.
My father used to tell us stories of roadside robberies that were a part of turbulent 90s. This city is going backwards. Caught in a time warp, this city has refused everything that could lead it to betterment. A time warp helps you travel back and forth but in this case, the only direction is stone age.
Anyhow, it took us 20 minutes to cross Saharanpur and while we were at it, we tried our very best not to die because even a cyclist of Saharanpur is capable of carrying out a nuclear strike through his riding skills. Before that, the road widening works between Mullana and Saharanpur gave us little scope to ride with a free mind. The buses and trucks and motorbikes went past us like loose cannons and it was a sheer luck that we weren’t hit.
Outside the city, we made our second scheduled stop and waited one full hour for the food to arrive, which I believe is still being cooked as I write this blog three days after we left Saharanpur. The dhaba wala happily told us that we should wait another 35 minutes.
People tell you to wait for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, half an hour or one hour at worst.
Who tells you to wait for 35 minutes? I mean why not say ‘adha ghanta’? Why 35 minutes?
Eventually we left the dhaba without food and the milestone still read 56 miles.
Saharanpur – Haridwar : The Last Mile
I’m a man of mountains and rivers. The mere thought of being in the company of a river makes me happy. And when it is about Ganga Ji, the mother of all, the excitement is always palpable.
We reached Haridwar at 1800 hours and our plan was to settle down in a hotel before taking the holy dip. But we didn’t have any identity card with us. And then we roamed around like stray dogs in search of a room, which wasn’t available for us. For three hours, we laughed with random people, argued with hoteliers and finally settled in a gurudwara. And that’s the first place we should have gone to. Identity Cards or not, gurudwara always welcomes you with an open heart.
With a soft bed under my sore body, I realized that going back on the cycle would be suicidal.
On our way back the next day, we loaded our cycles on a bus and slept all they way to Chandigarh.
Still a journey that culminates at the feet of Ganga Ji is worth every drop of blood and sweat!
The Silver Collector
With a glass(magnifying maybe) in his hand, this man came asking people to make way for him while he was scouring the edges of Hari Ki Paudi Ghat.
Before I could even guess, he pushed his ‘danda’ into the gurgling stream and out comes a ‘chandi ka ganesh’. He cleaned it and gently tucked it inside his dhoti, where several other ‘chandi ke’ little bhagwan ji’s were hiding.
For the uninitiated, it is a ritual (sic) in Hindu culture to offer silver (actually copper I think) to rivers, which carries it to the souls of the deceased as prayers and good wishes.
So this man was collecting offerings made to the deceased.
Must have got one hell of a collection.
The Real Hero – Saurabh Sharma
This is the mean machine that Saurabh rides. 11 punctures in the front, no side stand, no bottle cage. Tyre tube adjustment made to hold a two liter bottle. That’s the kind of guy I train with.
Go read his blog here, you will love reading his poetic travel blogs!
We are thinking of going for a triple century in December-January. Anybody willing to sponsor our gear is most welcome :D