Those awful roads and outrageous levels of dust couldn’t last for ever.
They just felt like they did.
One more day north from Jamshedpur, which got me even filthier than the road there, and things started to improve.
They kind of had to, or I’d have gone completely round the twist by now.
The roads smoothed out, and, with the odd exception, have remained decently-surfaced since Ranchi, which I reached on Sunday. I even found a few small hills to play around on, though the views haven’t been too spectacular (the picture above is about as exciting as the scenery has got). And I’ve piled on some fairly big miles before another rest day here in Patna today (actually, the first rest was on Thursday; I’ve ended up having two days off here due to the still-ongoing SIM card saga…).
While the scenery hasn’t been much of a distraction, the driving standards remain hysterical, and have kept me simultaneously entertained and terrified whenever I’m not on a dual carriageway. It’s odd that the two German cyclists I met back in Vietnam were shocked by Hanoi’s traffic once they got there. While Hanoi was pretty ‘interesting’, every large-ish town in India makes it look fairly tame, in my opinion.
My favourite Indian move is the ‘Double-Take, Double-Overtake’. Usually carried out by a motorcycle with passenger, but can also be committed by tuk-tuk, or car. You overtake a foreign cyclist. You stare a couple of times, then slam your brakes on, and dive into the side of the road to let him back past. Then you re-overtake with the smartphone snapping pictures or video. Or just waving and shouting.
It’s clearly fun for the locals, but it makes for a few more mobile chicanes than I really need to be dealing with, given the general driving standards here.
And I never got driven right off the road in Vietnam. I’m at 11 times and counting so far in India. You definitely need your wits about you here…
Still, mainly larger roads brought me into the state of Bihar on Tuesday. A state with the best slogan I’ve seen in ages: ‘Welcome to the Land of Enlightenment and Salvation’. A lot to live up to. From what I’ve seen of Bihar so far, it actually seems to be the Land of Small Brickworks (pic above), at least in the more rural parts.
I rolled into the state capital, Patna, on Wednesday evening (or, at least, pushed and scraped my way in through the gridlock), with the prospect of a day off and another attempt to get a working SIM card on the agenda. As I said, it’s ended up being two days off, partly because of yet more comedy registration issues at the mobile phone shop (and no, I still don’t have a working phone, eight days after I got my first SIM card!). And partly because I’ve developed a weird heat rash which seems oddly reluctant to go away. I don’t really want to push on too far from a major city in case it gets worse, though it seems to be improving a bit now. Fingers crossed.
In any case, I’ve made it to the Ganges, India’s sacred river. The picture above is just the arm of the river which runs closest to Patna city. The whole thing is apparently somewhat bigger. I’ll cross it when I leave here.
Even with the extra day off, I’m still making decent time. It should only be a couple of days from here to the border with Nepal, which I understand will provide a little more in the way of scenic views.
And just a wee bit more climbing…