In continuation of my previous cycling journeys, in the months of November and December of last year, I drove through some of the same routes through which I had cycled. I thus folded the back seat of my car, dismantled my bike and put it there while driving through Rajasthan and then through Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Food that you consume serves both as nourishment as well as a fuel for your bicycle. A fuel-efficient car is thus a good match.
I set out on November 19th from Noida through Gurgaon and onwards towards Jaipur. I stopped for lunch in Bawal in front of the guesthouse where I had spent the first night on my cycling tour of Jaipur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. The people at the reception did not recognize the photo of their own guesthouse which I had taken in February! Later in the afternoon, I briefly stopped by the hotel near Shahpura where I had spent the second night and there, sure enough, the owner remembered me from my trip nine months before. That just shows how people have a knack for remembering unusual or unconventional things or events. I had initially thought that I would spend the night in Sikar. After having arrived there at 8:00 pm, I decided to drive further on. As it so happens, driving on the roads in India in the dark is not really advisable due to unforeseen vehicles unexpectedly appearing on the road in the poor lighting conditions which are generally prevalent. I eventually stopped at 2:00 am at a place located 595 km from Noida. I was back on the road the next morning at 10:00 am and drove through the Thar Desert. I briefly stopped at the hotel located 4km away from Pokaran where I had stayed while cycling and again, the staff members recognized me and pointed out how thin I was when I was cycling and that I had now put on weight! I reached Jaisalmer in the evening and found myself in familiar territory.
The next day, I decided to cycle to Sam village located about 45 km away from Jaisalmer. I had previously visited the Sam sand dunes for a camel ride in the desert. On the way back, there was a puncture in one of my cycle tyres and I was thus forced to hitch a ride in a truck whose driver shuttled back and forth from Jaisalmer twice a day carrying merchandise in his vehicle. He was not able to drive at night due to his poor eyesight. The following morning, I tried to cycle to Kuldhara, an archaeological site located 20 km or so from Jaisalmer but I went in the wrong direction and again had another puncture which I fixed myself and returned to Jaisalmer. In the afternoon, I made another attempt to go there and this time in the right direction. It was an abandoned village from the nineteenth century and one could see the remnants of many houses. It was a bit like the famous ruins of Pompei in Italy. I had taught French for a couple of months at the Air Force Station in Jaisalmer following my cycling journey there. So before leaving, I said goodbye to the various street food vendors whom I had gotten to know at the Hanuman Circle where I used to dine while teaching there. The ambiance there was quite interesting. On the return journey, I came back via Bikaner which was the cycling route which I had earlier taken to reach Jaisalmer from Jaipur.
A few days later, I set out on another journey to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. I left Noida in the morning and arrived there in the evening. The next morning, I cycled 32 km to the Neelkanth temple after fixing yet another tyre puncture. It was a very steep climb and I passed by the famous Lakshman Jhoola. When I reached the temple, an NRI from California started congratulating me as he had seen me cycle from his taxi and it seems I had caught people’s attention since everyone else drove to visit the temple. He then asked me questions about cycling and I referred the Impact News website to him to read about my other cycling adventures. I returned to Rishikesh in the evening and discovered an interesting sweet called Bal mithai which is a specialty of Uttarakhand.
Given the various punctures in the tyres of my road bike, I decided to purchase a mountain bike with thick tyres. In order to inaugurate it, I headed back to the hills of Uttarakhand but this time in the region of the Jim Corbett National Park. I drove from Noida to Kashipur where I spent the night and the next morning, I arrived in Ramnagar which is the town located next to Corbett. I then reassembled my new bike and rode to the Garjiya Devi Temple located on a hilltop. When I returned, I went in the opposite direction towards the Hanuman Dham, another very interesting temple there. While having peanuts in the evening, when I asked the vendor until what time he remained there, he said that he returned home as soon as the customers left as there was a danger of elephants and tigers prowling around there! From his remark, I understood that the Jim Corbett Park was not restricted to the physical surroundings of the forested parts visited by tourists in safari jeeps but was indeed the entire region around Ramnagar and thereabouts since the animals were not kept in cages but lived in their natural habitat.
On my return the following day, I stopped to have an omelette for breakfast on the roadside outside Ramnagar. It was truly one of the most delicious omelettes I have ever tasted. When I made that remark to the vendor, he told me that a lawyer and his wife regularly drive from Kashipur to Nainital and invariably order omelets from him on their way!