eliot & drew bike through india for 3 months, trying to inconspicuously do some good in the world.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drew & Eliot beyond Ratnigiri-dome

after chai with the Alsacian contigent, we bid farewell with plans to meet in Goa in three days.  that means some heavy biking for me and eliot, so we stock up on quinoa, lentils and masala sauce from the local market. we purchase a bar of tide to wash clothing with that night. seriously: we stink.

we walked over to a restuarant for more tea and chai. there, a cow arrives on the doorstep and moos. a man from the kitchen feeds it some bread and pats it's "third eye", before the cow proceeds to urinate all over the entrance to the restuarant not 15 feet from us. we exchange glances. wether this is a blessing or a curse depends entirely on which side of the pacific you come from.  recall that cows are revered and furthermore, hinduism generally believes that the fienst souls get reincarnated as cows, to spend their lives wandering the country and eating what is given to them. we see a cow pissing in a resturaunt. this guy sees a holy man or a wise woman who has chosen to grace this place with his presence. perspective, folks. gotta have it.

back in the room, i try to true my awfully untrued bike wheel only to mess it up even more. a few minutes of cursing loudly subsides when we journey to the local bike walla to have the thing professionall fixed. he trues the wheel with much bemoaning and dirisive laughter. i don't speak hindi, but i'm pretty sure when we walked up and handed him the wheel he muttured something like "blankety-blank gringos." (a note: walla here means "guy or person" as in chai walla, bike walla, plumbing walla, computer walla, etc. it has also become a term me and eliot use for any thing jury-rigged into working like, say, our poorly strapped bags on our bikes. eg: "wow, using duct tape to seal a wound? way to walla that, dude.") running late on our departure, we head to the cyber cafe and send some e-mail out to friends and family.

ratnigiri is not a pretty town.  it's big, smells awful and has nothing to offer in tourism, even the guide book says so. what it doesn't mention though that you should know, is that it is the best place on the Kohkin coast to resupply. food, soap, clothing, shoes - there are shops of all kinds here and the rates are very reasonable. internet is plentiful and hotels and services are very cheap. there are fruit markets (for the brave) and beer.  find a cheap room, refuel and then get back on the road. the aluminum siding walls hastily erected around blown-up concrete buildings, trashfires and rats brazingly feasting in the road makes this place seem more like a set piece from Mad Max that a sleepy Indian village. I spent a week in Ratnigiri one night, if you know what i mean.

when we finally did get on the road, we discovered that we had to take the inland highway (#17) and couldn't stay on the coast without battling the headache of negotiating ferries and days spent going to and from the national highway anyway. we were a little bummed, and not looking forward to what we thought we be at least three days of climbing the Ghats. but when we started the ride, we found that the day of rest and good eating had paid off. plus, the roads were exceptionally maintained, traffic was not too badand there were many watering holes along the way.

we practically flew up and down hills all day on our way south.  we would be climbing for some ten or fiften minutes straing, only to crest a hill and coast for five minutes or so at 30+ mph. brilliant riding through gorgeous mountains (if severly technical - we moved up and down the gears all day).  we even stopped for water at the office of a land developer who gave us tea and showed us around his property.  he gave us advice on the best time to buy alphonse mangoes (see our food week article for more on that) and invited us to coem back and see him anytime - particularly in may when the mangoes would be best.

we rode another hour and made camp on soe unused land in a village. as ever, the locals were very interested in who we were, what we were doing, etc. after a while, the dispersed and we settled into sleep.

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