Adventures make one late for dinner - Bilbo Baggins
So I'm now back in the UK. I'm home. End of trip. That's enough of adventure for me for now.
It's tempting to write an Oscar speech thanking everyone, and gushing about how fabulous it all was. But I ain't gonna. I've thanked everyone in person, or with sweets, and, well, it wasn't all fabulous. There were amazing times, days and weeks of blissful cycling and wandering, but some days were hard. There were occasions when I just wanted to give up and go home, or at least go somewhere cooler than the baking heat of a north Indian summer.
I was probably ready for a break, but in the end I was defeated by circumstances.
The first thing to happen was that my sister called to tell me that dad was in hospital. If I hadn't had my emergency passport and a concomitant load of admin in order to change my travel plans, I'd have gone straight to Delhi and caught the next flight home. However, I decided to wait an extra day in Nahan, wait for a call from home and watch the England vs Italy quarter final. Dad seemed to be improving, and to no one's surprise he told me to carry on.
I was worried about him, and my heart really wasn't in it any more. The depressing football match didn't help. I hadn't been enjoying much of the cycling as it was too damn hot and I was having to take a huge detour to get to where I wanted to be. I thought I was a week, at most, away from getting into the high Himalayas where it would be cooler, and quieter, and better.
The next morning, I was moving slowly. It was eleven o'clock before I left the hotel, preparing to ride into the hottest part of the day, which is tough at the best of times, and I was having second thoughts about bothering. I had repaired my gear shifters only the day before, as I thought they were the source of my mechanical problem. But the bike had also felt unaccountably weird, as if it was canting to one side, leading me to think that I'd got the weight distribution wrong... I leant the bike against a wall in Nahan and gave it an experimental kick.
The whole rear end moved. That's not good.
I looked closer, and the right side chainstay had sheared off. It was obvious that this was the source of the gear changing problems on the ride up, and it seemed even more obvious that it was the end of my trip.
I rolled back to my hotel and ordered tea and toast at the restaurant. I was going to strip the bike down, salvage what I could, chuck the rest in a skip and go home. There actually was a skip around the corner from the hotel. I'd just have to make sure I didn't brain any monkeys when I threw the frame in.
While I was sulking, the hotel manager came in and looked at me.
"Why are you still here?" he asked.
I explained, and took him outside to show him the problem.
He looked down at the bike, gave the rear end a shove and said "This is not a problem. We can fix this."
We chucked my bike in his jeep and went down to his mate Vishwal's welding shop, only a five minute drive away, chatting about his drive through Kinnaur and Spiti on the way. That's where I had been planning to go next.
The welding shop was as ramshackle as you'd expect, with a dog asleep amidst a tangle of wires, and enough bits to make the halfs of six or seven vehicles, but not a complete car or auto-rickshaw in sight. Still, Vishwal clearly knew his trade, and... well, here's the video.
Good on you, Vishwal. Half an hour later we were back at the hotel and the staff were taking my bike for test rides around Nahan's alleys.
Nevertheless, I was on the bus back to Delhi the next day.
I always thought that there were two things which could make me end my trip early (assuming that I avoided injury and stayed sane); an emergency at home, or a catastrophic failure to my bike, such as the frame breaking. Both of those happened, and on the same day. I can recognise an ending when I see it.
I stayed in a decent hotel, and though I had a couple of days negotiating with Indian officials to organise my visa, it was relatively straightforward. I was an old lag at it by then. A couple of pleasant flights over the Hindu Kush and up the English east coast and I was back, dazed, enjoying the proper skies and late nights that an English summer offers. Not to mention the food. I arrived for my sister's 40th birthday dinner, at your typical English country pub with your typical English country pub food. I had the roast dinner, of course. With a few pints of beer.
I've now been back more than two months, which feels like no time at all. It's been fabulous to see my friends and family again, and easy too. Too easy, hence the length of time it's taken to update this.
It might be better to have come back so suddenly, rather than having had a drawn-out countdown. But, there's so much I didn't get to see. I'm particularly disappointed to have been so close to the Indian Himalayas, and to have been turned back, first by military-controlled zones, then by events.
Needless to say, it's now time to start planning a different trip, and a different bike. I was very pleased not to have to hoy my bike into a skip in India, and to be able to being it home. The weld's still going strong.
Too much to say here. Which is the reason this has taken me so long to finish; I've so much left to say that I didn't know how to fit it all in. But that's how the journey came to a premature end, and look out for the book (which I need to get around to writing). I didn't put everything into the blog, so there are a few good stories you've yet to read. I'll see you all on the road somewhere.