Sunday, 5 February 2012

Delhi-ing Tactics

I'm camping somewhere near...well, somewhere on the road to Jaipur. I've ridden seventy-some miles today and there's another hundred and some to Jaipur, so that's a day and a half of easy riding if it stays as flat as today. It's quite fun to trounce along at 18 mph all day.

I was a bit nervous about camping - mainly nervous about security, and not security against tigers. This is such a populous place that there's no spare land, and I've been riding along today examining the roadside. Even though the NH8 goes through far more rural places than the roads north of Delhi, which was like riding through one very long town, there still aren't many quiet copses or abandoned houses I could use as shelter. The abandoned house turns out to have three families living inside it...

I have eventually found a quiet place behind some bushes and near a pond. This isn't as peaceful as it may sound - I'm only a hundred metres or so from the road and the traffic isn't letting up. I can hardly hear the calls of the wading birds in the pond, and I'd have no chance of hearing somebody approach in the night.

I'm still pleased to be back camping again. Last night's hotel was a dump. The walls were paper thin and I was awoken by the dawn chorus of the guy next door hawking, hacking and spitting so percussively that I had to go and check we weren't sharing a bathroom. He did it three more times while I was cooking my porridge. Then, at checkout, the guy at the counter tried to wangle 50 extra rupees out of me as a 10% tax. I wasn't rude (even though I'm at my snarly worst in the mornings, especially after being woken by somebody's nasal passage), I just wasn't paying it. Maybe something of my mood came over, as he didn't press the point and went on to ask me where I was going. Hah. Away from this dump, mate.

The ride out of Delhi was easy. I've always found riding and navigation in Delhi pretty easy. I stopped at a wee supermarket to get a couple of bits for the day, and waved at all the bus passengers, armed soldiers, layabouts and street people who stared at me as I passed. And the main road to Jaipur, NH8, is quite usable. I had a late start but I still covered seventy-odd miles before I stopped at about 4.30.

The hiatus has left me I a bit out of practice at camping, though. I nearly set fire to myself with my petrol stove just now, as I forgot to check the seal was in place, and even though I was pouring petrol onto the dry grass, I still tried to light it. The flames have died down now, though, and I've had my tea. I've opened one of the beers I bought in Connaught Place yesterday and which I carried all day. I've only passed about twelve English Wine and Beer shops. Ah well. It's a long time since I sat outside a tent with a beer, looking up at the moon and stars.

A lot of other cyclists I've met only camp on sufferance, when forced to by their budget or the lack of a hotel, but I've always thought of it as a central part of my trip. I like to be independent, I like the sense of my own space, I like the solitude, and I enjoy the rituals of finding a suitable spot, making sure to have enough food, ducking into the tent when it becomes too cold and striking camp as early as I can be bothered in the morning. Maybe I'll take an extra day on the road to Jaipur, and have another night under canvas.

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