Sunday, 24 June 2012

Access Denied: No Room at the Ashram

Day 316, 22/06/2012 - Mussourie, Kemptie Falls, Yamuna Bridge, detour, Juddo, ???: 41.68 miles, 3:37:17, 33.0 mph max, 9098.6 miles total

Turns out, my hotel had only been a mile from the Mall at the centre of Mussourie, though it was quite a mile! The road up to The Mall rejoices in the name of Palpitation Slope. I stopped for breakfast halfway up.

Mussourie was busy and a bit scruffy. The other former British hill station I'd visited, Shimla, was much cleaner and better kept. I pushed on, and downwards.

My route was to take me by the most direct route available into the hills; minor roads were marked on my map going from Mussourie to Yamuna Bridge, Chakrata, Rohru and Reckong Peo (I'll put up a link when I get to a proper computer).

This started well, though on the eighteen-mile descent to Yamuna Bridge I lost nearly all the height I'd gained. I had hoped to get high and stay up in the cooler air, but I had at least this one valley to cross, and probably more, so more hard work in the heat.

Not that the descent wasn't fun. There was quite a lot of traffic down to the spectacular but overdeveloped Kemptie Falls, but I soon left the bustle behind, and got to practise my racing line on the hairpins.

The Yamuna was clean and bright at this stage of its journey, unlike the mucky sewer which you can smell from half a mile away in Delhi, and it cuts a great cleft through the hills. It was a steep climb back out of the valley.

Yamuna Bridge

I took the unmarked minor road towards Chakrata, and had to take a few breaks to escape the sun. There was a handy bus shelter. As the road went up the surface became imperceptibly worse, until I noticed I'd left the tarmac behind. I was riding so slowly, I didn't notice the change until I was riding across loose rock rather than worn tarmac, and my speed fell from about 4 mph to about 2.5 mph. Still, it was only 25 miles to Chakrata, and I'd be picking up the highway again after another ten miles. I expected to be there before dark.

There was very little other traffic, but a jeep driver waved me down and told me that I couldn't go any further as the road was restricted. Apparently it's a military area, so no foreigners. I thought about ignoring him, but I wasn't very far up the road, and there was a highway up to Chakrata which took me back down the Yamuna for only seven miles or so; it was better to turn back then, rather than in another ten miles.

A quick swoop downhill back to the highway, then. I'd only come two and a half miles up that road, and I really enjoyed Highway 507, along the Yamuna gorge. Towering hills, the rush of the river below, a smooth surface (mostly), and a friendly downhill gradient. I'd have to make up all of the height again, and there was no chance of getting to Chakrata today, but I was enjoying the moment. I stopped for a snack in Juddo and asked the locals if there was a guest house nearby; the shopkeeper told me there was one in another eight kilometres.

The road deteriorated a bit after that. Actually, there are two roads alongside the river, Highway 507 on the north bank and the minor road at the south which I was following, which had suffered from landslides and water run-off caused by the monsoons. Stretches of smooth tarmac were interrupted by rocky sections which shook my luggage and my teeth.

I didn't see any guest houses, and when it started to rain, I only stopped to put my valuables inside my panniers. I didn't bother with a rain jacket - it was still hot, there was no point.

The rain worsened. Still no guest house. Eventually the rain became so bad that I had to stop. This must be what the monsoon is like, I thought. The wind was whipping about, driving the rain into my face, and the potholes became invisible under the water. I've never experienced rain like that. Even inside the restaurant where I stopped, the rain was being driven inside, over the balcony, into the restaurant, and into the bedrooms. I looked back up the valley; the dry streambed which I'd passed five minutes earlier was now a torrent of mud.

The guys were pleased to see it, as it's been an unusually dry year, but it wasn't fitting in with my plans. I wasn't going anywhere until the rain stopped, and it was simply getting worse.

The lad at the restaurant told me that I'd already passed the guest house. In fact, it was the ashram a kilometre back, which I had noticed but ignored as it appeared to be closed. I liked the idea of spending a night at an ashram, but this lad called the caretaker, and it was already full with a pack of English and Swedish students there for a retreat.

Luckily, he said I could stay there for the night. He offered me his own bed, but I said that was daft, as I had a sleeping bag and bivvy bag, which I happily used to bed down on the balcony. It was pleasantly cool. The whole family came to talk to me, and we talked about cricket and and offers of marriage, amongst other random subjects, until they realised how tired I was and let me get some sleep.

my bed for the night

No comments:

Post a Comment