My Grand Trunk Road

A man grabbed my hand, looked at the palm, and told me; “You are very lucky”
Like he needed to tell me Smile :-)

It has been hot, as expected. And I’ve noticed (again) that my body still disagrees with the heat. If the temperature doesn’t drop below 33C at night I can’t sleep. And when it hits 40C at 8 a.m. and keeps rising, I can’t eat either. Not ideal when you still ride 100km days.
So when I arrived in Bodhgaya three days after leaving Varanasi I decided to treat myself to an air-conditioned room.
The first place I stopped to cool down and drink water, lots of water, looked expensive. And after chatting to the staff for a bit I found out it was (2000+ rupees). So when I asked the receptionist on my way out ‘You wouldn’t have a room under 500 rupees would you?’ I was surprised he answered with; “for you… yes we do.”
So there I was indulging in the luxury of a cool room, with TV. and warm and cold water. Bliss.

The night before I’d spend in my tent with the choice to get eaten alive by mosquito’s (with the tent open) or sweat like crazy (with the tent closed)
After the day cycling through ‘dangerous Bihar’, where the worst thing that happened to me was being charged twice the price for a aloo paratha (potato bread/pancake), I stopped in a village and asked at the police station where to sleep. Here, a police station is a big wall surrounding a small village where all who work there plus extended families live. The officer in charge let me pitch my tent in his courtyard while his wife made me food and cay. And no one ever asked for money.

Bodhgaya is the place where Prince Siddhartha Gautama found enlightenment under a Bodhi tree and became the Buddha. It’s a big Buddhist pilgrim place and a descendent of the original tree still stands tall. With monks chanting and meditating underneath and temples and monasteries cluttered all around. A nice place for a break. Some one gave me a leaf of the tree while some one else offered me tea. I sat down and heard about a group of 106 people walking down from Delhi to protest against the on-going in Tibet. Apparently the victims of the riots are denied medical care by the Chinese. Not very friendly of the Chinese..

I wanted to rent a motorbike to ride out to some caves where Buddha sat meditating for 6 years. But could only find a boy/bike combination. So with 18-year old Sudhi on the back, who kept reminding me to go slow while I kept reminding him to take his hands of my legs, I rode out to the caves while we both sang songs in our own language and had a swell time all together.
Half way back we ran out of petrol so my young friend went for a walk to find some, while I stayed chatting to some youths, it must have been a sight to see. First a bicycle stopped to stare, then a jeep and a motorbike passed, both looking at me instead of the road so they smashed into each other… More and more people gathered, lucky Sudhi came back so we could leave the scene. (No one was hurt)

And then the rain began.
I was hot and bothered. Dipping my scarf in every well I came across to wrap it around my head trying to keep cool.
Suddenly a strong wind came up, the sky went dark and lightning was flashing all around, the temp dropped with a whopping 20 degrees! And I felt better immediately. I could go much faster, felt hungry, and started singing again. Wonderful.
I did stop for shelter at a little shop where I joined three men for tea. As I got up to pay they said;” No sister, no money, this is home delivery!”

With a smile I continued along the Grand trunk road, one of the longest roads in the Indian subcontinent with foundations dating back 2000 years. It runs from Calcutta all the way into Pakistan and has been one of the most important trade routes over centuries. And now the part between Varanasi and Calcutta is mine Smile :-)
Mostly a 4-lane highway that get used as two 2-lane roads, with traffic going up and down on either side…
End of the day I reached a town where Abhiram runs a tiny internet cafe and lives with his mum and younger brothers and sisters.
They live in a small house at the edge of town and told me to spent the night there…
I was taken around the neighborhood and had so much tea and snacks (come to my house! can I have a snap with you?) I could hardly eat the beautiful dinner that evening.

I cycled along when a man on motorbike slowed down and stated: “you are Mirjam, you come from Netherlands on your bicycle.”
….ehm.. yes..?
“I read it in the newspaper. Let’s drink tea!’
The newspaper? Turned out one of the many men gathering in my room at a police station one night was a reporter from the Hindustan Times. I wonder what the article said since none of them had spoken English and they asked all sort of funny questions:
What is your father’s name..?
What is your father’s job…?
What is your qualification..?
Are you married…?
What is your mission..?

Same day a boy slowed down and asked me what my problem was. He didn’t believe when I told him I didn’t have a problem and then told me it would be a much better idea if I’d put the bike on a bus and continued on the back of his motorbike…
I assured him I was really fine the way it was, but he could drag me up the next hill if he really wanted too… So that’s what he did, and then he got me a coke and moved on but not before telling me:
“Look, this is my India.
A little spicy, a little salt, a little sweet and a little bitter. This is India”

The last two days coming into Calcutta where great (as well).
There was a ‘Bandh’, a strike organized by some political parties shutting down all transport to protest against the rising oil prices. For me it meant that I had the whole four lanes all for myself, and some random cows, sheep, kids playing cricket and a few other bicycles.
Arriving in Calcutta with no traffic at all seemed a bit surreal but soooo nice! No waiting for traffic lights, no horns beeping like crazy and no one trying to run me over. Just lovely.

I will stay here until I find a way to cross the water.
Will keep you posted,

-xxx-

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15 thoughts on “My Grand Trunk Road

  1. Wat leuk om weer een etappe van je te mogen meebeleven! Wat heerlijk, ik mis India meteen en zie het allemaal weer voor me!

    Succes met de oversteek!!!

    Debby :-)

  2. Dag lieve Mirjam! Nog steeds in India zie ik. Je houdt het er langer vol dan ik :-)
    Pas goed op jezelf en geniet zoveel je kan!

    Liefs,
    Willem

  3. Hoi Mirjam.

    Alweer een partij van die geweldige foto’s. Vooral die van de Buddha met die wolk is schitterend!
    Leuk om de beelden bij de verhalen te zien. We zien uit naar de rest van de foto’s.

    Kus van ons!

  4. hey mir, leuk verhaal weer! hier alles goed. Bijna vakantie, maar even bij je langsgaan zit er niet in vrees ik.. veel plezier nog, xx
    Esther

  5. Hoi Mir,
    fijn weer wat van je te horen. Genieten zo te zien. Hier ook alles goed,
    liefs Karin

  6. Hi ya – how lovely to see India is still so unspoilt. I also went to the special tree. Along the Grand Trunk Road we had an elephant rock the bus to get some baksheesh – he put his forehead against the windscreen and pushed us!
    Ofcourse he got very lucky!

    I love the description of India – so true.

    I’m so glad that the Indian people are still so kind/hospitible.

    Keep enjoying your wonderful journey and take care.

    Love
    Linda xxx

  7. hey Mirjam, you’re looking great! healthy and happy and that is wonderful to see.
    It looks like I’ll be staying in NZ for the next year(ish). Have fallen in love so the world is on hold. Hopefully I’ll be here if you make it this far (I know you will!) Motueka is a very magical place, you will love it so please come and visit me!
    Until then, I’ll enjoy your awesome blogs.
    Peace out sister mine.
    xxx

  8. Oh, I love to read your stories. Makes me wanna come back to spicy, salty, sweet and bitter india.

    Enjoy it!

    Christine

  9. lieve Mirjam.We zijn gisteren even naar lelystad gegaan,we zitten de komende weken in het huis van Marijke en Hans,maar nu dus een dagje thuis.Wat een prachtige serie foto,s en wat zie je er goed uit.geniet maar verder van al het moois en een goede reis van ons dikke knuffel opa en oma.

  10. Weer prachtige foto’s!! Mooi om met reisverhalen te gaan uitgeven, kun je met de opbrengst je volgende wereldreis gaan doen :-) :-)

  11. Oh I’m so glad that it’s not only me who found 100kms in 44 degrees a little tricky! Still now my bum has healed I’m already planning the next bicycle trip. x x

  12. Maybe you can send an e-mail to our Prime Minister Harry Potter to ask him to lobby for a Chinese visa. That’s probably easier then trying to find a way to cross the water ;-)
    Just joking :-D I’m sure you will find something on it!

    Good luck!

  13. hallo Mirjam. ik lees je blog al een tijdje. ik heb (elektronisch, via mn werk) toegang tot de full text van de Hindustan Times. heb helaas geen artikel over je kunnen vinden. >> (bike* or bicycle*) and (dutch or girl or woman)
    weet je zeker dat het de Hindustan Times is?

  14. 2500 roepie?? Wat een debiele afzetters zijn het soms toch… Maar ik ben blij dat je fiets nog leeft. En gelukkig heb je Hollandaises gevonden voor morgen! Jochem ligt met rillende koorts op bed dus ik hoop dat hij morgen kan kijken in Park. Ik ben gelukkig aan de betere hand . Misschien regelen we een luxe kamer met tv! We gaan trouwens asap richting de Andaman eilanden, dus als we heel hard ’tis stil aan de overkant’ bleren kan je ons misschien horen ;-) . Succes met fietsen! x Roos

  15. i’d give you a room for under 500 rupees anyday… better watch out now that you are famous. can just see you becoming the bicycle guru , little bit like mirjam gump with lots of followers, everybody wondering what your mission is, then one day deciding to come back home all of a sudden….. just because.

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