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Life off the road

So what happens when we aren't cycling.
Eating and sleeping both play an important part in our day. As we are now almost in to the tropics the daylight length is around 12 hours, so whilst it gets light shortly before seven, it also gets dark by seven pm. Land there is a quite short spell of twighlight. Therefore finding accommodation by the end of the afternoon is an imperative, unless we have planned to sleep out. But usually by the end of an afternoon of pedalling we are pretty hot and looking forward to a shower and somewhere to retreat to from the traffic and the congestion of the town.
In India, most 'hotels' are in fact small eating places and offer no rooms at all. We have to look for 'Lodgings'. Most towns seem to have a couple of establishments. The range of rooms is very wide. We have a rating system of 1-10. One being the most awful and 10 the very best. Price doesn't necessarily indicate the lilkley stars awarded. What differentiates most rooms is the extent which they have been cleaned (some look like they may not have been cleaned since they were built, especially the bathrooms), the features that work, i.e. windows, doors, fans. The quality of the wiring, i.e. are we likely to accidentally electrocute ourselves whilst using any switches. The colour scheme, which can bee anything from vibrant gloss green to muddy chocolate, purple and orange and in the higher rated places, white. Many of the lodgings are large buildings but set right on or next to a main road of junction. This is likely to mean a night punctuated by bus and lorry horns as they approach or leave the neighbourhood. Sometimes there is a lull in the very early mornings before it allkcicks off again at 4 or 5.
Photos really can convey the extremes between the better and the worst rooms. As most of tohe rooms do have an 'ensuite', it is this that usually seals the designation. After dodgy wiring, Indian plumbing hasn't to be seen/experienced to be believed. Shower fitments are sometimes present, but the taps may or may not turn. Where taps do turn they will often fill a bucket with a dipper, and a bucket shower is the only option. Hot water is occaisionllay available, but often only in the mornings between 6:30 and 8:30. And whilst we are hot and sweaty at the end of the day, some warm water to mix with the cold is welcome when it is available. Cleaning or lack of is usually most apparent in the bathrooms. I think cleaning consists of pointing a hose into the room, spraying it around a few minutes and job done. So washbasins, mirrors, fittings, windows etc all develop layers of grime that makes one shirk away from any close contact.
Beds vary from being hard and lumpy, possibly coconut fibre mattresses to proper soft ones. The worst rooms don't provide sheets, just a blanket or countrepane and a pillow, frequently stained or showing signs of mould. The better rooms have sheets and clean towels, what a treat! So far the higher ranking 8 and 9 out of ten awarded rooms have been in the minority.
Some really nice rooms are often for only a few 100 rupees more than the really grotty ones, it is hard to know what the criteria is for setting a price. With all the rooms we usually haggle over the price and get at least some discount off the original price. Currently £1 is just less than 90 rupees and we pay between Rs900 and Rs1500 for a room that sleeps three. Most rooms come with resident mosquitos though mercifully only a couple with added cockroaches.

A big part of out day. We aren't doing any kind of self catering, partly becuase food of one kind is widely available and partly to keep the weight down on bikes. All three meals in the day usually consist of some kind of curry/spicy dish. As we have come south what is on offer, as well as the names have changed, especially around breakfasts. Iddly, sort of steamed rice patty served with a coconut chutney and a samba, a spicy red sauce with a little veg and chillis. Dosas, rice pancakes, sometimes with a spicy mashed potato filling and samba. Vadas, which started off being deep fried battered mashed potato and now future south are just deep fried batter, servered with samba. One of these and a cup of 'chai', small glasses of hot milky very sweet tea is the kickstart for the day.

Watermelon is also a welcome revival


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