In the middle of a chain reaction – Maharashtra highs and lows…

25 11 2010

Daal fry, chana masala, four chapattis and two sweet lassies. These are the things that keep us alive. Until they tried to kill us.

Maharashtra is hilly. Very VERY hilly. Alpine even! (ahem). Our daily distance has got stuck at a very unreasonable 40-50 km; though our thighs bulge so too do our knees crack. With our Mumbai deadline wafting poisonously close we decide to flag down a jeep (read Fiesta), throw our bikes in the back (read tie precariously on the top – Liz’s bike bears the scars!) and cut off a 100 kms. Rashid, our portly, bespectacled and somewhat unlikely hero tackles the hills … enthusiastically, for the majority of the white knuckle lift we fear for both his suspension and our lives in equal measure.

Back on the road (read track) we finally make it to the little coastal village of Harihareshwan (approx 140km from Mumbai) – this is where the weather turns from blue to grey. This is a blessing but also a cheeky elemental sideswipe – since Goa we have been huffing up and down the Western Ghats carrying the grinding sun on our backs the whole way. Our shirts are faded, our backs browning through the wet, salt crusted cloth. And once we are through? THEN it turns grey!! But at least it has.

We set off into the hot wet shower as early as we can. While our clothes sing the halleluiah chorus to be communing with fresh water, we wipe the drips from our glasses and worry about trucks and slippery, rutted roads. *SNAP*  – shit! I look behind me to see Liz holding up what looks like a thin black snake… it’s her chain.  Panic sniggers a roly-poly in my gut as I pull off the road and pray that our short bike maintenance training, undertaken at foggy o’clock in the someconsiderabletimeago, comes in handy. With wet oily fingers we pop out the broken link and clip in a funky new pinless one. After transferring some of her weight onto my bike Liz tentatively peddles up the hill – it holds. It slips a bit, but, fingers crossed we can make it to the end of the day.

The weight transfer had another motive – since it is a grey day it stands to reason that all the grey things should happen in it.  And so we were unsurprised to discover (amid all the chain shenanigans) that Liz’s front pannier rack is broken in two places. Hello grey event number two. They are snapped in some indescribable way (that I shan’t bother to describe due to its indescribability) suffice to say I’m now carrying the bulk of the kit while Ms happygreyday is jingling along as light as a chickpea.

Grey event number 3 came in the form of a murder attempt. The humble chapatti peered languidly up from its basket; unaware of its role in this near-death-miss. ‘What do you think this is?’ – Liz held up a flap of chapatti for closer inspection – we both peered at the pink lump of soft matter that was stuck to it…. ‘chicken’ grinned the waiter and whisked it away. My half chewed mouthful froze before I hesitantly swallowed. Neither of us are food hygiene experts (Liz’s level 2 health and hygiene accreditation to one side) but hoeing down on raw chicken surely carries some health risks? Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus, Listeria Monocytogenes? DEATH! Apparently of no major concern in this part of the world, as the waiter’s quizzical look highlighted when we suggested that no, we probably a) wouldn’t finish the chapattis and b) wouldn’t pay for them. Thanks anyway.

Having survived the day and with only 80km to Mumbai we whip out a quick prayer to the local deity (in this case Allah) and console ourselves that all things will surely be well once we reach the golden streets of great Bombay, didn’t Obama just anoint it the city of dreams?

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