Shrivardhan via Bankot - Bangladesh + India x 2 - CycleBlaze

January 21, 2011

Shrivardhan via Bankot

through Harihareshwar, by the Arabian

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Father tells me to go along the road in front of their house as we sit and have tea. That's where the ferry will be - right at the end of it where there's a beach. 

I take photos of the two decorated niches set into the blue-painted wall as well as the old wooden chair -plus some portraits of fellow guests - before setting off without any breakfast.

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I get to the end of the village road as told at about 9:30 and walk my bike onto the sand, which is dark and more like a river bank, then veer left as instructed and go for 200 metres as he said, and keep going and going. There's no sign of a boat. 

I get to a creek and it's deep and so turn back, retracing my tyre tracks on the soft surface then I wait and wait, looking up and down.

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Being broadcast from a mosque or somewhere is what sounds like the voice of late, great Qawwali singer Nusrat Fati Ali Khan and it feels as though I'm starring in a surreal movie and this is the soundtrack.

I wait a bit more. 

The short boat ride will save around 30 km or cycling.

There are around seven circular bases of concrete sticking up out of the water, reaching from the far side to about midway. There's just one span across two of them - ones on the far side. My guess is it's an expensive bridge project that looks to have been abandoned.

I walk back onto the path in the village and ask people where the launch is and get pointed back, so again retrace my marks along the bank and get to the creek and inspect it more closely and two men say I can get across and show me how by rolling their shorts up. 

The fast flowing water reaches near their crotches and I'm not in the mood for that and decline to join them. Maybe in a better mood I would, but I'm not in the mood for adventure and riding in wet shorts doesn't appeal.

It's already 10 o'clock.

I wish I'd gone along the beach as was my intention last night because basically that's what I do after returning along Kelsi's one main lane.

 There's actually an unpaved route running along the top of the beach, through trees, and I ride along it and get to the point where the boat will sail from but there's still no-one around.

Twenty minutes later I see some people sitting in the shade of the trees and join them after a while as there's a boat coming back across the wide water, but it'll take some time to get here. It goes to where I was earlier, would you believe. 

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It's 11:00 when it comes to where we're gathered.

Our small bunch wades into the sea up to our knees and climbs in the canoe-like vessel that has a makeshift sail that's white canvas. It seems biblical. In reality, two men power it back and forth with steady  punts on long wooden poles. The boat has one stabilizer.

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One of the men says 'tsunami' when I point to the bridge and the bases seem to have been effected and stand at slightly different heights. No doubt the village and the coast nearby would have changed for the worse if motor traffic was zipping through it.

Once over to the far side they ask me for 50 rupees and I'm really not in the mood to be over-charged and just pay 25, which is more than enough as my guess is 10 would be about fair.

There's a rough track leading up the bank and up it I go and enjoy the sight of the blue estuary and distant Arabian and ride up without being bothered by traffic. 

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It's a couple of K to the top and then down and I cruise for a while and feel cooler after sweating. There are trees here. 

Highway 4 reaches the coast again after a few K and it's here that it's likely one of the most scenic parts of the whole highway. It runs right by the water's edge, is tranquil and narrow - flat too, mostly. For a while anyway.

There's a climb up to the village of Bankot. There's nothing to eat around here and it's a muslim village and today is Friday, so no breakfast options and I feel empty. Thirsty, too. 

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It's hot again and cloudless.

A man directs me to the wrong jetty and when I ride to its very end where there's a small shed the man sat inside it points to where I should be, which is more or less where I was 20 minutes ago. This guy must be bored silly.

There's a lane by the bank and I take it and it runs kind of higgledy-piggledy through the village, past small homes that are basic.

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The boat is already moored and there are a few people on it and I get aboard with the panniers and then the bike and take a seat and wait. It's about 2:00 now. Progress has been slow.

The boat slowly fills, mainly with women, and at around 2:30 we chug away and cross the wide expanse. It costs me 10 rupees.

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I could really do with a drink.

It's an even more vacant kind of place on the north side - just a few homes scattered around - but I find a store that has snacks and get two packs of chips and a chilled 7-Up which perks me up a bit.

My direction seems to be west as the sun is right in my face and Shrivardhan eventually arrives.

I could do with another drink.

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The beach is at the end of the town and I get there but see no guesthouses and people point me back.

A man on the street says this is a guesthouse that we're stood outside and the lady shows me the room she has and it instantly reminds me of last night's with it's sleezy matress and steel-framed prison-like bed and I cringe at the thought. The toilet and bucket shower are also out back. Mmmm - what to do?

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At the front of her home is a pile of coconuts and I ask her for one and the man produces his machette and with one deft swipe cuts the top off and I drink the juice down with my mouth against the rough lip of the shell. 

She's a nice lady, but the room sucks and it's 500 rupees to boot and when she says that the hotels are full she must think I was born yesterday as what hotel manager is ever going to let her know what the room situation is at their establishment. I tell her I want a room near the beach and ride off.

I see another single-storey place that looks like a guesthouse as there's a sign propped outside - it's not written in English - but a man confirms it and when I get shown a room it's a nice surprise and the rate is 700, so my bike gets wheeled into the front yard and my panniers are soon strewn around the bedroom floor.

My laptop's screen remains blank when turned on.

The host says there's a beach festival on and tells me dinner is served at 7:00 and after that we can go and take a look. It sounds like a good plan.

Dinner is nice, almost as good as in Kelsi. A mother's touch and cheap at just 80 rupees. It's a veggie dish.

The friendly host escorts me to the beach where the festival is being held and it's only a five-minute walk. We can hear music as we walk.

The festival is a weekend affair and there are crowds walking in the same direction as us and he tells me there'll likely be around 5,000 attending tonight's programme.

There are rows of plastic chairs stretching right back in an area the size of a football field and we walk along the beach side of them towards the stage where police with batons are keeping tight control on any stray festival goers, but they spot me and proffer VIP treatment, which is kind of embarrassing.

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I sit near the front, but only have a 50mm lens on my camera, so the photos are not much good. 

The music, singing and dancing is all superb. It's a mix of Qwalli-sounding stuff as well as Indian standards. 

I don't see any other foreign tourists, who must all be in Goa. They don't know what they''re missing.

Today's ride: 40 km (25 miles)
Total: 3,510 km (2,180 miles)

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