Day 103 – Rishikesh to Moradabad (195 km)
After another great night’s sleep (except for Shan who had spent a restless night having nightmares about shock absorbers), it was with some trepidation that we started the next morning. We had been in too many of these situation where we are waiting for a mechanic to get too excited. Shan spent most of the morning perched on the roof, just waiting for the bike to arrive. At around 10:00, Dad took a drive down to the mechanics workshop, where to his amazement and joy, it seems the mechanic was almost finished with putting the shocks on. And… it even looked pretty good. But it needed to do more than look good. It needed to work. By 12:00 it was delivered and ready for Shan to take it for a vigorous test run along the Ganges. It came back positive. The bike felt as good as new. That said, all of the previous repair jobs had also felt pretty good, the real test is actually doing some distance with the bike, but considering that this was a completely new approach to fixing the problem, we felt pretty good about it. And all of this by noon!
We were still hoping that we could cover some distance before the end of the day, and so with a practiced speed that comes from having done the same routine for the last 100 days, we had the bikes packed and ready to go. Hoping that we’ll have another chance to come back and visit this beautiful place again, we started on our way to the Nepal border. Traffic was in full swing by this time, and the road surface looked as though it had recently recovered from a serious bout of teenage acne. The terrain around us became progressively more forested, and as we drove though some particularly dense sections, one felt that this would be the perfect spot to see Mowgli through the trees, or perhaps Baloo floating down a river.
We made a concerted effort to take loads of photos and to film where we could, which only made it more frustrating when we failed to capture on film an old man walking along with his bum showing, pants around his knees. What he was doing walking along in this state defies conjecture, but he seemed perfectly content with his state of affairs, and he soon disappeared from sight behind us.
By late afternoon, we had arrived at the town of Moradabad, still roughly 200 km from the Nepalese border. We checked into a hotel, and ordered a meal. I went for a stroll in the town, in search of sugar cane juice, which here is served with a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of salt, for some reason. Walking along the street, it is amazing to see the sheer number of industries that can be found in just a couple of hundred metres: carpenters, pharmacies, schools, sweet shops, welders, computer shops, printers, spice merchants, butchers, all packed right next to each other, and forming that intricate web that is the small urban economy.
As I was walking back to the hotel, the wind picked up suddenly, blowing dust in huge clouds into the air, and sent down a torrent of leaves from the trees above. A glance at the sky revealed that a heavy bank of clouds was spreading across the sky, and I quickly high-tailed it back into the hotel. The supper had arrived, the usual sumptuous feast of curries, breads, stews and vegetables, even managing some ice-cream for dessert. As we were eating, the rain began to fall, which seems to be the meteorological pattern in this season. With the power supply proving to be somewhat erratic, we turned in for the night, glad that the bike had survived its first day with the new shock absorbers.