I stopped at this Temple because it was quiet and there was no one around so I took my camera out and snapped a photo. In a matter of seconds a number of young men and boys appeared out of nowhere and surrounded my bike, simply watching me take the picture. By the time I put the camera back in my handlebar bag, I was completely surrounded by men and boys and I have no idea where they were coming from, they seemed to multiply in front of me.
Later in the day I noticed a crowd gathered across the road and a number of people engaged in some form of sport. I stopped to see what was going on and within seconds a group of 4 or 5 boys yelled at me and ran across the road. That started a stampede with the mass of people blocking cars and the drivers started honking horns. I was the cause of the commotion, despite simply standing there, so quickly got back on my bike and left. I am biking alone but it sure doesn't feel like it. The people are completely harmless, curious and exceptionally friendly but when large crowds form it gets hard to be in the center with questions being fired at you one after another. I always feel bad leaving but if I stayed longer, the entire town would be out to watch.
On Monday I continued my way south and there are 2 things that caught me off guard. First was the heat as the daytime high hit 38C with high humidity and the second was the hills. They are not like the mountains of Turkey but are short and steep and combined with the heat makes for some pretty hard riding. The roads are also a little unusual as they vary between excellent and very poor with stretches of good sealed pavement interrupted by bone jarring rocks and dirt.
The Konkan coast is beautiful with lush green mountains and it makes for very good cycling. There are a series of inlets and if the inlet is narrow the roads will go around but there are many cases where you have to take a ferry. I can't find a ferry schedule so you just show up and hope for the best. At one of the hotels, I left behind some of my winter and cooking gear as I will not be using either here or in SE Asia and don't want to haul them up these hills. The owner was so excited to receive the gifts that he provided a breakfast of an omelette (1 egg and some veggies) and tea. The tea or chai comes with condensed milk and often spices but I asked for black. As is the case in most countries I have visited the black tea has sugar, which I wanted to avoid so from now on I'll stick with the tea and milk, it is quite good.
Over breakfast I was told that the ferry left at 9:00 am and it was no more than 3 km's down the road. I left myself what should have been a lot of time but as it turned out the dock was almost 8 km's and 7 of those were uphill. I arrived just in time to see them load some of the 15 motor bikes on the small boat.
As they were loading the bikes and cramming in people, one man started pumping a hand pump to get rid of the water that was accumulating in the hull. If you ever hear about ferries that sink in India, don't be too surprised. Seeing there would be no room for my bike I took off all my pannier bags and they lifted my bike on the top of the boat and I sat with it for the half hour ride. As with many things I have seen here, the chaos and confusion seems to work, they just find a way to get it done. They don't worry too much about little details like capsizing, they just know you have to get there with your motorbike or in my case my pedal bike, and they will accommodate you. Sometimes it's convenient not to have too many regulations and rules.
It stays dark here until about 6:30 pm and I needed it as I was racing to get to the small town of Kelshi. As soon as I entered arrived I asked someone where I could find some lodging. The signs here are in Hindi but most people speak some English and many speak it very well so communication has not been a problem. He told me just to go right and then left but I purposely looked confused so he got on his bike to lead. I have been through this enough times to know that it would definitely be more confusing than a right and left and sure enough, we made a half dozen turns before he pointed out the hotel. I continued on my own and met a man across the street from my destination. I asked him if there was a restaurant close by and he said he has one so I agreed to come for dinner after I checked into the hotel. I planned on taking a shower but there was only a faucet so had to settle for a bird bath in cold water but it was still refreshing after a hot day.
As I was changing the owner of the hotel knocked at my door and asked if I was going to dinner across the street (word spreads quickly here) and I said that yes I had arranged that with the restaurant owner prior to coming into the hotel. I was not sure why he asked me that but I went across the road and sat down and an older man sat beside me and asked me to come back at 8:00 pm. It was 6:30 so I asked why and he said they need time to prepare my dinner. A little unusual considering it is a restaurant but I used the time to walk around the town.
Kelshi is noticeably poor but the people are very friendly and inquisitive. One man sitting on the side of the road just yelled out "where are you going" as I passed by so I said I was looking for something cold to drink and he pointed the way. The streets are hard packed dirt and it was getting dark but no lights were visible. I went into a beer store and purchased a single large beer. The beer and alcohol store is like all the others, simple little stalls that sell a limited supply of goods. In all the small towns I have been through there is a pharmacy, a beer and liquor store and multiple shops that sell biscuits and sodas. I have yet to see a grocery store so am having trouble getting things to eat during the day.
At 8:00 I went back to my restaurant. I sat down outside and the older man that asked me to come back said dinner was ready so I followed him into this large room that was empty except for a table, 2 plastic chairs and food set out for both of us. It looked like a classroom in a public school without desks. He joined me for dinner and his wife served and the manager of the restaurant, the one I originally met, came by to say hello. The food was served on a bamboo place mat and there was a small mound of vegetables, a piece of soft tortilla, a small dish of a spice in broth and a jug of water, no utensils. I watched the man eat and mimicked him using my right hand to break the tortilla (I had to cheat and use both hands) dip it in the sauce and then use it to pick up the vegetables. It was mildly spicy and absolutely delicious. The lady ended up giving me 3 more tortillas, 3 more servings of vegetables and most of a pot of rice while the older man only had a little rice in addition to what we started with. The lady told the older man I have a good appetite and I felt bad, eating what was probably enough food for 4 people. I was hungry and could have eaten a lot more but said I was full out of guilt. I went to pay the manager and the price was less than $2.