Hmm, what to choose as a picture of the day? Something to match my present mood? Thunderous or gloomy skies would fit the bill there. Maybe something to match my opinion of the current Government? I’m not sure I have any circus pictures…
Nah, I’ll pluck one at random as I nearly always do.
Today was another of those days where it lived down to expectations, for a variety of reasons. When the bright spots are you actually hit your step target and managed to get loads more stuff listed on eBay you realise this isn’t exactly the jet-setting, rock and roll lifestyle.
Not that there’s much chance of either at the moment as the Government are expected to list more Covid restrictions. Sadly, I’m trapped in a neck of the woods where cases continue to rise, so I’m not being optimistic. A visit to a local supermarket today made me realise just how many people think masks are actually hammocks to support their double-chins! So, right now I feel a bit like a prisoner of events – only there’s not much chance of me building a glider in the roof – Colditz style! Hopefully, once whatever’s announced is announced I can start planning some things with a little more certainty. In the meantime – there’s writing to be done, pictures to be edited and decades of collected ephemera to be sifted and either junked, recycled or stored.
Oh, a picture of the day – I’ve plumped for this as it’s reminded me of a better times. In March 2018 I joined a group of other people – mostly from the rail industry – for a cycle ride to raise money for the charity the Railway Children . We covered 270 miles across Rajasthan in India in a few days in March – not exactly the coolest time of the year. It was a brilliant event with some excellent people. It was also tough, but boy, was it a positive experience. Needless to say, as well as cycling and raising money from sponsorship I offered my services as a photographer and donated the pictures. Here’s one. We visited one of the railways stations that the RC have a presence on and met a group of the homeless children they work with. Sometimes pictures happen because all the circumstances come together to make is so – and you spot the moment. This was one such picture.
I’ve been donating my services to the Railway Children ever since 2017. Sadly, this year we couldn’t run another big UK event – ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ due to Covid. But, hopefully, next year we’ll be back – and do it twice to make up!
I’ve a favour to ask… If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website – https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/
I’m helping the Railway Children charity this evening by volunteering to with their sleep-out at Leeds station tonight. 30 people are dossing down on the station from 21:30 until 07:00 tomorrow to draw attention to the work the charity does, and also help raise much needed funds. You can find the details here. Tonight, teams will also be sleeping out at London Bridge Station, London Waterloo, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Milton Keynes Central, Birmingham New Street, Glasgow Central and Derby Railway Station.
I’ll be making my way over to Leeds later, so stay with me to see how the day/night unfolds as I’ll be updating the blog on a regular basis…
I’m on my way, complete with camera bag, mat and sleeping bag. Even though we’ll be bedded down inside the station I’m glad the weather’s mild tonight. The walk to the station was actually quite pleasant! I’m now on a Northern (but not for much longer) service to Leeds via Bradford which is worked by a CAF class 195 running its traditonal few minutes late. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the Northern franchise, I’ll save that for anither blog. But passengers won’t be seeing any changes for a while…
After a swift reversal at Bradford we’re already on our way ul the bank en-route to New Pudsey. It’s early enough for the train to be busy but not packed. I’ll bet the return working will be tho!
I’m waiting for the others to arrive as I got here early to have chance to get a few photos beforehand, but I hadn’t expected to find this!
I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to blog until now. 30 of us are bedding down on the North concourse at Leeds, opposite the Wetherspoons. Network Rail have sent a huge group of people that includes their Route Director, Rob Mackintosh and several other senior staff. Although most of us are railway, there is one young lady from ‘First Direct’ who’s turned up. There’s several people I know, like former Angel Trains Director Malcolm Brown, plus folk who’ve taken part in previous fundraising events like the 3 Peaks. The atmosphere’s excellent as everyone knows they’re doing something worthwhile.
The station’s quietened down over the past hour but now numbers are ramping up again as folks arrive to catch their last trains. There’s a few racous souls but most are good natured. We had our own bit of theatre earlier when a well dressed chap wobbled out of the Wetherspoons to sit on the plastic seats nearby and take a phone call. Gravity abd drink were too much for him and he slid off the seat and wbded up supine on the floor whilst he remained on his phone. A couple of our kind souls went to his assistance!
Folks have found a variety of ways to pass the time. Some have already bedded down with a book or phone, whilst half a dozen people are passing the time playing cards invthe centre of the concourse where there’s a collection of plastic seats. The only thing that’s making life uncomfortable is the gale blowing in through the open doors to the car park opposite where we’re bedded down.
The station’s winding down and so are we. Most of our group are curled up in their sleeping bags now although not all are sleeping. Some will stay awake most of the night as this is too alien an environment to feel relaxed in. There’s too much noise and too many lights as far as they’re concerned. But they’re still doing it – because they care about the work the Railway Children does, and I really admire them for that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve slept on a railway station. Or slept rough. There’s far too many stories for me to tell in this blog. But I will tell one.
Back in 1986 I remember bedding down on a railway station in Tamil Nadu in India. The train I was catching was at 3am. I was travelling on a very tight budget, so what was the point of paying for a hotel room? Instead, I joined the throng of people you always find sleeping on stations as Indian railways run all hours of the day and night due to the vastness of the country. We had our heads against the building so that if anyone walked past it was only your feet they’d stand on. The mats we were sleeping on we laid down over the metal grilles that covered the rainwater drain next to the building, then we fell asleep. After a while I was woken by this odd skittering noise I didn’t recognise. It took a couple of minutes before I realised it was made by rats running up and down the drain just inches beneath my head.
In comparison, tonight is luxury…
I’m amazed none of our group have yet tried to kill the bloke going up and down the concourse with the tile cleaning machine. It’s not him, or the machine – it’s the bloody siren attached to it…
I take back everything I said about the tile cleaner. A MEWP’s just been driven into the concourse so guys can attend to some elevated work. The sounds of its poorly silenced diesel engine are so bad it’s almost drowned out the sounds of snoring from an adjacent sleeper! This is the sort of thing rough sleepers out up with day after day…
Oblivious to (or because of) us the bloke in the basket relates every minor detail of what he’s doing to his oppo on the ground. I now now more than I ever wanted to about worm drives on adverts.
The MEWP and men have changed their advert and disappered, leaving us a few hours peace to get fitful sleep, thanking our lucky stars that this is a one off, not our everyday exustence.
I’m awake and decided to explore the station, which is still a ghost town apart from a few passengers who’re on their way home from clubs and earky shift rail staff booking on or who’re already at work. Northern have started the day badly with the first train to Manchester cancelled and others delayed.
Most of our sleepers are awake and packing their bags ready to face the day, off to hunt for coffee and warm food.
It’s been an experience I’ve not had for years and it’s an event I’m really happy I could help the Railway Children with. I’ll upload some pictures later today once I’ve got home and edited them. I’ll also let you know how much the event has raised.
In the meantime, thanks for following the adventure. Now it’s my turn to head iff in search of coffee!
Here’s a bleary eyed good morning from the West Highlands! After a fitful night’s sleep we were woken up by the train crew volunteers who served tea, coffee and croissants along with hot bacon rolls. We’re due into Fort William at 04:19, when the fun begins. I’ll keep you posted…
All the teams are on the mountain, the base camp is established and the banners and finishing line is being set up. Here’s some scenes at departure.
The Rail Delivery Group team in good spirits as they begin their climb. From L-R Robert Nisbet, Jac Starr, Naomi Rial and Paul Plummer
The weather’s wet but the rain’s light and it’s forecast to cease later on. Now it’s just a question of waiting for anyone returning injured until the first teams make it back, which is normally around 10:00. That’s when my work starts as we get individual team photos one they’ve crossed the finish line, registered their time & checked in their kit.Here’s how the mountain looks right now.
Rather than hang around and be midge bait I’m going to walk into Fort William for a few hours.
I’m now sat at Fort William station (which has just opened), using their free wifi to update the blog after having had a wander around the town. It’s not exactly the most exciting place at the best of times, but at 06:30 it’s deserted. I did find one thing of interest. A statue dedicated to the name whom, in 1911 drove a model-T Ford to the top of Ben Nevis!
Once the station opened I had chance for a mooch around with the camera and caught one of the two Class 37s that are hauling our 3 peaks train. As there’s too many coaches to fit on the platform one of the loco’s is detached to create a bit of extra space.
I’ve moved on to the local McDonalds, which is where we take the walking wounded. There’s four of them from various teams, all somewhat dispirited, but not wanting to spoil their team-mates chance of succeeding. I’m sipping a much-needed caffeine (I got very little sleep last night) whilst I download a few more pictures to the blog. My time will be cut short as I’ve just had a call from Katie Mason, the Railway Children’s events organiser. The first team is expected down off the mountain by 09:30, so I need to head back in an hour.
The first team (from DRS) crossed the finish line at 09:26.
Sorry for the gap in blogging, but it’s been a day full of challenges for us all – not least physical one of the teams who’ve climbed the three peaks, but also the mental ones of the folk who’ve organised all the logistics. Either way, everyone’s knackered due to the level of commitment- and the lack of sleep!
We’ve had a fantastic day and we’ve got everyone off the mountain off safe – and raises a huge amount of money for the Railway Children. The different skill groups involved in such a complex event have worked brilliantly – and not for the first time
The weather here in the Calder Valley’s been awful today. We’ve had that fine drizzle that permeates everything most of the morning. I’ve been busy at home trying to catch up on a bit of work before heading out shortly to join the Railway Children’s annual ‘3 Peaks by rail’ madness. Stay tuned and I’ll try and blog through the day…
I’m finally on my way after a bit of a stressful few hours trying to get everything I needed to do done before I left home. I’m now on the 15:22 from Sowerby Bridge heading for Manchester then Crewe where the train starts from this evening. I’m not alone. There’ll be people from all over the country making a beeline for the town as the various teams meet up. A number of volunteers are already on the train as the stock is being used for a tour by the Branchline society. This will raise even more money for the Railway Children, adding to what the 3 Peaks teams will gather.Sadly the weather’s not looking great. On the bright side, the flooding that closed the line between Crewe and Chester has abated and the line’s reopened, so we’re good to go!
Because of the amount of kit I need for this event, I’m using wheels instead of legs. I’ll need to save those for later!
Deep joy! At Manchester Piccadilly I found that the Transport for Wales 16:31 service to Crew is worked by a 2-car Class 150! The Conductor was very apologetic that “this throwback to the Thatcher era” (his words) was the only unit available! It’s cosy. Very cosy. But at least there’s a catering trolley- if you can fight your way through to it…
The teams are here and having equipment checks. There’s plenty of time to meet and greet or take pictures.
Due to technical issues with the stock and need to refuel the generator car at Gresty Bridge we were a few minutes late leaving Crewe, but it’s no real problem. We’re now bowling along the North Wales coast at 90mph as the first meal is being served.
The logistics of this trip are quite something. During the event the volunteers will wash 4,600 items of cutlery and crockery. 1,140 pieces of fruit and cereal bars will be distributed along with 200 rounds of sandwiches and 380 servings of fruit juice. 200 bacon rolls will also be served. Everyone will get a full English breakfast, a two course evening meal and a three course lunch.
At 21:33 we reached Bangor in North Wales and the teams transferred to road coaches for the last leg to Snowdon. As soon as they were gone the train moved off and headed to Holyhead where the locomotive can run round the train. The volunteers remaining on the train weren’t idle. They were busy collecting plates and cutlery, picking up all the rubbish, disinfecting and cleaning the toilets, making sure the train was fit to pick up the weary hikers in the small hours.
The kitchen wasn’t idle either. Fresh food was being prepared for the volunteers. Ian and his crew were preparing home-made pizza’s for everyone.
Having offloaded all the rubbish in the platform and with the engine having run round, the train’s been shunted into the sidings where it will wait to return to Bangor.
Having swapped a few stories and jokes over food, the volunteers are all bedding down for the night on the train. All the coaches bar one are dark as the lights have been turned off to conserve the batteries.We start moving at 03:52 when we head back to Bangor to await the walkers. I’m hitting the sack too as it’s chance to catch a few hours undisturbed sleep. Part 2 of this blog will start early in the morning. G’night!
How on earth did the UK get in the state it is? How did we transform ourselves from the wonderful days of the 2012 Olympics, when we showed our best, most creative and tolerant side to the world into this mad little island? An island where racism is rife, and we look like we’re about to elect a serial liar and all round incompetent as our next Prime Minister. Our international standing is in tatters as the rest of the world looks upon us as if we’ve gone crazy, which isn’t far from the truth. We’re certainly deluded. The idea that we should be pursuing a no deal Brexit is absolutely barmy, as is the idea that we’ll be better off after Brexit. Many of the people vying for the Tory leadership are the living embodiment of this madness, yet many folk lap up the lies.
Once the circus come to an end the time of reckoning can’t be far off. But what damage will be done to our country? How I wish I was 30 years younger and could get the hell out of this place before that happens…
Instead, I find myself heading to Huddersfield to pick up a folding trolley I lent to ACoRP which I’ll be using to cart around all my kit for tomorrow’s 3 peaks by rail adventure. It will be a pleasure to spend the next two and a half days volunteering with so many positive people, raising thousands of pounds for the Railway Children charity. The atmosphere on the train’s wonderful and the camaraderie amongst the volunteers is excellent. I feel honoured to have been invited to be involved and I’m looking forward to my hat-trick of trips. The whole operation’s a logistical as well as physical challenge and it’s being made more complex by the weather, which is causing chaos across the rail network. The West Coast Main Line north of Penrith’s been closed by a fallen tree and the Crewe-Chester line’s closed due to flooding. This could be a problem for us as we’re due to pass that way tomorrow evening…
My trip to and from Huddersfield has been on one of Northern’s Class 144 Pacers. I’m making the most of it as these beasties will soon be but a memory. Driver training on the new CAF units is due to start at Huddersfield next month.
I know the majority of ordinary passengers loathe Pacers, but I and some train crews will miss them. That said, I suspect affections will soon be transferred as I’ve heard many favourable comments about the new trains from rail staff. It will be very interesting to see the reaction of passengers when they finally enter service.
Having picked up the truck I’m heading home on the same Pacer as I’ve got a busy evening ahead. I’ve shopping plus a load of work to do as well as packing for the 3 Peaks. It’s going to be a busy evening…
It was a long old haul, but I made it! I’m now aboard the special train taking all the Railway Children staff and volunteers on their 3 peaks adventure. I caught up with them at Bangor (North Wales) where the train collected all the hikers after climbing Snowdon. We’re now heading for Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast where we should arrive at 0900. Right now I’m going to grab some sleep but I’ll blog and post pictures throughout the day.
The train’s burst into life now. People grabbed what little sleep they could, with bodies in sleeping bags draped all through the coaches. Whilst the walkers slept, the crew toiled, preparing a cooked breakfast and hundreds of packed lunches.
There’s something special about being served breakfast at your seat on a train (especially when you’ve been up and down a mountain!). Here’s a sample…
In less than an hour we’ll reach Ravenglass so the teams are busy packing the kit they’ll need for tackling Scafell. Wandering through the train i’ve bumped into several friends from our ‘Ride India’ adventure in March – only re-branded for our latest jaunt!
Fortunately, the storm that hit the UK in the past 24 hours has passed. The sun’s not exactly cracking the flags, but conditions are looking good…
Walkers have detrained at Ravenglass and transferred to the narrow gauge ‘L’al Ratty’
Now we’re on our way to Dalegarth..
I rushed ahead to climb up to my perch on Scafell where I can get the best shots of the teams hiking up the mountain. I only just made it before the first team arrived and steamed past me. My excuse it that I’m carrying camera bag that weighs 14kg – and they’re not! Here’s where I am now.
This is what I was waiting for…
We’re on the move again and heading for Fort William. All teams made it up atop Scafell although there was some attrition. Each team was given the name of a band as their call-sign. I’ve never known so many groups split up since the 1970’s!
There’s been a few minor injuries, although I think the bigger issue has been people underestimating the level of fitness required to do this event. A few weeks walking miles on the flat really isn’t going to prepare you for fell-walking – never mind the UK’s three highest peaks!
After descending Scafell we had a two-hour layover in Ravenglass to allow time for our train to be serviced and our loco (68016) to be replaced by a pair of Class 57s top and tailing us (312 leading and 305 trailing).
On departure our weary travellers were served an excellent repast which had been prepared by the volunteer train crew.
To be honest, most people waned after that. Some sought out the services of the on-board Doctor or ministrations of the physiotherapists. Others just flaked out. It’s 21.34 now and most of us are about to follow as we’ve an 04:30 start in the morning.
All the teams are on Ben Nevis now.
We were given an alarm call at 03:30 when the crew brought round croissants, orange juice and hot drinks as an aperitif for the main course…
– bacon rolls! (A veggie option was available).
Folk performed what ablutions they could (all I can say is whoever invented ‘wet ones’ deserves a medal) before getting their gear together and checking they had the right kit to see them safe on the mountain if the weather changed suddenly.
At 04:30 the train arrived at Fort William and after grabbing snacks off the trollies we streamed on to several coaches which ferried us to the start.
After registering their start time with control, a final radio check and they were off!
Now all the rest of us have to do is set up the finish line and wait for them to return.
The only problem is that base camp is ‘midge central’ this year! The wee bitey things are out in force this year, so many of the staff are wearing mosquito nets that make the place look like a Taliban training camp!
Yesterday I ran out of both time and phone reception to finish updating this blog, so I’m ending it not with words, but pictures.
It’s 05:10 and the last teams are setting off up Ben Nevis.
At 09.00 the first team crossed the finishing line. They’re one of the 6 teams from headline sponsor Stadler, who had entered the challenge for the first time (and did extremely well!)
Scotrail MD Alex Hynes chatting with event staff at the Ben Nevis base. Alex joined us on the train to congratulate the teams and help hand out medals .
Some of the volunteer traincrew who keep the challenge running (year after year). Whilst the teams rest these are the people who’re busy preparing and serving food and drink or servicing the train.
Eoin Brunton serves weary walkers with a meal of chicken in mascarpone sauce on the train home. The scenery on this stretch of the line from Fort William is stunning, but window gazing wasn’t on most people’s minds!
Alex Hynes presented the teams with their medals on the train home.
Posing with the Railway Children team and some of the volunteers who come back and help year after year. It’s always a pleasure to join this band, so roll on 2019!
Sorry folks, life’s been hectic these past few days. It’s given me lots of things to blog about but not the time to do it. I’ve been occupied with bits at home, sorting out pictures for clients, adding pictures to my website and (last but not definitely not least) spending some quality time with my wife.
I’ve a couple of blogs half-written that I hope to publish later this week. In the meantime, an article on my ‘Ride India’ charity cycle ride to raise money for the Railway Children charity has just been published in RAIL magazine which hits the newsagents on Wednesday. Here’s a teaser, you’ll need to buy RAIL to read to full article.
The pictures I’ve been adding to my website have also been rather colourful. There’s been images from Brazil, Malaysia, India, Nepal and the UK . If you follow this link it’ll take you to the most recently updated galleries. Here’s a taster from Nepal in 1992. Do NOT try this at home folks!
A Sadhu (Holy man) shows off his yoga prowess in in the square at Bhatakpur in the Kathmandu valley. Nepal. March 1992.
I’ve a busy few weeks ahead of me which includes a press trip to Germany, the Infrarail exhibition in London as well as other jobs, so keep tuned.
I’ve been busy editing the pictures from the ‘Ride India’ trip and wanted to post a few here to remind myself, all those who kindly donated money (and those who’ve pledged to donate) why we all did what we did. It was to raise money to help children like these. On our 2nd day in India we visited two Railway Children projects. One was a hostel that shelters up to 26 children and young people. Here the children are safe. They can be helped to return to their families if possible, or found other homes if not. The other was on Ghaziabad Jn station where many children are eking out an existence scavenging or begging during the day – and sleeping on the platforms at night. The charity has a 24/7 presence here, reaching out and offering help to the children that can be encouraged to take it. These are the kids The Railway Children is helping – and not just in India, but in Africa and the UK too…
Members of our group took time to meet the residents and staff in the shelter in Karol Bagh and play games with the kids.
Meet Ishant. He’s a 10 Year old boy with special needs. He came to the open shelter on 23rd February. Before coming to the shelter he was staying with his brother Raj, 16 years. When Ishant was just 3 years old his mother died, his father also passed away recently. He’s one sister, who is now married and settled. Both these brothers were living in Night Shelter near Jama Masjid. Both of them use to go to the nearby Municipal school in 7th and 4th standards respectively. However Ishant has impaired hearing and he cannot speak, but he understands and tries to learn. For Ishant a special school is required for his development. Thus on the order of Mayur Vihar CWC, Ishant is referred to RCI open shelter for a short stay, until a special school with a residential facility is identified. Ishant needs special attention and support which can only be available at a special school. Ishant’s exam is coming up in March and the RC team will ensure that he sits for his exams.
After visiting the shelter we went to nearby Ghaziabad Junction station where the Railway Children maintains a 24/7 presence, working with the Railway Protection Force (The Indian version of the British Transport Police) to encourage some of the dozens of children who live on or pass through the station to seek help. Here are some of the children we met or saw.
If you haven’t yet donated but want to help children like these, there’s still time. Just visit my donations page here.
I flew into the UK from India last night after finishing the Ride India challenge for the Railway Children and I’m slowly getting used to the idea of being back. The flight from Delhi on a Jet Airways Boeing 777 was pretty good. The plane was packed but I managed to tick a few more movies off the list to keep myself occupied. Ride India was such a fantastic experience to share with a great bunch of people that it might take me a while to come down and adjust to being back. Britain seems such a grey place at the moment – and I don’t mean because of the weather.
By the time I’d been processed by the Heathrow bureaucracy and collected my bag it was too late to make the last train home so I booked a hotel in central London for the princely sum of £40. Despite the miserly price it wasn’t a flea-pit but a good hotel in Bayswater. I was even given a free upgrade from a single room to a recently refurbished Executive double! By the time I checked-in I was dog-tired. I’d been up since 06:00 Indian time and crawled into bad at 02:00 Indian time! It being a Sunday, part of the tube network was shut for engineering work, so I ended up having to take a detour and catch a bus which extended my journey even more.
Despite being ‘cream-crackered’ my body clock was stuck on Indian time so I was wide-awake before the alarm-clock went off at 08:00. Sadly, today’s weather was drab and wet. As there was no incentive to leap out of bed and run amok with the camera I used the extra waking hours to edit another tranche of Indian pictures whilst making a large hole in the rooms coffee supply and listening to the BBC news. Nothing much seems to have changed whilst I’ve been away other than the sad news about the death of Ken Dodd. The Brexitshambles continues apace – although it does seem that the scales are dropping from some people’s eyes about Comrade Corybn who seems to have made a less than well received speech where he indulged in what’s become almost a national pastime in Brexit Britain – immigrant bashing. Not that the BBC covered any of this. The real news I got through Twitter and the sources whom I follow. The BBC is fine for a few headlines and ‘fluffy’ stuff, but that’s about it nowadays. Don’t expect any real insights or analysis anymore.
Before heading North I decided to have a few hours topping up my rail archive with pictures from Kings Cross. This turned out to be a wise move as there were a few unusual workings to be seen (pix to be added shortly).
As usual, Grand Central are taking me home, this time on another of their second-hand, ex-GWR Class 180s. The train’s busy, but not overly so – even though it’s carrying some Hull Trains passengers to Doncaster as they’ve had to cancel one of their services. I’ve bagged a table seat so that I can catch up with blogging and also edit some of the thousands of pictures that I took in India. Sadly, the weather outside the train window doesn’t match that seen in the pictures, the farther North we get the grimmer it gets – and I’m not exactly dressed for it…
That said. I’m looking forward to getting home. There’s a lot of stuff for me to catch up with and pictures to get out to people – as well as a few articles to write. No doubt I’ll be getting itchy feet again once that’s done…
Sorry for the lack of updates on the challenge, this has been due to too many 05:15 starts, late finishes and awful wifi, but here’s a quick look at day 4.
After cycling 113km on day 3 we arrived at which was to be our base for the next two nights. Despite the fact we only had 45km to cycle on day 4 were still up at 05:15 in order to be able to visit the Ranthambore national park and Tiger reserve before we started cycling. It was a fantastic visit to a park teeming with wildlife – even if the Tigers didn’t put in an appearance.
Afterwards we returned to the hotel, picked up our bikes and set off as the mercury in the thermometer climbed steadily past 30 degrees. We retraced our steps back past the national park on the worst roads we’ve cycled on so far. Lots of our time was spent warning each other of potholes, speed-humps and sand-traps as well as the usual hazards of goats, camels and all manner of motorised mayhem.
Our destination was the village of Kutalpura where we stopped for snacks and water before exploring the village. We were invited into several local homes to see how village life was lived before setting off to a local school where we chatted to both pupils and staff. As today’s International Women’s day it was fitting that we also visited Dastkar Ranthambore, a village handicrafts centre which has revived local crafts and given employment to many local women. We had lunch there before we browsed the gift shop – which saw many of us make purchases from the large selection of handicrafts in their on site shop. Fortunately, we didn’t have to carry these back on the bikes as the team bus had followed us!
By now the heat really was something. Although the official temperature was 32 degrees it was far hotter out in the sun, with some folks personal cyclometers registering anything from 40-45 degrees.
This helped to make the next part of the challenge particularly tough. We cycled back into Ranthambore park along a road that was mostly cobbled and had the fiercest gradients we’d encountered on the whole trip. I shed blood doing it as, whilst swerving round a particularly rough stretch of road I encountered a thorn bush which ripped my arm. Don’t believe anyone who tells you these challenges are easy! We’ve already had several minor tumbles which have resulted in skinned limbs or bruised ribs…
As we were running late through spending too much time at the women’s centre our visit to the spectacular ruins of Ranthambore Fort (the 2nd largest in India) had to be cut short in order to allow us to reach home in daylight. Even so, it was worth it as it’s a stunning location with fantastic views across the national park.
Cycling back was a lot easier as it was mostly downhill, even so, after cycling at speed down that bloody cobbled road I’m amazed that I have any fillings left in my teeth! My bottle of cold beer on our return was well earned today!
Tomorrow we have a lie-in. We don’t have an alarm call until 6am. We on the move again and cycle 80km tomorrow, I’ll update you on our adventure just as soon as I can. In the meantime, here’s some pictures from today.
The spectacular ruined fort at Ranthambore seen from the national park, where spotted deer graze by the side of a lake
A spotted deer seen through the long grass not long before sunrise.
A beautiful Woodpecker spotted in the park
Here’s Katerina Delingianni visiting families in Kutalpura
Jo Bigland (a distant relation as it turns out!) laughing with schoolchildren at Kutalpura
One of the many women who’ve found an outlet for their skills, making money and keeping local crafts alive at Dastkar Ranthambhore
When swerving around potholes, try not to come into contact with Thorn bushes…
It’s like being back in Yorkshire. OK, without the Mughal fort – obviously! This is the road we climbed up and pelted down. I was neither brave nor stupid enough to take shots of it cycling down the inclines…
Remember, you can still help me raise money for the Railway Children by donating through my JustGiving page which you can find here. Please, every bit helps me help them…