Sunday, 11 November 2007

Running in India - Stage 4

Stage 4 - Rimbik to Palmajua

Date: Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Distance: 21km
My run time: 02:17 *
Accumulative ascent: 522m
Accumulative descent: 446m
* First man, Emlyn Christie (UK), 1:33; First woman, Elin Wright (Norway), 01:55

Stage 4 started in the most fantastic weather. Being at around 2,000m it was considerably warmer than up in the mountains and the morning was sunny and clear. Today's stage was like a bowl - steep down, flat across the bottom and then steep up again.

Most of the field sped off from the start. Again I took the first few kays a little more gently to give my quads time to warm up. The road bombed down from the start, the snaking road dotted by runners. Then it levelled out and I thoroughly enjoyed this lengthy section of pure running. I set a good pace to make up time before the ascent, which I would inevitably walk (as I'd done with all the other steep ascents).

The flattish section was fabulous and all around we were watched by villa residents. Seems like the area is quite a cement making / rock crushing area. Like the rivers around Bagdogra (were we flew into from Delhi), the rivers have been pillaged for stones and piles of rounded river stones and crushed stones line the already narrow streets. We ran past a rock crushing machine and also many old women hammering rocks by hand.

As you may know, we've had a cement shortage in Joburg (maybe whole of SA?) due to lots of new construction, Gautrain etc. We import from India and as I ran past these piles of river stones and old women squatting over their stones I could only think that our demand for cement (and also that of other countries) is what has propogated this environmental destruction. Sure, it is employment for the locals and cement has to come from somewhere... but I'd rather the stones were in the rivers. Same kind of thing as dopey-eyed cattle and a succulent steak; everything has to come from somewhere.

Most of the people were friendly, especially if I greeted then first with "Namaste". One fellow shouted to me, "What country?".

"South Africa," I replied, making a cricket batting motion. This was met by cheers and laughter from the man and his many friends.

Although South Africa is well-known in India for cricket, we were certainly fresh in their minds after hosting the new Pro 20 World Cup shortly before the race. India won. This was the first time that I've ever watched cricket (I even went to the opening match) and I've become a 20-overs fan; I'm especially a fan of the Indian team and their captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Crossing the river, we began the steep,winding ascent to Palmajua. There were a few houses on the road sides but for the most part the road is bordered by forest - some natural, some pine plantations. We ascended over 500m in about 7km.

I think that Palmajua is more of a district than a town as there was not much settlement. Our buses were waiting to take us back to Rimbik for the night (no accommodation at Palmajua).

Being a short stage day, I walked down and up Rimbik's road (there is only one), peeking at the stores and checking out the people. Strolling slowly it took me about 10-minutes to cover the place.

We were in for much excitement that night, for Pandey's Cultural Evening. He had requested that runners from each represented country prepare a song or dance. I'd been warned about this pre-race and had thought that a sokkie / langarm demo with Christo would go down well. Unfortunately Christo, although Afrikaans, doesn't dance. I had brought a piece of Karoo / W. Cape guitar music with me (from David Kramer's Karoo Kitaar Blues CD), which we did play for the audience.

In total we had 5 South African runners (me, Christo, David, Daksha and Julia). I was the only Joburger - the others hail from Cape Town. And I'm sad to say that amongst us we have very little tradition. Usual South Africn things like gumboot dancing, shosholoza and toyi-toyi are not whitie culture. Sokkie, Sarie Marais and such songs are not my culture either as an English South African lass. We were quite alarmed that we couldn't think of anything traditional to us.

We ended up telling the audience about the diversity of South African culture and languages. We told them about braais and our hot, sunny Christmas holidays spent at the poolside. And also of our rugby and cricket prowess. After our presentation I did have a really good idea (too late unfortunately). I should have introduced the audience to wonderful South Africanisms like takkie, ja, lekker, eish, vrot, just-now, now-now and koppie. Unfortunately I missed the boat on this one.

As for the other countries... there were some songs, bullfighting (Spanish), sumo wrestling (Japanese) and other festive displays. The people from Rimbik played traditional instruments and sang. Even Pandey's crew sang a popular Hindu song and Pandey sang a traditional love song. The country to certainly win hands-down would be the Austrians and their English rendition of a song; "An Austrian went a yodelling in the mountains so high". It is the same kind of thing as "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" only each addition has an action and sound effects.

This cultural evening was really good fun and was a lovely inclusion in the event.

After dinner we headed off to bed. In the morning we would be transported by bus to Palmajua (where we finished today's stage) for the start of the final stage so we would have to wake up early.

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