The fertility and extensive cultivation in this part of Haryana had it's downside, however. Having rejected the only feasible hotel to sleep the night (three pounds is just too far over budget), we were committed to camping.
Riding out of town there seemed to be no space between the fields of wheat; while huts, houses and shacks were far more prevalent than usual. In addition to this, there were combine harvester's working in the fields, and whereas usually the fields are deserted after dark, these showed no sign of slowing. As we learned later, the harvesters are hired by the day so they work long into the night.
Eventually, keen to have settled before dark and running out of time, we turned off the road onto a track between two fields. Reaching the far edge of the fields, we turned right with the track, which then came to an abrupt halt at a tiny thatch roof. Clearly used as shelter for farm-workers during the day, the shack was open on three sides and contained two earthenware water pots and a strip of sackcloth.
We ummed and ahhed about pitching tents, eyeing the combine harvester 2 fields away to guess if we'd be seen. I suggested jokingly
-we could skip the tents and kip under this roof!
as soon as I'd said it realised it mightn't be such a bad idea; '...would be easy to move if caught, draws less attention...' so we rolled out sleeping mats and made our camp under the stars
. This was my first opportunity to cook a proper meal with my new-fangled campinggaz stove. Fortunately the foil-packed rations I'd bought in Delhi were not overly taxing, requiring merely that I boil them in water for 5minutes, and the resulting alu mutter with jeera rice, acompanied by a steaming cup of black coffee, made the little hut feel positively homely. A little after darkness fell we heard voices not far away. Visibility was severely limited by the fine straw dust that the harvesters released into the air, but we were convinced we'd been discovered when we heard a child's voice shouting 'cycle'. We listened, holding our breath, as footsteps shuffled through the stubble a few metres from our hutch, but fortunately on the only side that was screened. The footsteps reached the source of the shout, and the scratchy sound of an Indian one-speed Hero Cycle carrying two kids back to the road finally put our minds at rest.
With five mosquito coils lit to keep the bugs away, we passed a surprisingly comfortable night, woken occasionaly by a scuttling cockroach or fieldmouse, and once more worryingly by dogs passing. Most of the wildlife left us alone, however, and the only real discomfort was at 3am, when a familiar pain informed me that one of the mosquito coils had run out.
Leaving Delhi was, as with other big cities, moderately traumatic, and arriving after 90km of heavy traffic and blistering heat in Rohtak, a nowhere town where rooms were hard to find and pricey, while evening entertainments were non-existent, was not much of a reward. Leaving Rohtak would always be a pleasure, but was doubly so since the road finally became quieter and the scenery more rural once we escaped. The ride through Haryana countryside was surprisingly reminiscent of the English countryside in summer. The good quality road, bounded by hedgerows with green field beyond could be in deepest Kent. If it wasn't for the water buffalo.