Around the world by bike
(2 570km - 72days)
7 November - Tamu, Myanmar – Moreh, Manipur, India
There was no rush, as I was told that the Indian immigration office only opens at midday. Around midday, I cycled to the border and crossed the river into the state of Manipur, India. The immigration office was about one kilometre from the border, but there was still no one there. I was told to go to the police station in the town, so off I went.
The immigration office was completely different from anywhere else. It reminded me more of Africa than India, as it was stuck up a stony hill along a dirt path. Soon I was stamped in and cycled the short distance to Sangai Lodge, a rather basic place where all cyclists seem to overnight. I did the usual -changed money, got a new SIM card, etc., etc. The owner of the Sangai Lodge is an extremely friendly and helpful guy, and he told me all I needed to know.
I read somewhere that the state of Manipur is considered one of the most dangerous, as it is not only home to a very mountainous region, but also drug traffickers and guerrilla armies. I'm sure it is not like that all, but chaotic it sure is! In a haze of dust, buses and tuk-tuks competed with cows and pedestrians, and I was getting ready for the long taxi/bus/train ride to Delhi.
The plan was to get myself to Delhi ASAP and then cycle to Pushkar in time for the famous Pushkar Camel Fair. Normally, I'm not all that keen on taking public transport, but this was an event that I did not want to miss. I will decide on my route from there on at a later stage.
8 November - Moreh – Imphal by Taxi
I don't have words to describe India. It is such a large and varied country, and the state of Manipur (where I am now) is so uniquely different from the rest of the country that the people do not even look like Indians. It is a very tribal region and some of the people look distinctly Mongolian.
Nothing in India happens instantly, and although my host at the Sangai Lodge arranged a "taxi" to take me to Imphal, nothing happened until around midday. No sooner were the bicycle and I in the van that I regretted not cycling. The state of Manipur is a fascinating place, but I had to choose between cycling and the Camel Fair!
It is no secret that I love India. Countries to me are like people. They have personalities of their own, and I (for no rhyme or reason) get on with some and not with others. They all have faults; it's just that I can live with some faults better than with others. India is chaotic, dirty, dusty, busy, etc., but it has such a huge personality that I could easily live here. I would rather not discuss the driving, which is nothing short of madness! We did, however, arrive in Imphal in one piece!
9-10 November - Imphal – Guwahati by Bus
Leg two consisted of a bus ride to Guwahati. The Guwahati bus was supposed to leave at 10h30, but it was 11h30 by the time we left. Once again, the road over the mountains was in such a poor condition that I was sure I was going to be black and blue from all the bumping. It was a rather old bus, and I was pleased that it was winter and not summer. It was a dusty affair as the road was partly dirt and partly paved. The driver drove hour after hour, stopping only when someone wanted to pee and twice to replace a flat tire. It was slow going, and the signboards indicated the speed limit was 20 km p/h!
I tried to play a game on the computer, but it was impossible with all the bouncing around. I was again amazed at how tribal the people in the mountain regions were. They did not only look Mongolian, with their round faces and rosy cheeks, but they also dressed in red, blanket-like shawls and carried their wares in woven baskets on their backs with straps around the forehead. Every now and again, I had the urge to tell the driver to let me off, but I had made my decision, and I was going to stick to it. I was dreadfully sorry that I was missing out on cycling this fascinating section.
In the bus, one is so far removed from the land and its people. Travelling by bicycled spoiled me for life. Eventually, I managed to doze off a bit, and it was 6h00 by the time we eventually arrived in Guwahati. I was tired and, as always, a bit disoriented when I got off the bus. I loaded the bicycle and cycled into the city looking for a hotel. I cycled straight to a hotel recommended by Lonely Planet and was rather disappointed at the price and what I got for it.
I had a shower and then took a walk to the train station to buy a ticket to Deli for the following day. I was told to book the bicycle and panniers in separately, so later I did that (all forms completed in triplicate! Must be a left-over from colonial times!). The luggage cost more than the ticket but, all in all, it was still a bargain at the price.
As I walked around, I once again marvelled at all that India is. A place where milk-tea is brewed on street corners; where kids play cricket on each and every grassy patch; proper cricket matches were being cheered loudly by onlookers (one can even have a haircut while watching the game); and a place where the friendly homeless occupy the sidewalks. I sat down to have a roti and curry sauce and felt 100% at home!
The final leg of my public transport was now in sight. The train was due at 6h15 the following day, and I hoped that I would not oversleep. I asked the reception desk to wake me at 5h00, but that did not mean it was going to happen. This is, after all, India!
11-12 November - Guwahati – Delhi by train
I was pleasantly surprised when my phone rang at 5h00. I had a quick shower and walked the short distance to the train station. I checked on my bicycle and panniers and found that they were already waiting at platform 7. The train was, however, delayed, and it was a long wait before it finally arrived.
The train was as basic as one can expect for the price and I don’t think the authorities have cleaned it since it was built, most likely in the 1950’s. At least I had a seat reserved and did not have to run and jump on while the train was still moving, like the passengers in second class.
I was the only foreigner on the train and, as can be expected, it felt that each and every one came to have a look at me. I wanted to edit some pictured while I had nothing else to do, but they crowded so around me to see what I was doing that I gave up. They have little private space and no shame whatsoever to look at what you are doing.
There were constantly vendors selling tea, samosas, boiled chickpeas, water and the like. People were eating and throwing their used cups and plates (it was not really plates, just used newspaper) out of the window, but I could not get myself to follow suit. They must have thought me a bit of a hoarder seeing that I was keeping all mine - ha, ha, ha.
I ordered dinner and hoped that they would be kind enough to bring me a spoon as the Indians eat with their fingers and I find that quite an impossible task. At lunch, I had chickpeas (or channa) and they fabricated a kind of a scoop for me out of newspaper! Little English was spoken, but I did hear “foreigner, foreigner” every now and again. The people in my berth thought it their task to look after me and guard my stuff every time I got up. That was quite nice.
Of course, I thought that there would be bedding on the train but there was no such thing. My fellow passengers were, however, quick to lend me a blanket for the night. They were so sweet!
12 November Delhi
It was 8 p.m. by the time we arrived at New Delhi train station, and I was more than happy to get off that train! I looked but could not find my bike or bags anywhere. I took a walk to the parcel office (which was an experience in itself). By then it was already pitch dark as I waded my way through the muddy puddles and past stray dogs and goods stacked sky-high, but there was nothing there. I decided to go in search of a room for the night and look for the bike and bags in the morning.
Delhi is a crazy, busy and congested city. I took a walk up Main Bazaar Road, and due to Divali celebrations, the road was a sea of lights. It must have been around 9 or 10 p.m., and the road was as busy as peak hour would be in many other cities with the only difference being that it was congested with bicycle-rickshaws and tuk-tuks. I walked past vendors selling curry and roti’s, past down-and-out beggars and scrawny looking kids asking for food. I found a room at the Namaskar Hotel for 550 rupees, and I could have sworn it was the same hotel where I stayed in 2008!
13-17 November, Delhi
I woke with a sore throat and blocked nose (something that can be expected after the train ride) and went in search of vitamin C and my bicycle. I easily found both. The short ride from the train station to my hotel made me realize just how trying cycling in India can be. The following day, I stayed in bed with a thick head and sore body, not what I needed now as my time for getting to the Pushkar Camel Fair was running out. I felt rotten, and there was no point in trying to cycle. The air quality in Delhi is extremely poor, and I had not seen the sun for days, but it made for some interesting pictures.
I took a walk to the chemist to get flu medicine, and that alone was an experience. India has an open garbage system, and stray dogs, monkeys, pigs, rats, and cows all eat whatever they can find to survive. Cows have a complex digestive system, and plastic bags never get expelled. Over time, the plastic bags accumulate inside the cow's stomach, where they become hard as stone, and eventually, they will die. So much for the Holy Cow! The flu tablets did not make one iota of a difference, so I resorted to the corner herbalist. I had no energy for sightseeing, so I stayed close to my hotel, just going out to get food and water. The "erbs" seemed to work as I soon felt much better (this, of course, could also have been due to natural causes).
My Garmin GPS could not load the Indian map from Open Street Map, so I bought a map from Garmin (at a rather hefty price), which did not load either, and I was a bit peeved off by that. I sent an email to Garmin's head office, but they, conveniently, passed me off to another department, saying that I must contact my local (South African) branch!! I had little time for such incompetence. I located Garmin's head office in Delhi and elbowed my way through the crowds, trying as best as I could to avoid the cow dung, dog shit, and human excrement on the pavements. Once there, the staff members tried their best to load the map, but again, it was loading so slowly that we agreed to leave it overnight and that I would pick it up in the morning. Back at the hotel, I met Darryl, another cyclist. We went out for a beer, and it was refreshing to just chat about everyday things.
It was 17 November by the time I left Delhi, taking a lift (by car) to Puskar. We first swung by the Garmin office to pick up the GPS, but there was still no map on the device. I sincerely hoped that this was my last public transport in India, as I was by now itching to get on the bike again.
I just want to make it quite clear to everyone that I'm cycling-touring for no other reason than that I love travelling by bicycle, and that I love moving on and that, most of all, I love the unknown. I have no agenda, plan, or reason for doing this. As weird as it may sound to many of my friends, I'm cycling by myself because that is what I enjoy doing. I have no desire to cycle with, live with, or in any other way, join up with (may it be temporary or long-term) anyone. I am (for the time being) quite content. However, this state of euphoria could change at any given time! Just for the record, I have met some rather nice people along the way! There is an eminent sense of freedom that comes with this lifestyle, and I'm not quite prepared to give it up as yet. It is by no means an easy or comfortable life but, for now, I'm quite content.
18-20 November Pushkar (https://www.flickr.com/photos/110737487@N06/albums/72157661310717380/page1)
I have finally made it to Pushkar, and what a very unusual place it was! Pushkar is a holy town, and most Hindus will visit it at least once in their lifetime. No beer or meat is sold in the town, but I'm sure one can find it if one so wishes. A holy lake forms the centre of town, and it is said to have appeared after Brahma dropped a lotus flower. Today, there are more than 50 bathing ghats and hundreds of temples. It is no wonder that there is a constant sound of drums, gongs, and chanting in the air. There was no sleeping in as the drumming and chanting started around 5 in the morning, which was fine with me as I wanted to get up early to go to the camel fair.
The famous camel fair is where locals come to show, auction, and buy their best camels and horses. The outskirts of Pushkar were literarily a sea of camels. Traders lived in makeshift tents, and there was a festive mood in the air. Kids run around wanting their pictures taken while the grown-ups were in serious conversation bargaining for the best price. I was impressed with the horsemanship and horse trainers. It was amazing what they could make the animal do.
The most distinctive feature of these desert horses is that their ears curve in, nearly touching. I took so many pictures that I did not even edit them all, as there were just too many. It was rather difficult to take pictures, as the event was much larger than I had expected, and there were thousands of people, camels, and horses—getting a clear shot of anything was quite an achievement. I felt a bit out of my league, as there were real professional photographers with big lenses, so I tried to stay out their way and slinked around the back.
The road leading to the fairground was lined with stalls selling all kinds of horse and camel paraphernalia, as well as anything else the traders could need, from bedrolls to barbers. They all seemed to cater to men, even if there were plenty of women. It appeared to me that women remained very much second-class citizens, as they were the dung collectors and cooks. Only around 50% of women in Rajasthan are educated, and this is also the state with the biggest gap between men and women.
Aside from the traders and photographers, there were plenty of other travellers, including European hippy/Indian look-alikes with dreadlocked hair and dangling earrings, using the word "Namasté" at regular intervals.
The camel fair, I discovered, was merrily a side show to the real thing. Now, it is also Kartik Purnima, which refers to the time that the pilgrims come to dip in the sacred lake of Pushkar. Needless to say, it was noisy and crowded, and the narrow main road was packed with tourists, pilgrims, and beggars. I quite liked the madness of it all! Then, there were the bizarre - from the limbless with begging bowls to snake charmers and five-legged calves. I felt like all I needed to make a few bucks were a begging bowl and a spot outside the temple! This is truly the event of the year.
21 November Pushkar – Beawar 90 km (app)
As amazing as Pushkar was, I had itchy feet and wanted to get on the road. Getting out of Pushkar was a difficult task as I was trying to avoid the main road to Ajmer. I, more than once, landed up on a sandy track and had to turn back again. In the end, I must have gone in a huge circle, and what could have been a fairly short day turned out to be a whole-day affair. I, unfortunately, lost my odometer but guess the distance to have been around 90 kilometres. Even worse was that I discovered that Rajasthan was not all that safe! I was nearly robbed three times in one day! I specifically took the smaller roads as I was trying to avoid the busy main roads. That, however, seemed to be a mistake.
The first incident was three guys on a motorbike who waited for me on a particularly lonely stretch. I instantly knew something was going to happen, and as I got to them, the one grabbed the handlebars, forcing me to stop. He then (quick as lightning) grabbed my cell phone (which was in the handlebar holder) but, fortunately, dropped it and then got back on the motorbike and sped off.
The second incident involved a middle-aged man who grabbed my bike as I cycled past. I'm not sure what he wanted, but he had an axe with him, so I was not going to argue. He pointed to the front wheel; I'm not sure if he wanted that or just an inner tube. He then asked for a photo, and after I told him that I did not have a camera, he let go of the bike.
During the third incident, a woman came running after me and hit me on the back. I don't know if she just wanted to touch me or if she wanted something, but I did not want to stop; it was weird! After that, I found a bicycle salesperson and stuck close to him all the way to Beawar. It was a good thing, too, as he chased away a few persistent followers. Was I happy to reach Beawar!? I looked for a hotel, but they were all full due to weddings or something; or maybe they felt that foreigners caused too much trouble. In the end, I found a room at Hotel Shree and was extremely happy to close the door behind me. Phew, what a day!
22 November - Beawar – Pali 120 km
I had a different route in mind, but when I saw a perfectly good highway, I decided to follow that in the direction of Mumbai. Although it was a toll road, bicycles could use it, and it was surprisingly quiet (that is, quiet for India). I was determined to stay on the big roads although highways are never interesting. I did not need the stress of the day before.
It was a typical, barren, desert landscape with equally barren mountains, just a few goats grazing and a few forlorn plastic bags blowing in the wind. I put my head down and pushed on to Pali past numerous "Dhabas" selling basic food and chai. These Dhabas are very basic (often just a mud structure) with cots for sitting (or lying). I never saw another woman at these Dhabas; most of them were packed with men, however. It kind of makes me uncomfortable to go in there as just about everyone stops eating and stares. It's a bit nerve-wrecking drinking your chai under hundreds of staring eyes.
At least there was plenty of water along the way. Like in most desert areas, there are always clay pots filled with water along the road. It's amazing just how cool the water remains in them. There is always a communal mug, and although many of my friends would not use it, I must admit I do use it, and so far so good.
23 November Pali – Sumerpur 85 km
I did not much feel like cycling but packed up and left anyhow. It was a typical day in Rajasthan; dry and dusty as I cycled past coat herders and women in colourful saris tending the fields. Plenty of people called me to have chai and others stopped to ask where I was going, but with my experience of a few days ago I was a bit wary of stopping.
I made it a short day and stopped in Sumerpur where I found a room in the main road. That night around 12 o’clock there was one almighty racket in the street. It must have been a festival of sorts as a parade went by with music so loud that my bed and all the furniture in the room vibrated!
24 November Sumerpur – Sirohi 45 km
I left town amidst camel carts and scavenging cows. By the time I reached Sirohi, I had noticed what looked like a formidable mountain ahead. Just there and then I called it a day and decided to tackle it in the morning.
25 November Sirohi – Abu Road
Nothing much came of the mountain that looked so formidable. The road weaved its way through the valleys and soon I was on the other side of the mountain. Along the way, I met Ashish Pali and his two kids on their way to Mount Abu for a festival. We chatted for a while, and he gave me his contact details just in case I needed assistance. How sweet is that?
At first I thought of going up the mountain but then got lazy and just chilled for the rest of the day.
26 November - Abu Road – Mehsana 121 km
Before leaving, I had tea and toast! It must be a left-over from colonial times, complete with crust cut off!! It was an easy day on the road and although not very exciting (as I was still following the highway) it all went smoothly. When cycling through rural areas, little visited by foreigners, I seem to scare the living daylight out of the kids. They run for the safety of their mother’s hems, only to peek out once they are safely tucked behind her apron or sari. I don’t blame them as they have most likely never seen a white woman on a bicycle.
And so I left the state of Rajasthan and entered little visited Gujarat. No wonder it is little visited as it is officially a dry state. I understand that one can easily get a permit from the larger hotels, and I may do just that once in Ahmedabad tomorrow. It is unthinkable that I have to go without my nightly beer.
27 November Mehsana – Ahmedabad – 70 km (https://www.flickr.com/photos/110737487@N06/albums/72157660306102234)
It was a short but stressful ride into Ahmedabad. Most of the way, it was not too busy, but getting into the city and finding a budget room was a different story. In the process, I met Shabier, a tuk-tuk driver and the sweetest man one could hope for. He pointed me in the direction of the Stayinn Hotel, which turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
28-29 November Ahmedabad
I joined the early morning walking tour of the old city and thought it money well spent. What a fascinating place Ahmedabad is. After the walk, I set off by tuk-tuk with Shabier to the very impressive Adalaj step-well. A 5-story deep step-well built in 1498 by Muslim King Mohammed Begda for Queen Rani Roopba.
Legend has it that Rana Veer Singh, a Hindu ruler, was attacked by Mohammed Begda, the Muslim ruler of a neighbouring kingdom. The Rana king was killed and his widow, a beautiful lady known by the name Rani Roopba, though in deep grief at the death of her husband, agreed to a marriage proposal made by King Mahmud Begada on the condition that he would first complete the building of the step-well. The Muslim king, who was deeply enamoured of the queen’s beauty, agreed to the proposal and built the well in record time. Once the well was completed, Begda reminded the queen of her promise to marry him. Instead the queen, who had achieved her objective of completing the step-well started by her husband, decided to end her life, as a mark of her devotion to her husband. She circumambulated the step-well with prayers and jumped into the well, ending the saga of building the well in tragedy. These events are depicted on the walls of the well. They were rather dramatic in those days!!!
Ahmedabad is home to the Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi’s headquarters from 1917 – 1930 during the struggle for Indian independence. It is said he chose this site because it was between a jail and a cemetery and anyone in favour of independence was bound to end up in one of them. It is from here that Gandhi started his famous Salt March. As I read the history I, once again, will say that there (at least in my mind) is nothing worse than colonialism. How anyone can think it was a good thing boggles the mind.
Outside was a statue of Gandhi's three proverbial wise monkeys: "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". I had no idea they had names. Apparently they are Mizaru, covering his eyes, Kikazaru, covering his ears, and Iwazaru, covering his mouth. I also came upon the Kalam Kush paper mill. The mill uses a Gandhian technique where paper is still made by hand using off-cuts from fabric. I understand that all government offices (at least in Ahmedabad) use paper from this mill. I hope that this is true; wouldn't that be great?
The following day Shabier picked me up again as I wanted to go to the supermarket. We first swung by Gulbai Tekra, a small slum known as ‘Hollywood Basti’ because of the women dressed in their colourful clothing. Gulbai Tekra is home to over 1000 families making a living out of carving Ganesh statues. As always, most people were keen to have their pictures taken. Some women veiled their faces with their dupattas, revealing only their traditional nose-rings, while some posed more boldly and pointed at me. In the process, I got caught up in a funeral procession and was welcomed into their midst and did not leave without a bindi.
I walked past the homeless families living on the pavement and thought it not such a bad life after all. They were extremely well-organised and even had a clock on the wall and space for hanging things. Some had beds and kitchen utensils. What impressed me most were the kids doing their school homework. Multiplication tables were neatly written out in a notebook.
I always thought it quite sad that I worked from early morning ‘till late at night just to come home to rest, and then off to do the same thing again. I did all that for a few bob of which there were only enough enabling me to do the same the next month. If there were any left, I would buy things with it, which I then had to worry about and took out insurance and locked doors and windows so no one can take it away from me…bizarre, really. We all have our problems, I guess.
30 November – 1 December - Ahmedabad – Vadodara 115 km
I was following Gandhi's Salt March, also known as the Dandi March, and met quite a few pilgrims along the way. At one of the roadside stalls, I stopped for tea and was asked if I was from China. I had a good look at myself in the mirror that night. Ha ha ha! Never in a million years had I thought that I even remotely looked Chinese.
As I cycled along, I was acutely aware that I was immersed in a world of overwhelming and unparalleled bombardment of the senses. From the constant hooting, dust, and vehicle fumes to the incense-perfumed air and peaceful chanting of Hindu devotees; I cycled past dead animals rotting in the heat of the tropics, past people playing cricket on immaculate green fields, past incredibly ornate Hindu temples, and homeless people living on the street. I was greeted friendly by rickshaw wallas and tea-sellers, all wanting to know “What’s your country?” Motorcycles pulled up next to me asking for a selfie; I guess all this is India.
I stayed in Vadodara the following day as well as there were a few things I thought worthwhile seeing. I got up late, had breakfast and then went looking for a lens cap (which I lost again!). The whole process was quite time consuming and interesting, and in the end I returned to my room not having done much.
2–3 December Vadodara – The Tri-Temple Complex 135 km
I left early-ish as I wanted to escape the morning traffic. Fortunately, things don’t get busy until around 10h00, so I had an easy cycle out of town. I got back onto the highway, which is never the most exciting job, but at least it had a shoulder. The shoulder was mostly used by traffic driving on the “wrong” side, so I had to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic as well. Although it was a toll-road, there were ox-carts, camel-carts, trucks, buses, cars and tuk-tuks, all heading south into the ever present haze.
Ironically, while India was choking silently, half of parliament was in France for the Climate Change meeting. Whenever I stopped for a cup of tea or to fill my water bottle, there was always a crowd curiously inspecting the bicycle. They looked and debated and then concluded that the solar charger was for charging the bicycle…..I wish! Someone even suggested that my water bottle was petrol as surely I needed some help with this load!
It was easy cycling, so I pushed on until I reached the turn-off for Surat. I asked around for a guest house (as the word hotel mostly means a restaurant around here). I was pointed in the direction of the temple, and what an exciting evening it turned out to be! The Tri-Temple Complex is a non-denominational and non-sectarian complex. It is said that the temple is there for the welfare and well-being of the entire world. I was given a room for INR100 and ate for an additional 30. I was given brochures to read and found, once again, the importance and power of the Trinity fascinating. I think that most religions have a three of something. Most of the reading was over my head, and with some I did not agree 100%, but it was all fascinating stuff.
I stayed the following day as well and read the remainder of the brochures. I especially found “Adjust Everywhere” a fascinating read. It could just be that I agree with this kind of thinking — of adjusting yourself instead of expecting the world and others to conform to you, something that is harder to do than it sounds. Although, when I look at social media nowadays, it appears that most people expect society to change to accept them….. Each to their own……
4 December - The Tri-Temple Complex – Navsari - 40 km
I did not feel well at all but packed up and left the temple. On checking out, I found that they wanted no money for my stay! I soon discovered that staying another day might have been a better choice as I had a severe case of the “Delhi-belly.” There is truly no fun in cycling and vomiting next to the road and constantly looking for a bush to hide behind.
Forty kilometres down the road I turned into the town of Navsari and found a rather luxurious hotel at INR1,350 up per night (about $20). By the time I got there, I did not care how much I was paying and just wanted a room with an attached bathroom! As I took out my money to pay, I got the shock of my life and found that (again) they wanted no money! I overheard them say something about 8 years cycling or something! I wonder how they knew. How awesome is that? I could not be happier, had a great shower, and flopped down onto my very large and comfortable bed! I spent the remainder of the day between the bathroom and my very large and comfortable bed. LOL.
5 December Navsari - Valsad 60 km
I still did not feel well but did not what to overstay my welcome. I thanked the owner for this hospitality and continued south. At least I felt better than the day before. After about 60 kilometres I reached Valsad and thought it a good place to stop. I found a room and slept for the rest of the day.
6 December Valsad – Manor 109 km
Sometimes it feels like everything goes wrong at the same time. I wanted to pump the tires and found that my bicycle pump was broken, aghhh! Fortunately, there was a bicycle wallah who could quickly give it a pump or two and at the same time also place a few drops of oil on the chain. I cycled out of town (as always) in the company of water buffalo and cows. I smiled as I saw a big sign on the highway indicating that one lane was for the use of cars, one for trucks, and one for heavy vehicles. At least someone tried to get some order out of this chaos.
I cycled past the “cricket-bat slum”; it seems like there is a slum for everything. If one needs a bat, this will be the place to come. One can even have it personalised or decorated with one's favourite cricketer. Shortly after I left, I thought it would be a good idea to stop at the chemist and pick up some medication for nausea and diarrhoea. Never knock the drug companies!!! They make wonderful stuff at a pittance! I paid the incredible amount of INR65 and soon felt like a new person. For obvious reasons, I did not feel too energetic and got myself a Coke and a Red Bull, which I mixed in my water bottle. Wow, you should have seen me! I flew down the road (or maybe it was due to a tail wind, LOL) and only stopped once I reached Manor. It looked like there were some mountains between Manor and Mumbai, which was still about 110 kilometres away, making Manor the perfect place to overnight.
7 - 12 December Manor – Mumbai 115 km
I did not get away until after 9 p.m. but, at least, it was easy riding until about 50 kilometres outside the city centre. The traffic was incredible and once again I feared for my life. The best thing one can do is to go with the flow as much as possible. Mumbai is theoretically an island and is connected to the mainland by bridges.
Once in the city, I headed for the suburb of Colaba where I stayed while cycling India in 2008. I could not remember the name of the place but knew it was somewhere behind the very fancy Taj Mahal Palace. I cycled around and looked at a few places, none of which looked suitable. The touts drove me crazy, following me around and insisting that I follow them. I felt sorry for them as I know full well that it is their job - it still irritated me, it was a long day, and I wanted to find a reasonably priced room as I was, most likely, going to stay for a few days.
By chance I found Bentley’s Hotel where I stayed before and, low and behold, would the guy at reception not ask: “Have you not stayed here before?” He must surely say that to everyone as there is no chance that he could really remember me. In any event, I took a room in one of their other buildings as it was even cheaper, plus it was a large room on the ground floor where I could easily push the bicycle right into the room. Bargain!!!
From here on I have no idea in which direction to go. I have already cycled the rest of India and only wanted to cycle the stretch between Delhi and Mumbai as that was the stretch I missed out on the last time due to a broken arm. No wonder the guy can remember as I arrived with a broken arm and a black eye, left the bicycle at the hotel, disappeared for a few weeks and then reappeared later and continued. I can now cycle the same route south and meet Rachel and Patrick along the way, or cut across the country to Bangladesh.
I feel that I should shed some light on a subject that has been raised a few times. “How can you afford it!” Firstly, as most people know, I sold up and left South Africa in March 2007 and have been living on the road ever since. I truly live like a homeless person (now you can also say you know a homeless person). I owe and own nothing. I have no house, no car, no pension, no medical aid, and no insurance of any kind. No, I did not inherit any money either, what I have I worked for, and that is as simple as that. It is not a glamorous life; I have with me all I need: a tent, a sleeping bag, a stove, and a few bits and bobs like clothes and toiletries. I also have some bicycle stuff (i.e., duct tape, cable ties and WD-40), a bicycle pump, spare tubes, and a few tools. I do, however, have some very luxurious items with me, including my tripod, my camera (a very basic Canon Rebel), and three lenses: an EF 24-105 L IS USM, an EF 70-300 L USM, and the Canon 100 mm macro lens. I also have an old laptop that is slowly busy packing up. I also have a phone as well as a Garmin GPS (which I seldom use). I eat from the markets; I sleep where I get, may it be next to the road in a tent or a room in the city. Like most other cycle-tourers, I have slept in some rather interesting places. In the process, I have stayed with the most wonderful and generous people anyone can wish for, and for that, I will always be grateful.
My beloved laptop finally packed up and I handed it in for repairs. They could fortunately fix it but what a mission to re-install everything. It took the best part of the night to reload everything.
13 December - Mumbai – Alibag 20 km
The time has come for me to leave Mumbai and cycle to the harbour where I got a ferry to Mardva. Leaving Mumbai for the South Coast, or getting into Mumbai from the south, is made easy by the very convenient ferry across the bay. The ferry ride saved me from cycling through the city with all its traffic, something I was extremely happy about. The bay was quite hectic with loads of ferries coming and going, some obviously a bit overloaded and leaning precariously to one side.
Shortly after I left the jetty at Mardva, I met Ashish Agashe, a cyclist from Mumbai. He is a journalist for the local paper but also a keen cyclist who has cycle-toured all over India. Ashish introduced me to his brother Anil, his brother’s wife Janhavi, and the small boy Abhinav, who lived in Alibag. Ashish was visiting for the weekend, and I was invited to stay for the night. It was, as always, a pleasure and totally fascinating to stay with a local family.
Interestingly enough, they are of no specific religion but are instead Realists and extremely concerned about the poor and the footprint we leave behind. This all made for a rather interesting and fascinating conversation. All I can say to them is, “Bravo and keep up the good work.” I was also introduced to Sumit, India’s famous endurance cyclist, who also lives in Alibag. By endurance cycling, I mean a cool 400 kilometres a day!!! I can’t get my head around those kinds of kilometres!!!
14 - 15 December - Alibag – Murud - 50 km
I sat chatting to Janhavi until I realized that it was already after 10h00. I cycled the Konkan Coast on my first visit to India, and it seemed that nothing has changed. The road was still as bumpy and narrow in places, and the steep uphills were still there. It was a wonderful rural cycle through endless villages; we passed local markets and villagers drying their produce along the road.
It's hard to believe that this undeveloped coastline still exists, and it is a mere 50/70 kilometres south of the very busy and large metropolis of Mumbai. After I had reached the sleepy fishing village of Murud, I decided to continue along the road, but later turned around and went back to Murud as there were far more amenities in Murud than further along the coast.
That evening, I sat watching the sunset over the Arabian Sea and could not help but smile; it has been a long time since I left the coast in Thailand, and I was happy to be next to the ocean again. The weather in December was perfect, and at sunset the food stalls made their appearance along the beachfront. I found myself a chair, ordered some of the local cuisine, and was quite happy just sitting there watching a game of beach cricket.
I woke to a beautiful morning and watched the fishermen bring in their catch. School kids continued their cricket game of the night before, and I sat watching the comings and goings of this small village while sipping my sweet chai. All this happened while villagers used the water’s edge for their morning ablutions; this truly is amazing India!
In the end, I decided to stay another day as there was truly no rush to get anywhere. I took a walk along the beach to the market, stepping rather carefully! The little fish market was a hive of activity, and as I looked at all the tiny fish and shrimp for sale, I was once again amazed that there was still any fish left in the ocean.
16 December - Murud – Harihareshwar - 52 km
Shortly after I left, I took a ferry across the river, which made it a much shorter day. From time to time, the road was narrow and bumpy but always a pleasure to cycle. Monkeys darted across the road in a playful manner and, in contrast to the cities, pleasant smells drifted across the road. I could smell frangipani, sandalwood and the sweet smell of incense drifting from the roadside temples and from time to time the lovely aroma of the good ‘erb. This stretch of the coast is known for its short, steep hills, and it is not a myth!
I pulled into Harihareshwar, known for its beachside temple which is extremely popular with local tourists/devotees. The structures itself was rather unimpressive for such a famous temple. The temple is dedicated to Kalbhairav, a manifestation of Lord Shiva and was built in the 18th century. Today it houses an ancient Shiva Linga adding to the popularity of the temple.
I found myself a room and the staff looked quite taken with the fact that a foreigner was in their hotel. I was not surprised to look out of my window straight into the neighbour’s water buffalo shed. The whole night I could hear the buffalo stomping, snorting and chewing the cud; not that I minded - it was actually quite nice listening to all the sounds.
17 December - Harihareshwar – Harnai - 61 km
I first had breakfast at a local “restaurant”. The lady went out in the backyard to do the dishes and stoke the fire, then came back with an omelette and chapatti. Sometimes, even having breakfast can be an adventure.
Four kilometres after leaving Harihareshwar, I took a ferry across the river to the town of Vesavi. From the jetty, it was a “push-up-the-hill” road to get to the main road. Again, it was pure pleasure to be on the back roads. The road runs partly along the coast and partly inland, and soon I reached another point where I could get yet another boat across the river. This time, it was a rather tiny one; it was a bit of a mission to get the bike and the panniers on the boat and across to the other side, but it saved me nearly 40 kilometres.
One minute I was next to the coast, and the next up in the hills, through small villages where markets spill onto the road. Then I was on narrow farm roads where ox carts have preference and villagers stared at me, slack-jawed. By the time I reached the third ferry, I decided rather to cycle around and cross the river via a bridge instead of loading everything onto a boat again.
I continued to pass the smallest of villages where locals dried both clothes and shrimp in the road. I soon reached the small village of Harnai, famous for its colourful fishing harbour, and decided to stay there for the night.
18 December - Harnai – Guhagar, 90 km
I was slow in leaving as the previous night I tossed and turned and could not fall asleep. My host provided breakfast, and what an interesting breakfast it was! I first turned down to the beach as I thought I could follow the coastal road via Karde. The road, however, petered out and later disappeared altogether. Fortunately, it was not far so I turned back and followed the main road. It was a hilly ride and although not difficult it was a slow day on the road. There are few things I enjoy as much as following back roads through small villages and today there were plenty! I could not have been happier.
Again, I had to cross a river by ferry - this time it was a car ferry, making it rather easy with the bicycle. The price for both me and the bicycle as a hefty 16 rupees! Again, the road leading from the jetty to the main road had a steep switchback but the rest of the day was relatively easy cycling.
19 - 20 December - Guhagar – Ratnagiri 100 km
I first had a breakfast of very spice idly and tea, with the result that it was already 9h30 by the time I left. The plan was to cycle along the coast, but everyone I asked told me it was not possible. Instead, I had to turn inland for 4 kilometres and then turn right. No one mentioned the 4 kilometres being uphill, and soon I had to make an Eno-stop—fried chilies and uphills don’t go well together.
Both my GPS and Google Maps indicated a route along the coast, but I did not want to make the same mistake as the previous day, so I went with the local knowledge. It was somewhat further than the coastal route and rather hilly. Needless to say, it was a slow day. The inland route was rural India at its very best. Women doing laundry in a stream made for a colourful picture, and here men still wear the Dhoti.
It was not an especially difficult route, just slow and very sparsely populated, to such an extent that I ran out of the water and had to flag down a truck to ask if they had water to spare. A few kilometres further, I found a roadside stall selling freshly made lemonade. I gulped down one glass and ordered a second to put in my water bottle. At last, it seemed that the road was heading downhill, but 5 kilometres from the town of Ratnagiri, I encountered the mother of all hills! Phew….. I even had to walk the bike. That was not what I needed at the end of the day!
I stayed an extra day in Ratnagiri and did nothing, except for some internet stuff and long overdue laundry.
21 December - Ratnagiri – Devgad 100 km
It was good weather again - I love the weather in December as it is not that humid, and although it was around 30/33˚C it was good cycling weather. By that, I do not mean that I did not sweat buckets! It was not the most interesting of stretches so I pushed on to Devgad. It was still “hilly an’ all” as they say here.
Not much I can do but put the bike in an easy gear and peddle on. It makes for a slow day, but there was no rush. I entertained myself by following the signs painted on the road for “TOD” which, I guess, is a bicycle race. When they said “push”, I pushed, and when they said “slow down”, I slowed down.
I met the most interesting woman along the way, dressed in traditional clothes and with facial tattoos, interesting nose and toe rings - she made for a rather cool picture. I stopped in Devgad, found a room, looked for food and that was me, done for the day.
22 - 23 December - Devgad – Malvan - 50 km
The day started off in the usual manner with me first having breakfast at one of the local joints. As always, when I walk in the whole place generally comes to a complete standstill. I have two choices: first, I can ignore it, sit down, order my food, eat, leave, and pretend no one saw me; or I can say a loud “good morning!” give them a smile, and let them discuss among themselves where I’m from, how old I am, and where I’m going. This morning I opted for the latter.
Today I had one of those crazy days with a guy on a motorbike passing me and then stopping just ahead. This action typically means trouble and today was no different. He started playing with himself and as I cycled past he had the audacity to tell me to stop. Did he really think I was going to stop and watch him? What a wanker! I continued cycling, but he soon came past me again and once again slowed down. I flagged down a tuk-tuk, and although they did not speak any English, the wanker on the motorbike saw me pointing at him and left. This made me feel rather uneasy, as it was again a lonely stretch of road; where is the traffic when you need it?
About 30 or 40 kilometres later, my bicycle suddenly came to a complete halt. I thought the gear cables snapped, but why both at the same time? I could not turn the pedals at all, and the shifters did not respond. While trying to loosen things up, a friendly couple on a motorbike stopped and flagged down a lift for me to Malvan, where they assured me I would find a bicycle mechanic. Upon reaching Malvan, we stopped at the bicycle mechanic, and once the bicycle was offloaded, I noticed that…wait for it…everything was in perfect working order!!! What the heck was that all about? What a strange day!
24 December - Malvan – Arambol 80 km
In 2008, I cycled this route with my sister, Amanda, who, at the time, claimed that on this stretch, she had to walk her bike up six hills within a space of 25 kilometres. It was not that bad, but I did cross about that many valleys where the road descended steeply to the river and then climbed, just as steeply, away from it. I was not impressed when I found the approach road to Arambol equally hilly. I was expecting more of a gentle descent to the beach.
Arambol has been a favourite amongst Europeans since the ’60s and still is today a bit of a hippy town. It was, therefore, no wonder that pulling into Arambol was a bit of a culture shock. There were white people everywhere! The place was literally swarming with scooter-driving Europeans, decked out in their feathery earrings, flowy Indian cotton dresses, and bandanas. Time to don my feathery earrings and floaty dress! I’m going to hang out here for a while.
25 - 27 December - Arambol
It was a slow life in Arambol. Nothing happens very fast, and most days were spent on the beach or taking a walk along the cliffs. In the evenings, I sat sipping coffee or beer at one of the beach restaurants.
In the process, I overheard a conversation where people were swapping travel stories, and I had a little giggle at the comment, “…and at one time there was not even any internet.” Adventure travel has just taken on a whole new meaning! More interesting was people-watching on the beach; I am now convinced that people of my age should be prohibited, by law, from wearing bikinis in public! It’s not a pretty sight! The same goes for the beached whales! Maybe I only say this as the Indian women customarily swim in their clothes, in stark contrast to the Europeans in their skimpy swimwear.
Arambol is also popular among a certain country's travellers. They are not the most popular of travellers; I overheard a hostel owner telling them that they were full while I knew they were not. The reason being that they are high-maintenance guests and are mostly not worth the effort. They are the type that will eat other people's food in a hostel, taking pride in the fact that they ate and did not pay for it. Personally, I don’t like the way they always try and do the locals out of a few cents. The local people are already poor, and to bargain them down to near a no-profit situation is unnecessary, according to me. Live and let live, I say! Sad that money has become so all-important. You hardly ever find them travelling alone, and they will always try to squeeze as many as possible in a room and then still complain about the room rate!
28 December – 4 January 2016 - Arambol
I enrolled in a five-day Iyengar Yoga course and was excited to do something different for a change. The course was far more pricey than anticipated, but it is rather well-known, and I liked the whole concept of this type of yoga. The main purpose is to align the body so it can heal itself. I was shocked at just how inflexible I have become, especially the upper thighs, back, and shoulders. This I blame on the years of cycling and the lack of any other form of exercise.
The course was quite intensive and lasted just about the entire morning, making me feel like I did not waste my money. Not only did we have an instructor, but she had three helpers who would walk around and help where needed. I enjoyed the yoga course as it was very much my type of yoga. It is not about the poses or whether you can touch your toes but all about what is best for you and your body, and after three days I could already feel a difference.
In the evenings, I wandered down to the beach just to observe the spectacle. Every night, the beach was packed with people all involved in some kind of activity. From doing yoga to fire dancing, they were all there. On the one hand, someone would have a drumming circle with spaced-out people dancing, each to their own tune, and on the other hand, there was, equally spaced-out, the Hari Krishna’s singing and drumming. It looked like every man and his dog were sitting in the lotus position staring into space or had a stall selling feathery earrings, handmade flutes, and jewellery. Restaurants put out tables on the beach, and there was a general air of festivity in the air.
I was quite out of my routine and hardly wrote in my dairy or took any pictures—not that very much happened in Arambol; it was very much the same every day.
The Peach Garden, where I stayed, had a restaurant/bar area that was a favourite joint, with music every night. I, therefore, did not have to go far to socialise; I could just plonk myself down on one of the cushions, and soon enough, a conversation would start. The best part of this type of socialising is that one can leave at any given time without anyone being offended. I quite liked it.
5 - 7 January - Arambol – Panjim (Panaji) - 35 km
Even though I had met some really nice people, I was getting itchy feet and wanted to move on. I packed up my belongings and headed down the coast to Goa’s capital, Panjim. Panjim is an interesting city as it used to be Portuguese territory, and the city still has a very distinctive Portuguese feel to it, down to the tiled-street names.
I headed straight for Probyk, the local bike shop, as I wanted them to go over the bike with a fine-toothed comb. We, as always, chatted about cycle-touring, and I was offered a room in one of the local guest houses at a much reduced rate. Needless to say, I stayed in absolute luxury while my bike was being cared for. I took to the streets of the old quarters as it was there that one could find a whole host of narrow streets with the most colourful old Portuguese buildings. One could be excused for thinking you had walked right into the back streets of Lisbon.
I collected my bicycle from the bike shop and was more than impressed with the professional service I received. The mechanic was very good at his job and fixed and replaced even the smallest thing. I also ordered 2 new tyres and had to wait a day or so for it to arrive. In the meantime, I walked the old part of the city and marvelled at all the old houses with their colourful door and window frames, all still so very Portuguese right down to the lace curtains and sleeping cats.
In the evening at sat on one of the tiny wrought iron balconies overlooking the street, enjoying a beer and a plate of masala peanuts. It’s time to hit the road again, me thinks!
On the 7th I got my bike back, squeaky clean and with a set of brand new tyres! I was ready to go!
8 - 9 January - Panjim – Akonda 75 km
I did not want to overstay my welcome at The Royal Phoenix Inn, and with my newly serviced bike, I left the town of Panjim.
If ever you have the inclination to envy me and my life on the road, today was not one to be envied! On a day that should have been as easy as pie, it turned out a most difficult one. Although well-rested and with a newly serviced bike running smoother that it did in months, I felt tired and had no energy. As always, along this coast, there were a few hills, and I had no energy for those today. It was with great difficulty that I got myself and my load up and over these hills. On one of the long hills, I even stopped for a photo, and not that there was any photo in it, it was just an excuse to stop (LOL). Gee, some days just takes more mental strength than others!
I was more than happy to see the top of the hill - after that it was almost all downhill into touristy Akonda with its rows and rows of beach huts, touristy stalls, and beach restaurants. I found myself a beach hut and paid more that I should have, but I was in no mood to look for a cheapy.
I stayed one more day, just lazing around. Even although Akonda has grown beyond all measures, I still liked it and may come back here one day.
10 January - Akonda to roadside hotel – 82 km
Thanks to everyone who has sent me energy; I must have received it, as it was a much better day on the road, and I felt energized and in good spirits. I was up and over those hills like a hot knife through butter (ha, ha, ha). At last, I left the tiny state of Goa and crossed the border into the state of Karnataka.
As soon as I left Goa, the scenery started resembling the backwaters of Kerala; even though I was not even there yet. It was a lovely ride through the countryside and past the rice paddies. I even tried to take a selfie, but I’m really bad at selfies, even though I have promised myself to take at least one in every country. It must surely be the most boring thing I could do. I gave it one shot and then gave up; maybe another day.
Although most people are extremely friendly and helpful in India, there is always some that, as we say in South Africa, “want to pull the ass out of the chicken”. I stopped at a juice stand and bought three glasses of juice. I drank one and put two in my water bottle. The stall owner took a 100-rupee bill out of my hand, even after I had paid, and he did not want to give it back. In the end, the juice cost an astronomical amount. There was little I could do about it, so I left.
I was unsure if I wanted to turn down to touristy Om beach or just continue along the road. It was getting late, so I settled for a roadside hotel where the same kind of rip-off was happening. I was shocked; this had to be a Karnataka thing. In India, the price of all items is printed on them, but at this place, they charged double that amount. Maybe they only do it to foreigners, as they think they will not get reported.
So, whatever you do, never stay at the Varadara Hotel. However, I’m quite sure no one will ever have the need to stay there. I subsequently discovered that the Varadara Hotel was the place where backpackers from Om beach come to catch the bus. Suddenly, it all made sense: someone may, after all, have the need to stay there.
11 January – Roadside Hotel – Murdeshwar 90 km
I woke fairly early, but again, it was 9.30 a.m. by the time I left. It was a day of easy cycling, and for the first time since being in India, I met another cyclist on the road. Unfortunately, I lost her as I thought Murdeshwar was still a few kilometres away.
In any event, I was not sure whether I wanted to turn down to the Temple town of Murdeshwar or continue on. In the end, I had a look at the map and could not see anything interesting within an hour or two’s cycling from Murdeshwar, so I decided to pay this temple another visit. Along the way, I saw many buses and cars, all decorated with flags and flowers, and wondered where they were going. Arriving, I had to wonder no more as they were all parked outside the temple.
I understand that Murdeshwar is another name for Shiva and, as can be expected, there is a huge statue of Shiva on the little hill overlooking the town. The statue is 37 metres high and is said to be the second tallest in the world. In addition to the statue, there is also a large 20-story temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. As can be expected, the town is extremely popular with devotees of Shiva. The town was packed with barefoot and bare-chested men in black wraparounds, as men can only visit the temple with a bare chest.
12 January - Murdeshwar – Udupi -109 km
It was a bit of a mixed bag of cycling as road works continued along the coast; I kept an eye out for a smaller coastal road, but there was nothing I could see and, therefore, had to keep to the busy main road. The road works were a royal pain in the ass, as the road was terribly narrow, busy, and in poor condition. Half way to Udupi, I suddenly found myself on a new road that was a pleasure to cycle on, and I was smiling once again.
Udupi was another temple town, and home to a 13th century Krishna temple surrounded by eight monasteries. Under normal circumstances, Udupi is a hive of activity, but on this day, it was even worse as it was the Udupi Paryaya festival - a festival held every even year in which the outgoing Swamiji hands over duties to the new Swamiji. There was not a room to be had, and I cycled around and around looking for one. In the end, I settled for the rather fancy Hotel Sri Ram Residency. Even with the discount they gave me, it was far more than I would normally pay. However, it was a much nicer room than what I normally get for my money.
I took a walk around town. The mood was festive, with music outside the temple, a show on the square, and the temples decorated with strings of flowers.
13 January - Udupi – Kasaragod 110 km
On the outskirts of Udupi, I stopped at a roadside stall for breakfast. It’s always a pleasure to eat at these stalls. Not only are they dirt cheap, but also, the conversations with locals are priceless. It was a really slow day, as the road works were in full swing along this section, making for a rather miserable day of cycling.
I crossed the state border into Kerala and was surprised to find a rather conservative-looking area. It was clearly a Muslim area and a conservative one on top of that, as there were more burkas than in Tehran. More surprising was that there was an election or a celebration of sorts going on, and the roads were decorated with strings of Communist Party flags. Now, that is a combination that could put the fear of God into many a person! LOL.
I did not escape without someone giving me the middle finger out of a car window. I did shout “sit on it and swivel!” after him, but my words were lost in the wind; by that time, the coward was long gone and would, most likely, not have understood the phrase. On reaching Kasaragod, I found, once again, that all accommodations were booked out, but I eventually found a room and was happy to put my feet up.
There is never a dull moment. My mom, now 86, and although healthy, needs some assistance and TLC. I will, therefore, be flying to South Africa on January 22, to assist her and do what I can. I’m not really the right person for the job, but I will figure something out. I have no idea how long I will stay. All I know is that I will stay as long as it takes to see that she is comfortable, stress-free and happy.
14 January - Kasaragod – Kannur 107 km
Again, it was a day of getting on the road late; it must have been close to 10h00 before I finally left. There seemed no end to the dreaded roadworks and, this time, it included long diversions. In a car, a 10 kilometre diversion is nothing, but on a bicycle, it is 10 kilometres!
There was not much looking around as I concentrated on the road that became narrower as the day went on. In India, the traffic has a tendency to drive without looking left or right. They will cut you off, pull in front of you, and overtake when they can clearly see you coming along. Clearly, this is breeding ground for road rage and made for a tiring day of cycling.
To keep my mind off the bad driving, I made imaginary jewellery. I used all kinds of things, like feathers, stones and crystals, and they were quite beautiful, I must admit (LOL). In real life, it felt like the day passed slowly, and I stopped numerous times for coconut or sugar cane juice, always trying to have a chat, but off the beaten track not much English is spoken. Once I reached Kannur, I pulled into the market area, where I found the Meridian Palace Hotel. It was not much of a Palace, but it did me just fine for the night.
15 January - Kannur – Kozhikode 94 km
I was blown away by my Facebook posting of the previous day. It is wonderful to have such incredible support! I love them all! I had to make one thing clear: I was NOT going to look after my mother. I can't even fry an egg, let alone take care of anyone! My mom made it clear that she did not want any of us caring for her, and she also did not want to live with any of us. Her reasoning for that was sound and I agree with her 100%. She wanted to move to an old age home and I just want to be there and help where I can; she may even decide to go to an old age home closer to Cape Town, where my sisters live.
My day on the road was a bit on the slow side. I felt lethargic, and the road was not all that interesting. I stopped at Fort Thalassery for a few pictures and was on my way again. Fortunately, there were plenty of fruit and juice stands along the way to keep me occupied. I pushed on to Kozhikode, where I thought I would find beachside accommodation. That was, however, not the case as it was quite a large town and the hotels on the beachfront were too expensive so I had to settle for something in the back streets.
16 January - Kozhikode – Guruvayur 90 km
From my previous cycle in India, I thought that coastal Kerala was more interesting. In fact, it was one long, drawn-out village with a busy and narrow road, not even running next to the ocean. I was also a bit lethargic, which is always the case after cycling for 7 continuous days. Sadly, I’m not a machine. I did not feel particularly tired; it felt more like I was coming down with a bout of bronchitis, not surprising in this polluted air.
I found the people from Kerala very friendly and in just about every town was greeted with “Welcome to Kerala!” and a smile. I always like it when people say that. Of course, there were also plenty of “What’s your country?” and “What’s your name?”
In India, the most asked question must surely be “What is the purpose of your journey?”, to which I feebly answer that I’m just travelling, leaving them looking a bit perplexed, normally repeating “Just travelling…” with a wobble of the head.
17 - 22 January - Guruvayur – Fort Kochi 70 km
It was my final day of riding in India and I was (as always) half happy and half sad to reach my destination. From Vypin Island, I took the short ferry ride to Fort Kochi and I took the first room I saw as I did not feel like looking around for accommodation. It was, most likely, not the best room as it was hot as hell during the day. Not even the fan could make a difference.
First things first, and I needed to start packing my things - always a huge hassle! I hate flying with the bicycle, not that it is such a big deal; it’s just me being too lazy to put the bicycle into a box.
The following day I cycled to the bike shop to get a box. Once there the staff was kind enough to pack the bicycle for me. I had a few days to spare, not that there was much to do in Kochi. Once I had been to the cultural show and visited the few places of interest, there was truly nothing to do. I did not mind as it was seldom that I got to do nothing. In the day, I mostly ate momo at the Tibetan restaurant (yum, yum, yum) and drank coffee at the No18 Hotel. One hell of a hard life.
My flight was in the early hours of the morning on January 22. The last bus to the airport was at 7 p.m. on January 21, meaning the usual long and boring wait at the airport, or a pricey taxi ride. I opted for the “long and boring” as I thought I had enough to keep myself busy while there.
As always it was a long flight but miraculously I arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, on the same day.