September - Lahore to India - 67km
It was a 35km
ride to the border, which was modern, efficient, and
unexpectedly quiet. From the border it was another 30km to Amristar. What a great place!! As we cycled into town there
was a parade, elephant and all!! Well, this is India after
all. This is the land of the Sikhs and there are turban-clad
men everywhere. We headed straight for the well known Golden
Temple, and what a sight!! Amristar is home to Sikhism’s
holiest shrine, The Golden Temple. There were thousands of
pilgrims, with free accommodation and food for everyone. The
atmosphere inside is truly spiritual and one must remove your
shoes and cover your head before entering. The main temple is
covered in gold, and stands in the middle of a sacred pool. Music is played all the time and devotees dip in the pool which
is suppose to have healing power. While I soaked up the
tranquil atmosphere Ernest went off in search of the local beer
(something we haven’t had for more than 3 months), and on
returning he nearly got kicked out of the dormitory where we
stayed in the temple complex.
September - Amristar – Jalandhar - 78km
at the Golden Temple (sitting in rows on the floor with hundreds
of pilgrims), we left for Jalandhar. The road continued west
and it was a short and easy ride. The countryside is green and
as expected there are many cows everywhere. It was refreshing to
see so many women out and about. Although they still wear the Shalwaar Kameez, they do not cover their hair. There are also
loads of women riding scooters and bicycles, something one never
saw in Pakistan or Iran. Seems like I will still be wearing the Shalwaar Kameez for a while. We found a cheap room just before Jalandar which was like an oven. It appears that here the
power cuts are mostly at night, so no fan!!
September - Jalandhar - Roper - 115km
What a pleasure
it was to be on a flat and smooth road. The weather was still
hot and humid and at times it felt like one was breathing pure watervapour!! At least the countryside is nice and green and
with Ernest having a bad cold it’s a good thing that it was not
too demanding. Another major problem is his broken wheel rim,
which is now looking worse for wear and will not last much
longer. We tried to fix it along the way, but it was no better
than before. Hopefully there will be something one can do in
one of the bigger cities. We found a Youth Hostel in Roper which
has also seen better days, but provided cheap accommodation for
September - Roper to Chandigarh - 25km cycled (&
20km on truck)
Ten km after we
left we stopped for breakfast (Dhal and chapatti with a small
salad) Not much further Ernest had a flat wheel again, due to
the broken rim. Only a few k’s further the same thing happened
again. A local man took Ernest (and rim) on his schooter back
to the previous town, without success. He then loaded our bikes
and us on a truck for the 20 km to Chandigarh, where he dropped
us at our hotel and even found a bike shop which had a spare rim
(not the same quality, but better than nothing). I used the time
to find a new sim card and do some shopping for the usual
shampoo and toothpaste. In the meantime Ernest made some new
friends in a popular tavern.
September - Chandigarh
We managed to find
a professional bike shop and Ernest found a rim, cycle computer,
decent tubes and tire sealant (very important). We also visited
the well known rock garden created by Nek Chand, a 20-ha garden
with walkways, staircases, waterfalls and figures all made out
of junk, a truly fantasy world. We were also lucky to meet the
well known Mr Narinder Singh, a retired civil servant who now
welcomes tourists to Chandigarh, showing them cheap places to
stay and eat. Nothing is too much trouble for him, and he also
recommends places of interest in his home town.
15 September -
Chandigarh – Nahan - 103km
Singh took me to find a detailed road map, we left Chandigarh.
By that time it was already 12h00. At one stage we went up and
down the same road a few times before finding the small turnoff
we were looking for, and we were further delayed when I had a
puncture. The road at first was flat through green landscapes
until we reached the village of Narayangarh. We were in for a
surprise as the next 30km was steep uphill through some of the
most spectacular countryside one can imagine. The going was
slow, so we only reached Nahan about 2 hrs after dark, a
hair-raising experience on a very bad and narrow road with lots
of trucks and busses. Nahan is away from the regular tourist
route, but has an interesting old town with narrow alleys and
many Hindu temples and shrines. There is also a sacred lake in
the center of the town. As most people know cows are holy in
this part of the world, and these animals wander around the town
at leisure – the way stray dogs and cats would do in other
places (even sleeping on the pavement outside the doorways of
After our late
arrival of the previous evening we spent the day wondering
around the old city and resting our tired legs. Ernest was
becoming a bit concerned about the girls calling him “Uncle”, so
he shaved his beard again for the first time in more than 3
months. We did some laundry and hung it on the hotel roof to
dry, but the ever-present local monkeys took a liking to some of
the items (one of the hotel workers had to climb a big tree in
order to retrieve a shirt, which had a hole bitten in the back).
17 September -
Nahan – Dehradun - 98km
Once again a
beautiful ride through the countryside. Villages are close
together with busy markets, and at times it feels like the
country consists of one large village. Finding the way is not
always that easy as most road signs are in the local alphabet,
so we had to constantly ask for directions (not always very
accurate). Again, Ernest had problems with punctures as a tyre
was damaged by the former broken rim. So, it was dark by the
time we arrived in Dehradun. The streets were jam-packed with
rikshas, motorcycles; bicycles, people and animals (all acting
crazy), but eventually we made it to the hotel we were looking
18 September -
I’m plagued with
stomach problems and it was better to stay the day. We used the
time to visit Tapkeshwar Hindu Temple, which has an unusual
shrine inside a cave. We also went to the “World Peace” Stupa
and giant Buddha statue. The stupa is in a Tibetan community on
the outskirts of town, and is a multi-storey structure
consisting of shrine rooms with fantastic murals and Tibetan
art. The bazaars of Dehradun are crowded and full of colour,
with women dressed in the most beautiful saris.
September - Derhadun
The late monsoon
weather caught us, and we awoke to an overcast and rainy day on
the 19th, which continued through the following day.
Floods were being reported from all around India. We waited it
out, watching endless TV re-plays of India winning cricket
matches and reports on the Delhi bomb blasts from the previous
September - Dehradun – Rishikesh - 49 km
At last the
weather cleared and we set off for Rishikesh, again a beautiful
route to cycle, past villages and green fields. We reached
Rishikesh early as it was a very short ride and found a real
good (cheap) hotel right on the Ganges River overlooking the 2,
13-storey temples across the Lakshman Jhula suspension bridge.
considered the Yoga capital of the world, as there are masses of
ashrams and kinds of yoga and meditation classes all over town.
The town has an exquisite setting on the banks of the Ganges and
surrounded by forested hills, couple that with the constant
ringing of the temple bells and Hindi music being played all the
time, it sets the scene for some real soul-searching activities.
No sooner had we arrived when I started feeling really ill, it
was so bad that I sought the help of a Yoga and Natural
Therapist (whatever that is). So the verdict was mal-digestion,
low blood pressure, sluggish circulation and slow metabolism
(well I felt ill enough to believe everything). So, I left there
armed with a list of what- and what not to eat, as well as a bag
full of (unpalatable) herbs.
1 October -
Rishikesh – Muzzafarnagar - 113 km
It took a full 10
days for me to recover enough to be able to carry on cycling. By
that time I also couldn’t handle the room anymore, so we packed
up and left Rishikesh. It was good to be out on the road again,
cycling along the Ganges. We passed Haridwar, another famous
holy city for Hindu pilgrims located on the banks of the Ganges.
I was definitely not feeling 100% yet, but it was better on the
bike than in the room.
- Muzzafarnagar – Ghaziabad- 85 km (& 20km by truck)
The surprises are
never-ending. The roads are extremely congested with trucks,
cars, motorbikes, bicycles, buffalo carts and people. So I guess
it was just a matter of time before I got knocked off the bike.
What exactly happened I’m not quite sure, as the next thing I
remember is half of India and Ernest trying to drag me out of
the road. I must have been concussed for a while and felt
totally disorientated. What a sight I must have looked with dirt
all over my face and eyes looking squint!! Immediately I knew
that I would not be able to cycle as I could not use my left
While we were
being stared at by crowds of locals, a passing motorist (who
spoke English) stopped to help and phoned the police. The police
then hailed an empty truck to take us to the next town
(Ghaziabad) where we could find a room for the night. I slowly
regained focus but the arm still remained useless. So now I’m
not only feeling a bit unwell, but am stuck with a perfect black
eye, a bruised leg, and a useless left arm!!
3 October -
Ghaziabad – Delhi
Ghaziabad is only about 20km from Delhi, I decided to take a
taxi there (Ernest then cycle into Delhi, which sounds a lot
easier than what it is). We’d agreed to meet at one of the
budget hotels in the city (not the cheapest, but Ernest insisted
on a TV – he’s probably expecting to be stuck here for another
little I can do now as cycling is out of the question. The
weather is cooling down, but it’s still rather hot and humid (34
degrees C, and 55% humidity). Air pollution is particularly
severe in Delhi; in fact we haven’t seen the sun for the past 4
There is a
definite pecking order when it comes to the traffic (pedestrians
are at the bottom and give way to everything - bicycles make way
for cycle-rickshaws, which give way to auto-rickshaws, which
stop for cars, which are subservient to trucks). Busses stop for
one thing only (not passengers, who jump on and off while the
bus is moving). The only thing that stops a bus is the king of
the road, The Holy Cow! The cows hold up traffic on 4-lane
highways and at busy intersections, and no one seems offended!
I have yet to see a cow which has been knocked down..
Here there’s a lot
of kissing the ground, and every day I reach my destination I
feel like doing the same thing, seeing that I’m basically at the
bottom end of the pecking order.
Still, I love this
4 – 6
October - Delhi
I waited patiently
for my injuries to heal, but nothing seemed to happen. The
shoulder was not getting any better, in fact it felt like it was
getting worse. I was basically useless with only one good arm. I
also felt a bit frustrated, as I have not been well for some
time and it was getting to me. In the meantime I decided to have
my eyes tested, seeing that it was rather cheap and they could
do it on the spot. Ernest and I decided to take the bus to
Jaipur in Rajasthan and explore a bit by public transport
instead of just sitting around doing nothing.
7 October -
Delhi – Jaipur (by bus)
We took the bus
from Delhi to Jaipur, a 6-hour trip. I’d previously stated that
the only thing which stops a bus is a holy cow, but that seems
not to be quite correct. Shortly before reaching our destination
the bus hit a cow, also doing some damage to the bus.
Fortunately the bus managed to limp the last few k’s to Jaipur.
8 October -
We spent the day
walking around the old city, which is known as the Pink City
because most of the buildings are painted pink. We also took a
cycle riksha out as far as the Water Palace. There’s quite a lot
to see around the old city, so I dragged Ernest around for a few
hours before we picked up a few beers and took another cycle
riksha back to our room. We almost didn’t make it back there, as
our poor riksha wallah couldn’t speak any English, and it also
turned out that he didn’t know where our hotel was.
9 October -
Jaipur – Agra
An early morning
bus was our best bet to get to Agra, so we were up earlier than
usual and took a riksha to the bus station. The bus trip took
around 5 hours and was not too uncomfortable a ride. Agra is a
real tourist trap with tuc-tuc’s, cycle-ricksha’s and taxis all
competing for business. We found a reasonable hotel very close
to the Taj Mahal, which we decided we would visit the next day.
10 October -
We were up early
to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, just to find that the
place is closed on a Friday!! It gave us time to walk around
the Taj and see it from the back where we took a boat across the
river to get a great view of the complex from a different angle.
At least now we had the rest of the day to see if I could do
something about my shoulder that was not getting any better.
Luckily there was an X-ray place just around the corner from
where we stayed, and the X-ray confirmed that my collarbone was
broken and the shoulder was out of joint. I could only get the
medical report that evening, but in the mean time I thought I’d
just go to the local hospital to see what they can do. The
hospital was quite an experience with mice running around and
after the 2nd power cut I gave up and went back to
the hotel. Well at least we booked a ticket for the following
day on the train from Agra back to Delhi.
October - Agra – Delhi (By train)
We got up real
early and were at the gate of the Taj Mahal at 5h50, just to
find that there was already a long line of tourists waiting for
the ticket office to open. They opened at 06h00 and then it was
another 30 minutes or so just to go through security. The
entrance fee of 750 rupees is rather steep but I guess once
you’re in Agra one is not going to turn around and not pay the
entrance fee!! The monument is as remarkable as seen in
pictures, made of white marble with delicately inlayed
semi-precious stone patterns - it is worth the entrance fee. We
rushed back to the hotel, had breakfast and then we were on our
way to the station to catch the 10h30 train to Delhi. Once in
Delhi, there was still quite a bit to do, including picking up
my new glasses. I had also decided to go back to South Africa
for 2 weeks, as it was my Mothers 80th birthday on 16th
October and I needed time for my shoulder to heal. I would take
the train to Mumbai and fly from there to South Africa (much
cheaper than flying from Delhi). So, I still had to go to the
station to find out what the procedure was with the bike, and to
confirm my train ticket to Mumbai. I also wanted to go to the
hospital and see if there was some treatment for my shoulder. A
friendly local man gave me a lift to a nearby hospital and
walked me through the procedures. Once again it was a case of
going from office to office where each one signs a piece of
paper, but eventually they strapped the shoulder up and half
killed me in the process (or that’s what it felt like). At least
it’s free of charge, so with a prescription for pain killers and
calcium I was on my way again. Now that the shoulder was
strapped up I was even more immobile that before.
12 October -
Delhi - Mumbai (By train)
The train to
Mumbai left at 5.30 in the morning and I had to be there 2 hours
before the time to sort out the bike and also a few hours before
to confirm my seat. So by 03h00 I was already on my way to the
station. First it was to the ticket office to confirm my seat
(for which they wanted a bribe as apparently the train was full
- does that make any sense?). In the end another official
arrived, and I got the seat without parting with any further
money. Then it was off to the parcel office to book the bike in
- what a performance. Thank goodness Ernest was there to help,
as it was up over the stairs and then back again with bike and
all the bags from platform 1 to platform 16 and back to platform
3. With only one good arm it’s rather difficult to organize
things like that.
I said good-bye to
Ernest and at last I was on the train to Mumbai. My carriage had
sleeper seats, and was comfortable enough. There were 4 people
to a “compartment” if you can call it that, as it has no door -
but at least there was a curtain that could be closed. Tea and
coffee was constantly being offered and every now and again they
came around with snacks like samoosa’s or Brijani, so there was
no lack of food.
13 October -
The train was spot
on time, arriving in Mumbai at 07h35. Things were a lot easier
than expected as there were porters waiting on the platform. So
it was just a case of getting the bike and then a taxi to the
Bentley’s Hotel. Not the cheapest, in fact quite expensive, but
centrally located for when I return. I will also leave my bike
and bags at the hotel and hopefully carry on South when I
return. Ernest will be heading to Bangladesh so I do not know
when we will meet up again. I spent the rest of the day
wandering around Mumbai, an interesting city with slums on the
one side and designer stores just across the road. It was great
being by the ocean again. I had not seen the ocean for far too
Mumbai is one of
the cities with some of the most beautiful old architecture, and
it was a pleasure just walking around the Oval with its art deco
buildings and cricket playing men.
October - Mumbai, India – Cape Town, South Africa
As usual the
flight to Cape Town was a long boring affair, but I guest that’s
the price you pay for staying at the southern tip of Africa. It
was great being back and seeing my family and friends again
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA
15 October - 2 November - Cape Town
Back in Cape Town, it was pizza after pizza, braai after
braai and copious bottles of red wine. I had my hair cut, went
for a facial, had my legs waxed and my nails done!! What
luxury!! Therefore, within a week I looked and felt nearly
3 November -
Cape Town – Mumbai
Soon it was time to say good bye to my friends and family
again. This time my sister Amanda decided to join me. The plan
was that she would cycle along for 2 months. Amanda has never
cycled long distance before and does not even like camping life,
so watch this space!!
BACK IN INDIA
Disaster struck sooner than expected. On our arrival in
Mumbai, we had to put the bike together as it was still in its
box. Amanda knows even less about bike mechanics than me. After
assembling the bike as best we could, she took it for a spin
around the block. That's when disaster struck!! After just a few
minutes, she came walking back up the road with a broken
derailleur!! This is quite a disaster in a town where I have
hardly ever seen a bike with gears. We spent the rest of the day
wondering around Mumbai looking for a bike shop selling
derailleurs, but to no avail.
5 November – Mumbai
We slept and slept and were woken by crows at 10h00. The
search for a new derailleur was now on in all earnest. We were
lucky enough to find a bike shop selling bike spares who had the
part in stock, and who could fit it. The quality was little
suspect but beggars can't be choosers. Therefore, we spent the
entire day running back and forth to the bike shop. We were also
given an opportunity to be extras in a movie and Amanda is still
mad at me for refusing such an opportunity!! I was far to
worried about her bike to even consider such an adventure.
6 November - Mumbai¶
With the bike fixed, we could enjoy Mumbai and did our own
little walking tour of the area. We also took a boat to
Elephanta Island with its cave temples. Amanda, being scared of
water was very nervous, but made it there and back without
totally loosing it. These rock-cut temples were established
between 400 - 600 AD. The temples are dedicated to Shiva and
many sculptures are cut in to the rock face.
ON THE ROAD AT LAST
- Mumbai - Alibag -
Our first day on the bike!! Amanda’s chain broke before we
even rounded the first corner, so it was back to the bike shop
again. I suspect they did not do such a good job with fitting
the new derailleur. At last, we were on the ferry to Mandwa.
Amanda must have been a nervous wreck but handled it well. At
last, we were on our bikes and cycled the 20 km to Alibag. The
going was very slow (10km per hour). Amanda’s back was sore by
the time we reached Alibag, so we found a cheap room by the
beach to rest for the night. The room was as basic as any
African room but came with a sea view. We even had a swim, fully
clothed (like the locals). The water was lukewarm. This is my
type of ocean!! That evening we ate the most delicious food from
the food stalls next to the ocean, which was jam-packed with
locals all giving us a good stare.
- Alibag - Murud -55km
Out first full day of cycling started with near disaster as
we were hardly on our way when Amanda fell off her bike. Nothing
serious but she was a little shaken. Her bike is still not a
100% and the gears are not working so well. Although it is very
humid it’s beautiful weather for cycling. The scenery is
fantastic as we followed the coastline to the South. After an
about 45 km Amanda was feeling weak and she decided to take a
tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) to Murud. Once there we looked for a
camping spot on the beach but the tide comes in real high so
there was not really a place to camp. In the end, we found an
unofficial camping spot in someone’s yard. We also met a fellow
cyclist from Hungary who camped with us.
- Murud - Harihareshwar - 55km
We cycled the short 5km to Janjira with its magnificent old
fort, just off the coast, a 15 min sail by dhow. With Amanda
having a fear of water, she waited at the harbour while I went
to explore the fort. We took the 12h30 ferry across the river to
Dighi and then carried on cycling. It was, however, only about
10km before Amanda stopped for the day and took a tuk-tuk again.
She felt nauseous and weak, must be the heat or water. I carried
on cycling until I reached Harihareshwar. The road is in real
poor condition and with little steep up and downs. The hills
together with the heat makes it a demanding ride for a novice,
so maybe it was a good idea she took a lift.
- Harihareshwar - Harnai - 57km
So the drama continues!! From Harihareshwar it was about a
5km cycle to where we had to, yet again, get a ferry (poor
Amanda’s nerves must be shot by now, and all that while she is
not feeling well). Once across we asked around and it seems that
there was no short cut to Kelshi. Amanda, feeling ill, decided
to take a lift while I carried on to Kelshi. Once in Kelshi
there was no sign of Amanda, who should have been there by then.
As she did not overtake me along the way, I decided to carry on
to Harnai. Once in Harnai there was still no sign of her so I
decided to stay put. In the meantime, I found us a room. The
owner’s son was kind enough to take me on his scooter back along
the way I came, to see if we could find Amanda. We were hardly
out of town when we spotted a rickshaw with bicycle sticking
Apparently, there was a short cut to Kelshi. Amanda took
this way after not being able to find a lift. The short cut,
however, involved a ferry crossing and a long walk along the
sand. Amanda being really ill by then, was fortunate to find
Gabor (the cyclist from Hungary) and the two of them managed to
get a ride to Harnai.
We stayed an extra day in Harnai hoping that Amanda will
get over her nausea. She spent the day sleeping and felt well
enough by the evening to take a walk to the fish market. The
market was a jumble of color and smells. Hundreds of boats
arrived with their catch of the day and traders were eager to
buy whatever was on offer.
- Harnai - Guhagar - 57km
Amanda felt well enough to cycle the 13 km to Dapoli. At
Dapoli she got a local bus to Dabhol, where we had to get a
ferry again. Needless to say, she was a real novelty on the bus.
We arrived in Dabhol at about the same time and crossed over to
Bankot. It was a hilly and hot ride to Guhagar. In Guhagar, we
were lucky enough to find a camping spot behind a
house/shop/restaurant, right on the beach. Everyone was very
curious about us and we had a constant stream of visitors.
Before supper, we swam in the luke warm water with the sun
setting over the Arabian Sea. The owner prepared a real home
cooked Thali for us.
- Guhagar – Ganpatipule - 60km
We woke with the sound of the sea in our ears. Before we
left, we first had a home cooked breakfast. Amanda still felt
nauseous and decided it was best to take a bus to Ganpatipule
and have a rest there. Once again, she was a novelty with the
locals taking pictures of her. I carried on cycling along the
bad and hilly road. Once again, we arrived at about the same
time. A misunderstanding lead to us each booking a room, so that
night we each had our own room!! We hunted for ice cream, as
Amanda has developed an ice cream craving (she who never eats
ice cream). Once again, we tucked into the local cuisine. Amanda
claims that everything, including the sodas, tastes of masala!!
We stayed one more day in Ganpatipule. We visited the
sea-side temple and lazed around on the beach. We also hoped
that the rest will help Amanda’s nausea go away.
- Ganpatipule - Ratnagiri -
The rest did Amanda the world of good. We cycled the entire
30km to Ratnagiri without Amanda taking a tuk-tuk. Once in
Ratnagiri we decided to stay and take a bus to Kolhapur in the
We took the bus to Kolhapur, which was a 4-hour bus ride.
Once there we wandered around the Mahalaxmi Temple and old town.
Then back to Ratnagiri to our hotel to get ready for the next
- Ratnagiri - Nate - 60km
We peddled along the road, with lots of short little
lung-buster hills. Amanda was threatening to take a lift again,
but none was available. I could hear her swearing in the
background something about another $%^%$ hill again. On top of
that, it started raining and we could not find a ferry across
the river. We did, however, find a room - although Amanda said
she would have to disinfect herself afterwards.
- Nate - Devgath -
We started on a perfectly good road with English road signs
and all, but then the road abruptly ended. We followed gravel
roads up and down many hills, and half the time we had no clue
where we were. We crossed over rivers with ferries of all shapes
and sizes and everyone seemed to point us in a diffferent
direction. Eventually we found a beach to camp on and have a
swim. Amanda was dead tired after a hard day on the road and
after a swim she fell asleep in her tent. Food is a bit of a
problem when we camp in deserted places, as we have no stove
with us. This is also not an area were one can find tinned food
in the shops. However, people are very friendly and a lady in
the village prepared us a meal. The meal was brought to us,
still piping hot, by taxi - our own Mr. Delivery.
- Devgarh Beach -
Kunkeshwar - 25km
We woke to a beautiful morning with dolphins playing in the
ocean. One could immediately tell it was going to be a hot day.
We left with the intention of cycling to Malvan, but after 20km
Amanda was too tired to carry on. The heat and the hills really
get to her. It was not only hot but also very humid so we were
sweating buckets. We turned off at the first opportunity and
found a room (with fan) in Kunkeshwar. At least Amanda could
have a shower and rest under the ceiling fan for the remainder
of the day. It was also a good opportunity to do some much
needed laundry. Kunkeshwar is a tiny village consisting solely
of a temple, a few restaurants, and a hotel. The temple was
built around 1100 AD and has a wonderful location right on the
beach. We sat on the beach watching the sunset and then returned
for some good Indian food (not that we have any other option).
- Kunkeshwar – Malvan/Tarkarli
usual Indian breakfast (curry veg and bread), we set off up and
down the hills again. It was a hot and sweaty ride but Amanda
had renewed energy and zooted past me while I sat under a tree
waiting for her. I did not even notice her going past and went
back to the previous village looking for her. We stick out like
sore thumbs here, so it’s easy to ask about her whereabouts.
Locals told me she has already gone past, so off I went again,
finding her not too far down the road. We reached Malvan just
after lunch. Midway between Malvan and Targarli we found the
most idyllic beach. A white sandy beach, palm trees, hammocks
and lukewarm water. What a paradise! We rented a room at a
“resort”, consisting of a property with only one room. The
people were extremely friendly and offered to make us food, sold
us beer and gave us snacks. So we sat on the beach watching the
sunset and the fishermen pulling in their nets while drinking a
beer. What more can a person ask for?
November - Malvan/Tarkarli
two entire days, just lying around on the beach. This is truly a
paradise. We ate, we walked on the beach, we lay in hammocks and
floated in the ocean.
- Malvan - Vengurla -
down the road, we found a ferry to take us across yet another
river. Needless to say, it was another hot and hilly day. Amanda
claimed that she had to push her bike up 6 hills within 25 km.
She also said that this was not for her and that she was going
to take a bus. I’ve heard that many times already so I was sure
she would be fine by morning. We found a room in Vengurla which
was below all standards, but I took it as I feared Amanda was
going to throw her bike in the ocean if we had to cycle up one
more hill. There was obviously nothing wrong with the beds,
because we’d hardly set foot in the room before Amanda was fast
asleep. After her little nap, we bought a beer and sat on the
beach drinking it.
- Vengurla – Arambol
at least 7km before we got to our first hill and then it was
mostly downhill to where we found the ferry at Terakol. It was a
short ferry ride across the river and about another 11km cycle
to Arambol. We were a bit shocked at all the tourists and
tourist trade in Arambol. Coming from a far more rural area, we
were not so used to seeing tourists and all that goes with the
tourist trade. It definitely has its upside as well, as there
were many restaurants serving western food. I could do with a
pizza or anything not curry! Amanda was in top form this day,
she did not want to throw in the towel or dump her bike in the
ocean - in fact, she did not even have her usual nap!! We found
a shack directly behind the beach at Rp 200, which suited us
just fine. It only had an outside toilet and shower but it
appeared to have no bed bugs or other biting things. We are so
bitten by what-so-ever by now, that we have invested in a can of
insect killer which claims to have “laser fast” action.
Goa - Life on the beach
shack was made of woven palm leaves, we just hoped we would not
get any rain. One could also easily see both in and out, so not
a great deal of privacy. Arambol is so different from the rest
of India that one can hardly believe you are in this country.
Coming from the more conservative parts it was quite a shock to
see ageing foreign men jogging on the beach with only a
G-string!! What a sight - drooping backsides swinging from side
to side!! Remind me never to run in a G-string!! The place was
packed with Europeans, all on holiday thinking they are old time
hippies. Therefore, you see the weirdest people in the weirdest
outfits. Each one doing their own thing, from morning exercises
to yoga. Even Amanda and I invested in bathing suites. We stayed
and stared, ate, drank and swam until it was time for us to move
- Armbol – Anjuna
along to Anjuna, another touristy beach. This time we stayed in
a real room at Mary’s. Not on the beach, but a short walk to the
beach. We continued with our lazy existence, walking along the
beach, swimming and eating. At night we went to one of the local
restaurants where we could also watch movies, so it’s about the
most popular place in the village.
- Anjuna – Panaji
It was a
shorter ride than expected into the Goa state capital, and what
a surprise. This is where one can clearly see the Portuguese
influence. We found a room in an old Portuguese house for 300
rp. Amanda was not at all impressed with it and was becoming fed
up with rooms not smelling like roses.
wanders though the streets a person can easily think you are in
Portugal instead of India. The narrow alleys are lined with
colourful houses decorated with mosaic and shells. That night we
even took a cruise on the river.
the day, firstly trying to find a decent derailleur for Amanda’s
bike, but although there is a Firefox bike shop branch in Panaji
it would have taken 10 days to order the part, it so we gave it
up. My brand new ipod, which I bought in Cape Town, packed up
after just one day of music pleasure!! Fortunately there was an
Apple store in Panaji and they kindly offered to order me a new
one. As that would also take a few days I was not going to wait
for it. So I decided to rather come back to pick it up at a
later stage. My new little laptop was also virus infected and I
tried to sort that out but not very successfully.
- Panaji – Colva -
We were in
a habit of getting on the road early in order to escape most of
the midday heat. By 8h00 we were on our bikes and followed the
main road, but after a few km’s the traffic became too much for
us. Amanda once again claimed that she was going to pack it in.
Therefore, at the first opportunity we turned off the main road
and followed the coastal road to Colva. What a beautiful ride it
was as well. We arrived at around 12h00 and found a room outside
the main tourist area but still on the beach.
remainder of the day was spent on the beach (nothing like a swim
after a sweaty ride) a quick shower and then back to the beach
for supper. It started raining in the evening, cooling things to
- Colva – Agonda
It was a
“pushing up the hill” day again for Amanda. She also had her
first flat tyre and shortly afterwards the derailleur gave
problems again. Everyone coming past wanted to help, and after a
while they organized a lift for us to Agonda. There we found a
bike repair shop where they fixed the problem. We found a
fantastic place to stay right on the beach, and we sat chatting
to our neighbours for the rest of the evening. Agonda is one of
the nicer beaches as there were very few tourists, most of them
our plans again and decided to book a train trip to Hampi, which
is about 300km inland, to go and see the famous ruins.
A Short visit to Hampi
- Agonda - Hampi (by
were up real early in order to take a taxi to the train station.
From there it was a short ride to Margoa where we got a sleeper
train to Hampi. The train took about 7 hours to Hampi, but it’s
a comfortable ride and food is for sale on the train. The train
only goes to Hospet and from there it is a short ride by taxi or
bus to Hampi. We still had time to walk around Hampi village
before it got dark.
organized an auto-riksha (tuk-tuk) to drive us around the ruins
for the day. I was impressed with the scale of the ruins, and
everywhere you look there are old ruins, some cut into the huge
boulders surrounding Hampi town.
rickshaw today, instead we walked along the river to inspect
some more ruins. A large part of Hampi is on the opposite side
of the river to where we were. The only transport across is by
boat, a type of woven basket boat. Here Amanda drew the line and
plainly refused to board the thing.
8 - 10 December
- Hampi - Agonda
Beach (by train)
the early morning train from Hampi back to Margoa, again a
7-hour journey. This time we took a bus back to Agonda. We
arrived back in the late afternoon and were lucky enough to find
a beach shack still available. This is true paradise.
the next day doing what one does in Goa, just chilling out!!
This is so easy one can comfortably just stay right here and go
following day I took the bus back to Panaji to go pick up my new
ipod, which had arrived, and Amanda stayed on the beach. The sad
part is that now I have a new ipod but no music on it.
- Agonda – Karwar
we dragged ourselves away from Agonda heading further south. We
even had time for a lunch along the way at a 10th of the price
of the tourist areas. We turned down to Devbagh beach only to
find that there was no accommodation except for a very expensive
resort. It is absolute heaven as the area is very remote with no
roads leading to the resort. We cycled along the sand to find
it, sadly, we had to leave again and found a room in the town of
Karwar. Amanda was very tired again and just passed out on the
bed after we settled in. Poor Amanda was taking strain as she
was desperately looking for something to eat which does not
contain curry, but to no avail!
- Karwar – Gokarna
early and the weather was pleasant, not too hot, and the road
not too hilly. Amanda felt nauseous again. We still had 10km to
go before we reached Gokarna when she puked next to the road
again. Nothing else to do but to battle on. Eventually we
reached Gokarna and booked into the first hotel we saw. I real
nice hotel for 275rp (less than R60) for the room. The town was
interesting with a good few temples and lots of pilgrims and
- Gokarna - Om Beach
It was a
short but very hilly 6km to Om Beach, which is a small beach
tucked away behind the cliffs. The place was packed with
tourists for obvious reasons - beautiful beaches and good food.
We stayed at Namaste guesthouse but there are also other places
to stay along the beach.
- Om Beach –
previous night we organized a boat to take us across the estuary
instead of cycling the 6km over the hill and then a further 10km
to the main road. So, on the spot at 9h00 our boatmen were
there. Amanda had a kind of panic attack on the boat but stopped
short of jumping overboard. Arriving on the other side there was
a small wave which lifted the rear end of the boat a bit, at
which Amanda let out a yell and hit the deck, the boatmen stared
in total amazement and wanted to know if she was OK? Finally, we
were safely out of the boat and on the beach. We cycled on to
Murudeshwar with its huge Shiva statue on top a little hill
overlooking the beach. Here we were definitely out of the
tourist area and we were back to swimming fully clothed again.
We found a cheap room but proceeded to spent what we’d saved on
the room rent - supper at a fancy resort (all so Amanda does not
have to eat curry once again).
- Murudeshwar –
was flat and easy but Amanda was not as strong as the day
before. Although there are plenty of beaches along the way there
is no accommodation on these beaches. We, however, found a room
just across the road from the beach. The electricity kept on
cutting out so it appears to be a homemade electrical job they
did. The owner was very friendly and offered to go to the local
restaurant and get us some food. Lovely food (curry again).
- Marawanthe – Udupi
As we were
on the road early again, we stopped along the way for breakfast
- a typical breakfast consisting of Puri (pastry puffs with
curry)!! (Poor Amanda). Although the road was flat, the traffic
was extremely heavy. With road works underway every now and
again, going was a bit nerve racking.
in Udupi fairly early and after we found a room there was still
plenty of time to wander around the temples. We were even lucky
enough to see a drama/musical at one of the temples.
- Udupi – Manglaore
followed the highway to Mangalore (not the same connotation to
“highway” as we are used to). The traffic was, as they say here
“very congested and all”. All one can do is cycle along and hope
for the best. A few times we had to dive off the road into the
bushes to avoid oncoming traffic. In the end we arrived safe and
sound in Mangalore, after Amanda, once again claimed that she
was going no further and was going to take a bus. In the end,
she gets back on the bike and cycles on. After taking a wrong
turn at one of the intersections, we eventually found our hotel.
day we just rested and explored a bit of the city. We also had
word from Ernest that he was not far away from Mangalore so we
stayed another night to let him catch us up.
arrived on the 21st looking a bit worse for wear, dirty sweaty
and very thin. At least we had a cold beer ready for him. The
next day we did absolutely nothing but lie around the hotel room
and enjoy the luxury of watching TV. (Mostly Hindi TV but at
least two channels were dedicated to cricket). With England,
touring India there was little chance for us to catch a bit of
the South African win against Australia.
- Mangalore - Kappil
strong as an ox and we did good time. The road was fairly flat
and the weather good. Disaster, however, struck again, as
Ernest’s front tyre was so smooth it wore right through, causing
yet another puncture. So after a few trips on the tuck-tuck back
and forth to the village he had a new Indian tyre, and the wheel
was fixed. We found a secluded beach where we could camp under
the palm trees, while Ernest cooked supper for us.
- Kappil Beach –
stopped to inspect the Bekal Fort and then found a most
fantastic beach resort. Although we’d only cycled 6km it did not
take a lot of convincing before we decided to stay put for the
night. The price was extremely high but it included three meals.
We stayed in luxury-tented accommodation with bathroom and all.
We spent the entire day swimming, lying in the hammocks and just
sitting around doing nothing (except some laundry, of course).
- Bekal – Payyanur
really lazy and after a good breakfast, we continued down the
road, looking for the famous backwaters and houseboats. However,
as usual, there were plenty of road signs, which then abruptly
ended, and no word of it was mentioned again. So we missed the
turn-off and decided to find a room in Payyanur town. Ernest had
to work on his bike again in the room, changing all the
incorrectly placed spokes on the front rim which kept on
breaking (after changing the hub with the help of a local “shop“
earlier in his travels).
- Payyanur – Kannur
rather late as Ernest still had one last visit to the local bike
shop. After 20km, we had our brunch stop. Most of the day’s km’s
were done that afternoon in Kannur town in order to find the
beach (local directions!). At last, we found a beach but it was
not a place we could camp, instead we found a room at the Savoy
Hotel (not quite what it sounds, but comfortable enough with TV
& all). That evening we ate at a local diner, and as usual in
the smaller towns, there was a power failure during the meal (at
least the food was good and cheap, as usual).
- Kannur – Payyoli
breakfast, we saddled up again and headed further South. The
road was fairly flat and the weather good. Once again we found
an idyllic beach where we camped. However, our camp was near a
large village, and we had loads of spectators, watching keenly
from the moment we arrived - and then the word spread. Once
Ernest lit the stove to start cooking, the women watched in
amazement, that a man is doing the cooking while the women are
just sitting around (the MSR stove itself could have been Apollo
11 due to the attention it attracted).
- Payyoli – Calicut
not Amanda’s day, she puked again shortly after breakfast and
was nearly knocked down by a bus. Shortly after that, she lost
her camera bag off the bike and it was nearly flattened - it was
a miracle Ernest retrieved it from the traffic undamaged. There
is however no rest for the wicked, and we peddled on. Once we
reached Calicut, we looked for a room. It was easier said than
done. All the hotels were full but in the end, we found a room
at Sasathapuri Hotel. A large room with four beds and TV. This
is such luxury we did laundry, showered and repacked our bags.
brings another challenge. We left at 8h30 and already the
traffic was heavy. Ernest stopped to do shopping in the town,
and before he caught up to us again he was squashed by a truck
against a stationary bus. He escaped with hardly any injuries,
but the truck drove over his back wheel, destroying the rim (his
3rd since leaving Cape Town). He had to take a tuck-truck back
to a bike shop in the town - luckily he was carrying a spare
rim. We then took another room for a further night in Calicut.
- Calicut - NC
Gardens Beach Resort -
morning we left much earlier than usual, just to try and get out
of town before the traffic started. After about 10km we turned
off the main road onto a secondary road, running next to the
coast. We’d hardly started cycling, but Amanda spotted a Resort.
Who are we to argue? We pulled in but found the price rather
touristy. They however made a plan and put us all 3 in a tiny
room with mattresses on the floor for less than half the price.
We decided to stay for 2 nights, as it was a most magnificent
place right on the beach with loads of palm trees. Ernest cooked
supper again, and the next day he spent most of the day cleaning
and servicing the bikes.
Cycling into 2009
NC Gardens Beach Resort –
strong and we settled into a good rhythm. After 20km, we stopped
for our usual breakfast. Amanda is really getting fit and so we
pushed on to Chavakkad. Just once, I heard her swearing under
her breath after her bike zigzagged through the loose sand and
then headed for the bushes. She recovered and soon after that we
reached a river where we had to take a ferry across again. Water
phobia or not she pushed her bike on without saying a word.
We found a
room on the beach for Rp 500, which we considered far
over-priced, but we took it anyhow.
- Chavakkad - Chenai
and relaxing ride to Chenai Beach, which turned out to be closer
than expected. Once there, we went from one set of rooms to the
next, all seemed way above our budget. This is a real touristy
place so everything is quite expensive. In the end, we found a
room for 750 Rp. While Amanda and I went for a swim in the
ocean, Ernest cooked pasta in the room, so at least we saved on
food. The beach was packed with holidaymakers, mostly Indian
families. Swimming in a bathing suite is quite a daring thing to
do there. Although Amanda and myself walked way down the beach
for our little swim, spectators (cell phone camera in hand)
appeared in no time. By now, our pictures must be on half the
cell phones in India!! And that looking the way I look (bed bug
eaten and half bald). For some reason my hair is falling out at
an alarming rate, and I am shocked at how little hair I have
- Chenai Beach - Fort
Chenai Beach is a cool spot to hang out, we moved on as the
accommodation is a bit too expensive for us. It was only a short
pleasant ride to Kotchi, with the Arabian Sea on the one side
and the Kerala backwaters on the other. It was a short ferry
ride across the inlet to Fort Kochi island (the city of Kotchi -
formerly Cochin - consists of a number of islands). Fort Kochi
had a real relaxed feel about it. Accommodation was again not
cheap as it is a popular place for tourists. As we arrived early
there was plenty of time to wander around and watch the locals
operating the famous Chinese Fishing nets - a contraption which
looks a bit like a spider web which they repeatedly dip into the
water at high tide.
evening we were also lucky enough to see a Kathakali show, which
is story-telling through drama, music, dancing and hand gestures
(or something like that). The costumes, make-up, and headgear is
quite something, and I believe it takes anything from an hour
upwards to complete dressing.
- Kotchi – Alleppey
again, it was a ferry ride from Kotchi to Ernakulam, the twin
city on the mainland. Fortunately it was Sunday and the traffic
was not too serious - we got through the city without any
problems. We cycled past palm trees, temples and shrines until
we reached the town of Alleppey - known as the Venice of the
East. The area is famous for backwater cruising and houseboats,
so we decided to stay the night and find out what the cost will
be to do a trip on the backwater. Our accommodation was cheap at
R30 for a double room and R16.00 for a single room. One cannot
expect much for this price but at least the room and bedding was
myself look the public ferry from Alleppey to Kottayam along the
backwater - a taxi ferry stopping all along the way to pick up
and drop off people. We cruised past numerous villages, rice
fields and palm trees. We had about an hour and a half to walk
around Kottayam and get back on the ferry for the return trip, a
- Alleppey to Kollam
- By ferry
doing a houseboat-cruise, Amanda and myself decided to take the
State ferry South along the backwaters to Kollam (while Ernest
cycled there). What a scenic and leisurely way to get to the
next town!! We spent the entire day on the ferry, which stopped
once for lunch and once for tea. Again, we saw many villages
with villagers going about their business. These waters are used
extensively by the locals, not simply for washing themselves,
but for laundry, dishes, etc. Fishing seems to be the most
common activity and the method varies form Chinese fishing nets
to hand nets. We only arrived in Kollam at 6.30pm and it was
already getting dark. Fortunately Ernest on the bike beat us
there with hours to spare - he’d found a room and bought food,
which he was preparing when we arrived.
- Kollam – Varkala
We took a
leisurely ride to Varkala, which which was only 36km away. We
stopped along the way to do some shopping and pick up something
to nibble on. Once there it was the normal search for a cheap
room. We were lucky to find a room big enough for the 3 of us at
Rp 300 (R60.00). Once again Ernest’s job was not done for the
day and spent most of the afternoon working on Amanda’s bike.
to take a rest day to do laundry, internet, and perhaps spend
some time on the beach.
9 January -
Varkala - Kovalam - 59km
From Varkala we
found another small coastal road through the villages, which
meant we once again had to take a ferry across one of the many
river mouths. This time the boat was a smallish wooden affair
resembling a dug-out canoe, which the 2 crew propelled with long
poles. Again Amanda was rather nervous about this arrangement,
until I pointed out that the water was hardly more than
waist-deep. She still clung on with white knuckles until we
reached the other side. The last 20 k’s were along the main
road, bypassing the capital city of Kerela, Trivandrum
(abbreviation – nobody can pronounce the proper name). After
turning off the 2 k’s to Kovalam Beach we eventually found a
suitably large room with 3 beds, and then went straight down to
the touristy beach for a snack and a beer. Amanda and I went
for a swim while Ernest chatted to another cyclist from Italy
who we’d met on the road before. Later that evening we splashed
out on a meal at one of the beachfront restaurants.
10 January - Kovalam –
Takkalai - 54km
A fairly hot day on the
road, past villages having festivals complete with music and
flags, what a colorful place India is. We followed the Western
Ghats, and when we could see serious-looking mountains in the
distance we nervously wondered whether we had to cross them. It
made for a very scenic ride though, and in the end the mountains
tapered off so least we never had to cross those.
11-12 January - Takkalai
- Kanniyakumari - 36km
We finally arrived in
Kanniyakumari, Amanda's final destination. She was quite pleased
with herself for reaching her goal, the most southerly point of
India. Not the 2 oceans, but the spot where 3 oceans meet, the
Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The next day we spent
stripping Amanda’s bike for any usable parts, replacing it with
our old and worn parts. That night we went out for a more fancy
meal at one of the better hotels as a farewell meal.
13-17 January Kanniyakumari - Chennai - by train
On the afternoon of the 13th
Amanda and myself took the train to Chennai, were we arrived
early in the morning of the 14th . We found a really
decent hotel to stay for the next two days, pack her bike and
organize her stuff for the flight back to Cape Town. After
Amanda was on the plane back to South Africa, I took the next
available train back to Kanniyakumari.
18 January - Kanniyakumari
– Tirenelveli - 83km
With Amanda back home, it
was just Ernest and I again. For the first 30km we cycled into
the breeze past wind farms, a clear indication that this is a
notoriously windy area. Nothing to do but battle on. After 30km
we stopped for brunch, a real South-Indian meal of rice and
spicy veg served on a banana leaf, and all this without cutlery.
Let me tell you, it is not that easy to eat rice and sauce with
your fingers!! Ernest was getting real good at eating like a
local, but I keep a spoon handy, normally to the delight of the
spectators. The road was in good condition so we reached
Tirunelveli fairly early, found a room, beer, and food, and
settled in for the night.
19 January - Tirunelveli -
Sattur - 83km
An uninteresting stretch of
road into the wind on the highway. At least the road was in good
condition, as it was a brand new double lane highway.
Interesting, however, that traffic goes in both directions on
each side of the highway, defeating the purpose of the highway
somewhat. On top of that the local farmers use the nice new
tarred road for the purpose of threshing their rice-crop, by
spreading it in the road and forcing traffic over it.
We found a cheap room in
Sattur, a busy little village with loads of food stalls, selling
yummy Indian food. I’m picking up a lot of weight as it is just
impossible to ignore all the tasty food that’s available
20 January -
Sattur – Madurai - 81km
Another day spent cycling
into the wind. At least Amanda has taught us one thing and that
is that there’s no reason to rush anywhere. So we took it real
easy and once in Madurai we found a room and stayed for 2
nights. It must have been one of the noisiest rooms we have had
in a long time, with cars hooting, motorbikes revving, music
playing, and just the normal jumble of sound.
21 January Madurai
We spent the day wondering
around the maze of narrow streets. Madurai, the second largest
city in the state of Tamil Nadu, is also known as "Temple City".
Unfortunately the main temple complex was in the process of
being renovated, and although one could go inside the outside
was all covered up. It was, however, still imposing due to its
22 January - Madurai –
Tiruppattur - 70km
At last we left the highway
and were back on a much smaller road, what a relief. It was a
good cycle past a huge bird sanctuary giving the ride a real
peaceful feel. It is such a pleasure being away from the main
road and traffic and one could once again enjoy the countryside.
23 January - Tiruppattur –
Pudukkottai - 80km
We casually cycled along a
small road past numerous temples, shrines, rice fields and small
villages. Once again we experienced the road being used for the
threshing of the rice crop. The rice is spread out on the road
for vehicles to drive over and in the process doing the hard
work for them.
24 January -
Pudukkottai – Thiruchirappalli
We found a room in the
Ashby Hotel which looks a bit worse for wear from the outside,
but quite interesting inside. It was an old British guest house
and still has some remains of old wooden furniture. The rooms
open onto a shady courtyard with restaurant, so all in all quite
a pleasant place to stay.
25 January -
Trichy is an enjoyable city
and fairly easy to get around in. We spent the day visiting the
Rock Fort temple, perched high on a massive rocky outcrop. So
together with the other pilgrims we climbed the main stairs cut
into the rock to the top. I also went to see the superb Sri
Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu. This is a large 60
hectare complex complete with beggars, pilgrims, tourists and
loads of stalls selling cheap souvenirs.
26 January - Thiruchirappali – Thanjavur - 63km
Just getting out of town in
the hair-raising traffic is a feat in itself. Hardly outside
town we were flagged down by a life-insurance salesman in a
passing vehicle. Him and his companions bought us each a
coconut, and (like just about everyone else) they were rather
curios about our trip. So with coconut in hand we explained
where we’d come from, but it’s becoming more difficult to say
where we’re going (a mystery even to us).
As they left the man told
us how dangerous that section of road was, and presented each of
us with one of his business cards (we must have been prime
candidates). After a short and enjoyable ride we reached
Thanjavur with its World Heritage Temple complex. These towns
normally have loads of cheap accommodation and food stalls, all
catering for the many pilgrims constantly visiting the temples.
27 January - Thanjavur – Mayiladuthurai
We awoke to an overcast
morning, making it incredibly humid. We left rather late as we
had no intention of going very far. A great cycling day on the
road it was! The overcast day made the colours quite beautifully
brilliant. We once again cycled past numerous temples, shrines
and villages. The traffic signs along the back roads never fail
to amaze me. They are either non-existent at the most crucial
moments, or otherwise of no use at all (bold signs pointing
straight, left, or right, when that is the way the road goes and
there is no other option).
28 January - Mayiladuthurai
– Pichavaram - 60km
Again it was a relaxing day
on the road. The countryside is flat with lots of rice paddies.
We soon reached Chidambaram, a chaotic town with a huge Shiva
temple. We did not stay long, as one can only appreciate so many
temples. We turned off the main road onto a little side road and
came upon the little fishing village of Pichavaram, situated on
an area of tidal canals and backwaters. The state-run restaurant
also had a few dilapidated rooms for rent, so we booked in there
for the night. That afternoon we rented a row-boat (with local
skipper), and spent 2 hours before sunset cruising around the
backwaters and through the mangrove swamps.
29 January - Pichavaram –
Pondicherry - 95km
I left fairly early, before
Ernest, as he decided to go his own way. It was a really good
day as the weather was perfect and the road flat and scenic. I
arrived in Podicherry around midday but it took hours to find a
room. The rooms are very expensive and the cheaper ones were all
full. What felt like hours later I eventually found a room at a
reasonable rate. Ernest apparently had the same problem finding
accommodation, as he arrived at the same place soon after I did.
30 January - Pondicherry
Spent the day in Pondy, as
they call it here, just walking around and pigging out on cheese
and biscuits. Pondy was a French colony and therefore still
retains a little French vibe. The result is that one can find
cheese as well as wine - Two things which I have not seen in a
Although Pondy is a coastal
town the beach is very rocky and not a place for a swim, but a
walk a long the beachfront is quite pleasant and one can wonder
past old French buildings which makes it slightly different from
the rest of India.
31 January -
Pondicherry – Mamallapuram - 91km
It was an absolutely
brilliant day, the weather is so good this time of year it’s a
real pleasure to be out. Not too hot or cold and no wind. What
more can a cyclist ask for. The road was flat and ran past lots
of rice fields and the ever present coconut palms. Once in
Mamallapuram it was easy to find accommodation. It’s a very
touristy town with lots of backpacker-type travelers and
everything that goes with it, from eating places to curio
sellers. It has the best beach along this side of the coast so
no wonder it is jam packed with travelers.
1 February - Mamallapuram
I spent the day on the
beach, something I haven’t done for a while. Then I wandered
around the rock cut temples of Mamallapuram. This village is
actually a world heritage site and therefore quite interesting.
The most wonderful temples and sculptures are cut into the huge
boulders strewn all over the place.
I'm also happy to report
that my hair has stopped falling out, and hopefully will now
start growing back again.
2 February - Mamallapuram
I took the bus to Chennai
to see if I could find a charger for my notebook (which I’ve
lost) and also to see if I could for once and all sort out the
virus on the lap top. It was a good day as I found the Asus
agent and I found someone who could sort out the virus. I left
everything at the shop and decided to head back to the beach and
pick it up again the next day.
3 February - Mamallapuram –
Chennai - 61km
I left at just after 8h00
and it was a relatively easy ride into Chennai. Once again the
traffic, as you got closer to the city, was hectic. I found my
way into the city after only going wrong once. The lack of
directions is one problem and asking directions is another
amazing story. Once you ask the replay is always "Go strait!"
and they clearly point either left or right. Or they will say
"Go strait and then left/right" and all that happens is that the
road bends either left or right.
I found the Broadlands
Lodge, where I met Ernest again, who was already there for his
4 February - Chennai
decisions!!! I have come to a point where I finally have to
decide where to go from India. I had a few blissful months of no
decision, but now the time has arrived. The land border with
Myanmar is closed so one has to fly out of India to reach the
other Asian countries i.e. Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The other option is to go
further north to Nepal and hope to obtain a permit there to
enter Tibet and from there on to China. The down side is that
once over the Himalayas and into China one will be back in the
dessert again!! To be quite honest, I have had enough of cycling
through the desert to last me a number of life times, just the
idea of cycling through another desert is enough to put me off
the whole thing.
On the one hand I am very
reluctant to fly, its not only the cost, but the hassle of
packing and getting oneself with bike and bags to the other
side. Then again I’m really not ready to give up the beach life,
which awaits (I hope) in Thailand. The weather in this part of
the world should (I hope) still be good for a month or three
before the monsoon season starts.
So what to do? That’s the
5-6 February -
The Broadlands Lodge,
where we stayed, was a very interesting ramshackle place. Although it
was old and dilapidated it had a great atmosphere, with courtyards,
stairs and alleyways. I was lucky enough to find a fellow traveler with
an excellent range of music on his i-pod, which I copied. At last I
could listen to music again on the road. I finally came to a decision
regarding where to go next, and Nepal looked the better option.
7 February - Chennai –
Naidupeta - 118 km
Ernest and myself left
together and headed north on the highway. The highway is never a very
interesting option but looked the easiest way out of Chennai. The road
was in excellent condition and with a little tail wind we made good
progress. Along the way we were even interviewed by a local newspaper
I’m rather excited about
my decision to cycle to Nepal, as an overland trip from Cape Town to
Kathmandu is something that has always appealed to me. Never, however,
did I contemplate doing it on a bicycle!!
8 February - Naidupeta
– Kavali - 131km
Another day spent on the
highway; at least the road was in good condition and the going easy. The
day before we crossed from the State of Tamil Nadu, to the state of
Andhra Pradesh. Each state varies slightly from the others and appears
to have its own favorite food and Hindu Gods. We definitely could see
that in this state Hanuman (the monkey God) is very popular, as there
are many large Hanuman statues along the road.
Along the way people
pointed out to us that there was an article about us in the newspaper
and wanted our autographs!
9 February - Kavali –
Ongole - 72 km
Just the give a
perspective of distances in India, I left the most southern point in
India 22 days ago and there is still 1400 km to Kolkata!! From there to
the Napal border app. another 900km!!
The other extraordinary
thing is that people in India crap in full view of everyone. On the
beach, next to the railway line and along the road! In Africa, people
sort of go into the bushes, but here it is very normal to sit, doing
your thing in full view of everyone!
10 February - Ongole –
Vodarevu Beach - 71 km
I made the mistake of
turning down to Vodarevu beach. We reached the beach at around midday
and proceeded to spend the rest of the day in a stuffy room with a
strong fishy smell close to the beach. However, later in the afternoon
the beach became a hive of activity as the fishing boats returned with
their catch of the day. There were many good-sized fish which were sold
auction-style, in what appeared to be a chaotic manner. While this was
taking place the next set of rather flimsy boats took to the open seas
for yet another night of fishing.
- Vodarevu Beach – Challapalle - 96 km
We left rather late,
around 10 o’clock but had an interesting day on the road. We followed a
minor road, past many small villages, corn fields and the ever present
rice paddies. Once again we were stopped and interviewed by a local
newspaper reporter - this seems now to have become a daily event.
Once we crossed the
Krishna River Delta we reached the small town of Challapalle where we
found a room in a traditional guest house. More basic accommodation one
will not easily find, but at a 100 rupies I guess one cannot complain.
Indian men are constantly
chewing paan, (a replacement for cigarettes), which makes their teeth
and lips blood red. They therefore spit long jets of red paan juice
everywhere. Evidently in rooms as well, as the walls in the room are
covered with traces of paan spit!!
12 February -
Challapalle – Narasapur - 128 km
Take perfect weather,
throw in a good road and great scenery and it makes for a perfect day of
cycling. We followed one of the back roads, and managed to take the
wrong turning on three occasions! The people along the way are very
helpful, but if they’re not sure the response is normally “Go straight”,
which we did, just to find out later we should have turned off in the
previous village. The last wrong turn was at a washed away bridge where
an obscure old wooden ferry boat was carting the traffic across the
river, a lengthy process. With the result that we had to peddle like the
clappers to reach Narasapur before sunset. We’re moving further east,
and it’s still “winter”, so the sun sets fairly early.
We were like celebrities,
along the way. Every day there seemed to be a small article about us in
the paper and the local people are quick to point it out to us and
asking for autographs. (Ha, ha, imagine that, me giving autographs!)
13 February - Narasapur
– Jaanam (Yanam) - 79 km
Another good day! I did
not even need my ipod, it was so interesting and scenic. You will not
believe this, but once again we were stopped by newspaper reporters and
It was a fairly short day
and once we arrived at Yanam we took a room. Mainly for the purpose of
doing some laundry. It was however not as great as expected, and
although there appeared to be quite a good riverside location, there was
no accommodation along the river, but only in the main town. We took a
room and no sooner had we settled in and the water in the taps dried up,
so much for doing laundry. If it’s not the electricity that keeps going
off then it’s the water!
14 February - Yanam –
Tuni - 106 km
A longer day than
expected, again due to some bad directions. As one man pointed out to
us, it was still 60 km to Tuni and too far to go by bike, better we go
to the next village, which was only 10 km away. He was quite adamant
that we would not be able to cycle to Tuni in one day. Although everyone
here cycles (I mean this is the home of the Hero bike), no one goes very
far, normally just to the next village or the market. If you mention
that you want to go to a town, 100 km away, they stare at you as it you
are from outer space.
Once again, there were two
articles about us in the local newspapers (how many newspapers can this
state have?). So, people were flagging us down to show us the articles.
No sooner have we arrived in Tuni and a TV crew spotted us and had a
lengthy interview. My goodness, I have never been so famous in my life
before, quite a novelty. At least the excitement and all the attention
made up for the dreary room. (O, how I wished for a decent and clean
room, just once!).
15 February - Tuni to
Visakhapatnam - 110 km
We were back on the
highway again, together with salesmen on bicycles, with their bicycles
stacked high with everything imaginable, from plastic chairs to pots and
pans. The highway made for an easy ride into Visakhapatnam. Vizag, as
the locals call it, was much larger than I expected. It had loads of
cheap accommodation around the train station, (as usual) and we soon
found a room with, this time, wait for it, clean sheets! I was as happy
as the proverbial pig.
16-18 February - Visakhapatnam
We spent our time doing
the usual laundry, internet and shopping for the necessary bits and
pieces. The following day we took a train from Vizag to the Araku
Valley, 120km North of Vizag. At 21 Rupees (one way) for a spectacular
5-hour ride into the mountains, it was worth it. Once in Araku we took
the bus to Borra Caves for another Rp 10. The 1 000 000 year old lime
stone caves are huge and quite spectacular. From Borra we returned to
Vizag by train again, where we arrived in the evening.
Taking the train in India
in the “general section” is always an experience. We sat packed in like
sardines, with sari-clad women (amongst others) staring at us with
foolish grins all the way.
The following day we went
shopping for new sandals (ours were falling apart). That evening we went
down to the beachfront for a walk and to sample some of the delicious
street food found there.
- Visakhapatnam – Srikakulam - 109km
Our map was not as
accurate as we would have liked, it showed the road following the coast;
instead we landed up on the highway miles from the coast. We had a good
tailwind so cycling was a real pleasure.
Apparently there was a bit
about us on TV, as people stopped us and told us that they’d seen us on
TV. Others stopped to take to take pictures. This was quite a novelty.
Soon we reached Srikakulam, and as it was very hot we decided to call it
a day. It was fairly hard finding a cheap room, as apparently there is
an important temple in town, and therefore loads of pilgrims filling up
20 February -
Srikakulam – Palasa - 89km
We set off with a plan to
do 140km, but along the way we came upon a smallish town which looked
good enough to spend the night. As it was still too far to Gopalpur, we
found some nice accommodation and stayed. In these smallish towns it is
always fun to go out after dark in search of food. The streets come
alive with people, carts, bicycles and rickshaws. Food stalls spring up
everywhere, and the variety is immense. After settling on some veg fried
noodles and other bits and pieces we headed back to our room to devour
21-23 February - Palasa –
Gopalpur - 93km
The road deteriorated
somewhat as we came to the border between the states of Andhra Pradesh
and Orissa. Trucks were lined up for kilometers, and combined with
roadworks it was a real dust bowl. We turned down to the seaside village
of Gopulpur, a small pleasant place with lots of cheap accommodation, a
small beachfront promenade and some food stalls.
We are getting really
fussy with accommodation, as now we don’t only want cheap but also
ground floor, and preferably around a courtyard!! Ernest had stayed
here in December at old Mr. Singh’s Tourist Holiday Inn situated in one
of the back streets. It was just what we were looking for; a few rooms
with bathrooms all arranged around a courtyard. At 140 Rupees (R28.00)
it was a bargain so we stayed for 3 days.
Ernest worked a bit on the
bikes and discovered that the rear axle on his bike was broken (probably
due to the incident with the truck in Calicut). So he was on the phone
to my sister, Amanda, again and begged her to send more spares. Even my
bike is looking a bit worse for wear and I just wonder how much longer
it will last.
24 February - Gopalpur
– Balagoan - 86km
With a good tailwind we
had a most delightful ride. O what a pleasure!! Ernest was nursing his
bike along, with broken axle and all. It still had to last until Patna
where Amanda had sent to spares. Unforeseen expenditure at home has left
me totally broke (say no more). Now we really have to economise! We
found the cheapest place to stay in Balagoan, (on Lake Chilika) as the
next day we planned to take the ferry across the lake to Satapada.
The lake is one of the
largest in India and well known for its migratory birds. So instead of
taking a tourist boat at Rp 600 each, to see the spectacle of a
million-plus birds, coming from as far afield as Siberia, we decided to
take the local ferry to Satapada at Rp 40 (on the other side of the
lake). That evening Ernest went shopping at the local market for
potatoes and salad and made a most delicious potato dish. As you have no
doubt noticed by now, Ernest is the cook and shopper, as I’m totally
useless when it comes to anything domesticated.
25-26 February - Balagoan
– Puri - 169km
We were up at 5h00 to
catch the ferry at 6h00, to our surprise there was no ferry, but just a
small fishing vessel loaded with ice and other fishing paraphernalia.
The price also shot up to 250 rupees. We gave up on the idea and decided
to rather cycle around to Puri. It was somewhat further than expected
and an incredibly hot day. The scenery was also not as exciting as what
we had become accustomed to. We arrived in Puri late and tired but found
a decent room (with shared bathroom but a hot shower!!)
The heat continued into
the next day - by the time the heat is mentioned in the local papers, a
person knows it’s unseasonably hot (even for India). We did laundry and
rested indoors, going out in the evening for a walk on the beach.
27 February - Puri –
Konark - 45km
Before leaving Puri we
first stopped to see the famous Lord Jagannath Temple. Non Hindus are
not allowed inside but we could view it from the roof of the nearby
library. Konark was only 36km along the coast where we found another
well-known temple, the Sun Temple (a world heritage site). As it was
already mid-day we decided to stay, so we found a real cheap room -
baking hot and with a very noisy fan. At least it gave us the
opportunity to see the Sun Temple again at night when it was lit up.
28 February - Konark –
Bhubaneshwar - 64km
I was happy as hell to get
out of that stuffy room. It was a short and pleasant ride back to
Bhubaneswar where I vowed not to get a windowless room again. It,
however, appeared to be the least of our problems as there were just no
rooms available at all (many cheap hotels don’t cater for foreigners).
In the end, after a very long search we found a spacious but overpriced
room (on the ground floor!).
1 March -
Bhubaneswar – Chandikhol - 81km
First we turned off the
highway in order to take a side road. This road was, however, in real
bad condition and with Ernest nursing his bike along we turned around
after 8km and went back to the highway. We reached Chandikhol fairly
early, but decided to stay as the next place was still too far away. The
only hotel fortunately had a TV in the room, and the Aus/SA cricket was
on. The tension of the game must have gotten to Ernest, because so did
the cheap local whiskey - retiring at the end of play!
2 March - Chandikhol –
Balasore - 137km
Another boring day on the
highway, except for Ernest getting a flat tire. This, he had to fix with
the normal crowd of spectators. They’re normally most interested in the
bell, gears and odometer, which they can’t resist to fiddle with (which
irritates Ernest no end). There was road works for the last 50km, and it
was slightly further than expected (the road signs, map, and actual
distance normally differ). As we left rather late we arrived in Balasore
just as it got dark.
3 March - Balasore –
Baripada - 58km
We finally turned away
from the coast and headed inland. The scenery immediately changed and
the countryside became drier. Baripada was a maze of activity and the
streets lined with security forces. The chief minister was in town and
was making a speech on a podium erected in the main road close to where
we stayed. Due to the political meeting room was scarce, so we had to
wait 1 hour for one to become vacant. While waiting we were befriended
by some local youngsters (who called us “Auntie” and “Uncle”).
They treated us to a beer in the local bar, proudly pointing out that I
was the first women to visit the bar.
4 March - Baripada –
Ghatsila - 99km
The road became slightly
hillier than along the coast, but nothing too serious. We crossed from
the state of Orissa to the state of Jharkhand were few tourists go. This
was immediately evident as locals stared at us in amazement without as
much as a wave. In the small town of Ghatsila we found a room, again
with curious onlookers in close pursuit. We had to close the bedroom
door and windows to get some privacy. I guess they just want to see what
two foreigners are doing in that room, and what all is in those bags. As
a guy along the road pointed out, that the bags are probably for
carrying rice and water!
5 March - Ghatsila –
Jamshedpur - 50km
A short but slow road -
very narrow and extremely busy with trucks and busses. Ernest was also
not feeling well. We turned down for Jamshedpur, and what a hassle it
was trying to find accommodation. Eventually we took a room in the
Holidei Inn (not part of the hotel group), at quite a steep price but it
was the cheapest room for foreigners in the entire place. I am convinced
that they had never even had a female foreign guest, as the staff were
staring and taking photos.
6 March - Jamshedpur –
Bundu - 94km
Ernest was suffering from
an upset stomach, and not feeling too strong. We however decided to push
on towards Ranchi. The road was incredibly busy and the road surface in
poor condition so the going was rather slow. We reached the little
village of Bundu in the late afternoon and enquired about a room,
without success. We ended up at the Catholic Mission school (St Xaviers
HS), where we were given a room in the priest’s quarters as well as
supper and breakfast.
7-8 March - Bundu –
Ranchi - 47km
The day started with a
prediction of a large hill looming ahead. The predictions varied between
it being between 1km to 10km long. In the end it was approximately 13km
from Bundu and about 2km long. We were also approached by a truck driver
(who clearly had some of the local liquor) who wanted a photo with us.
The scary thing is that few of these drivers have driving licenses, add
to that the poor road condition and very narrow roads, it’s a miracle
that we made it to Ranchi without any incidence.
Once in Ranchi it was with
great difficulty that we found a room. There were loads of hotels all
along Main Road and Station Road, but none seemed to be willing to take
foreigners. Eventually we found a rather over priced room and decided to
stay for 2 days, in order to give Ernest time to recover from his upset
9 March -
Ranchi – Hazaribag - 96km
The day promised
to be a climb up to the Hazaribagh Plateau, but none of it
materialized, instead, we had a massive downhill. The road was
nothing short of hair-raising, being fairly narrow and with
loads of trucks flying past at high speeds. The area is known
for coal mining and the black dust clung to our sweaty limbs.
All this made for a rather stressful day and, I for one, was
happy to reach Hazaribag (black face and all), where we managed
to find a room at the first place we enquired.
March - Hazaribag – Bodh Gaya - 126km
day, and I must admit, a rather awful day on the road. After 20
k’s we came across a victim of a hit and run accident. In
passing we noticed an unconscious man in spasms lying next to
the road, his broken motorbike and bags all over the place. We
waved down a passing motorcyclist who fortunately had a cell
phone to call for help. We could do little, as the person was
unconscious and obviously seriously injured. It made me
realized just how fortunate we are to arrive safely at our
destination every night. We reached Bodh Gaya in good time,
found a good room and retired for the night.
Bodh Gaya, where
Buddha reached enlightenment, is a very peaceful place. The
entire village is set around the Old Temple built at the site
where Buddha sat under the tree. The original tree is long
gone, but a sapling of that tree is planted in its place – which
is also now a large old tree. We also spent the following day
wondering around the various temples and gardens. It was “Holi”
day (Hindu day), a national holiday in India, and children were
running around the village painting everyone with coloured
powder and spraying red and green water at everyone.
13-14 March - Bodh
Gaya – Patna - 135km
Another hectic day
on the road, cars just pull into the road without looking left
or right. As I overtook a stationary car, it pulled into the
road, fortunately it only knocked one of the panniers off the
bike and then still proceeded to nearly drive over it. Entering
Patna was just as hectic with heavy traffic but eventually we
found the city centre and a room. We enquired at many places
before finding a budget hotel which accepts foreigners.
We stayed two
nights, as Ernest had to pick up the parcel with spares which my
sister Amanda had sent. Only 1 of the 2 parcels had arrived but
with too many of some things and other things missing.
disagreement took place between Ernest and myself, with him not
wanting to wait in Patna for the next parcel - instead he
suggested that we cycle to Varanasi and back again (a distance
of over 500km). I’d had enough off the heavy traffic and
preferred to stay put and wait for the second parcel.
15 March -
Patna - Ara - 65km
suggested was not good enough, and in the end Ernest took off
though the traffic to Varanasi with me in tow. Somewhere during
the day he was bumped off the road by a truck, but fortunately
there was some runoff space and he managed to keep the bike
under control. It was a short, but hectic day on the road
before we found a room in a fairly fancy hotel in Ara. However,
we had a rather interesting time getting there, as we took the
wrong turnoff and entered this large town from the back end.
March - Ara – Buxar - 74km
In the morning TV
and newspaper reporters were waiting for us downstairs as we
were preparing to leave. After a long interview and some
filming along the road, we were finally on our way. It was a
laborious task for me to be cycling along a busy narrow road, to
a place I didn’t even want to go to. The best part of the day
was finding the Tourist Bungalow in Buxar, a friendly place with
good clean rooms. The rooms even had a little balcony providing
both air and light. What a pleasure the room was, I could even
handle the loud chanting from somewhere nearby which carried on
all night. This was either a holy man chanting or a wedding
taking place - but whatever it was, the event will definitely
NOT be remembered for the singer’s melodical voice!
17-21 March - Buxar - Varanasi - 135km
We cycled on in
near silence, as we were not really on speaking terms. The busy
road and poor road condition did not do much for my already dark
mood. We reached Varanasi late, and what chaos it was. It’s a
large and busy town with narrow and confusing alleys
(fortunately Ernest had been here before). Just to add to my
bad mood we managed to get a room in a guesthouse without any
external windows, making it rather stuffy. The whole place was
like a jail with very steep stairs leading to the upper rooms
and bars across the windows and no natural light. On the bright
side, the room was ridiculously cheap.
We stayed in
Varanasi for a good few days as both Ernest and I had picked up
a cold. During that time I also managed to see some if the
sites, including a row-boat ride on the Ganges along the river
22 March -
Varanasi – Mau - 128km
At last we left
Varanasi, we got away fairy early (that means before 9.30).
Ernest and I cycled together to Ghazipur where I headed North to
Nepal and Ernest East - back to Patna to pick up his parcel from
the Post Office. I suggested that we head straight towards
Nepal, and he could take a bus to fetch the parcel. However, he
was set on cycling back to Patna.
Being on one’s own
brings a completely new set of circumstances. People seem to be
even more interested in what I’m up to, and often they’re more
helpful. One of the problems is always to keep the crowd out of
your room - every now and again someone knocks on the door with
an excuse, and then there’s half a dozen faces staring in.
23 March - Mau
– Gorakpur - 110km
A short but tiring
ride, as the road was in real bad condition and very bumpy. A
real pain in the ass! On reaching Gorakpur I managed to find a
hotel. The best option is usually to go to the bus or train
station, where there are cheap hotels and eateries. The room I
found was not the cleanest, but at least it was cheap.