India 1 – Kerala & Karnataka

My first impressions sucks!

Classic Rail GopuramIndia maart

I have reached India, one of my favorite countries. A country I often make comparisons with. Like India is king. India is a country where I have been to many times, so often that I lost count. India seems better after you have been there and not when you are actually there. Or perhaps I say it wrong, possibly I see things differently now I am on the bicycle. India has not changed much over the last 13 years, but one thing I am sure of is that most people must have seen Westerners at some point, yet I am regarded as an ugly misshapen alien digging the earth with her meters long black painted nails, her way through the dirty stinking earth underneath their feet. Just as how I described myself 10 years ago. Maybe it is because I cruise through beautiful named towns such as Thirumakubal Narasipur and Krishnarajpet. Towns not on your average itinerary. As a woman. On a bicycle. Alone. Plenty of people have never ever seen a foreigner! An Anglez!

Too Happy Entangled Love

I knew India would be the most difficult country to cruise through on my bicycle. India was some kind of end station for this part of the trip. It would be the climax of all the former countries cycled through before. India as the cherry on the wedding-cake. Would there be any cherry on Indian wedding-cakes? In reality India is the beaten-up couple on top of this wedding-cake, battered and maltreated, because cycling in India is almost suicide. I manage, as a cyclist on the Indian roads but it takes a lot more energy than any other country before. I am completely finished at the end of the day and often I have no energy left for the following day.

Together it will WorkSamsung  vierkant-002

Are you only one?’

‘No, with two,” and I point at my Shanti bicycle

Two Smiles River CrossClassic India, Busy on Road

Yet, I want to see many things. Like I have not seen most of the precious temples and forts and castles and palaces and mosques and gompa’s and gopurams and statues and caves and monastery’s and churches and pillars and arches and shrines and everything else what makes India a treasure grove. I still want to see more of it and there’s a good deal to be seen. I also want to visit projects for Focus on Education and I want to do meditation classes. Yoga preferable too and of course cycling. All this have to be done in 3 months because I need to be in Delhi at a certain time. As you see, what I want is not possible. The distances are too immense and the calendar is too short. The temperature is building up and often I am surrounded by a 40 degrees humid and sweaty heat. I shall have to take trains and buses in between. That’s alright by me, ‘but where?’ if I can’t make up my mind.

Southern BreakfastEleganceMother She is

Often I am too busy in my head. About what I want, about where I am heading, about whom I am missing. India is making me irritable yet at the same time I derive great pleasures. I think what I miss most is silence and quietness. I miss empty roads and places to camp. I should never have gone to India after climaxing in Oman.

Two mama's Tall Winds My Desire Little Heights

My first days on the Indian minor roads

I still feel the strong desire to cycle, though at times notice myself kicking against a car who cut me off right in front of my wheels. I have to yell at a riksja driver who pulls too close towards me while I am on a downhill. People position themselves in the middle of the road, standing there. Waiting for something. Trying to cross the road. Halting a riksja. ‘Get off, go somewhere in the ditch, the road is for me,’ I agitated think. It’s loud. Everything. It has to be noisy, only in order to rise above the noise. I was plain lucky when a motorbike slightly hit me, where he on his sudden shift is hit by a car whereby the motorbike capsize and slides towards me. The driver himself is smashed against a wall 3 meter further, I feel lucky, it could have been me.

Bleach ColouredDSC_0143Follow Me

I buy a helmet and cycle on…

I cycle by map and sometimes check the GPS on the phone. Not always, in small villages I just ask locals and they assume the Angrez is heading for the biggest town. So it happens, pedaling through very small places that I end the day 15 kilometer further than where I started. Yet having cycled a 80 kilometer. Through landscapes nothing spectacular, even made ugly by huge advertisement about gold. Gold is all an Indian woman needs. Man is minor.

Best BananasEarly FieldsBajaj Rocks

In India I keep having the feeling to be laughed at. Also if I am not cycling.”

Indian roads are making me tired. I derive no energy at all from cycling. My thoughts go back to people who warned me that India is all about rapes and disrespect for women, but that’s completely not an issue right now. The danger in traffic is more to worry about. I have to be on my wits at all times. There’s constant attention, screaming, yelling, music blaring, honking cars and trucks. I have to watch out. I am being watched non stop. Cows and bullocks, donkeys and pigs, goats and horses, buffalo’s, dogs and elephants and later on even camels, all roam the roads. Carts and legless, old and fast, stupid and ignorant, all roam the roads.

Finally, beauty

‘What are you doing here?’ people ask me. I ask myself the same…

Wanna walk with me Love to Be

People are rudely curious, to such an extend it makes you laugh would you be with someone where you could vent your irritations with. They watch me trough the windows of lodges, they come sit right next to me just to have the best view while I am eating breakfast. There’s hardly any chance for peeing, as there are people always. Watching me or coming to watch me.

No Way First wild ToiletShiva

Get over it, Cindy!

I need another approach in order to enjoy this country. I have always loved India. India is a great country although cycling through, I notice, is not the best way to see it. There’s really not a whole lot to be seen, it is not possible to watch around you while cycling in the first place. Nature is rather boring on the whole. Or in Kerala is seems so…

India maart1India maart1-001

As soon as I am off the bicycle, I notice all the little things -and they are plenty- I have always loved from India. But only after I have stopped, hauled my bicycle and luggage many stairs up to a lodge and wade through the crowds of big towns. The smell from fresh jasmine flowers captures me, the incense burning at the lodge desk too, the many chai wallahs preparing tea in seemingly filthy pans, the delicious all natural and full vegetarian food, the shops selling a multi stock on items including green ayurvedic soap. It stands in great contrast with the stench of dead animals rotting in the heat along the route.

End of a dayLineair

Man asks me: “Do you have children?” No.

Why don’t you go to the hospital then?”

These little moments of enjoyments are not lasting long. They are as minor as my own enjoyment while cycling. It’s not that I despise cycling; I dislike cycling in India. And here I am, in the South of India, heading to Delhi. Opening the 2 large maps I feel discouraged. If it was not for Henrik who would visit me in June, I would make a turn directly towards Bangladesh, and leave this India as soon as I could. I don’t enjoy cycling as it is more of a fight each day to stay alive. Roads are too busy. My energy is not rejuvenated through the night as nights are slowly becoming too warm. Surroundings are not captivating. People I meet irritating and curious. Cycling makes no sense.

Forest 30 KMSamsung  vierkant

Yet I keep on pedaling. From temple to temple. I have a rest in Kalpetta in between the enchanting tea fields and I notice once more that I like India still, as long as my energy is not absorbed by cycling. I can laugh with the people, enjoy their silly head movements, their expressions and behavior is plain fun to watch. Sure, India is always tiresome but India on a bicycle is just too much…

I have to find another way.

Excluded non-cycling.

Being more or less a purist, loving cycling, I need to get my thrills somehow otherwise.

It dawns on me I am cycling without a real plan, except heading to Delhi. Temples I have seen enough. I need another focal point. So I head to my cousin who lives in Bangalore. Stay there for 5 days. Get reestablished. I lay down a more or less straight route and make my goal Indore where I book a Vipassana course.

True RomanceGreens

‘Don’t trust anyone, especially riksja drivers not!’

Usually riksja wallahs are people to watch out for, at least that is what people tell me over and over again ‘don’t trust anyone, especially riksja drivers not!’ I never had troubles with them and now cruising in Bangalore without a proper map, without GPS and without anything which could help me, I notice how incredible smart the riksja wallahs are. In many countries local people don’t really have a clue about distances, about directions, about the grid of the place they live in. Not India. I have come to learn long ago that when asking something in India, ask it trice to be sure two answers are the same, thus somehow trustworthy. Well, I am amazed how well the Bangalore riksja men direct me flawless to where I need to go. I cycle through a huge city, without going wrong once, directly to my cousin. I am deservedly proud.

Here, with my cousin is living in, as what I always regarded as a luxury, a walled complex I notice how much such a wealthy place to live in, is absolute vital to keep balanced. Next to this huge apartment complex craggy little tents are erected, and while the grounds of the Sohba complex is swept, the inhabitants of the blue plastic tents bordering the wall, are firing up some more plastic and dirt. They are here to build something and over the years I have come to regard this as acceptable. Some people are rich, some not. Some people are born in wealth, some will never. I cycle for fun, some others for a poor livelihood. It doesn’t mean the other is more happy or better off. It’s just a different picture.

RiceLake Love it

And here, on the 11th floor, I sit down on a large cushion, sipping tulsi tea with my cousin and her husband reading a book, daughter playing alongside us on the balcony. It dawns on me I still move from temple to temple while I have seen hundreds of temples already. Peddling from temple to temple to Buddha I notice rest is far to be found, simply because the places I flock to are non-touristy. Sure, some of those places are visited by tourists, in an air-conditioned coach, dressed poorly, half-naked and sweating like pink piggies, but it keeps being far from restful.

Rest is only truly to be found, how contradictory, in places where tourist are stationary. Why? Because there I am not an outcast, there I am one of the many weirdo’s, one of them. There lodges and cafe’s are set up for people like us, to relax, to sit and watch the world go by. There have already been so many tourists that I am not the focal point of their universe. So, Cindy, do I cycle through India to avoid the locals? No, but a rest can be good, and I am off to Hampi! Of all places!

Samsung  vierkant-001

Finally, it’s getting better!

Well, rest is to be found on roads too. I have cycled on a road which was truly quiet most of the time, through a bone dry national park, smelling curiously of sweet honey. I enjoy cycling so much with all these bird songs, sounds of monkeys and the dense bush that I went to the headquarter in the hope to find accommodation, but the park was closed due to danger of fire. People tell me it’s a 30 kilometer ride without anything to be found. I can not believe that. But it is. And so I become quite hungry through this magical ride through a dense dry bush where many a huge elephant turds is to be found. Not only that, this park hosts tigers, being Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, tigers and elephants roam around freely. Hmm. And I am here on my bicycle? Elephants I could dodge, but tigers? ‘You are not allowed to cycle here,’ is what a guard on the Karnataka border says. ‘Yeah, well, that’s a bit late now,’ I reply and cycle on. When I stop to make photo’s or to eat my three bananas, passing cars and guards avoid me to do so: ‘You may not stop, too dangerous, tigers and elephants,’ but I need to eat something. And while doing so I can only hope one of the many chitals, spotted deers, or, if necessary, the many pheasants will be favored by the tigers. Not me.

India maart-001

Yet, being devoured by a tiger is a more romantic idea than hit by a truck. And having conquered this national park I can look back on the first good day of cycling in India. Off to sleep, I am completely exhausted, I close my eyes and still enjoy seeing bush, bush, bush.

The month of March I start cycling in India 

 

19 responses to “India 1 – Kerala & Karnataka

  1. Hi Cindy, thanks for the update !!!
    I hope you guys are doing well !!
    Cheers from beautiful but very hot China !!!
    Heike
     
    Gesendet: Freitag, 18. Juli 2014 um 13:21 Uhr Von: "Cycling Cindy" <comment-reply@wordpress.com> An: pushbikegirl@gmx.de Betreff: [New post] India 1 Kerala & Karnataka
    Cinderella Servranckx posted: "My first impressions sucks! – I have reached India, one of my favorite countries. A country I often make comparisons with. Like India is king. India is a country where I have been to many times, so often that I lost count. India seems better after you "

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    • Hi Heike, you’ve red my personal message so you know the latest latest update. This post is quite old but being on the road… I am surprised you have wifi so often!

      Enjoy warm lovely China. I guess you’re in Xinjiang isn’t it? I loved that too : )

      Greetings Cindy

      Like

    • Christine, the next destination will be a continuation of 5 months India. With crossing the whole length of the country!

      How are you sweet Christine? How’s your horse? Be well. Enjoy the summer. Love Cindy

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    • Are you coming to India Remco? I am again going to my parents. My mom…

      Thanks for the compliment Remco : ) Many more parts are to come. Some more positive, some very happy, some darker but always honest in my point of view ; )

      Greetings to Di
      Hug Cindy

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      • India? Might go in first week of February by myself but first we are off to Europe 24 August to 24 Nov Paris to Paris via Turkey by car but will miss Nederland I suspect. Funny enough my good friend is staying in Breda for a couple of weeks in Sept. Small world. Anyhow say hi to your moeder met beste wenzen van ons twee.

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      • Hoi Remco,

        ‘Doe maar terug,’ says mom to your greetings : )
        February to India? Better temperatures, that’s for sure. I just got back home, after a four days rush from the Tibetan border (Spiti and Lahaul) to Terheijden. Feel somewhat sick now : (

        But I am happy to be with my parents and mom especially

        X Cindy

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    • Goede vraag Monique! Ik neem genoeg rust doorgaans en dan houd ik ervan om mijn gevoel uit te drukken. Wanneer ik wifi heb smijt ik de hele boel op WordPress. Maar pas nadat ik urenlang foto’s heb geselecteerd en ‘gedoped’ ; )

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  2. Oh wow! The images in your photos are amazing. I think I shall one day like to go to India. However, your challenges of cycling there are another in a long list of bloggers and book writers who have expressed similiar things. I think I will leave my bicycle at home when I got to India and backpack a little, and maybe buy a Royal Enfield and indulge in one of my many other great passions: motorbike riding. I think that will be scary enough but at least I will have a motor – haha.

    How exciting that Heindrick is coming to cycle with you. I hope it goes well 🙂 . And that you have lots of time together to relax too 😉 .

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    • Hi Andrew,

      It was sure exciting to meet my love Henrik but soon we found out we are not a matching cycle couple at all! Oh man…. don’t put two single cyclists together. It is bound to be a disaster, hahaha : ))

      Not a single moment of rest. No relaxation. Just going. Going. Going. I could not even acclimatize and got into trouble of course : (

      It was nice to be together surely: eating together. Peeing together. Downhill together. Let him find a place to eat and camp so for once I was free of that but he’s just too fast for me. Could not enjoy my morning chai properly.

      Miss him though : )

      He’s still out there while I…

      How are you Andrew and where?

      Yes, the Enfield is the way to go in the Himalaya for sure! I wished often I had one!

      Greetings Cindy

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      • I am doing awesome Cindy 🙂 . That’s such a shame about you and Henrik not being a matching cycling couple. I am in South Australia and am finally on my bicycle touring after all that waiting to leave. I have been cycling one week. It is already the longest cycle tour I’ve ever taken carrying my own things and it’s WONDERFUL! I just ride slowly right now. Most days I ride 25-50km. Yesterday I rode 87km because there was nothing between two towns. I must be getting fitter because I found it easier than the 40km I rode the first day. I stop often to take photos or eat. I have a packraft with me so have fulfilled a dream of paddling on the Murray River.

        I have someone special coming to Adelaide to spend time with me in August for 1 week. But we will not be cycling. My someone special is not a cyclist and hasn’t traveled before but knows I will be away for a few years and that we will just have a few weeks here or there to have time together (and talking on the phone/Skype of course). Even nomads need romance … haha.

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      • Hi Andrew,

        Just sounds so familiar! Of course you get more fit over the weeks and before you know you’ll do a hundred! What is most important however , is enjoying, not the amount of kilometers! Most men (read: most. Not all) are about kilometers, less about photography and sitting in the grass, but I think cycling is just that: enjoyment. See and feel the life, why otherwise should you cycle?!

        On a good day I make more photo’s and I stop more than I cycle. Time is unlimited, right : )

        Of course nomads need romance, I think we are surrounded very much by it on a daily basis being out in the World. Your love for this someone special better be super strong will it last over the travel years. Being out in the world changes you a lot, and someone waiting for you doesn’t make it easier. It are actually two different ‘species’, the traveler and the non-traveler….

        I wish you luck in your romance, hopefully you will succeed!

        Are you carrying a raft with you on the bicycle? Isnt that very heavy?

        Be well and enjoy being in the World and in Love
        Cindy

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      • The packraft that I carry weighs about 2.4kg, the paddle about 1.2kg and the life jacket probably another 1kg. I think it’s very much worth carrying the extra weight because I love to paddle. I can’t imagine a life where I don’t go out onto the river and lakes that I come across, even if only for an hour or two. So I am carrying about 30-40kg on my bike. I read somewhere that you have to decide whether you are going to spend more time cycling on your tour or more time at camp. If more time cycling, then reduce weight. If more time at camp, then make sure you are comfortable and happy at camp. Well, I’m definitely in the more time at camp category – haha. So I have a picnic blanket and a raft and a few other luxury items like moisturiser and deodorant and washing powder so that I feel comfortable. I’m not your typical man cycling … haha. I cover my cycle computer so I can’t see my speed or distance (and uncover it ocassionally when I need to see it).

        Yes, I think travelers and non-travelers are different. My someone special has never traveled but has always wanted to. Perhaps they are a traveler at heart but never had the opportunity to follow that path. Who knows … It’s a new relationship and my someone special’s first ever relationship (despite being 42) so we’re just taking it as it comes and accepting whatever the Universe holds for our romance. 🙂

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      • Hi Andrew,

        May it work out with your someone special. That would be lovely : )

        Yes, I agree you take the raft with you. Not the deodorant though ; ) but on the other hand, I take masala spices with me to have my masala chai : )

        I agree that you should take what makes you happy. Although I threw out my color pencils, I used them only once in 2 years! When I was cycling in the Himalaya – just a week ago- I had very little with me and now being back home, I have decided to leave most things I did then because lighter is just so much better! Of course I can not leave my tent behind : )

        Less clothes! Really less clothes! Less chargers and cables. No GPS, never used it. Less batteries.

        Hope it’ll work out. Just as you and your new found love. Perhaps she/he is a traveler at heart too?!

        All the best! Enjoy life!
        Greetings Cindy

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