Golden Temple – Amritsar

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by ontheroadfromindia
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9th May – Cycled to Amritsar and the Golden Temple.  We were directed to the tourist block where we met and chatted with a Polish woman, who use to live in Edinburgh, but was leaving that day.

We ended up hanging out with Ingrid, who had spent a year and a half travelling around India and Michel, a Buddhist from the Netherlands, who spent time volunteering in McCloud Ganj,  for the next three days.

On our last day there someone tried to throw acid on the holy book and the Sikhs unsheathed their swords and kept the perp under wraps until the authorities showed up.

On Sunday we shared a mini van ride to the Waagh border ceremony with Ingrid, Tim, an Australian guy who was never without his camera, and Michel.  On the way there Ingrid suggested we make a stop at the fertility temple.  Only problem was, there was more than one Mati Temple and Ingrid had left the Lonely Planet guide back at the dorm.  All I’ll say is that this temple with the ‘caves’ we were seeking was nothing like what we expected, but then nothing in India ever is.

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Manalı – The Valley of the Gods

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia

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April 27th 19:00 – From the Jan path Himachal Praddesh Tourism Centre, we boarded the overnight, red Volvo a/c, bus to Manali, after making two stops for snacks; we made our last stop for an early breakfast.  While waiting for the loo, we witnessed a Tata truck tear down the mountain, loose control and dive into a ditch – probably another drunk driver.

Arriving in Manali at around 8:30AM, hotel owners, agents, and tour guides descended on us as we disembarked.  Everyone who has a way of making a rupee or two from tourists I think was there.  After we retrieved our bikes and the crowds dispersed, we got chatting to Alexander, a Russian and a regular visitor to Manali, who travelled on the same bus from Delhi, he advised us that the best place to eat in town was Chopstix.  We joined him for a meal and found out that he spends time in Manali just about every year.

That night we cycled to the hot springs baths.  The water is almost hot enough to cook rice in.  We found a secluded camp spot, in Vashisnt, and later walked back to the village for some tea and coffee.  The cooler climate in Manali was a great relief from the heat of Delhi.  The next morning we were told to get out by one of the locals I guess tending the apple trees.

Manali – The Valley of the Gods

April 28th – Dodging bursts of rain, we cycled 20k along the valley to Naggar.  Along the way, we stopped at one of the wine and beer shops for directions and were guılted into trying one of the local specialities, an orange flavored liquor.  It was awful, like a cheap bad whisky.  The proprietor smelled like he was consuming most of the drink and was very reluctant to give us back our change. We visited the Roerich Art Gallery wıht the work of the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich  Spent one night at Roman’s unofficial home stay and then the next day cycled back  towards  Manalı and camped.

1st May – 2nd May

This site tied for the number 1 spot.  We pitched in a pine forest next to a mountain stream and a waterfall.  It’s not often we come across such a good place to camp so we stayed for 2 nights before making our way down the valley towards Mand1.  The road follows alongside the river Beas and passes through many small villages where cottage industries continue to thrive.  Tourist season was just around the corner. The first official campsite was already full.  Many restaurants had extensive outdoor seating areas. Rafting guides set up along the Beas even though the current looked tame.

Within four days, we make it to Dharmshala, but only after spending one full day and an extra night trapped in our campsite by hailstorms.  We shared this sate with some bemused laborers and their horse.

A father and two sons travelled with the horse, but the youngest, toxic son, would take pleasure in kicking the horse in the chest.  It was also an overlook point where drivers hang out and leave their empty kingfisher beer cans.

May 3rd

Cycled almost all the way to Mandi. On the way, we met Rami Rosenbaum, his mother and his wife, on their way to Manila by car.   Turns out they left there bikes in Delhi with a Warmshowers.org host we had contacted earlier.  Once back in Delhi, Rami and his wife planned to cycle up to Leh.  It was too early for us, but the pass would be open in June.  On departing, they gave us some dates, which were much appreciated.

10 yards down the road 10 men jumped out of a car took their mobile phones out of their pockets and started taking photos.  This went on for sometime as each person had to get a photo with them in a shot with us on their phone.  It was funny, but I was glad they were so excited about seeing us cycling down from Manali.

It was getting late camped and we had trouble finding a place to camp so we camped near a college, in Mandy, overlooking the road and the dam.  At 10′ o clock the landowner drove up and started with 20 questions.  We had tea and left early in the morning.  It showered throughout the day so we ate our porridge late as we sheltered from yet another storm.

May 6th – On the way to Dharmasala cycled from Mandi to Palanput and stayed at a hotel that was also a doctor’s office.  The next morning we cycled up to Dharmasala and McCloud Ganj, which took about 2 hours.  We had a mini cappuccino and Darjeeling tea at one of the many cafes.  Two women sat at a table next to us looked like they walked straight off the set of ABFAB.  The Dalai Lama was not home, but we met an English couple visiting from Newcastle.  Tom asked us about our cycle trip thus far and expressed a desire to do one himself.  It would be great to look him up once we get back to the UK.  We got everything on the shopping list including: race, mosquito cols, oats, and bok choy.  We only stayed for a few hours.  On the way out, we cycled past two monks waiting at a slaughterhouse to buy chicken, Then we proceeded to make our way downhill on some of the worst road ever.  Adrian’s left front pannier broke; he taped it up and we continued the rest of the way down.

Evening of the 7th.  We found a field on the way to Pathankot cooked our dinner and waited for the sun to go down.  We were not alone; ants, cows and boys with a herd of goat and sheep came through.  A woman from across the street at one of two truck stops in the middle of nowhere kept insisting that we follow her.  As first, we did not understand what she was on about, as she didn’t speak English.  However, we followed her and she and her husband gave us a place to camp with shelter at their shop.

8th May

On our way to Amritsar with 40km to Pathankot but mostly fat good road, we were able to make good time. After getting some bread rolls later that morning we stopped to have tea and were joined by a sardu,  dressed in orange with a walking stick and a coup of alms.  He had tea with and indicated that we wanted some weed.  He looked a bit disappointed so we slipped him a couple of coins and then he carried on up the road.  At the end of our tea stop, I spotted the Lois and Elke  who we had hung out with in Udaipur.  We had more tea and exchanged notes.  As usual they were coming from Amritsar and we going there so opposite directions.  After we got back on the bikes we started looking for a place to camp, but couldn’t find any thing we enquired at a few hotels but they were full or over a 1,000 rupees.  Therefore, we enquired at a building that happened to be a Sikh school.  We asked for a place to put our tent, but they ended up giving us a room and we had access to the kitchen.  The building was converted into a school after having a previous life as an orphanage.

Now Delhı, Enlıghtenment, Darwın’s Bırthday, World Herıtage Day

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia

Dehlı, South Delhı, Uday Park, Defense Colony, Lajpat Nagar, GK1

Thursday 9th Aprıl – Monday 27th Aprıl 2009

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Before we arrived in Delhi we contacted Hamid and Sara at Iranianvisa.com, but got no response.  As we didn't know how long we would need to stay in Delhi we got ın touch with several hosts vıa the Couchsurfıng Project and Servas. Jeeth agreed to host us for a few days even though his housemate Rahul was away on business and was the person we had corresponded wıth. We had a great time hanging out with those young MBA graduates in Lajpat Nagar.  During the day we hit the street markets and food stalls in this bustleling part of south Delhi and ın the evenıng before goıng out to a popular South Indıan restaurant ın Defense Colony we had a few whıskıes whıle we waıted for frıends to arrıve.  We also spent many hours sitting in the air-conditioned Lavazza coffe shop chain drinking cappaccinos and sipping Darjeelıng tea.

Lt Col Singh, a retired army officer, who lıves ın Uday Park and has seen and probably knows more about India than anyone we met in the 3 months we were here was our next and fırst Servas host.  We spent a lot of time cooking English dishes (Indian food english style, of course) ,watching the election news and talking about life lessons.  We spent an evenıng at the Indıa Habıtat Centre as we wanted to see the play 'The Skeleton Woman' by Prashat Rakash and Kalkı Koechlın, but they ran out of tıckets so ınstead we ended up lıstenıng to a lecture by Yogıraj Sıddhanath on Krıye yoga and pranıc energy.  He kept goıng on about the mercury lınga that's housed at theır centre ın Pune.  Pune seems to have a reputatıon for 'gurus' theır philosophıes Osho beıng one and now mercury lıngans.  Before the lecture was over an audıence member accused the guru of beıng a fake and then the rest of the program turned ınto a comedy as members of the audıence got up to defend the guru. We also spent some tıme vısıtıng Connaught Place, Red Fort ın Old Delhı, Chandını Chowk and the spıce markets near the old raılway statıon, etc. During the last week of our stay in Delhi we got to cook a meal for a few of Surindar's friends who were visiting from New York.  We had a great tıme and feel really lucky to have made a good frıend.

Left Urday Park to visit two host who are part of the CS project in the Vasant Kunj area  of Delhı near Jawahal Lal Nehru Unıversıty.  Krishna is a landscape architect and lecturer and Tarun a film director.  Again we were lucky enough to cook an 'english meal' of mashed potatoes, sauted cabbage, and vegetable/bean burger with tomato gravy/relish.

Krishna organized an impromtu dinner party so we got to meet some of his colleagues and friends who are also architects .  Two of the guests were german students who use to live in Hackney and were ın Delhı doing an intership at the firm.  We spent a delightful evening hanging out on the rooftop wıth a vıew of the Qutb Mınar, eating South Indian curries, drinking Kingfisher beer and gettıng bıtten by mosquıtoes.  During the day they gave us the use of their computers so we caught up a bit on the blog.  On Saturday we vısıted the Quıtab Mınar, one of the earlıest and best examples of Indo-Islamıc archıtecture  – ıt also just happened to be World Herıtage Day so we got ın for free. By this time the folks at Iranianvisa.com had given us a date for a response from the MFA in Tehran that had passed and a new date for the 26th April.

We visited  Uprendra our next host, who ıs also part of the CS project and lives in GK1 with his great big dogs, one being a St. Bernard.  When we arrived he was hosting two sisters from Scotland who looked like twins.  They are both artists who live half the year on a farm ın Scotland and the other half in Goa.  That day they were flying to Goa to close up the house and return to Scotland. We spent a lot of the time watching crıcket, checking out his library and watching a documantary on Fidel Castro that was really good even though we couldn't understand all of ıt as ıt was ın Spanısh wıth no subtıtles.

Durıng our last week we stayed with our second Servas host for 5 nights in Defense Colony.  Nalong is a former director of the Future Generations NGO in India and now works as a consultant on various development projects.  On Saturday he invited some friends over for a party.  They played the guitar, sang Elvis standards and traditional songs from the northeast provinces of India.  His lady friends one of whom came down from Nagar Land cooked dishes, which you mıght typically associate with Chinese food than Indian.  Boiled spinach, mashed red peppers (spicy), broken basmati rice, and stewed pork and a cucumber salad.  We finally got the FedEx packages of bike parts from Stacy and Wojeich after changing the address – bıg thank you to Stacy and Wojeıch, but the visa agency still hadn't sorted out the authorization for Iran.

on the road to Delhi

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia

Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra, Mathura, Faridabad – 880km

Friday 3rd April to Thursday 9th April 2009

Before we boarded the bus for our overnight trip to Jaipur we had the pleasure of a Rajastani all you can eat thali at Natraj restaurant.  Adrian did not stop eating until the waiters decided to avoided our table.

Jaipur market - pink city

Jaipur market - pink city

Jaipur market 1 - pink city

Jaipur market 1 - pink city

Jaipur Market 2 - pink city

Jaipur Market 2 - pink city

Jaipur- pink city

Jaipur- pink city

We took an overnight bus from Udaipur to Jaipur and experienced another example of how things are sometimes done in India.  Two children who should have been at asleep for school the  next morning were working the overnight bus because of this Adrian had to climb on top of the bus to load the bikes onto the roof with no ropes.  Luckily we had a few extra bungy cords and we arrived in Jaipur with the bikes intact.  We had agreed to meet up with Sanjay in the afternoon, but the bus was early and we had an easier time than expected time navigating the city so we arrived at his house that morning.  With no big itinerary so we had breakfast and agreed to meet Sanjay at his place of business for a tea break.  Like many families in Jaipur he is in the jewelry business and supplies many European and UK customers. 

Jaipur 2 - pink city

Jaipur 2 - pink city

Taj

Taj

It took us two days and we cycled at least 138km to reach Agra by 3:30pm.  We arrived a few days earlier than planned so we contacted  Raj to see if he was around. We agreed to meet at his place of business and visit a restaurant he frequents with a rooftop view of the Taj Mahal.  Adrian was having stomach issues and couldn’t think straight so we missed the sunset and decided to go there for sunrise instead.   We were pretty much touristed out by then, and couldn’t bring ourselves to visit a monument that had no real purpose except for the obligatory tourist shot, but after hearing that foreigners are charged 750rs to visit the Taj this confirmed our decision to just get the photo.  We spent one night in Agra and hit the road the next morning.  Many times during the day we were besieged by dust storms I had to use the scarf I was using to protect my neck from the mid-day sun to cover my face.  After making hotel inquires on the way and being quoted ridiculous prices we got to Mathura and ended up camping in an open field where they were making cow patties.  Raj had offered to book us a hotel and we should have taken him up on his offer. All of a sudden 20 children showed up.  No one spoke any English, but kept speaking to us in Hindi.  Then a dust  storm started, but it didn’t rain and we finally got some sleep without the beeping of trucks.

April 8th 2009, Packed up the tent again to an audience and to some wise ass English speakers who I completely ignored, but Adrian had to engage with.  Only did about 60km as it rained twice and we had to duck out of the rain and into a railway crossing office.  We hung  out with three men who spoke to us at length shame we couldn’t understand a word they were saying.  Adrian took some video of the passing train and then fixed his flat tire which they were riveted by.  That night we camped in a contrete storage room, 1 of a row of 4.  It looked like a food storage unit even though a guy was living in one of them.  Again the friendly locals persisted in having a long conversation with us in Hindi brought us coffee and a rope bed, which we put the tent on top of.  Periodically the guy on the end would come over to give us more things from his ‘house’ to make us more comfortable.

Rode onto Delhi through Farindabad.  During the almost three months in India we have taken pleasure in reading the english language papers whenever we can get one.  The front page is dominated by election news, but what we find really entertaining is India’s obsession with record breaking, although not  a sporting nation – cricket and badminton aside they excel in Guiness Records.  There’s a guy who holds 33 records including one for being kicked in the testicles 44 times.  An Indian housewife ate 51 of the worlds hottest chillies and then proceeded to rub them into her eyes.  Then the existing record of stuffing 250 drinking straws in ones mouth was broken by a man who first went to a dentist to have nearly all his teeth removed, he also rode a scooter in shifts continusly around a park in Pune completing 7,400 laps in 100o hours.  Wah hoo! Incredible !ndia

Step-wells, Sun Temple, and the Rann of Kachchh

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia
young shepherd

young shepherd

Ahmedabad to Udaipur via Gandinager, Adalaj, Modhera, Chanasma, Patan, Rapar, Dholavira, Radhanpur, Palanpur, and Udaipur – 728km

Wednesday 18th March to Tuesday 31st March 2009

We arrived at 8:48AM in Ahmedabad the former state capital via an overnight bus from Pune. To make up for all the time spent site seeing at the caves we decided to bus this part of the highway which we were told was uninspiring. As we will be visiting Delhi to pick up the Iranian visa we thought we could also skip Mumbai.

Jain Temple - Gandhinagar

Jain Temple - Gandhinagar

We had an unsatisfying breakfast of fried snacks and made our way to the state capital Gandinager. By the time we got there it was almost noon so we visited the Jain temple and took shade under a nearby tree. Later that evening we cycled within 5km of Adalaj and camped in a front of a concrete store front type structure.

Adalaj Step Well

Adalaj Step Well

On Thursday 19th March 2009 we were the first tourists to be welcomed by the smell of burning incense at the step-well. Monkeys soon started to gather around as the sun rose with the changing light.

Adalaj Step Well 1

Adalaj Step Well 1

Adalaj Step Well 2

Adalaj Step Well 2

We visited the town to get breakfast and vegetables – coconut oil and masala for our evening meal. We ate a fermented-sponge-rice -like-yellow cake called Khaman with tea that we made at the side of the road.

tea and khaman for breakfast

tea and khaman for breakfast

We cycled past Mahesana, but not before getting two flat tires and having to fix them with an audience at the bus stop. Later that evening we camped within a few kilometers of the Modhera Sun Temple.

Paid 100rs each to see the Sun Temple. Took lots of snaps and then used their bathroom facilities to wash ourselves. We inquired about getting kerosene and were invited to Shailesh’s home to cook our breakfast. Turns out he was a former army officer who now sells crop insurance to the local farmers. Adrian cooked our breakfast using his wife’s kitchen which I don’t think was the done thing as we were informed that it’s the women who cook not men. After we cleared away our dishes she went crazy making chapatis and smothering them with ghee. I do have to say that they were the best chapatis we have had so far. We had another wash, a nap and headed for Chanasma.

to the Sun Temple

to the Sun Temple

Sun Temple

Sun Temple

Stopped in a field at the side of the road to make dinner and drew a crowd of onlookers. Adrian was given fresh buffalo’s milk for his tea and we were invited by Mayur to camp at a truck stop under an open air cafe. This turned out to be one of the best offers yet as that night we may have gotten soaked. We got a

Sun Temple 1

Sun Temple 1

tour of the town on his Honda Hero and he brought us sugarcane juice with added jeera and salt.

We also visited his local Shiva temple. As we drove back to the truck stop an electrical storm lit the sky purple, then came the

children in Modhera

children in Modhera

this lady makes the best chapatis in all of India

this lady makes the best chapatis in all of India

Mayur at Patan Step Well

Mayur at Patan Step Well

Rani-Ki-Vav, Patan

Rani-Ki-Vav, Patan

Rani-Ki-Vav, Patan 1

Rani-Ki-Vav, Patan 1

Patan Patola

Patan Patola

wind and a downpour we would have drowned in if we didn’t have cover that night.

Saturday 21st March 2009

We were not planning to visit Patan as we had already seen the step-well at Adalaj, but Mayur insisted that we go and even took us there and back on his Hero Honda.  He also explained all the depictions and stories, which we would need a Ph.D in Hindu mythology to figure out.

Got back on the road and camped 20km outside of Radhanpur. On Monday 23rd March we cycled towards Rapar. Stopped in a few towns along the way to find a cyber cafe but we were not successful. Most of the day was spent cycling along NH15, a straight long road with nothing to see either side of it. We arrived in Rapar the next day looking for an internet cafe so we could contact our host Jitu. He ended up finding us first as not many foreigners come to these parts.  We came to find out later that a friend of his had seen us getting mobbed trying to get breakfast in Adesar.    He sent a text to Jitu in perfect English stating that two foreigners on cycles are here…

Jitu was born in an ashram that one of Gandi’s disciples founded.  This ashram was essentially a boarding school for boys and girls whose parents ordinarily could not afford to send them to school.  Jitu has his own place outside the ashram, but he and his family prefer to live there.  At first light the children were collecting the cow patties, sweeping the dust up in every direction, and cleaning the latrine; everyone has a tasks to do.  That morning I tried to use the latrine without an audience and had to yell at the kids before I was finished doing what I had to do.

We took an early bus to Dholavira, a small village in the heart of the Rann, to see the salt flats.  Since part of the road is still being built this trip took about 3 hours to get there even though it’s only 90km from Rapar.  We hung out with a friend of Jitu’s who took us to see the nearby ruins that afternoon.  While there we were joined by a multitude of border police who obviously had nothing better to do than follow us around.

Welcome to the Kutch

Welcome to the Kutch

posing at the ruins

posing at the ruins

Dholavira at night

Dholavira at night

Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch

wanna ride?

wanna ride?

That night we slept in our tent and I’ll have to say it ranked in the top 5 of our best nights under the stars.  The family compound consisted of a semicircle of detached rooms with the kitchen in the center.  They kept insisting that we sleep in one of the rooms to the back, but we finally convinced them that we would be fine in the tent.

We got back to Rapar the next day and Jitu took us around the village high street. Made us try lots of fried snacks and hooked us up with access to the internet at a local Vodafone shop as there are no cyber cafes. One of the five questions were either directed to us or Jitu, but one precocious child asked us ‘what is your village?’ and I just had to laugh and reply that our village is London.

The road towards Upaipur is part of the east-west corridor of a highway that is still under construction. As these roads are flat and new we were able to make good time, but there are no service stations, hotels or corner shops sometimes for up to 100km. On the way we stopped at a village market street in Thara to pickup rice, sugar, cooking oil, dal and vegetables for the evening. What should have been a very routine task turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Some of the town’s people mobbed us, kept playing with the gears on the bike, and cursed us in Gujarati. It got to the point where one of the stall holders gave us the basmati rice for free perhaps he felt sorry for us. We escaped back to the highway and were flagged down by a smartly dressed  guy.

Vikrant in the middle

Vikrant in the middle

Vikrant, a mechanical engineer, apologized for everyone at the market and invited us for tea at the Timber Mart and oil filter system business he was managing. He had seen everything that had happened in the market and rushed back to the factory in order to intercept us. He also went back to the market to pick up the rest of the supplies that we had decided to leave because of the mob. He invited us to come back and stay at anytime even though he’ll be immigrating to Australia soon. After many cups of tea, photo taking with all the staff it was time to get back on the road.

street performers?

street performers?

the road stops here - on the way to Updaipur

the road stops here - on the way to Updaipur

rush hour traffic

rush hour traffic

We arrived in Updaipur on the evening of the 31st. That night we stayed at the Gangaur Hotel near Jagdish Temple. The hotel staff were cool and found space for our bikes as we had tried a few other places, but they didn’t understand that we couldn’t leave the bikes on the street. The next day, while hanging out at the internet café trying to stay out of the mid-day heat, we bumped into Louis and Elke, a touring couple from Germany. They had seen us before in Goa, but couldn’t get to us in time as they were eating in an upstairs café and where not able to run down and catch us in time. We spent much of the next two days lounging around, eating and swapping stories of our experiences on the road. Elke and Louis have been touring the world since 1995, they have a winery on the French/German border where they live, and Louis is a chef who owned and ran a restaurant many years ago, Elke is a hairdresser and has taken lots of great photographs of these roadside barbershops as well as many other amazing photos of their trip so far.

Elke and Louis world cycle tourers

Elke and Louis world cycle tourers

Louis has decided to go vegetarian for this trip, but his dreams are filled with bratwurst, rotisserie chicken, and the ching ching of wine glasses. They even use to carry wine glasses as part or their touring kit. We look forward to visiting them once they are back from their two year journey.


http://www.weinschmitt.de

As Vikrant would say they lack lane discipline

it's a mashup

it's a mashup

it's a mashup 1

it's a mashup 1

it's a mashup 2
it’s a mashup

Enthusiastic Holi in Pune, bike parts, bat stench

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia

Pune to Pune via Aurangabad, Ellora and Ajanta caves – 500km

Tuesday 10th March to Tuesday 17th March 2009

panchavati society, pune

panchavati society, pune

Disregarding the directions emailed to us by Dr. Ritu we made our way into Pune and ended up taking the long way around the city. Pune is a city of approximately 10 million and with more 2 wheelers (motorcycles) than any other city relative to it population. Our first challenge was to make it through the city without incident. At first we were only going to be in Pune for 2 days, but it soon became apparent that our host Dr. Ritu had bigger plans for us. Ritu had 2 other friends coming the same week and she asked us if we wanted to join them as they had planned a tour to Aurangabad to visit the caves.

We got to Pune just in time for the festival Holi. In the evening we joined the society members for the Holi bonfire and the next day we were given some old clothes, non-toxic colours, and the use of a water gun purchased the day before. Adrian still had Holi colours in his scalp and hair a week later.

During our stay Sarita organized an interview by a national newspaper and television outlet, a demonstration at her society and a talk and demonstration at the morning assembly of Vidya Valley School, Pune.
http://www.mid-day.com/news/2009/mar/130309-UK-couple-Bicycle-Spirit-of-adventure-Pinkett-Adrian-Smith.htm

holi 3

holi 3

holi 2

holi 2

holi 1

holi 1

holi

holi

Milind a good friend of Sarita and also a former paratrooper was recovering from a motorcycle accident, but was more than happy to show us around Pune on motorbike with his crutches. Two months before we arrived his leg had been smashed to bits when a scooter collided and landed on top of him and then another scooter landed on top of that one.

Pataleshwar cave

Pataleshwar cave

outside Pataleshwar temple cave

outside Pataleshwar temple cave

Peshwar place

Peshwar place

Our first two days in Pune were spent visiting the once magnificent Peshwar Place that is now a ruin due to a fire that comsummed the 7 storey main structure made of wood. Unfortunately the fire also claimed the only paintings made be visiting Europeans that would have given us an indication of what the palace looked like.

Next we went to see the Pataleshwar – a temple that was below ground and carved from a single rock. The city had sprung up around these old structures and the damage caused was being patched up with cement to prevent further degradation, however the new light colored cement doesn’t quite work.

For lunch we ate at Pune’s alternative to McDonald’s – Joshi Wadewale famous for a sandwich which is essentially a coated potato patty in a bun. Very tasty.

Joshi Wadewale

Joshi Wadewale

As my tires were 6 months old Adrian thought it best to get some new ones. We spent the later half of the day at the bike shop and also looking for butane gas as a less messy alternative to the kerosene MSR stove .

On Friday 13th we left for Aurangabad with Sarita and her friends Raquel and Melissa who had joined us from Mumbai where they had just attended a tobacco and cancer conference. Aurangabad is a 5 hour drive from Pune. Sarita had organized accommodation through another cser at the Mahatma Gandhi Mission guesthouse.

First stop – Daulatabad Fort – even though we got up early some how we didn’t get to the Fort until almost noon. Me and Adrian climbed all the way to the very top while the others only made it halfway. The walk to the top took you through unlit passages, bat caves, and unergonomic narrow steps. The fort was also a collection of trick doorways to exhaust and fool the enemy, overhead chambers for pouring hot oil on the enemy and false passageways that lead to an untimely slicing off of the enemies head.

Daulatabad Fort - abode of wealth

Daulatabad Fort - abode of wealth

Daulatabad Fort 2

Daulatabad Fort 2

Daulatabad Fort 3

Daulatabad Fort 3

Daulatabad Fort 4

Daulatabad Fort 4

Of course this was a lot of fun as we got to use muscles that we don’t usually use cycling everyday.

On our way to the car as the driver had parked across the street we were descended on by touts. Raquel seemed to be the most affected by this as she only wanted to flip through one of the books and once she had seen that it was of such poor quality hand it back. Wrong move.

We spent the rest of the day at the Ellora caves.

Daulatabad Fort 1

Daulatabad Fort 1

Sunday 15th March we again got up very early to visit the Ajanta caves to check out the stone carved sitting Buddha’s. They were nice, but the bat stench and heat gave me a headache and I had to sit under a tree after 2 hours. While waiting for the others I watched a Buddhist monk perhaps on a pilgrimage patiently dealing with a tout who was diligently showing him all is wares including plastic mini Buddha’s.

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves 1

Ellora Caves 1

Ellora Caves 3

Ellora Caves 3

Ellora Caves 4

Ellora Caves 4

The next day we dropped Raquel off at Aurangabad Airport to catch a flight to Nepal. The entrance was manned by armed officers with rifles, fatigues and berets so we said our goodbyes at the door. We made one more stop at the mini Taj Mahal but by this time we were all touristed out and decided not to go inside. For lunch we had a giant Dosa and then made our way back to Pune.

Cycle tourers go round and round and Ants attack

Posted in India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by ontheroadfromindia

Karwar to Pune via Margo, Pajim, Ratnagiri, Mahad and Bhor – 560km

Wednesday 25th February to Tuesday 10th March 2009

state line

state line

We cycled into Karwar and had breakfast at an Udpi South Indian restaurant. There we met two cyclists Shrikrishna and his friend whose name we didn’t get embarking on a trip to the south. They pulled up chairs and got chatting about gear and all things cycle touring. They wanted to know why we weren’t travelling on mountain bikes as the Indian roads are not good. During the course of the conversation Shrikrishna said,”my horoscope read I’d meet new friends today.” I think we also inspired them to travel a little farther than originally planned. After breakfast we went shopping for an additional pot and two metal plates. We also tried to find kerosene but no one was selling. Less than 5km outside of Karwar we met another group of cycle tourers also heading south on there way from Goa. The group comprised of three Americans, two Swedish, one English and one dual citizen stood at the side of the road for at least an hour exchanging notes and lamenting the fact that we were travelling in the opposite direction. On Thursday evening we camped in yet another field and Adrian got another puncture. There is a marked change in the environment as we head further north, lots of thorn bushes, grey dust and sand permeate the hot air.

cycle convention just outside of Karwar

cycle convention just outside of Karwar

cycle convention

cycle convention

http://veganbetweenyourlegs.com/

On Jamey’s recommendation, one of the group of tourers we met outside of Karwar, we contacted Ravi (a CSer) who agreed to host us. We spent two days in Dona Paula checking out the markets in Pajim and visiting Old Goa. We opted out of the usual party scene and instead spent time cooking with our host and watching a classic Tamil movie with English subtitles.

Gandiji remembered

Gandiji remembered

St. Augustine Tower - Old Goa

St. Augustine Tower - Old Goa

The next day we rode the 18km to Old Goa and killed some time checking out the World Heritage Sites. On Sunday we left Dona Paula very early in the morning and got to Savantvadi by 5:30pm, but found that the beach was still another 35km away so we continued on NH17 and camped 10 to 15km outside of Savantavadi.

The next day after being on the road for 2 hours we were flagged down by a guy with a full beard, dark glasses, long sleeve shirt and a head scarf. Turns out that hIrSch is a well seasoned cycle tourer and has been on the road for 4 years and started his tour from Vanatu.

tea and coffee with hIrSch

tea and coffee with hIrSch

http://www.makesomedaytoday.blogspot.com

He was resting from the heat in a unfinished structure so we joined him and spent several hours making teas and coffees, munching on snacks and trading stories. But finally we had to part ways and head in opposite directions. At high noon we pedalled in the heat of the day which turned out to be 44 degrees celsius. At one point it felt like we were breathing in air that was hotter than what we were breathing out.

Later that evening we found what we thought was a good camp spot. A place off the main road behind a disused building with no people around. After cooking our evening meal we pitched the tent and noticed a few flying ants which I flicked off. At around 10 o’clock after I felt something bite my hand Adrian turned on the light to find we had been invaded by ants that came through a hole in the mesh we had neglected to fix.

laundry day

laundry day

buffalo

buffalo

Two days to Pune we passed through Mahad to take a minor road from NH17 to NH4 this was the most uphill part of our India tour so far as this is the northern end of the Western Ghats. The information we had or had been able to get from the locals was misleading. Frequently when we have tried to confirm our direction we will be questioned with disbelief that we plan to get to a certain destination on bicycle even as we are standing right in front of them with the said bicycles.

Local: ‘You take the bus’

Us: ‘No’, pointing to the bicycles, ‘we are on bicycles’

Local: Looks at us quizically, ‘you go by cycle’

US: ‘YES’

Picture Gallery – for those of you who asked for more pics

cooking Bindi Masala with Basmati Rice

cooking Bindi Masala with Basmati Rice

cashew nut factory

cashew nut factory

now breathe

now breathe

monkey business

monkey business

mahad to bhor - up and up and up

mahad to bhor - up and up and up

mahad to bhor

mahad to bhor

are we there yet?

are we there yet?

more oxen

more oxen

highway 17

highway 17

empty road?

empty road?

oxen at work

oxen at work

living ruin

living ruin

no tension

no tension