I’ve said a few times before that I don’t really know how to put India into words.. and that hasn’t really changed. It makes summarising my experience here almost impossible and is partly responsible for why I’ve waited a day to post this. Believe it or not, writing this sometimes takes a bit of effort so please excuse my laziness yesterday… I spent the time lying by the pool and eating!
Anyway, here goes:
Distance: 2534 miles / 4079 kilometres
Riding Time: 174hours (hopefully I’ve got that right this time and won’t have to re-do it)
Av. Speed: 14.6mph / 23.4kph (never expected that coming into India)
Elevation Gain: A lot in the first week, very little after that
Riding Days: 24
Rest Days: 0
Crashes: The driving here has been the worst I’ve ever seen. And it’s not that they’re necessarily bad at controlling the vehicle; it’s just that they’re all idiots behind a wheel. (If you’re Indian, please don’t take offence. But if you do think I’m being unfair, be my guest to cycle around your country and let me know where you stand after that). Regardless, I’ve more or less managed to avoid any crashes. Granted I’ve come very close on a few of occasions and rogue patches of sand have often proved sketchy but I am yet to come off my bike (long may that last!). I did have one minor collision whilst waiting at some traffic lights and a guy on a scooter accidentally released his clutch and drove into me. Thankfully myself and the bike were both fine.
Punctures: 2. Getting one on the first day really did not fill me with hope; but I managed to make it all the way to the penultimate day before getting another. And admittedly the first one was largely my fault and could have been avoided. Either way, I think I’ve done pretty well on that front
Roadside Number 2’s: 0. I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate but I’m pleased about that.
Tan Lines: Getting There. The legs aren’t overly impressive yet. My legs are brown but the tan is fairly gradual because of the gym shorts I’ve been wearing over my cycling shorts; this will probably remain the case until Australia. The most prominent tan lines are on my wrists although even they have faded slightly after a day in the sun without gloves on. The difference on my fingers, whilst not too noticeable, could raise a few questions…
Food Poisoning: Yes. With 4 days to go..
Cheapest Room: £7.50. Questionable.
Best Day: Day 40 to Puducherry. Coming off the back of my first 200 kilometre day I wasn’t sure how I would feel. Quite unexpectedly, I flew through the ride and posted my fastest average of the whole leg. I guess partly motivated by the nice hotel waiting for me. The day got better from there and was a brilliant mental break. Needless to say, it got hard again 2 days later..
Most Idiotic Question: ‘Do you know the Indian National Anthem?’. I mentioned this on the day it happened so I won’t tell the story again. 2nd and 3rd place in this category go to – ‘Can I take your bike?’ and ‘Is this a motorbike?’.
Funniest Moment Whilst Cycling: There have actually been a couple of times when I laughed out loud at someone or something. However one that sticks in my mind the most is seeing a man doing a backwards power-walk along the main promenade in Chennai (AKA Madras)
As for my two days in Kolkata, I spent the first doing very little – which was needed. The second was a bit different. I took my bike to a local bike ‘shop’ for a clean which was interesting. Not quite up to the standard of the guys at Condor but it did the job.. (sort of). My Dad and I also looked around a market whilst waiting which was pretty incredible. I think the highlight was seeing a man turn a chicken from alive to ‘cookable pieces’ in the space of about 3 minutes. I did film it so I may put it up on YouTube in case anyone is interested. But I don’t know if/when I’ll have sufficient internet to do so. With regard to my weight, I think I’ve already managed to put back on everything I lost and still have a couple of days before I cycle again; so that’s good.
I also owe a few people a massive thank you. First to Fereshte, Mosin and Bob who took care of me in Mumbai and were on hand to help with anything throughout my trip had I needed it. Secondly to Debashis, Rajat and Samit who’ve helped throughout the stay in Kolkata. My time there would’ve been less than restful without them so thank you!
On reflection, India has been incredible. I think I was close to my limit towards the end with the illness but after two days of de-stressing it’s clear that it is has been an amazing experience and one I will never forget. The country itself can be very beautiful but what makes coming to India so ‘special’ is the people. The friendliest, most inquisitive, and most hospitable of any I have ever come across. I’ll admit all this has worn me down and answering the same question 30 times a day did get tedious but I guess it’s all part of the experience. There are tough aspects to India, hygiene probably being the main one. The heat has also been hard, but it beats riding through a European winter by a long way.
Speaking of Europe.. India has been a lot better. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still been bloody difficult, but I’ve managed to come away happy and if there’s this much of an improvement with each leg, by Portugal, I may decide to skip London and go round again…. not.