Confused, incredible India and with that most is already said😂 In the Lonely Planet we read that even experienced travellers reach their limits. Reading this calmed us a lot. After some Indian experienced travellers advised us not to travel by bicycle in India, we were suddenly unsure whether the bicycle is the right means of transport for India. Finally we decided to take the bikes with us to Bangalore.
In Bangalore we were warmly welcomed by our Warmshower.org Lena and Nikhil. Lena is German and has been living in India for 5 years and now together with her Indian husband Nikhil. She is an ambitious cyclist and successfully participates in the booming cycling races in South India. Nikhil has a bike shop. Finally they encourage us to travel India by bike, because the small streets are really good and usually very quiet. Their enthusiasm grabs us and we are looking forward to cycling again. But first we disassemble our lowrider, our heavy double stand and Nikhil helps us to change our hydraulic brakes to a well tried and tested mechanical brakes. Nikhil and Lena introduce us to the delicious Indian food. We try the Dosas “A kind of omelette with rise”, which is filled differently, Roti “flatbread” with the most varied Masalas “spicy vegetables or meat dishes”.
After almost a full week in Bangalore, we weave our way through the chaotic traffic of the city towards Goa.
It is jostled, honked, overtaken and suddenly a cow has to be dodged. It becomes fun as the barrier at the railroad crossing is down. It is being pulled out of the lane and opened up the whole width of the road to the barrier, for us arriving a little later, it looks like a one-way street. Only when the barrier goes back up and the oncoming traffic tries to get through on its lane we realise the chaos.
As soon as we are outside the city on small streets, we are almost alone. To our great surprise already in the first village nobody understands English even though it is the official language! “Country?” and “Selfie” are usually the only words that they master.
To make matters worse, the language almost changes from village to village. Once they speak Hindi, then Kannada and Telugu 😳 When someone speaks English, it is very difficult for us to understand them, as they usually speak very fast and it still sounds very Indian. Also the pronunciation and emphasis is extremely important. They do not understand our beloved “curd” yogurt until we write it down. And that’s not all! To further confusion and hinder the communication comes the head wobbling😂 If we stop in a village we are immediately surrounded by a huge crowd of people, mostly men. If we ask them, for example, where we can buy bananas, then nobody knows anything. They look at each other, start discussing with each other, and wag their heads. We rarely get an answer and we have to look for ourselves. We and our bikes are gazed in amazement. The gear shift is always an issue as well as our gas bottles. We are often asked for the cylinder. Some even say that it needs this for the gearshift.
The landscape and the super lonely and beautiful streets we like a lot! All the reports we have read that India is not optimal and too dangerous to travel by bike, we can not confirm at all! We have to say that, on the contrary, we feel that India is the best cycle country for us in terms of landscape and lonely and small roads so far!
For our first lunch break we stop in a small village. Since we assumed that we will always find shopping opportunities, we have packed no supplies. Now it turns out that there are usually no shops in the small villages or just kiosk-like. So we ask for a coffee, which is specially prepared for us. In India you get very good coffee, mostly with milk in a very small cup. More and more people from the village come to admire us. Then the son of the teacher is called, who invites us to his home. The teacher speaks some English to our pleasure.
He proudly shows his bathroom, which has a kind of bathtub with cold water, and in a kind of clay oven it has warm water. The toilet is in a separate building and is shared with the neighbourhood. Everything is very clean. After the refreshment, homemade chapatis with rice, curd and vegetables is served. It tastes delicious, but it’s a bit unusual for us to eat with our hands for the first time and to have the entire neighbourhood as a spectator. “After the meal, even a good Nikon camera is taken for the photos. The teacher wonders that Judith does not wear jewellery and proudly points to his wife, who is full of jewellery. Finally, a red dot is put on Judith’s forehead and her cheeks are brushed with yellow powder. This little blessing ritual is repeated by three women. Strengthened and touched by this warmth we say goodbye and cycle to the Hindu temple recommended to us.
Already as it darkens, we arrive in Madhugiri, where we find a good, cheap accommodation “Lodge”. In Indian style we start the next day with a Dosa and drive through the beautiful landscape. At noon we are again invited by a teacher for lunch. He later takes us to his school. It is a public school and a girls class with 150 students greets us screaming, we feel almost like pop stars and Judith even has to sing with the girls. On the way we stop at a family, which is busy with the peanut harvest. They are happy for our interest and give us some peanuts. Since they can not see how awkward we open them, two women skillfully peel the peanuts in no time for us.
As it dawns, there is a real migration of people from the fields to the villages. Women, men, children, goats and cows go home. In the fields peace comes. We see this as a perfect opportunity to camp free, which according to the reports we read in India is not possible. Without anyone having discovered us, we manage to set up our tent. To be on the safe side, we hang our food bag on a tree to keep nocturnal visitors away from the tent. In this mountainous and rocky area there should be bears and monkeys.
Early in the morning we pack our things, after we were discovered by an Indian.
Arrived in Hampi, we cycle through the temple ruins and admire especially the beautiful rocky landscape with the banana plantations and rice fields. Before we cross the river by boat, Judith buys some bananas. As soon as she holds them in the plastic bag, she is surprised by a cheeky monkey, who swiftly scurries away with two bananas! 😳 When Andi buys again some bananas, the saleswoman has to protect us from the monkey with a stick until the bananas can be stowed safely in the panniers. On the beautiful island there is one hostel after another. Only here in this area may the tourists be accommodated. We find a nice spot in “the Goan Garden”. We get to know many backpackers and many climbers who come to Hampi for bouldering. Again and again, we and our trip are given great interest. We enjoy the fresh shakes, the fine food and the romantic sunsets on the rocks. We are not the only ones who enjoy the beautiful views about the rice fields and palm trees from the rocks.
The next morning, we eagerly await the five-member Canadian family. The meeting was organised by our next Warmshower.org host. Wow, the family has been traveling for four months on their one-year trip. The three boys (13, 15 and 16 years old) are very independent and dutiful. Although they were allowed to take a one-year break from school, they voluntarily follow an online school course. The two parents Rick and Tanya are very keen to travel and are very travel experienced. As a family, it is already the second longer trip by bike. When the boys were 4, 6 and 7 years old, they cycled through the USA. There is no end to our astonishment. This encounter with this family was very inspiring for us.
Although Andi would have liked to stay longer in Hampi, we continue our journey to Hubbali after three relaxing days to our next Warmshower host Vivitt . Large corn fields, sunflower fields, chilli and cotton plantations characterise the landscape through which we cycle. After a long day of cycling we finally find a suitable place to sleep next to the Goverment Guesthouse.When we are already asleep, the owner comes back and calls us until we are both awake again. What he wanted exactly, we never found out. However he seemed very disappointed, when we refused to get up again. The next day Judith feels sick after breakfast. At noon with help of some coconut milk she can vomit and feels a little better. We are looking for an accommodation, because Judith desperately needs a rest. At night she gets fever and diarrhea. Despite our caution, she must have picked up something. The fact that Judith can not continue cycling soon becomes clear and we do not leave until the next day. In the evening there is a knock on the door. The owner of the guesthouse asks if we want to eat something. Andi orders chicken with Roti for 8:00 pm, which the owner confirms with a shake of his head. At 8:30 nobody nows anything about this order maybe they just wanted to know what we strangers usually eat when they nocked at our door and we discussed the food.
Fortunately, Judith is better again and luckily it is not far to Hubballi. In Hubballi we discover a decathlon shop, where we happily buy some things. We are warmly welcomed by Vivitt’s mother and grandmother. Vivitt comes home from work after 9pm. At dinner, for the first time, we get clear instructions on how to eat with our fingers. There are very strict rules and this must be practiced! The rice is formed into a small ball in the plate, loaded on three fingers and then pushed with the thumb into the mouth. No wonder it was amusing for the Indians to watch us eating, when we lost some of the rice or Andi held his head back and let the rice fall from the top of his mouth 😂 With a heavy heart, we say goodbye the next morning to our new Friends, because Christmas approaches and we want to be in Goa by then. It’s unbelievable how fast we put the Warmshower hosts in our hearts.
The next three days are very tough for Judith. She is still weak. Our route leads us through the jungle and we camp for the first time there. Luckily we see the tiger only on the posters on the roadside however we see a hand-sized spider and monkeys. On the second day we descend on a winding, busy and steep road many meters down to sea level. On Christmas day we drive the last kilometers to Goa. Happy, but very exhausted, we check into an Airbnb hotel, where we will stay until 1 January.
We and our legs finally need a break. Traveling in India is extremely exhausting! We rent a scooter and explore the various restaurants and beaches. Unfortunately, the New Year’s Eve party in the well-known Hilltop with the world’s best Goa DJs is fully booked and the tickets, which each cost 75 swiss francs, are then too expensive. Especially on New Year’s Eve the power supply often goes out. Power failure is part of everyday life in India.
On the 2nd of January we are back on the bike and are cycling along the sea, is a lot of fun. In Agonda we make another rest day. Amazingly, and to our disappointment, the infrastructure and restaurants are very poor outside the tourist areas. The traffic and especially the buses with the extremely loud horns depressed our mood. Luckily, just before Gokarna, we find a sensational campground just at the beach. On Judith’s birthday we cycle to the well-known OM-Beach. A steep path over a pass leads us to this bay, which is finally accessible by a steep and long staircase. Since nobody wanted to take care of our bikes, we decided to omit these tourist restaurants and drive on. Too bad that we have received so little support. Tourism can break many things. A small ferry takes us across a river to Nirvana Beach. We are aiming for a campsite, but they demand more than ever before. Tired we drive on an extremely busy road and find a little overpriced hostel, but Andi manages to push the price. Such experiences to fight for prices and to realise that so much more money is demanded from tourists is very tiring. Andi’s stomach is also rumbling and we have to say that this time Andi has picked up something. We discuss a lot about the onward journey and going for kite surfing in Sri Lanka which was a topic since our start. The next morning we decide to book the flight from Goa to Colombo. So that means to cycle all the way back again. We are looking forward to the return journey as we know in advance exactly where we will eat and spend the night. The thirst for adventure is a bit flattened. A sign that we need a break from being on the road. At the beautiful campground near Gokarna, Andi is curing his gastrointestinal upset. And again, Andis Expedmatte breaks down. Fortunately, he still has warranty and Exped sends him without hesitation a new mat to Thailand where we will be in February. At the airport in Goa, we show the Indians how we can package our bicycles and how they fit so easily into the small propeller plane. In the middle of the night we arrive in Sri Lanka.
India is a very exciting country and the part we saw is perfect to travel by bike. The Indian cuisine tastes great, but unfortunately it is not found in the small villages.
It is often said that one either loves or hates India. We can not really say both. We just did not get so warm with the Indians. We had extremely nice and warm encounters, but unfortunately very rare. It certainly also had something to do with our constitution, that we were tired and both were once ill. We were very disgusted by some Indians. It is spat when it is just right for the man. Next, the loud, deafening horn of the trucks and buses extremely annoyed us.
Kerala has to be very beautiful and we would still like to cycle there one day. But the decision to fly to Sri Lanka was the right decision for this moment😀