Speed bumps

Our plan for saturday was to cycle to Dindigul, but we weren’t looking forward to drive for 100km over a 4 lane highway and stay in big city with 4 milion inhabitants which isn’t in lonely planet so we decided to change our route. Instead of cycling to Dindigul we drove to Karaikkudi. Neither in Lonely Planet, but a smaller city and on the route there should be villages with nice old houses. Because Tiruchirapalli is the crossroad of southern India, all roads from/to it are big and busy. Our new route turned out not to be different. The first 40km were on a wide road with no lanes but you could make 4 of them, and the Indians did of course. Several times we had to drive over gravel/dirt roads because of roadworks or something what should look like that.

After 40km we left the highway and took a very small road to a real empty, peaceful, beautiful and quiet part of India, with indeed beautiful houses in the villages as we were told.

In the villages are a lot of speed bumps (speed brakers they call them here). Some are visible and on a logical location, some are announced but a lot come as a complete surprise and they really are good speed brakers, even for us on our bikes! A collapse at 25km/h of Koens bike with one, changed Koens front wheel carrier into a piece of wrecked steel and had to be removed.

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(@Carel: can you look for a new one for me 😉)!

Now Koen has to travel further with 2 instead of 4 bags, this isn’t a problem but the balance on the bike just isn’t as perfect as it could be. Happily he didn’t crash (again) and the bike itself didn’t get damaged.

One of the locals who was on the spot where the ‘accident’ happened turned out to be our local gardian angel for the rest of the day and guided us the last 30km on his motorcycle, warning us for every speed bump. So finally we arrived safely at our hotel in Karaikkudi. After a necessary shower we treated ourselves on a nice beer (650ml which is standard here) with some spicey snacks. The bars in the hotels seem always to be in a dark cellar, with a mysterious atmosphere.

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Green wet peaceful day

Today we drove 60km from Thanjavur to Tiruchirappalli. The weather this morning was rainy and it kept rainy for half of our trip. Happily the temperature is good, so it was still pleasant to cycle. The route today went over very small roads through rice fields, banana- and palm-trees.

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The number of cars, trucks on these roads and also the number of villages which we past was low, so despite the rain, we had a relaxed day of cycling today.

Because of the rain the roads were more calm then we were used to, the villages were busy as usual. Sabine went to buy some water, when she came back, Koen was surrounded by the boys of the village.

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Tourist attraction

After our last post we left the main roads and cycled mainly over smaller roads and through smaller villages. Cycling goes easy as the roads are still pretty good, the tarmac though has ‘some’ holes but traffic is very low on these roads. Funny aspect is that our average speed drops every day (we’ve started at 21,5 and are now on 18,5 km/h average cycling speed).

As we told before people were greeting us warmly when cycling over the main roads, on these smaller roads they even seem to cheers harder and more enthousiastic. Kids spotted us from a big distance and organized a big welcome.

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They want to be, for any reason which we don’t know, on our pictures. We think some cyclists/tourists before us brought loads of pens and pencils to India, all the kids ask us for those. We’ve just got one pen with us, so bad luck this time for these kids.

We first thought we get all this attention because of our ‘gear-/super’ cycles as the Indians call them. Today we found out it’s just because we’re foreign and our white skin. We’ve visited the ‘big temple’ in Thanjavur which was really beautiful, busy and big. The temple didn’t seem to be the main attraction, it was us and our fellow white skinned tourists who got the most attention.

Indian families want us in their family photoalbum or they want their kid of around 6 months to get used to us, white creatures, so we had to hold the crying kid and the parents took pictures of us…

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Probably the parents wanted to show us to their friends and family and why not, we do the same with them!

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After a week we’re still not used to be treated as a king and queen…

Hi, how are you?

Merry christmas everybody!!!

Today we’ve reached Chidambaram (chiDAMbaRAM). The first 35 km were very busy… The next 35km were almost the opposite: rice fields, small villages and a lot of waving and/or greeting Indians. Several times men passed on their motorbikes, watched, stopped, watched again, catched on us again and asked: how’re you, where you’re from? how much is your cycle? and drove on, mostly without waiting for a real answer! Kids were trying to overtake us, wanted to hear our bells (still we haven’t found a good/nice horn). Women mostly waved and smiled at us, but they didn’t ask anything…

We’re having our Christmas diner in the restaurant of our hotel, being the main subject again!

First day cycling

Because we’ve met so many foreign travellers, we decided to write the next messages in english.

This morning we started at 7:00 to Pondicherry (puducherry). We first had some starting problems… The height of koens saddle wasn’t right, the steeringbag was bending over, these problems we’re fixed easily. Then we decided to be smarter then our GPS, but we ended on a dead end, and after 10km Koen had his first flat tire… So far our problems!

After 7 hours and 105 almost flat kilometers we reached Pondicherry and found a nice, clean and quiet hotel! The road today was good, sometimes busy but most of the time relatively quiet, even with hard shoulders to cycle on. The traffic is mad (specially in the cities) but the few car/truck/busdrivers seem to give us enough space to cycle.

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In the cities we mostly see motorbikes and ‘fellow cyclist’ on old rusty bikes.

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So we didn’t feel unsafe at all today.

Also the temperature is ok, it’s hot but the wind makes it feel cooler. We drank about 5 liter water and as it’s hard to find good food and you can buy bananas everywhere next to the road and those are one of the safe fruits to eat, we ate 10 (5 each 😊) of them today!

Now it’s time for a good diner and early sleep, last nights were a ‘little’ noisy because of the sea breeze, fisher boats, dogs and a mouse…

Veilig aangekomen

Na 2 prima vluchten (6,5 en 4uur) zonder slaap aangekomen in Chennai. Als we de tassen van de band hebben gehaald worden we gewenkt dat onze fietsen er ook zijn. Mannetje 1 bij de douane wil dat we de fietsen aangeven… Dus wij naar mannetje 2, die vraagt: de fietsen hebben geen motor, jullie nemen ze ook mee naar huis. We geven de juiste antwoorden en mogen zo zonder problemen het vliegveld af. Daar begint de chaos, maar onze host/chauffeur is snel gevonden en de fietsen belanden ‘veilig’ op het dak van een oude ambassador.

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Om te zorgen dat de fietsen echt vast zitten wordt onderweg nog even wat touw gekocht. Dan spotten wij de eerste heilige koeien en worden wij voor het eerst goed bekeken!

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Onderweg stoppen we nog even bij een lokaal thee-hutje… Vol verbazing, plezier en met vertrouwen naar de komende weken kijken we rond als we richting ons guesthouse aan zee rijden! India is helemaal niet zo moeilijk 🙂

India, you’ll hate it or you’ll love it!

Cycling in India? Are you crazy?
Most people think we are. It’s the most crowded country in the world, traffic is crazy and dangerous,  the roads are dirty, most places look like a public toilet, it will be a miracle if we don’t get diarrea.
Fortunately we also heard a lot of good things. People are very colourful, interested and hospital, the food is delicious, the nature is beautiful, and the culture is very different from our culture and very interesting.

In 5 weeks, we can say what’s true about these prejudices, and if we love it, or hate it!

Preparations for India

Last year we decided to go cycling again. We went to a cyclingholiday-fair, where we spoke to a couple (Han and Hennie) who cycled through South-India.
We would like to do that too!

So from then te preparations started:

– buying flighttickets
– getting the cycling route and maps
– buying a GPS
– inform ourselfses about the culture (indian food, yoga lessons, reading books)
– buying the Lonely Planet of South India
– getting all stuff that we need (Dazer, actioncamera, lightweighted accesoires, bicycle-boxes)
– following a bicycle-reparation course
– getting vaccinations
– getting a Visum
– practising cycling in the mountains of Luxembourg
– going to a gym to be in a good condition
– writing to couchsurfers
– bicycle maintenance
– getting transport to the airport with our bicycles in boxes

Yet 1,5 week to go, I think we never prepared so much for a holiday. Probably you’ll never be prepared enough when you’re going to India for the first time… But it’s always good to be surprised!