Maarten in India

INDIA

After two weeks at last i managed to escape Dubai. The city really got on my nerves a bit. I found  relieve in hanging out with my old buddies from Tajikistan and excellent Paki food from places where the low paid workers go to have their lunch. I think that is the best Dubai has to offer for me.

Unfortunately India gave me a Visa for only 3 months.  I was counting on a 6 month one so I could take my time to see the country shanti shanti by bike. Due to this I had to change my plans a bit and definitely not by trying to squeeze it all in a smaller timeframe. I have contemplated different routes and options but finally settled for going down a bit and then straight up North to Nepal. It means I have to skip lots of places I initially planned to visit but having to rush in is something which is not compatible with how one goes about in India..

Shaun and I unfortunately had to split up. Due to a bureaucratic mess caused by the governments of the Emirates and Canada he was forced to go back to Canada again to sort out stuff.  If all is well he will get to India in the run of March. I myself flew to India already a month and a half ago. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a ship that could take me from Dubai to India. Apparently it has something to do with the Indian Customs not accepting travellers coming in on non-commercial ships (like a freighter or an old dhow for example) Anyway, I am here and happy!

Initially I planned to fly to Mumbai from where I would head down South. When I found out that flights to Goa would only be a fraction more expensive, I started to rethink my itinerary a bit. Flying to Goa means a very relaxed start; no traffic chaos and millions of Indians around me that make me go loco on my first day. So I decided to fly to Goa and that was quite an excellent decision indeed. The Airport of Goa is very small and close to the beaches. So after I arrived I quickly assembled my bike and after an hour I found myself cruising down the coastline with a very big smile.  Mass tourism is more in the North where beaches are littered with recliners and joints that puke out horrible obnoxious music all day long. The South has bits of tourism but caters to a different crowd. Mainly old people that just want to sit in a tranquil place and enjoy the sound of the sea. There’s still plenty of empty beaches to be found in Goa and so I had a magic first night out sleeping on the beach with no noise pollution. Guess I am also getting a bit older..

Cycling in Goa is great. Roads are excellent and there’s plenty of restaurants along the way where one can buy a yummie meal for just half a Euro. The only thing I have to learn over and over is to keep to the left! Especially after a break I automatically start cruising on the right lane and when I see cars heading my way.. “Idiot!!! You are driving on the wrong lane..!!!”.. Oh wait.. “Sorry!!!!”..  So that takes some time and I will probably make the same mistake a few more times the coming weeks.

Goa is very small and so it took me only two days to cross into the state of Karnataka. On my second night in India, still in Goa, I decided to make up a bit for all those months of near alcohol abstinence and invested many a Rupee in good ol’ cold beers.  Hence the morning after it took a while to get up and I wasn’t even sure whether I could make the engine run for a day of cycling. I almost decided to lay my weary body down in my sweet hammock when I felt a real bad urge to hit that road despite the fact that I was struggling with a hangover. So many weeks of longing to be on my bike gave me the power and will to make miles and miles. So around noon, conveniently the hottest time of the day, I took place on my dear and beloved Brooks saddle and kicked it off.

I calculated that my destination of the day, Gokarna, would be some 70km away. This turned out to be 100km but actually came down to 130km because I missed a signpost and so I made a bit of a detour. My initial plan was to stay in Gokarna for a day or two and then continue down South towards Trivandrum, up North to Chennai and finally a train till somewhere close to the Nepalese border. It was not meant to be like that. I really started to develop a big liking in Gokarna and more especially the nearby beach where I was staying (Om Beach). For some three weeks I have lived in a little hut on the beach and got quite addicted to my life of plain lazy doing nothing, swimming, reading many books and chit chatting around the campfire with fellow long term residents who became my family for a while. In the end I finally managed to drag myself out of paradise and move on to yet another little paradise called Hampi. Hampi is littered with ruins of the former Vijayanagar Kingdom and the most weird ass rock formations that really blow your mind away. Despite the fact that there are lots of backpackers around, it has managed to remain a rather quiet and laidback place with a genuine feel to it. Time is running out however and so I really need to be on the bike again  (some 5 weeks to cover 2000km to the Nepalese border) if I want to continue doing things the shanti shanti way. The idea was to make the last leg of the journey a solo-tour (well, I didn’t really have a choice of course..) but things have turned out different. I am currently waiting in Hampi for two German kids who came cycling all the way from Germany and are on their way to China where they plan to take the Trans Mongolia Express back to Europe. I met them in Gokarna some time ago and as we got along quite well I proposed them to cycle to Nepal together. I don’t mind at all to travel by myself but I certainly appreciate having some good company to share the highs and lows of the trip with.

“Happiness only real when shared” as Chris McCandless  had put it when he felt he was close to passing away (Into the Wild)

Will update regularly!

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