The cycle from Kalka to Rishikesh was hot, dusty and very hilly. My welcome back to the bike after six weeks of train hopping around India (Kolkota to Goa to Kalka) was exactly as anticipated; really hot and really hard. I tried to trick myself that it was good to be back on the bike but it was no use. The ride out of Kalka was a steep ascent headed for Shimla. I tried in vain to get my bike on the toy train, I stopped repeatedly for chai, hoping the bike might ride itself up the hill, it didn’t. The day grew hotter, my legs grew tired and the bike remained heavy and unwieldy. Fuck this! Just fuck it. I sat at the side of the road on a low wall and had a nice stretch and looked out over the wide valley. That’s when I met Dan. Dan was cheerfully pedalling up the road towards Shimla in the height of the day’s heat. He pulled over to chat.
India is a very big country. And I wanted to see a lot of it. For that reason I took a series of trains making a horseshoe shape around the country. Down the east coast alongside the Bay of Bengal, from Andra Pradesh across to Goa on the Arabic Sea with a stop over in Hampi before striking north to the end of the line in Himachal Pradesh. Continue reading
‘Hey! I didn’t expect to see another traveler for weeks. Especially not crazy bike guys’. Jiles blurted out as John and I sat drinking tea and feasting on puri at the tiny chai stand on the fringe of Moreh town. Jiles, a 21 year old, six feet six, Belgian hitchhiker was crossing the border from Tamu in north western Myanmar to Moreh in Manipur, heading south to Mizoram. ‘We thought the same until eight o’clock this morning- we met a French couple in Tamu. Seems like a popular crossing for travelers’ I offered. Jiles would be the first backpacker we encountered in the lesser traveled regions of North East India, but not the last. Continue reading
High up above the town of Kiphire we were given an ominous warning; ‘you can’t go that way’ said the hulking mass of man in charge of the guest house, ‘it’s too dangerous, many rebels, insurgents, the road is blocked’. We thanked him for his concern and went to bed. We were committed to that route, since it was the only direct road to Mon and we’d crossed 134km of rutted dirt track to reach our present location- returning the same way was, in my mind, absolutely, completely out of the fucking question. Continue reading
‘I have the necessary papers right here’ drawled the cowboy in a thick Texan accent, his strange voice filling the tiny portacabin office of the border checkpoint. It was early in the morning, purposefully so, to avoid any potential queues; our forms were filled in quickly, photographs taken, occupations fictionalised, passports stamped; we didn’t get to speak to the man in the Ten Gallon hat but were certain we’d see him again. Continue reading
The bike rolled along quickly on the glass like surface. For the first time in months there was not a blemish to be seen on the road. I was relieved, the past 98 days had been hard on the old steel horse. It was time to run free once more. Continue reading
Arriving in Cambodia was like a breath of fresh air. After the built-up-stuff-going-on-everywhere-scooters-blasting-horns-trucks-rattling-past-too-close-intensity of Vietnam, the expansive, wide open spaces of southern Cambodia were a joy. Continue reading
I woke early to the sound of heavy goods vehicles thundering by on the busy highway to Hanoi. I’d just spent the night with a Vietnamese family watching an episode of Vietnams Next Top Model featuring Donna of Haute Culture fame. The family had very kindly invited me for dinner and offered a bed for the night. The bed being the one outside their huge roadside restaurant next to the main arterial road connecting Hanoi to the North. Continue reading
In this final post covering our trip in north Vietnam I want to tell you about two roads. This pair of roads neatly bookend our journey from Dong Van all the way to Cao Bang and the Ban Gioc Waterfall. They also happen to be my favourite in Vietnam.