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.
‘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.