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--- News and reports ---

 

Nr.VIII: India, Nepal

07.12.2008 - 06.05.2009

 

 

Fairbanks, 23.05.2009 (USA - Alaska): From Agra it is just a short ride of three days until we reach Delhi. It is hot and the "air" of the metropolis is almost as thick that you could cut it. We stay with couchsurfers (www.couchsurfing.org), organise boxes for  the bicycles, get our stored cold weather gear (fleece, sleeping bags, gloves, tent,...) delivered, pack our things, enjoy the great Indian cuisine for a last time and catch out flight to Alaska on the 06th of May.

 

   

 

Temperatures are just around zero and we experience drizzling rain when we climb out of the airplane in Anchorage and are hugged by our friends Elke, Roy and their kids Maya and Anika. But already after the first "night" (it is already light all night round :-) the sky turns blue, temperatures during the day reach friendly 10 to 15 degrees and it is just great! We immediately forget the sweaty climate of India and start preparing for a new continent. We put the bicycles together, buy bear(pepper)spray and a signal-pistol (for bear defence), and also get an only one kilo weighing bear-electro-fence to put up around our tent at night. We can still remember the sometimes (almost) sleepless nights of our last Alaska-Canada-trip six years ago, caused by bears (see www.philipp-schaudy.net). We don’t want that this time! After a couple of relaxing days in Anchorage we are on the road again. The air is cool and clear, birch- and willow-trees are starting to become green leaves, the last snow is melting and the first flowers are stretching for the sun – it smells like spring in the north! The traffic gets less and less, it is nice riding on the wide shoulder and we reach Talkeetna, where we are hosted by Ralf from "warmshowers" (www.warmshowers.org) and sleep IN his bicycle-shop named "We Cycle"! He is a cycle-freak and is hosting two other riders, Karin and Marten from the Netherlands who are also on their way to South America (see cyclists we met). In Talkeetna we catch our first great views of Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the Alaska Range. Then we find fantastic spots for bush-camping along rivers and lakes with marvellous panoramic-views in the end of exhausting days with lots of altitude to climb and headwinds. Temperatures at night are dropping well beneath zero, during the day it is sunny and warm. We meet Karin and Marten often on our way and camp together for a couple of times. We want to ride into Denali National Park for some days. Cars are not permitted, but during the season shuttle-busses are running in and out the dirt-road every half an hour. Campers must stay on the few campsites in the park and often have to wait several days at the entrance to get a site in the park. BUT: we are a week too early for all of that. The campsites are still closed and the busses are not running yet. The only way to get in the park is by bicycle! We check a "backcountry permit", which allows us to pitch the tent wherever we want (which is usually not allowed), and get going. After a couple of kilometres cars are not allowed any further  and we are alone in the park! Great, fantastic, amazing! The weather is extraordinary good and we see Grizzlies, Moose, lots of Reindeer, many Hare and Ptarmigan, Mountain-sheep, Ground-squirrels and Birds of prey. The road is winding through valleys, over mountain-passes and the views are stunning! In the evenings we usually arrange to meet up with Karin and Marten, and the two Dutch are happy to put up camp inside our bear-proof-fence as the bear-concentration in the park is huge. After a couple of days in the Denali National Park we are back on the highway and ride in just two days, across numerous hills, to Fairbanks, where we move into Heidi and Dave’s cabin, take a break from cycling and wait for our friends to return from their holiday...

 

   

 

  

 

 

 

   

 

   

 


 

30.04.2009, Agra (India): Valeska is catching some bad stomach bugs in Udaipur and visits "Doctor Larifari" (a tip from the boss of the hotel). After a stooltest he prescribes a couple of pills and assures: "everything will be ok in a while". As Philipp already had some bad experiences on his "Pune-doctor-Rallye", we are very sceptical to diagnosis from Indian doctors. Therefore we communicate via email with a doctor-friend of ours in Austria. She tells us that "Doctor Larifari" has prescribed some harmless stomach-bacteria-reviving stuff, but besides that 3 (!) antibiotics and some pills for schizophrenia (!?!) And his diagnosis is amoeba. According to the stooltest-result and our Austrian doctor there are just Coli-bacteria, which are not more precisely defined – some of those even go away without medication. Finally Valeska takes only one of the antibiotics, does not visit the Indian doctor again, rests and after a week in Udaipur we can start cycling again. We are heading east to Chittorgarh, a small town with a fine castle, then north to Pushkar, a hinduist pilgrim-village and a favorite budget tourist place. Next we get to Jaipur, where we stay for two days. It is a beautiful city with lots of Bazaars, a great palace and a nice old city ("Pink City"). Temperatures during the day are climbing up to 45 degrees and it is windy and dusty in the semi-desert country. However, roads are perfectly good and wide and riding goes well. The more north we get, the more we notice a change in the mentality of the people. In the south everyone seemed relaxed when we pass by, saying hello or waving. People were trying to talk and were interested in us. Here reactions along the road are getting more and more hysteric (screaming!). Or shouting things at us, which make people laugh and giggle when we pass. Or just come, stand and stare with price-winning faces when we stop. But fortunately there are still nice conversations and friendly smiling people along our way. We get to impressive Fahtepur Sikri, a Mosque-Palace-Ruins-Complex listed as a World Heritage Site, before we ride to Agra, where we stop for two days and enjoy the magical atmosphere of the Taj Mahal...

 

   

 

  

 

   

 


 

14.04.2009, Udaipur (India): Soon our bicycles and we are ready to hit the road again and we wave goodbye to our Pune-friends. It is good to be back in the saddle, to feel the wind and to carry on with our travels. We are riding over low hills and down towards Mumbai. Traffic is increasing and we are trying to ride as good as possible around the metropolis and head north. It is hot (above 40 degrees) and the country is dry and dusty. The exhaust gasses from the diesel trucks, the dust and dirt, in combination with sunscreen and lots of sweat, are producing a brownish-black layer on our skin until the evenings. When cleaning the nose, black stuff is coming out, so we start (as many Indians do as well) riding with a facemask. Lots of traffic and industry accompany us almost all the way to Ahmedabad. Chimneys are spitting dark black smoke, often there is a biting smell of whatever chemical in the air, rivers and creeks are green, blue and red in colour and smell disgustingly. All in all not a real holiday area. Just the last 200 kilometres before Ahmedabad are friendlier. There are again alleys of big trees and plantations of banana, sugarcane and mango. The city is warmly welcoming us with lots of nice people, which we get to know via the website www.couchsurfing.org (see also the creative page). We are strolling through the old city with its narrow alleys, temples and mosques and continue to cycle into Indias desert-state Rajasthan. The country is getting even dryer, there is almost no other vegetation than cactus and thornbushes, and around lunchtime temperatures are climbing above 40 degrees. We reach the small town of Udaipur. Gorgeous palaces, fantastic sunrises and –sets and a cosy atmosphere await us there. We stay for some days before riding on towards Jaipur, Agra and Delhi...

 

   

 

There are also news concerning our route, which we have changed another time (after long pros and cons discussions) – having the freedom to decide wherever we want to go... Already in Nepal it became quite clear that most likely it will be impossible to get into Tibet this year – especially as individual tourist (which is not allowed), and then even with a bicycle. The main problem in that case is the border between Nepal and China, where one definitely has to get an entry stamp. One possibility is to join a organised tour (for lots of money) to get into the country and then "disappear". The problem is that there will be a group-visa and a group-permit issued for the whole group and it is not sure that you are already a "group" with only two persons in the party. On top of all that it is the 50th anniversary that the Chinese invaded Tibet and trouble in the country are almost programmed. Due to that there is more police and army in Tibet and at the moment the NepalTibet border is closed for all tourists. We have thought and discussed a long time about alternatives, but since India is somehow a dead end (if you don’t want to go to Pakistan, which is the only open border), we have decided to do something completely different! In the beginning of May we will fly from Delhi to Alaska and start riding from Alaska to Patagonia. After that we will return to Asia (in about one and a half years) and cycle back to Europe from Southeast-Asia – hopefully via Tibet...

 

  

 

 

 

  

 


 

30.03.2009, Pune (India): After we had helped enough to breath-away the dust and smog of Kathmandu, we are making our way together with Philipp's parents Ilse and Hansi to the Langtang valley. The "road" is an awful dirt-track and is winding its way through steep hills until we reach our starting point for the trek, the small village Syambru Besi. It is extremely dry (there was no precipitation since the last seven months) and the strong valley-upwinds are covering us in dust and dirt for the next days, while we are hiking. But it is a nice walk in the narrow valley and we catch some good views of the Langtang Range in the north. We reach the last settlement at 3800 meters. We stay and do some day-hikes to glaciers, up on an (almost) 5000 meter peak, and further into the valley, where Yaks are grazing. In the Lodges we feel like in refrigerators. Sometimes they are not much more than a better hut, where the wind is howling through and in the evening everybody is meeting around the wood- (or yak-dung) fired stove. Then the weather changes. The mornings are clear and chilly, in the afternoons clouds are coming in quickly, thunderstorms start, in lower parts with rain and in the high country with snow. We are hiking down the same valley for a bit, then making a turn up into the mountains, towards Laurebina Pass (4600 meters). Up on the pass we are catching the last rays of sunshine, before bad thunders are rolling over us, while we are walking through intense snowfall. Also for the next days the weather stays unpredictable and we have lots of snow, until we reach lower altitudes, where the weather gets better and we hike in beautiful forests with up to 400 year old fir trees and rhododendron trees (which just start flowering). Agriculture starts in this area. On steep slopes farmers are ploughing on narrow terraces. Small villages are on our way, which are often built on top of ridges. Children are waving; grown-ups are looking sceptically at us. With the villages we are back in the dirt of civilisation. Plastic-bags and wrapping material is more and more littering the path and we are walking down to the outskirts of Kathmandu. After 14 days of hiking we are back in the (maybe) dirtiest capital city of the world. Garbage in the streets, the "air" (an almost solid mixture of dust and exhaust-gases) can be cut, roads exist of more potholes than asphalt, dirty monkeys and dogs are roaming the roads, and there is an always existing smell of urine and garbage. However, Kathmandu has atmosphere, a special charm, lots of sights and its own beauty in a way. We are checking out the burning-ghats of Pashupatinath, enjoy the quietness around the stupa of Bodhanath and take a stroll through Bhaktapur. On the weekend we fly back to Pune and our bicycles. We want to start riding northwards as soon as our stuff is packed and we had a day adjusting to the heat...

   

  

   

 


 

10.03.2009, Kathmandu (Nepal): Philipp`s tonsil operation was going well, but the pain afterwards is cruel. In addition to the pain the doctor allows only "easy walks", because of the chance of bleeding from the wound – therefore exhaustion has to be avoided. Finally we have to spend three weeks in Austria – but it’s also good to see family. Philipp recovers and in the beginning of March we fly back to Asia. Our bicycles are parked in Pune, but we are flying to Kathmandu. Why? - Because already some moths ago we have agreed with Philipp's parents to meet in Kathmandu and go trekking together – so they have booked flights. The original plan was of course to cycle to Kathmandu, but there is no time for that at the moment. Therefore we will return to our bicycles after our "trekking-break". Kathmandu is welcoming us dusty, smoggy, full of garbage, without electricity, but with friendly faces and lots of atmosphere. A day later Philipp's parents arrive together with two more friends from Austria (who will do another trek) and we spend the days with sightseeing, enjoying good food and organising our trek. It is the 10th of March, the day of the "Holi" festival. It is the festival of water and colour, which is celebrated to mark the end of winter. Water-balloons are flying criss-cross through the streets. Colour-powder is getting mixed with water in buckets and those are poured from rooftops on pedestrians. Faces are covered in red, blue, green and waterpistol-fights are starting in the streets. We have bought cheap clothes and filled water-balloons the day before and are fit for fight. As Europeans we are a good target and Valeska (a young woman) is an even better one. We are completely wet in no time and covered with colour. But we are also fighting back! It is good fun and the atmosphere is friendly. Great that we could attend the "Holi" festival! Tomorrow we will be on our way – for the next 14 days we will trek in the mountains north of Kathmandu – in the Helambu and Langtang area...

   

   

  

 


 

17.02.2009, Graz (Austria): In Pune we are running from one doctor to the other. Seriously they look into Philipp’s throat and subscribe him tons of antibiotics. No pain, no temperature, but a permanent infection in the gap makes Philipp feel weak. “Wait for four days and everything will be fine again.” Four days later we should wait for another four, then 7 more, and so on. “Something like this takes time, you just have to be patient.” After three weeks of doctors-rallye and no real improvement, we not only loose confidence in the doctors but also patience. Spontaneously we book a flight to Austria, since waiting there for the next weeks seems more pleasant and at least Philipp will have the possibility to get his throat properly checked. On the 10th of February we touch down in Vienna and take a train to Graz. It is cold, sunny, clear and there is snow in the mountains. A nice contrast to humid-muggy India. The next day Philipp goes straight to a throat specialist. The case is clear after the doctors first look: chronically tonsillitis. The tonsils have to be removed. Why did the doctors in India not recognise this? – that will stay a mystery to us. The next day Philipp is going to hospital and the morning after the operation takes place. We are happy to be in Austria and fascinated how you sometimes intuitional do the right thing. After four days Philipp is coming home. The throat pains and the hours of breakfast, lunch and dinner are the worst of the day. Because of the danger of secondary bleeding there will be no more sport than “easy walking” for the next three weeks. If then everything is fine, we’ll be back on the subcontinent in the beginning of March...

   

 


20.01.2009, Pune (India): We stay some more days in Arambol, enjoying the beach, eating good food and plan our route. Back on the saddles, we leave Goa and the coast, and once again we are pedalling into the mountains (Western Ghats). The (too) warm and humid climate is over and we enjoy summerly-dry days and cool nights. After cycling on small mountain roads for two days – at every junction we have to ask for the way as signs are only in Hindi – we reach the „National Highway Number 4“, a Freeway-like road, with two lanes and a sholder in each direction. It is a fast ride – tailwind and not too much traffic – and after long days on the road we reach Pune, with 4 million inhabitants our so far largest city in India. We get accomodated by a nice family of six (www.couochsurfing.org) and stay for some days. Philipp caught a bad virus-infection, which is going for his lungs and throat. With the help of our friends we find a good doctor, Philipp gets treated and can relax until he is well and we start riding north again...

  

  

  


10.01.2009, Arambol (India): We leave Mysore on the 26th of December and cycle through nice and (for indian standards)lonely countryside across the mountains (Western Ghats)down to the coast. Traffic is not too bad and therefore cycling is enjoyable. People are relaxed, friendly and ask us "which country are you from?" and "what's your name?" everywhere. In Murudeshwar we see lots of pilgrims and the 40m high temple is impressive. Unforgettable is the night. Philipp has diarrhoea and has to throw up several times, Valeska also lies awake in her bed with an aching stomach. Nonetheless we head on the next day to reach the village of Gokarna, another holy place for hindu pilgrims. But because of its beautiful beaches, the village also attracts long-term "alternative" India-tourists. We meet our austrian friends Doris and Leo here, who travelled in Rajastan before. We spend New Year´s Eve together, but a couple of days we are (almost) all sick: diarrhoea, aching stomach, cold. Despite that we make it into 2009 on a sandy beach in Goa. Leo and Doris buy bicycles of the brand "Hercules Turbodrive" (sounds better than they are, as we are talking about one-gear-cycles!). Together we travel along the coast northwards. The landscape is quite green, roads winding, scenic and sometimes across really hilly areas – not too easy for our one-gear-pilots! So we reach Goa. And Goa is different: fantastic portuguese colonial villas, pretty villages, the area gives a cleaner and wealthier impression than the rest of India. White churches, Christmas-cribs are standing in front of almost every house, and as there is less tax on alcohol in Goa, the streets are full with bars. But we are not alone – we see lots of "white faces", it's high season in Goa. We meet some long-distance cyclists on the road (see cyclists we met), unfortunately there is not much time to talk, as we have to look for a place to sleep. We spend relaxing days at the beaches of Agonda and Benaulim and finally continue to Panjim, the capital of Goa. Portuguese quarters with big colonial style houses and nice churches are waiting to be explored by us. A highlight is a trip to nearby Velha Goa (Old Goa), where several huge cathedrals pose in green gardens. Impressive! Still a cycling team of four with our friends we make it a bit further north to the hippie-beach of Arambol, which seems to be in russian hands nowadays. It's the first time we see so many east-european travellers. We have spent 10 days with Doris and Leo, now they have to head back home. We stay in Arambol for another two days and then we'll continue northwards...

   

 

  


25.12.2008, Mysore (India): We are riding towards the Nilgiri-Hills. Soon we are leaving Coimbatore behind and in the afternoon we reach the „Satchidananda Jothi Nikethan Matric Higher Secondary School“, which was founded and financed by the „Roots Company“. Today is the „12th Founders Day Celebration“ and we are treated like VIP guests. Teachers are showing us around the elite-school and the kids are presenting their projects. The parents are also invited today and in the evening – after lots of speeches (we are also welcomed and have to stand up) – the pupils present a fantastic cultural program with theater and dances. It is amazing what these children are able to do! We are sleeping in the schools own guesthouse and start up into the mountains the next day. We are climbing almost 2000 meters of altitude, leave the misty-moist air of the lowlands behind, and reach some kind of a highland. The air is fresh and clear and we stop for the night in Ooty at 2300 meters above sea level. In the evening our friends from Coimbatore surprise us. Spontanuously Mohan and his wife had taken the car and driven with the chauffeur (who had also shown us places in Coimbatore) to Ooty (a three hour drive) to see us once again. Crazy!! How nice! On the next day the road is winding its way down in a steep descent on the other side of the mountains and we reach flat country again. For 25 kilometers we are wheeling through the Mudumalai National Park, where we see spotted deer, bison, wild boar and lots of elephants. On the 23rd of December we reach Mysore, a pretty indian „smal-town“ with one million inhabitants. There is a huge beautiful palace and lots of indian and foreign tourists. We stay for two days, celebrate Philipp's Birthday and indian Christmas... And there is a new page on our website - check out the creative page :-)

 

  

 

 

 

  

 


 

18.12.2008, Coimbatore (India): We spend our last evening in Australia with our hosts Janey and Rüdi at the yearly Open-Air-Concert of the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra. 10.000 people sit on the lawn and picnic until the sun sets and the concert starts. A great celebrating atmosphere – what a wonderful end of our tour d´Australie! Then we fly via Singapore, where we spend a day in the rain, to Trivandrum, a city in southernmost India. We land at night time in the dark. Ted, our friend in Trivandrum (couchsurfing!), picks us up from the airport and has organised a hotel for us. If he had not been there, we would not have believed that we are going into the right direction with the taxi – through narrow dark streets, full with potholes and garbage. We stay in Trivandrum for two days, before we start cycling. Our bicycles have to be put together again (from out of the flying boxes...) and we enjoy our first impressions of India: crowds of people, strange smells, everything's colourful, tempels and the delicious food! Finally its time to start northwards. The traffic is crazy! Trucks, buses, small cars, rickshaws, lots of motorbikes.... everything drives everywhere on the road. Passing another car is done in rows of three cars next to each other with coming traffic from the other direction preferrably in dangerous bends and people like to blow their horns on and on and on... as if that would help! Miraculously it usually „just“ works. We are not hurt – so far. In general here people are used to slower traffic and luckily even the fast traffic is not that fast. Surprisingly we do not see many people using bicycles in contrast to Philipp´s journey through India eight years ago, when the place was full of cyclists (www.philipp-schaudy.net). Maybe there are more cyclists further north, we'll find out in the coming weeks... At Varkala, a small touristy town with a small beach, we reach the coast and head on to Alleppey and further to Kochi, where we stay for a day, as we have friendly hosts. The old town center (Fort Kochi) is very nice with its narrow streets and renovated houses. Big chinese fishing nets are the highlight for fotografers at the coast. Our hosts make us try some more indian food – homemade idli, dhal, rasgulla,... Yum! The next day on the road is exhausting due to far too much traffic. Too loud, too fast, too dirty and we can hardly breath in that polluted air. No time to look at the landscape, as traffic surrounds us in a very chaotic way. Fortunately the traffic situation slows down a bit,, when we cycle northeastwards into the hills. Less towns, less traffic, but narrow streets. We reach Coimbatore, a big industrial town. Through a friend in Austria we get into contact with the management of the Roots-Company(www.rootsindia.com), which is taking care of us during our stay in Coimbatore.

 

  

 

  


  

   

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