Discover more from Hey, wait for me! 🚲
The reason India invented yoga
Firstly, namaste from India 🙏
‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’; that’s what a 16 year old Matt learnt after failing his Higher Latin exam at school. So before cycling through India we did our research. Swatting up on blogs and social media, watching YouTube videos, Matt even talked Harriet through the rules of cricket, so she could try some off spin during her haggling at the market.
Our research read like a Stephen King horror novel. “Our escape from India!” screamed one cycle blog, “Top scams in India” was another, and even “Four reasons why you shouldn’t travel to India”. If these accounts were to be believed, India would be dirty and smelly with not even a basic level of hygiene. So much like our trip so far.
But India has really surprised us.
There have been challenges. The monsoon season has just started so it is very hot and humid. At any one time we are 90% sweat which dries to make our t-shirts brittle like uncooked lasagna. We have motorcycles pull alongside us every 10 minutes and the driver will shout “Your country?”. Thankfully the answer “Scotland” is usually a conversation ender as the driver thinks where ‘Scotchland’ could be, soon gives up and drives off. Stopping for a quick bottle of water by the roadside can attract twenty or more people gathered round staring at us with open mouths like we have cycled from outer space and will be returning to the mothership shortly. And we haven’t quite got used to the Indian head wobble which could mean, yes, no, OK, I understand, I don’t understand, yes you can, no you can’t, no problem or no, that is a problem. Further, any attempt to clarify what the person means by the wobble only results in more head wobbling.
There have been some real highlights. The scenery has been incredible, particularly in Rajasthan. In the hot, humid jungle we can easily imagine Indiana Jones swinging out on a vine while being chased by a human sized boulder. And the arid plains are perfect for leopard spotting (we spotted nothing). This gives Rajasthan a magical feel. The roads were quiet, the villages friendly and the geology was wonderful. Like a step back in time.
The country also has an intensity about it. If you find a solution oriented person, it feels like you can do anything, from screeching through the streets of New Dehli in a tuk tuk buying camping gas before the train leaves, fixing a broken value on an inner tube, or finding somewhere to pitch a tent in a monsoon. It’s a country where if there’s a will there’s a way and we’ve often had to find that way.
This week's highlights:
The colour and vibrancy of India is like a firework. Orange tunics, red turbans, blue tuk tuks, purple saris, green chillies, pink flowers, yellow spices, white beards, brown henna, silver rings, gold temples, black cows. A stramash of noise, heat, colour, people, people and more people.
There are 306 million cows in India. That's nearly five Indian cows to one Brit. And they go wherever the heck they want. Three sat having a natter on a roundabout? Sure. Going for a walk the wrong way down a dual carriage way? No problem.
Indian food. Delicious, spicy, cheap, veggie and filling. Current favourites are chilli paneer, aloo gobi, paneer butter masala and butter roti. (This list could go on...).
The eageress with which we are greeted in India is enough to warm an already overheated heart. Someone said; "welcome, we are very happy to see you here, we have had no tourists for 2 years!" This is matched with endless offers of help and kindness. It took a while to figure the people out, but we soon realised that behind the gawps and stares is a keenness to help two extremely sweaty, thirsty Scots.
And do you know the feeling when there's a parasite which you thought was leaving but actually hangs around for a couple of months after it was supposed to have left? No, that's not a reference to Downing Street, but Matt has been back on the antibiotics and early signs are that he's cleared a parasite he has been hosting since Turkey.
This week's lowlights:
A lot of selfie requests; probably around one every 10 minutes. The best (worst) ones are those who pull up alongside us as we're hurtling down the road and ask us to stop cycling to take a picture. We usually say "OK, but we can't stop." So there are many, many moped peloton selfie photos of us circulating around India as you read this.
Predictable, but the driving. You might think that people drive on the left here, but in fact people drive wherever they want. Including coming towards you in your lane with the audacity to beep at you to get out of the way. As if suddenly switching to cycling on the left after 4 months on the right wasn't enough to confuse us!
The heat. It drops to 30°C overnight which does not make for cool camping. Thankfully we've been able to pitch our tent in a few workshops (ceramics; furnishings; stonemason) who have kindly pointed a standing fan in our direction. Heaven.
The intensity is both exhilarating and exhausting, which is presumably why India invented yoga. We have a couple of days left riding to the Nepalese border, then it’s across the foothills of the Himalayas.
Oh, one more thing. We’ve cycled 10,000kms from Edinburgh Castle, Scotland to the Taj Mahal, India! A pretty sweet milestone.