bicycle travelling
preparing for 3onTour!
INDIA II: bhopal - sonauli

27. June 2003

INDIA II: bhopal - sonauli

8675 km, pokhara (NEPAL)

route: bhopal-sanchi-sagar-damoh-katni-umaria-bandhavgarh NP-rewa-allahabad-varanasi-sonauli

it is 5 o' clock in the morning. the temperatures are still quite bearable. bine and i are cycling out of town. many pigs are looking for food in the many piles of rubbish along the road. cows try to eat something in the filth. dogs are lying in dirty but cool waterholes.

an image which we get often to see when leaving a town. it is very typical for india.

also on the third leg through india, bine and i stick to small roads. the quite 'remote' (in terms of an indian) area through madhya pradesh, 'the heart of india', is challenging. the bad roads are even more worse than the awful heat of the indian summer. we make a rest. bine is not well. some vultures are sitting in the trees nearby. the heat is unbearable. what are they waiting for...?

every 2 to 3 days we reach the so-called 'district headquarters'. towns, which provides a few hotels, restaurants and shops. in between there are often the smallest unit of administration - the 'thesils'. mostly we can sleep in simple government- resthouses. pitching up a tent is not possible in india. hundreds of curious indians around, and 40 C degrees during the way.

the roads are mostly 'under construction'. i think for many years. rough, bad roads with gravel. or the road has just one lane, which means leaving the (also bad, bad) road for every vehicle passing by.

in towns we try to get A\/C rooms as often as we find one. many nights we are sleeping nearly nothing, because of 40 C in the room. even the fan is not managing to let us sleep. but it is even worse, when the fan is running out. this means power-cut. many hours a day there is no electricity. but the better hotels often have their own diesel-generator. so at least the fan is provided 24 hours. also a restaurant and even a room-service is mostly provided. the food is very good. egg fried rice, vegetarian fried rice, added with curd, is delicious. or tomato soup and sandwiches. when food is not spice, i can and want eat quite everything. often we buy fresh vegetables and make salad by our own. in truckstop we eat chapatti with some vegetables and maybe cheese. also very good. also great: the fountains with often quite cool water along the road - ideal for refreshing!

before damoh we noting a new record: about 150 people are gathering around us, while we make some very intersting: fill our bottles with water. nobody is talking. silent indians staring at us, seemingly with no emotion. hundreds of wide eyes looking at two funny creatures - maybe not from this planet.

cycling in india is very though. mostly mentally. and the heat is pushing my body sometimes to the limit - or even further.

after weeks of hard cycling we reach a highlight on our india-tour. the bandhavgar nationalpark! the big attraction is the tiger. and this NP is one of the best places of the world, to see tigers in their environment. the road to tala, the main village of the park, is going through park-area. luckily we get informed afterwards about the fact, that often tigers are crossing this road...

30 minutes past 5 o clock in the morning the gates of NP is open. about 15 4-wheel vehicles are rushing in. the most important thing first: spotting THE TIGER!! we see many white spotted deers, but nobody is interested now. because of 'alarm calls', noises from other animals because of a tiger nearby, and because of elephants which are out in the forest, the guides are trying to spot tigers. during the first hour nothing is happening. many jeeps are gathering on one location. we also see a western-film teams, and journalists with huge camera-zooms, nearly 1\/2 meter long. and waiting there was the right decision. suddenly a female tiger and 3 cubes are crossing the path - just about 15 meters in front of us! what an experience. bine makes a lot of photos, i take a look at the tiger-mother. what a big, elagant animal. really the king of the jungle. about 90 seconds later the cats are disappearing in the jungle. my heart is pounding, and bine and i are both very upset and 'high'. 'cycling 8.000 km all the way to this place has been worth no', we are joking.

in total we visit the park 3 times. beside the tigers, which we see on the next day one time more from an elephant, we can observe many, many other animals. beside many kinds of deers, we see sambars, wild boars, 2 different types of monkeys and many many birds. the beautiful blue kingfisher, the green parrot, the tiny green bee eater, vultures, serpentine eagle, wild chicken, painted stork and a lot which i dont know the names. which i wished to spot but did not worked: a phyton, a panther (hardly to see), and a sloth bear. but it does not matter. bandhavgah nationalpark is a great experience! even the landscape ist beautiful.

back on the road, hard work continued. from rewa we avoid the highway to varanasi. the worldcyclists and friend from vienna, franz karl ([=>http:\/\/]), had a very bad accident on this road. we know also from other cyclists that this section is awful because of the traffic. we dont want to get killed. therefore we take the better option to allahabad. because of a concerned and nice hotelmanager ('this part of the route is not safe for tourists') in rewa we cycled with protection of the local police. we think that it maybe might be stressful, but it was no problem at all. one policeman even invites us for a coke.

from there we are cycling the 140 km to varanasi on one day. the traffic is awful. and we have to leave the paved lanes many times. because of mad truckdrivers who do not brake. well, to be correct: they brake just for cows. but we are lucky. most of the way we have a road for our own. because the highway will get 4 lanes, we can cycle on the nearly finished but still not open section of the new road. this is very good.

varanasi is the last big attraction on our route to nepal. the holy city at the holy ganges. but first we get some very bad news. a visa-extension is not possible. even 3 visits at the foreigners registration office does not help anything. we have to leave india in 3 days. our visa is running out. therefore time in varanasi was stressfull. and the mind was not free for varanasi.

not cycling the whole way through india is very bad news for me. trying to cycle all the way on land - whereever it is possible - is getting more and more to a farce. bine is quite happy to leave india as soon as possible. she is really fed up from this land. i can understand this very good. i also do not want to come back. a cyclists hit bine and destroyed her trousers. and causes a bad injury on her leg. she first is shouting at the stupid indian. and afterwards crying silently in my arms because of anger and despair. 'i want to get out here'.

nevertheless - varanasi is something unique and special. a place like i have not seen in my life before. a place where religion and everyday-life is existing very close. burning corpses and shit side by side.

excrements are everywhere in varanasi. from cows, water oxes, goats, dogs and human beings. the smell of urin hangs in the air. from the edge of 'mother' ganges, the holy river, are many stairs up to small temples. called 'ghats'. there are hundreds of them. old people travel to varanasi to dy in the holy city. corpses are getting burned at two so-called 'burning ghats'. one is directly beneath our hotel.

hindus are taking a holy bath in ganges. and drink the holy water. just beside children are bathing for fun in the waters. people are making their daily wash there. and many indians are washing their laundry. on the squares at the temples young indians are paying cricket. the images are various. and very impressive...

a 4-WD jeep is taking us on the next to sonauli, at the indian-nepali border. 300 km. 8 hours. in the evening, when our visa is running out in a few hours, we arrive at the border. we look into dark clouds in front of us. the currently invisible range of the beginning himalaya. which we want to enter tomorrow with our bicycles. i am happy about it!

paying the bill is one more time a problem. the driver wants to have more money than we made the deal at the agency. he is talking about 'driver charge' and 'food..' and all this shit. it is really a pity. and typical for india. so both sides leave - as usual - in a bad, hostile mood.

it is time to leave india.
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