A looooong ride. Did nothing but cycling today. Nearly 100km. Wind and topography helped. Heat however didn't help at all. Was kind of dehydrated when I arrived. In Tiruchchirappalli. What a name for a town!
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Nevertheless I arrived early enough in Dindigul to go for a sightseeing
walk. The city is built beside a huge rock topped by a fort and a temple.
Once again similar if not quite as impressive as Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. The
fort offered some splendid views on the city and the distant mountains.
Most impressive however was the temple. Abandoned. I just had to share it
with some squirrels.
Once I got down I walked into something that looked like a fun fair with a
religious twist. Many stalls, a ferris wheel but also fire goblets carried
around in processions led by musicians and a decked out elephant. As so
often in India: I had no idea whatsoever what was going on, but it was very
Sunday, February 26, 2012
fish-eyed goddess. Huge and very colourful. Due to me not being a hindu I
was not allowed into the innermost areas but what I was allowed to see was
nice enough. And on the entrances I found a stall selling mantra boxes!
Sooooo, it is lottery time again!
WIN one of 3 mantra boxes. Just write a haiku containing the words 'Fish',
'Eye' and 'Goddess' (or 'Fisch', 'Auge' and 'Göttin' or the same in
whichever language you prefer) and you could be the lucky winner!!!
Later that day I had a look at an old palace (just huge) and did some more
profane stuff like further travel planning and paying a much needed visit
to the barber.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
aaaarggh! Ok, nevertheless I arrived in Madurai. In the beginning there was
not much of landscape. But I drove by some funny horse temples. Lunchbreak
as always: good cheap food + being stared at by the whole village. Once I
got closer to Madurai there was a huge rock with temples on top - similar
if not quite as impressive as Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. Madurai is the first
Indian million city I enter on this trip and yes: this feels like the real
thing. Everywhere else in India cycling was easy but this here finally is
the utter chaos I had expected, hooray!
I checked in at a youth hostel with a real Indian style dorm - there is no
way you could fit any more beds in that room. I choose that place to meet
other travellers but even though the dorm looked impressive it is near
empty. The warden however is very talkative and very interested in my
travel. And he even gave me a demonstration of his mechanical temple drum
machine. Now I want to have one!
Pretty unexciting day: just cycling cycling cycling. And some eating inbetween. The all-you-can-eat meals are perfect for cyclists and they usually go for less than 1€. It is served on a banana leaf and you are supposed to eat it with your fingers - really with your fingers, not with the help of flat bread or something! I am not sure if I will ever get used to this, until now I could always convince the waiters to provide me with a spoon.
Initially I had planned to take the small roads, but the highway is surprisingly good - not much traffic, usually a wide shoulder, perfect for cycling. Only problems: again a lot of headwind and in the afternoon a lot of heat. I stopped at whatever provided shadow, usually bus shelters. Nevertheless I managed to make some distance.
inbetween. The all-you-can-eat meals are perfect for cyclists and they
usually go for less than 1€. It is served on a banana leaf and you are
supposed to eat it with your fingers - really with your fingers, not with
the help of flat bread or something! I am not sure if I will ever get used
to this, until now I could always convince the waiters to provide me with a
Initially I had planned to take the small roads, but the highway is
surprisingly good - not much traffic, usually a wide shoulder, perfect for
cycling. Only problems: again a lot of headwind and in the afternoon a lot
of heat. I stopped at whatever provided shadow, usually bus shelters.
Nevertheless I managed to make some distance.
than on the southernmost point.
After a month of nearly not cycling I am finally doing some distances
again. I am slowly getting into this cycling thing again, though my
thoughts are still somewhere else most of the time. At least I had some
distraction from too much thinking: when I was flying into India I had seen
a lot of windmills from above. Now I felt what they were for - I felt it
right in my face. Freaking heavy headwind. Well, at least that is some
challenge. When it got later the wind got a bit weaker, but it also got
very sunny, very hot. Going north is definitely the right direction for me
- at times I even started to miss the Armenian winter! In the evening I
ended up in Tirunelveli - a normal chaotic indian town. I do not know what
special event was going on there but nearly all hotel rooms were full, so I
had to treat myself to an expensive (that means >10€} ac room.
Cape Comorin, the southernmost Indian point there is.
I went for a very shaky boat ride to one of the two small islands off the
coast. Everyone was forced to wear life jackets - it seems that also the
boat company did not have too much trust in their vessels.
Back on land I strolled a bit around and ended up at a topless temple: all
men including me were ordered to remove their shirts (and mobiles,
cameras,...) before entering. Most of the temple visit I waited in line in
one of the outer chambers - everything was pretty dark there. As far as I
could see the black stone was carved in shapes that reminded me a lot of
Iran (Persepolis). In the inner chamber the line got more chaotic, so I
didn't really have a chance to see the goddess itself. I even managed to
slip out without the mandatory red spot on my forehead.
Once I was out and shirted again I just walked a bit more and finally saw a
chance to do something I had missed for all the 5+ months I had been in
India years ago:
sugar cane juice ! Hmmmnnnn ! Around sunset I came across a temple
dedicated to Gandhi. Maybe he had a different taste in temple architecture
but to me it looked just like a huge pink monster, brrrrrr.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Cycling in India is much much easier than expected. I was prepared for utter chaos but todays ride was actually very smooth, pretty enjoyable: not too bad traffic, not too bad road, not even many people staring at me. I am wondering why it all is very different from my last visit to India more than 8 years ago. Maybe India has changed, maybe I just got more relaxed because I am much more travelled now, maybe it is just because the very south of India has always been very much different from the northwest that I know.
The only traffic challenge I faced were unmarked speedbumps - a particularly malicious multiple specimen of which struck me by surprise and wobbled off my back pannier.
Just as the Sri Lankan coast this here seems to be Christian country - many huge churches around, neogothic in shape, ridiculous in colour. When I was just photographing one I got coloured myself. One guy approached me, shouting ' India, Friend' repeatedly and poured purple ink all over me. Hö, I thought the festival of Holi will be somewhen in a couple of weeks only?! At that first colour attack I was still too surprised, but when I encountered several more ink-pourers on the way I started to fight back which turned out to be great fun for me and the Indian guys (except for the attacker who had not reckoned that half of his ink-bottle would end up being drained all over his very own head, gnihihi). I still have no idea why today was a colouring-random-bypassers-day. Many people also did not know as I was asked several times about the origin of the purple marks on my face, arms and clothes. I was able to clean myself, I only hope I will also manage the same with my laundry.
I had planned to cycle all the way to the southernmost point of India today but some gearshift problems made me end the day before that. Whenever I went up a steep hill in a very low gear one of the shift cables would come off. I could easily reattach it, but this behaviour kept continuing. Eventually I got tired of reattaching the cable and just cycled on in one gear. I still don't have any idea what this problem is about. I hope this is not connected to yesterdays oil change. This problem made me end up in Nagercoil, which does not look very remarkable but has an awesome name.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Ok, at the beginning of my trip I had imagined my arrival here to be a bit
different. In fact the whole idea for this journey developed when I was
standing at the Indian side of Wagah border (the only open land border
between India and Pakistan) about 2500km north from here and about 8,5
years ago. At that time I thought that one day I wanted to cross this
border from the other side. Only later the whole cycling-to-India plan
developed. Unfortunately crossing Pakistan was not possible this time due
to visa & security issues. That is why I take on India from the south. This
morning I took the short flight from Sri Lanka to Thiruvananthapuram
(challenge: try to memorise this name!) very close to the southern tip of
India. We all (that is Marek, Trabant & my bicycle Arthur) arrived safely.
The only drawback was that Marek forgot his helmet at one of the several
security checks at Negombo Airport - and only noticed it on Indian ground
Thus I started my first ride in India helmetless. I would have imagined a
much bigger culture shock - but at the first impression Southern India did
not feel much different than Sri Lanka. In fact the only difference I
noticed were a bit different letters (though still illegible to me) and
different license plates. I was pretty tired, so I just rode the few km to
the tourist village of Kovalam. It is very touristy, but for a very good
reason. The beach is divine. This looks like one of the few places I have
seen where I could even imagine an all-inclusive holiday to be quite