Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 334 Mumbai - Vienna

This was the longest day of my trip. Literally the longest day due to flying westwards through some time zones. And as nearly no sleep was involved it felt even longer.

2:00 AM Mumbai time: I was finally allowed into the airport. The check-in staff of Turkish Airlines was extremely helpful with my bicycle. I just had to turn the handlebar, deflate the tires and remove the saddle. No packing required. I prefer it this way - I reckon if the baggage handlers see that it is a bicycle they will handle it with appropriate care. The check-in lady even gave me an emergency exit seat - huuuuge leg space.

3:37 AM Mumbai time: Waiting, I am very very tired.

5:35 AM Mumbai time: boarding starts, the leg space is even larger than expected, perfect!

6:00 AM Mumbai time: We start as the sun rises. Very modern airplane, huge multimedia entertainment selection, but I am too tired for that. Only the stewardesses could smile more often - they look as tired as me. Hope the pilot is not!

11:00 AM Istanbul time: I arrived in Europe! I have no idea how long the flight was, I am time zone confused and I dosed off a dew times. Still very tired.

11:50 AM Istanbul time: I nearly missed the boarding for the flight to Vienna - even though I was lying down about 25m from the gate.

11:55 AM Istanbul time: Got my next emergency exit seat.

11:57 AM Istanbul time: The other five emergency exit seats go to a flock of Australian Hells Angels. That will surely be a funny flight.

12:15 PM Istanbul time: We are airborne. The Hells Angel on my left starts a conversation. The one to my right tries to do the same, but fails: there is no way I can understand his Australian redneck accent.

1:30 PM Istanbul time: Until now I got along well with my new friends. Then my vegetarian meal arrives. The hells angels seem to disapprove of the concept of vegetarianism. It starts getting funny, the redneck-accent guy makes jokes, of which I understand less than half.

2:00 PM Istanbul time: The redneck accent guy asks me if there are many biker gangs in Germany. Upon my honest answer (I have no freaking idea whatsoever) he inquires if I am a Bandito. I can convince him, that yes, I am very much into bike tours but no, not in the way he and his guys are used to.

2:00 PM Vienna time: Touchdown. As I look out of the window: rain. Not normal rain, more like a rainstorm.

2:25 PM Vienna time: All my luggage arrived and my bicycle survived! Bicycle travelling with Turkish Airlines is highly recommended!

2:45 PM Vienna time: I found a nearby gas station to inflate my tires. I start cycling towards Vienna. Through the rainstorm. I had expected a bit cooler weather here, but certainly not that!

3:17 PM Vienna time: I cycled through a village and saw not a single person. Culture shock! Where are all the people? Eventually I flee from the rainstorm into a pastry shop. Poppy seed cake and coffee! Perfect first meal in Europe.

3:50 PM Vienna time: The rain has stopped and even the sun comes out. I get on my bike again.

5:30 PM Vienna time: I cycled on a bike path all the way to the city center and found a hostel. Everything clean as a whistle. It all seems a bit artificial, surreal to me.

7:00 PM Vienna time: I found a mobile store and got a SIM card within minutes. Quite different to my Indian mobile adventures. New number: +43 66 48 70 62 41.

7:10 PM Vienna time: I stumble upon a vegan restaurant and order 'Veganes Backhuhn'.

7:35 PM Vienna time: All the order and cleanliness has its price. As I try to buy some more food they kick me out of the store: Ladenschluss! This is a concept I have to get used to again.

10:00 PM Vienna time: I managed to do my laundry in the hotel. Now I am tired to death. Good night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 332 - 333 Mumbai

As I am writing this I am at Mumbai Airport already. Now that the trip through India really is over I start to feel a bit melancholic.
Of course there is still so much I have not seen in India. On the other hand I should give the impression collection center of my brain some rest and come back once I am yearning for new experiences. The first day in Mumbai I just relaxed from the hard ride and tried to clarify with the airline how the bicycle transport will be handled - half successful: they wouldn't let me into the Airport, so I could only call and all the lady told me was: 'come with the bicycle to check-in'.
On my last day in India (day 333 of the journey!) I went downtown. By train - finally my first Indian train ride on this trip. There I met up with Mr. Ah Keung from Hongkong, the only long-distance-cyclist I met by chance in India (exactly: in Ajanta), who happened to be in Mumbai waiting for a Pakistani visa. We took the boat to Elephanta island. A nice analogy: before I started cycling from Cape Comorin on the very southern tip of India I also did a boatride to an island. Elephanta island sports some rock-cut caves which would have been very impressive - if we both wouldn't have seen the much more impressive Ajanta and Ellora caves lately - that is exactly what I meant with my impression collection center being full now. But it was still a nice place, away from the noise and chaos of Mumbai. There were many monkeys around - probably the most dangerous beasts in India. Because they are smart. Very smart. We watched one monkey stealing a water bottle from a group of Indian tourists, opening it a few meters away, pouring out the content and starting to drink. On the boatride back, Keung received the great news that he got his Pakistani visa. So we proceeded to a joined celebration/farewell dinner. After taking the train back to my hotel I collected my luggage and Arthur and cycled to the Airport. They still wouldn't let me in as the flight is more than 4 hours away - let's see how the bicycle handling will work out...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 331 Boisar - Mumbai

Last ride in India. A surprisingly nice one. I was prepared for a day of dusty, hot, annoying distress. You know: blood, sweat and tears and stuff. But even though I had to take the highway it wasn't so bad. There were some clouds, it was 'cooler', the wind was mostly merciful. And there was an unexpected amount of landscape around. Pretty hilly. Beautiful.
Ok, except for the last 30km or so. Cycling into the moloch Mumbai was everything you would expect from it. But it had to be done. Now I am done with cycling in India.
I would have thought that this would make me feel strange, excited, sad, whatever - but somehow it just feels very normal to me. Maybe this is a sign that it is the right moment to leave. I had a great time here - I would not like to have missed a single day of my time here but it is also good that I return home after this great time.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 330 Daman - Boisar

Even though I still have about 100km to go, I consider today my farewell-ride in India. It was a wonderful ride, over small roads mostly along the coast. I was surprised how far I came today. The 'cooler' weather gave me a lot of strength back and made cycling enjoyable.
Tomorrow I will have to go back to the hot, dusty, annoying highway. Maybe I will manage to reach Mumbai in one day, let's see.

Day 329 Bilimora - Daman

After a morning treatment at the barber I started the considerably easier ride. The proximity to the sea makes things much better: It is considerably cooler. Which means: probably below body temperature in the (rare) shade! And there are even some clouds. And a fresh sea breeze. Of course all this good stuff comes with a price tag - reading 'more headwind'.
Anyway, I made it to Daman. The city of sin. One of two wet enclaves in the dry state of Gujarat. Thus just behind the border: an abundance of liquor stores everywhere! But while 9 years ago this was pretty much all Daman was about, things changed a lot. The coastline north of Daman city is now lined by a string of beach resorts, none of it existed in 2003. All of them catering to Indian tourists - people were very surprised to see a foreigner on a bicycle. A foreigner with a very funny tan mark on his face - that's what happens if you are cycling exactly south for several days.

Day 328 Kamrej - Bilimora

The start of the day was awful, the end was wonderful.
First I had to ride on on the highway. Which meant: heat, dust, no shade. And headwind. Marek was not happy at all.
Fortunately things got better when I left the highway for some smaller roads. Less traffic, trees giving shade and actually some things nice to look at on the roadside. My mood got much better. Even the headwind did not feel so annoying anymore.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 327 Bharuch - Kamrej

Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle puncture!!! This time not a thorn in the tube. Instead the tire had a huge hole. It was a good idea to have my little helpers at home send me spare tires to the Emirates. So, under the curious eyes of some guys I fixed the tube and changed the tire. So far, so good. Only problem: the new tire is much larger than the old one - it did not fit under the mudguard. There was only one way to make me ride on: remove the mudguard. Well, it was broken anyway and in dry India I won't need it anymore. Nevertheless I cursed Generator Radsport/Rotor (my bicycle manufacturer): they build great bicycles, but they are extremely unreliable when it comes to everything else: the wrong size tires were just one of many examples when they send me wrong/too less/not fitting stuff. I won't order anything from them anymore: as they have all the data of my bicycle I would have expected that they know what will fit on my bike and what not. But as I have to double-check everything anyway it is easier and cheaper for me to order my spare parts from internet stores. After the tire was fixed I rested for lunch and then: Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat. Hot hot hot. Cycle cycle cycle. Sweat sweat sweat...

Day 326 Vadodara - Bharuch

Time to say goodbye. I left my second hometown Vadodara. As I rode out of town I made a stop at Piyushs place and got to know his mother, sister in law, nephew, the nephews friend and 3 kittens. It was a touching goodbye. And I have some missions now: as Piyush has friends all over the world I will have to deliver some things on my way from Vienna to Leipzig.
But first: cycling towards Mumbai. It seems like India wants me to be happy about leaving: no matter which way I go I always have headwind lately. This combined with the freaking heat and dust doesn't make cycling particularly enjoyable. But I made it so far, so I can handle the 400 and a bit km to Mumbai, too. I ended up in Bharuch, oldest town in Gujarat with a recorded history of 8000 years. However, when riding into town I wouldn't heave noticed that - looks like a normal small Indian town nowadays.