I have just been cycling through India, from Delhi to Kolkata and here are a few notes and impressions from the trip.
I have been on the road for more than 25 years and visited more than 70 countries, but 6 weeks ago I had still not been to India. so I decided to do something about it and decided to go cycling through India during the month of december.
India is a huge country and you can’t cover the whole country in one trip, so I had to decide what area to visit. I decided to take a bicycle trip from Delhi to Kolkata. Delhi is by far the cheapest place to fly to from Denmark and Kolkata is a city i have always been curious about. As a kid I heard that it was a city with a lot of poverty and Mother Teresa was living there in the slums. As i grew older I learned that Kolkata is also a city with many intellectuals, so I decided to pay Kolkata a visit. And having roughly 1800 kilometers of cycling to do in between to the places, I had the chance to visit both famous cities like Agra and Varanasi, but also see places that hardly ever see any visitors. One of the great things about traveling by bicycle is that you only travel around 100 kilometers per day, so I get to visit a lot of places that are not in any guidebook. Maybe they do not have any big sights, but they have friendly locals who are not so used to foreign visitors and in my opinion these places are a lot more friendly than a city that has thousands of tourists coming every day.
Cycling from Delhi to Agra.
The first stretch from Delhi to Agra had very heavy traffic and a lot of industril places. But I still had a good time and enjoyed digging in to the streetfood I came across along the road. India has some of the best food on the planet if you ask me and I did not have any stomach problems on my entire trip. Almost everyone had told me, prior to my trip, that I would get sick, but I can hardly remember having such a perfect stomach like I had in India.
Visiting Agra and Taj Mahal.
Coming to Agra, I was not really sure if I wanted to visit Taj Mahal. Most people will say that this is insane, but I work as a tour guide and if I want to visit big tourist sights, I can usually get free trips to do that or maybe even be paid to visit the place. In the end I went there anyway and I have to say that it is one of the most remarkable buildings i have seen in this world. It’s really an architectural masterpiece and I can only recommend that you visit Taj Mahal if you go to India.
Cycling through rural India.
From Agra I cycled east and in two weeks of cycling I only met 2 other westerners. This was a couple who were walking from Bangkok to Barcelona. I really love to take these bicycle trips where you get totally off the tourist trail, cause this is where you see how life is truly lived in the country, as you will not meet people who see you as just another tourist, but are genuinely curious about you. Not that I am against visiting popular tourist places, but I want to visit some of the places in between the popular sights too when I am visiting a country.
A bicycle stuntman saved my trip.
As I was cycling in to the town Fatehpur, I thought that I was done with cycling through India. My krank was broken and I had several mechanics trying to repair it, but they were not able to take it apart, as it was totally jammed. After staying a night in a hotel in Fatehpur, I decided to go to the train station, take the train to Varanasi and then do the rest of the trip as a backpacker. As I was cycling slowly with my broken bike towards the station, a young guy cycled up next to me and said hello. I was not really in the mood for talking and i have to admit that i was not very polite at first. But then he kept insisting that he wanted me to stop and said that he was a professional cyclist and could help me fix my bike. He showed me a local bicycle repair shop and sat down with a mechanic and explained what he had to do and after a couple of hours, they had managed to replace my krank. The price for that was 5$. YES. 5 friggin’ Dollars. I tipped the repair guy another 3$ and he looked like he had just won the lottery. The young cyclist who had helped me told me that he had worked a few years as a stunt cyclist doing TV commercials, but was now back in Fatehpur, where he was working in a clothes store. This again proved to me that the best thing about travel is the people you meet. Deepak Chaudhary, as his name is, totally saved the rest of my trip with his helpfullness and generosity. Thank you agin Deepak if you ever read this.
Cycling through Bihar and Jharkhand.
Many Indians told me that cycling through the two states of Bihar and especially Jharkhand would be dangerous. I did a lot of research though and as far as I could see, then this should be OK as long as I did not cycle at night. there has, in the past, been a lot of rebel activity there but these days it’s mainly some bandit activity as I see it. Of course, this is bad enough, but in my experience, these people only operate at night. And all I can say is that I did not feel in any danger while cycling through these two states.