Part 4: India & Nepal
Cycling in to the Himalaya
Experiences on the Sub-Continent
India is a bloody crazy place to cycle! That is to say, perhaps more eloquently, that my 5 months cross-continental cycling hadn't prepared me for the challenges and, well, craziness of India.
The hectic and over-populated north of India was to prove the toughest, scariest and, ironically, loneliest section of my trip.
Fortunately, a hastily planned deviation to my route led me quickly to Nepal.
Having flown from Dubai to Dehli, my Indian adventure started in the shadows of the Taj Mahal in the bustling city of Agra. From Agra I cut across Uddar Pradesh, one of India's poorest regions.
It was festival season as i made my way up through Lucknow, planning to follow the Ganges to Varanasi.
As I grew tired of the dangerous roads and dirty cities I changed my route to head due north to cross the border into Nepal.
I cycled up into the Himalayan foothills, staying in mountain villages along the way, before reaching Pokhara.
After a week recuperating in the peaceful town I continued East to the capital, Kathmandu. From Kathmandu I met some friends and took some time off the bike to trek up Everest Base Camp.
From here my originally planned route into Tibet proved impossible due to Chinese visa regulations. I instead resolved to fly to South East Asia to continue my journey towards Australia.
"India is night as Nepal is Day."
Indian Highway Code (unofficial)
I never saw an official copy of the Indian highway code, but i assume it read something like this:
My route through India was not the most sensibly planned. Travelling on highways through unknown parts most of my attention was filled by trying to avoid being crushed by lorries and finding somewhere to sleep each night.
Every now and then I stumbled across some historic relic or, where the route allowed, managed to get off the main roads and in to quieter countryside where I could start to appreciate the wonders of this diverse country.
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
- Walt Disney
Photo taken in mountain village of Tansen in Southern Nepal after 2000m climb from the Indian border
After the grey smoggy skies of India the fresh mountain air of Nepal was a welcome relief.
My first night in Nepal had me climbing into the Himalayan foothills to the village of Tansen, where i found a group of UK charity cyclists. I cycled with them for a couple of days before heading on to the idyllic town of Pokhara. This was a stroke of luck as it was nice to have some company after the lonely fortnight in India.
It was great to be so close to mountains i'd read so much about, if not for the need to have to cycle up some of them! And trekking to Everest Base Camp was a real highlight.
India was tough, but Nepal and the chance to catch up with some old friends more than made up for it. I've since been back to both Nepal and India without the bike and had incredible experiences in each. There are a few places i might considering cycling in India in the future, but repeating my crossing of Uddar Pradesh certainly wouldn't be one of them!
If wanting to make a continuous overland route, without flying, at this time it would have been necessary to go up through the 'stans' and in to China (as Brad did), but the reality was winter was fast approaching and this proved an impossibility, Brad resorting to the train across the massive Talamankan desert. Although breaking the overland element of the trip, it seemed worthwhile to explore two fascinating countries - an experience i'm glad i didn't miss. In the end there are no rules to how you should travel, best just do what's right for you at the time.