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i'm wondering if anyone has any words of wisdom to impart on cycling in india (as in a bicycle).
A friend has asked me to join him on a 6 week cycle tour in either northern india or south west india (kerala region). neither of us have been to india before but both have cycle toured elswhere.
firstly is it just plain insane to consider cycling in india (i've heard alot of horror stories) and secondly if you were to consider it where would you go if you only had six weeks. Plan is to not to cover masses of mile but try to find a region that has a fair few points of interest within a fairly small area.
I spent 3 months cycling in southwest India earlier this year and yes it is insanity but of the most memorable type so go for it. I started in Goa and cycled down the coast as far as Mangalore then up into the western Ghats to Madikeri. From there to Ooty, I did push up the last part of the hill, and down the other side, over 1,000 metres of drop in 12 miles along fabulous mountain road, to Fort Cochin. from there I carried on down to Trivandrum before getting the train back to Goa.
I spent about half the time relaxing on the beach or at a hill station so this entire route is possible in 6 weeks but would suggest if you did take it limiting it to no further than Fort cochin.
Cycling can be challenging, be prepared to bail off the road if you think you are about to be run over, no need for camping gear, hotels are close enough together, look out for signs saying lodge, a hotel might only be a restaurant, it is usually ok to take your bikes into your room, if not there is always somewhere safe to put them.
It is no longer easy to take a bike on a bus but the train is no problem, go to the goods office and in an emergency flag down a lorry and offer them some money to take you somewhere. Roadside food is readily available and good, bottled water can be had anywhere.
Emirates and Gulf airlines give 30 and 28 kg luggage allowance so taking your bikes cost nothing, get cardboard boxes from a bike shop. If you want to buy there reasonable 18 speed mountain bikes are available for about £100 but they are quite heavy, atms in all towns take visa and mastercard.
Any more questions you can pm me.
Mark, thanks for the info, much appreciated. I am the other guy who will be going with bluebus above...
I think we have decided on the south rather than the himalayan foothills due to climate and looking at things, your route seems pretty much ideal!
Like you say, we only have about 6 weeks to do this. Plus we would like to hang about in some hill stations and nature reserves for a while as we are both wildlife watcher types...
The problem is length of the ride given the time available and the slack in the schedule we would like. The flight options would be in/out at either Trivandrum or Kochi, and in/out at M/Bangalore or Goa.
So, looking at it, we probably should either chop of the northern Goa/S Karnataka stuff or chop off the Trivandrum and S Kerala stuff to free up time.
What would you do? Which was the most memorable riding? Also, do you have any tips on taking bikes to National Parks, i.e. do they allow it and do we have to book ahead for accommodation or entry etc...
For me the most memorable and exciting part of the trip was through the Western Ghats which does include several wildlife reserves and national parks. I started that part of the trip in Mangalore and took small roads up to Madikeri then on to Mysore which is well worth a visit, from there to Ooty, stay at Reflections guest house overlooking the lake, then an unbelievable ride down towards Fort Cochin via Coimbator.
While up in the Ghats there are many other places of interest, particularly parks that can be visited and you could spend most of your trip exploring just this area.
I cycled through a couple of reserves which have public roads through them, noting signs not to get out of your car. I never actually saw any big cats, perhaps that was for the best, but did see some very elusive deer that never heard me creeping up on my bike. I am not sure about having to book accommodation in parks, I just found lodges along the way which was never a problem.
If you need to know anything else don't hesitate to ask.
Check out this guy..............He's living the dream warts and all.........Set off from Gateshead on a 125cc Honda scooter which then died and now he's cycling on an 'Indian' MTB with a unique design and 'unique' accessories.
Mark's general route seems good though I really encourage adding 'Hampi' (Vijayanagara). It belongs in the same breath with Angkor, Bagan, Borobudur and Sukhothai and in historical terms may well exceed the rest, combined.
The "Jungle Lodges" are fantastic and can now be booked online. If you can pin your itinerary down a bit those are well worth a night or two. Kabini (south of Mysore) is a favorite even though Papa John has moved on. River Tern (near Ooty) will make a bird watcher out of a bird hater ! K.Gudi has improved enormously since Veerapan's dispatch.
Cycling in Kerala is probably the "peak madness" as even by India's truly horrific road mortality rates - it's the leader by a wide margin. Of course, it's also full of interesting roads.
ALWAYS be prepared to exit the roadway/path. I lived in India for 6 years and was hit on a bicycle once, in a car 5 times. Near Bangalore I did a 70km ride every week with shorter rides several other times. Emergency exits of the roadway were routine.
Near Bangalore is the Bahubauli and while I'm not sure where you'd be able safely leave your bikes - if possible highly worth mountihg the hill for a view of the surroundings and the ancient colossal stone carving.
Just remember it's the "land of contrasts" - the 16th or 6th century will show up a moment after or even in the same frame as the 21st and incredible poignancy will hold hands with incredible cruelty. That tends to stretch one's imagination and tolerance but also is what makes India, among other things, truly unique.
If you've never been to India - you've never been to Asia.
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