Our Route in India & Nepal
We then flew to Delhi, via London (as the tickets were cheaper that way), landing about midnight. We booked a hotel through the tourist desk at the airport and then found ourselves a taxi driver to take us there. The taxi was an old Austin Ambassador into the boot went our bikes with some of our panniers to act as cushions for the bikes. The rest of our gear was piled up inside with us.
We were dog-tired so went straight to bed, but were awakened by a loud explosion, no electricity. This was the first time: in the few weeks we were in India and later in Nepal we learnt that a candle and some matches were invaluable.
Nothing really prepares one for India, when we stepped outside the following day there was so much noise, some of it traffic, some of it talking, some of it building works. The city was warm without being hot, it was October after all. There was dust and pollution. We stayed about five days in the capital, everyday despite starting off clean we'd end up with dirty nails and off white tee shirts, the pollution from traffic and factories is quite staggering.
We visited all the usual sights, but probably the Red Fort was the most impressive, with its instructions displayed outside 'kindly asking us to leave our bombs behind'!!
We had originally planned a loop in Rajastan, then aimed to head back to Agra, Khaujaro and Varanassi before going into Nepal, re-entering India and then going to Calcutta. An adventurous 4-5000 Km. As you may read things didn't quite work out that way...
Our outline route took us through Gurgaon, Rewari, Narnaul, Jhunjhunu, Fatepur, Ratungarh, Sri Dungargarh to Bikaner. Highlights of this part of the journey, included a wedding at Rewari, painted Havelis, palaces, tanks (water) and temples in Jhunjhunu and the fort and palace at Bikaner. Back to Top
We continued through Deshnoke, Nagaur, Khimsar to Jodphur.
The temple at Deshnoke dedicated to Kali comes complete with sacred rats that are fed and encouraged. The smell is not pleasant, and as it's a temple no shoes are allowed... be careful where you step! Khimsar is where we nearly come unstuck for overnight accommodation. By now we are used to small inexpensive and basic accommodations. At Khimsar we at first cannot find the hotel until we realize it is the fort, as part of the Sheraton group prices are in US dollars. We negotiate hard but it still is a costly place to stay. However every grey cloud should have a silver lining, and ours is a spotlessly clean room with ensuite facilities. We take a long hot bath and settle down to a quiet afternoon overlooking the croquet lawn. In the evening we dine at the restaurant - just the two us and one waiter each. The gazebo on top of a tower also has its attractions. At night the stars shine so brightly and so many are visible - it was a wonderful place to stay.
Jodhpur has the most amazing site of all the Indian forts that we visited. It is way up on a hill, huge ramparts protect the inner buildings - well worth a visit. Back to Top
From Jodhpur we cycled onto Pali, Ranakpur to Udaipur.
We rode out of Jodhpur in the cool morning air towards Pali, passing many camels on the way. The next day we made it to Ranakpur where we stayed in a RTDC Tourist Bungalow. Ranakpur is the site of a very interesting Jain temple Complex - open in the afternoon. We spent several hours there appreciating the intricate carving of over 1400 pillars in one particular temple alone, highly recommended.
After Ranakpur the landscape becomes hilly, progress was a little slower. On this road we saw our one and only Elephant, who could collect coins from tourists and pass them to the owner riding on its back! We passed a number of farms with animal driven irrigation systems, but our goal was Udaipur. This town is one of the easiest to relax in that we visited in India. Relatively few hassles from the children, and no obvious scams. One of its draws is that it was the location of The Bond film - Octopussy, for us it was the palaces, and the lake setting in particular that made it interesting. We spent several days there before heading off across country to Shivpuri. Additionally in the evening there are some cultural entertainments laid on, and nearby is Rajiv Ghandis Shilpgram - an example of Indian Cultures and buildings from various parts of the country. Back to Top
Our route took us to Rajsamond, Bhilwara and to Bundi. For the first time in many weeks we had a ride on a National Highway - smooth smooth tar!. Out of Udaipur we pass many quarries, the road climbs up to 700M, we indulge in another cycle race - great fun. Our night stops are chosen simply because there are available accommodations. There is some beautiful countryside however here, particularly the longer ride from Bilwara to Bundi. At Bilwara we stayed at the welcoming Hotel President, and had an early start to Bundi the next morning. We enjoyed the open spaces, and peace and quiet of such a rural ride, we got into Bundi after dark and employed an autotrishaw driver to take us to a painted haveli that we had elected to stay in. This he did, we enjoyed a very good evening meal, and slept very soundly in our beautiful room. There are a number of interesting things to see in Bundi, not least another wedding. Before leaving we visited the very impressive 46M deep step well - Ranijiki Baori. Back to Top
Lastly to Kota, Baran, Shahbad, Shivpuri and Gwalior from where we took a ride by train to Agra.
Kota is a busy town, where we stayed at a nice hotel, and visited the impressive fort and relaxed in the public gardens. Once again the openness of Indians was shown to us when we had a relaxing afternoon talking with some locals. We visited the local tourist office and gained information that a hotel existed in Baran, and that we could find a Government bungalow in Shahbad. These things were both true, however Baran was the only place in India where we did not feel comfortable. It is an industrial town in which we could only find one poor hotel; we got into a conversation with some civil engineers also staying at the hotel, we all agreed that things could be better. The countryside was beautiful, cool mornings now and comfortably warm days. Shahbad was a small village with an old Mosque, the bungalow had a terrific garden in which we relaxed. We went into the village for a little shopping but gathered such a crowd that the head gardener had to shut the bungalow gates to keep everybody out. A half days ride took us to Shivpuri where there is an interesting mausoleum made of white stone with inset stones - similar to the outside of the Taj Mahal. The Tourist Bungalow was excellent and we felt sad to leave.
Our last base was Gwalior, again an interesting fort, but mostly because a short train journey away was Agra. We travelled there early one morning and saw the Taj Mahal, a most splendid building, stunning! Back to Top
India although very tough on a bike because of the intense interest one attracts rewards one heavily in other ways. You will need to have oceans of patience in answering hundreds of times over your name, nationality, number of children (you have none!) etc, etc... You will need to cope with beggars, children always wanting pens, a rupee or sweets. You will become the centre of attraction, be prepared for every spare moment to be observed by at least one person, probably more - almost wherever you are. Your only quiet time will be behind a hotel door!
Enjoy India, enjoy the very friendly people, enjoy their landscape, the colourful clothes that the ladies wear, enjoy their food, their buildings, their history, their way of life. Try to carry some of their enthusiasms with you throughout your journey. Highly recommended : Go there - soon.
Sadly we returned home at short notice because of a death in the family, strangely we experienced an emotional high of at last reaching the Taj Mahal and then shortly later found ourselves really at a very low ebb after discovering in a letter waiting for us at the post office, that a close member of the family had died. Back to Top
After about two months in the UK we flew to Nepal. We had reviewed our plans and after very little cycling it seemed daunting to be going to such a mountainous country. We planned just that we'd be in Nepal for about one month and that we would use that time to see a few places, nothing was fixed. We flew into Kathmandu.
There are many reasons to spend some time in Kathmandu, there are many temple buildings, markets and ordinary daily life. Kathmandu really is a tourist mecca, as well as Nepali food there are many westernized restaurants, some almost charging westernized prices. You will have no trouble buying Tee shirts, sweaters, coats, carpets, books and many other items. The walk along the Kantipath is very interesting, and there are many wonderful temples around Durbar square.
We visited nearby Patan, which was not as interesting as Kathmandu, but is worth the trip out. Back to Top
We knew at the time we were in Nepal that the border was closed to individual travellers, but as we had the time we thought it'd be nice to extend our trip to Bhaktupur & Dhulikel onto Dholalghat and up the road to The Friendship Bridge. We cycled out of Kathmandu and after a brief stretch on the Arkins Highway we turn off into the countryside for a pleasant ride to Bhaktapur. This town is smaller than its near neighbour and is very suited to a walking tour. So we left the bikes and meandered around the town coming upon, dyeing, pottery, fabric manufacture, food preparation & a host of other things. The temples in the squares here were also very impressive.
We take a country route to Dhulikel, one very sandy part was so soft that we had to walk, we also bumped into Sonham - a Nepalese mountain biker, and had a good chat with him about where we were going and where to stay. The main reason people visit Dhulikel is because of the wide vista of the Himalayas' including Mount Everest. We were not disappointed, although it is a considerable distance to the mountain and it appears quite small the view is superb. We met some very nice local children and stayed at the delightful Dhulikel Lodge.
We headed out of Dhulikel down a tremendous drop eventually taking us over the bridge at Dholalghat, and then up on a very dusty and broken road to Barabise - our overnight stop. The villages we passed on the way did not look very prosperous, the hotel at Barabise was basic, but nonetheless suitable for our needs. Our aim was to ride to the Friendship bridge that links Nepal to Tibet. This is a very steady climb, and the scenery is both claustrophobic - steep valley sides and narrow floor - and large scale. We stopped about a km short of the actual bridge and looked ahead at the mass rising, far in the distance and above us laid towns and villages of Tibet. Just ahead the bridge. We took some photographs and then returned to Barabise tired and hungry. Back to Top
Starting from Kathmandu it is three pleasant days to The Royal Chitwan Park via the 2488M pass of Daman, we have met one very fit cyclists that has done it in one, but really some time is needed to absorb the beautiful surroundings. This route has probably been described many times over in guidebooks and other resources but here is a brief description.
One leaves Kathmandu on the main road to Pokra and after an easy 12.5km climb the road drops down steeply at times for 13.3km. At Naubise, turn left and start a 30.6Km climb to the 2300M summit at Tistung. The views on this twisty road are excellent with a number of dwellings and farmed land, often terraced all around. From Tistung a very broken surfaced road drops down about 9Km into a large village from where there is a final 11.6km climb to the village of Daman. Here a couple of places to stay exist. We were not sure about food so had carried some of our own. The views on a clear day from Daman are excellent we hear; on our first visit it was cloudy, and for our second we had some appreciation of what must be a spectacular view.
The second day we climbed about 4Km to the true summit at 2488M, and then began the long 51.1 km descent to Hetauda. It's long because it is often steep, and mostly very broken up so lots of brakes and steering. I began to count the number of hairpin bends but lost count after 57. The views are superb, clouds often come rocketing up from the valley floor, and everywhere seems terraced. It was slow going but eventually one reaches the river for an easy 'flat' ride to Hetauda where stopped at the Avocado Motel. Here a cyclists notebook is kept which you can read and contribute to. Our third day was an easy ride to The Royal Chitwan Park. Back to Top
We visited The Royal Chitwan National Park in early March and stayed just outside the park at Sauraha in a small mud hut; cool by day and warm by night. In the evenings we could Chill out by walking a short way to sit by the river and watch the sun go down - very relaxing. We stayed for a couple of days, and did the following activities; Elephant Ride - good fun but uncomfortable if you get seasick easily!, Jeep ride in the jungle - We actually saw a lot of wildlife this way as a jeep can cover a lot of ground quickly, and a one day jungle walk - this was a great experience, we saw Rhino, birds, Crocodile, Deer and Sloth Bears. Back to Top
We returned to Kathmandu for our final few days prior to flying to Thailand, during this time we were able to commission a local embroiderer to produce two '2 into 4 World Cycle Tour' tee shirts that we proudly wore during the rest of our journey. Top