Jullay from Leh

Welcome to Prue and Ian's blog of their cycle tour of India

"Soaring thousands of metres above the rush, heat and chaos of India's plains, the Indian himalayaare a world apart. prayer flags snap in the wind on high mountain passes, immense yaks thresk barley at harvest time and the colourfultata trucks crawl up the hairpins like ants. The people, especially in Buddhist Ladakh, are cheerful, honest and gentle. The landscape is a reflection of their religion - white chortens line the roads and approaches to villages like pawns from a giant game of chess, burgundy-clad monks hitch lifts at the side of road, gompas perch on spectacular crags and everywhere the air is alive with the flutter of prayer flags Here is some of the most starkly spectacular mountain scenery you will find anywhere in the world"

Laura Stone Adventure Cycling

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Delhi and heading south (so we can cycle north!)

Fort Cochin: out in front of me the tidal flow of the Kerala Backwaters is carrying vegetation out into the  Arabian Sea.
Prue and I are sitting  at a local Juice Bar in the Chinese Fishing Nets area of Kochi (Fort Cochin). The ancient counter weighted structures are dotted along the coastline and continue a centuries old tradition for the local fishermen.
Our stay here is the start of another leg of our cycle touring. Tomorrow (or the next day or the next day..) we will depart the comfort of Green Woods Bethlehem Homestay (More Christian iconology than the Sistine Chapel) and the wonderful care of owners Sheeba and Ashley.
Last night the majority of guests were treated to a cooking demonstration followed by a Keralan feast up on the rooftop communal space. Harold from Germany, Alain and family from Geneva, two honeymooners from Georgia, USA, two English lassies, Ella and Bryce from Castlemaine(Vic)on their gap year exploration of India and two older Aussies sat around the laden tables. Luckily, for Prue and I, six of the diners were vegetarians so we volunteered to eat more than our fair share of the local speciality of Prawn Curry - Keralan style.
Our five days here have been foodie heaven. Occasionally, in between meals, we walk or cycle to local attractions, the swimming beach twenty kilometres away or explore new neighbourhoods. Reading the Hindu Times each day keeps us up with the regional news: Coconut prices are down and the Vanilla Growers are annoyed by the synthetic version swamping their markets.
We planned our trip to Kerala to coincide with the first ODI cricket match. On Sunday we excitedly headed off on the ferry to the mainland with the locals for the 9:30am start. Unfortunately the late monsoonal weather put a dampener on the contest. (The players didn't even arrive at the ground) There were plenty of conversations with the locals about who would have won. We stuck to our line "No Master Blaster, no India". (Sachin Tendulkar was being rested)

In our last blog, Alice and Riley were with us us exploring Rajasthan. We returned to Delhi via a visit to the Rajasthani village of Bundi. The highlight here was an afternoon on motor scooters through the rural landscape  with Prue and Alice playing Audrey Hepburn to Riley and my Gregory Peck a la Roman Holiday. 
No helmets. No licence. No travel Insurance and No worries.
On our return to the capital after eight days away, we found a transformed Dehli in readiness for the Commonwealth Games. Our hotel on Paharganj's Main Bazaar was spotless and even a white line had been painted down the middle of the road - not that much of the traffic knew about it!
A few last experiences of India for the kids and we off loaded our unwanted gear into their packs before their departure home. Warm clothes, tent, mats, sleeping bags and the odd acquisition all lightened our loads but Riley was slugged with a $200 Excess Luggage fee before he left.
Free of the responsibilities of children, we headed to Varanasi for a quick visit linked by two overnight train trips. With the Ganges in flood, the gnats of Varanasi were difficult to negotiate but we did manage to experience the city's spiritual rituals and lose several of our nine lives on a hair-raising (yes, yes ...difficult for one of us) tuk-tuk ride in peak hour traffic to catch a train.
Back in Delhi we purchased tickets to the Games. We had exciting experiences at Indoor Cycling, the Road Race, Netball x 2, Hockey x 2, Swimming and a night at the Athletics especially to see Stephen Hooker pole vaulting. Due to a few mishaps we arrived late to see him warm up to attempt a record and then pull out after winning the Gold earlier! The Swimming session included watching Wangaratta's (and ex Galen College student) Belinda Hocking swim in the Final of the 200 m Backstroke.
No doubt the media in Australia painted a very negative picture of Delhi, but we had a great time. Apart from some over zealous security at times and ticketing issues that left stadiums half empty, our experiences of the Games were very pleasurable.
One disturbing, re-occuring experience we had, was being questioned about the violence towards Indians in Melbourne. One rickshaw driver was spot on when he said, "You are in my country and I treat you as my guest. Why aren't you treating Indians in Melbourne the same?" Every article in The Age or Sun-Herald about the violence is magnified in the media here.
We all need to be of the solution.
Our departure from Delhi saw us heading south and changing our plans for returning home.
We want to spend more time with Hugo ( a five year old we have been playing grandparents to for the last few years) and some extended time at Point Lonsdale. So plans to cycle into Nepal have been scrapped and we will return home from Mumbai on December 4th - instead of Jan 15th.
Ahead of us before our departure we plan to have 6 weeks of cycling, making our way up the coast to Goa and then on to Mumbai.
Beaches, pineapple juice, manic traffic, lots of cricket tragics wanting to know why Shane Warne doesn't love Ricky Ponting, plenty of Incredible India ( National tourist slogan) experiences and hopefully an end to the monsoonal torrents await us.

Photos at