Hello one and all.
I will begin in Devanhalli. A town 20km north of Bangalore airport. I decided not to ride into Bangalore, I was there on my last trip and didn’t want my first taste of India after a long haul flight to be riding in a city. So I stayed in Devanhalli for a couple of days and soaked up the Divalli atmosphere.
What struck me as I wandered round the town was the familiarity of the smell. You can read all about a place but there is no way to experience it until you have smelt it. The air was thick and hot, filled with aromas of spices, incense, vegetables, bidis (little leaf cigarettes) and urine. As you walk down the road you get a hit of each one and more but put them all together and there is an overall smell that bought back so many memories; it felt a bit like coming home.
From Devanhalli I have been riding north east, into Andrha Pradesh. I visited Puttaparthi, the former home of Sai Baba, a famous ecumenical guru who is revered by many millions of devotees. He was also a very rich man and common magician, producing ash and gold rings from nothing supposedly (although refused to perform the ‘miracles’ under test conditions). The ashram, a prison come holiday camp did have some pretty tasty all you can eat meals for only 10 Rs though (13 pence). Here I saw the first white people I had encountered in India, mainly dressed in ‘authentic clothing’ with red dots on their foreheads looking ridiculous. Still I managed to buy a map in the town, at last. And found one of my favourite foods, deep fried chillies.
The riding has been mainly on the plains, surrounded by paddy or cotton fields; I got some hills going over a granite mine and then through a small forest on my way to Cumbum. However the riding hasn’t been boring. I am never alone on the road here. There are always people working in the fields, taking their oxes for a walk or riding along on a motorbike. Every so often (possibly more than I would like) somebody pulls up alongside me and starts talking to me. This, in varying qualities of English, is 75% the same questions, but I have been trying to keep polite and open and not get frustrate, they are just curious, after all ‘no Indian would do this’. The most challenging is ‘What is your purpose?’, which gets a different response depending on my mood and motivation. Whenever I stop for chai or food (which I have been absolutely loving), I am also fired questions at whilst the men poke my tyres, squeeze my brakes and honk my newly acquired horn.
I had a strange experience when a rickshaw pulled up next to me and pointed at the newspaper which he gave to me. I have clearly achieved a minor celebrity status with an article about my in it. Apparently is says that I like the food, and cycling. Another weird experience happened to me in Amaravarti; I went for my breakfast where a lady tried to fatten me up and force feed me chai, not that uncommon. What was strange was that when I returned to my lodge she was there waiting for me. At first she looked in my room and asked a few questions (in Telugu), like what my first aid kit was. Then she started talking in hushed tones and I was bamboozled. Only when she tapped me then herself and then the bed did I get the message, despite my protests she forced my hand to her breast and kept trying to push against me. Obviously I declined the offer from this small plump woman and managed to get her out my room but I couldn’t help wonder what the scam would have been.
Anyway that is just a taste of the weird and colourful Indian cycling experience so far. Yesterday I was stopped by a guy in a car who invited me to stay at his school for a few days, so here I am. I will tell you about the experience in my next post.
More photos uploaded, some take by Sage http://s1171.beta.photobucket.com/user/philb0412/library/