Reaching Kathmandu in enough time to finish our logistics and training for the running and rafting sections of this adventure have turned the remainder of our cycle into the type of relentless push we experienced in Turkey.
As I write this I am sitting in the dark in one of the nameless fields we have learned to call home on our journey through Southern India. We arrived as we always do about 15 minutes before dark and will be gone within 30 minutes of the sun coming up. I have enough energy to write this evening on account of us giving ourselves a half day to get over a bit of mild sun stroke the day before, usually it’s a case of getting the tents up and drinking water for 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Our journey through India probably isn’t the one you read about in the guide books. In fact if you did read a guide book it would most likely tell you this is not the best time to visit. The temperature is now hitting 40 degrees by 10 o’clock each morning and isn’t dipping below it until after 3. In short it has been a struggle but one that is necessary to prepare us for the riggers which lie ahead.
Still looking ahead is not the reason we choose this adventure and during the cooler parts of the day we can appreciate India for more than just an opportunity to train. Despite being home to 1.2 billion people it is still remarkably green and full of picture perfect campsites. The contrast in this regard to the sparse landscapes of Southern Iran was most evident as we passed through tropical forests on our first week heading north, but has continued as the palm trees have given way to green fields and roadsides covered in wild flowers.
Another major bonus for the journey cyclist is the abundance of roadside restaurants, cafes or huts which serve our daily dose of Dosa , Vegetable Masala, Pallak Panner or Biriani. The list of dishes goes on, but the quality remains constant. There are so many good choices that we have started to blindly point at menus or simply ask for local specialities. This is some leap of faith when you consider our budget only stretches to €5 per day and food is our most important purchase - we are rarely disappointed.
So what of the 1.2 Billion people? In only three weeks it feels like we have met most of them, such is the commotion of a day on the road. As soon as we begin cycling each morning the horns begin and the throngs of curious scooter, lorry and bus passengers start the daily round of questioning or most commonly give a generic what are you doing? puzzled look. Our replies depend largely on the time of the day. Between 11 and 3 is really no time for idle chit-chat and conversations are invariably brief. Its outside these hours or most commonly at lunchtime that we have had the same levels of wonderful encouragement and generosity that we have received all over the world. This is quite something when you consider the extent of poverty in the subcontinent.
However, for once it is not the people that have characterised our journey through a country. Instead the heat has stood out during the 1600km from the Southern Tip of India. As my mind drifts to tomorrow I feel a strange mixture of dread and excitement. India could be the toughest country we have ever travelled through, but if you’re ready for it there is certainly an adventure to be had.
After a 15 week process we have received the disappointing news that our Pakistan visas have been declined. The official line is that only business or diplomatic visitors looking for short term stays are being accepted. In reality we know people who have been both accepted and declined in the last few months and are at a loss as to know how we could have improved our chances, the whole process would appear to come down to the flick of a coin.
The uncertainty has led us to pay more attention to alternative plans and the extra time set aside for anticipated Pakistan problems has given us a large enough time window to attempt something significant in India rather than merely skirting the North. We will go from the Southern tip and cycle the length of the country to the Nepalese border during the monsoon.
Cycling during the monsoon is unknown territory for us and what this will entail is anyones guess. But as someone once said; "Real adventure only begins when carefully laid plans are rendered obsolete."