8 weeks in India: Haridwar to Kolkata via the ganges
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Jun 11, 2013 3:58 PM Last Post By: noelbike2
Jun 4, 2013 4:47 AM
8 weeks in India: Haridwar to Kolkata via the gangesYet another India thread.
Spent quite a bit of time there between 2003-2006, mostly bouncing around in the back of a bus - This time planning to do it on a bicycle.
The plan is to fly in to Delhi, and then head straight up to Haridwar (maybe curve in to haridwar via yamuna nagar). From there, follow the ganges all the way down to Kolkata (Via varnasi, patna etc and basically heading south when it gets close to the bangladeshi border)
Just a few equipment specs:
I already have a garmin 800 and I figure I might as well load it up with an india sd card. I'm a bit cautious about being overtly techy in India so the plan was just to use it when I am caught in a pinch as opposed for recording strava segments or whatever (I will also take 1 or 2 nelles maps since they seem to get a lot of support from posters here ... although it would probably be quite a feat of misdirection to lose the ganges river). Anyone had experience or can vouch for the efficacy of using garmin products in India?
Bike will be decked out with 26x 2" Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, and a thudbuster seatpost. Also taking a cooking stove and a water filter so it doesn't matter too much if I get off the beaten track.
Apparently Brooks are in the middle of field testing a synthetic alternative to their leather saddles ... in the mean time I'm on the look out for something comfortable and non-leather.
Seems like most of the route is outside the major malaria areas (except when you get near the bangladeshi border) so hopefully there will be no probs in that direction (last time I was in india anti-malaria medication practically destroyed my digestion for as long as I was taking it)
Looks like a 2200 km route - guessing I won't have to push myself too hard to do it in 8 weeks
Much appreciated if anyone can offer any heads up on travel advice (weather?, health? region?).
Jun 4, 2013 10:20 AM
1That looks like a nice tour. When do you plan to start?
I cycled Kathmandu - Bombay - Goa - Bombay Nov 2011 - March 2012 and had a Garmin Csx 60 rigged on my handlebar. It was mostly useful for recording a GPS trace to post on my Crazyguy tour report, and to home in on a few places where I had made a waypoint on previous India trips.
In Gorakhpur I bought an all India roadmap, big and heavy and like a book. But soon I started using my smartphone with GPS and Google Maps for finding my position and which way to go. About halfway to Bombay I dumped the papermap since I was not using it anymore.
Towards the end of my trip I met an Aussie who had bought a Garmin India and fitted it on his bike together with a solar cell thing that fed the Garmin. He was very pleased with it. I think he had paid something like $100 for the Garmin India, and had brought the solar cell from Oz.
Next time I go cycling in India I think I will get something similar to what he had, but wil most definitely bring my smartphone as well.
I really liked cycling in India and will most surely do it again.
When I left Kathmandu I deliberately cycled quite far West in Nepal before crossing into India near Lumbini. I wanted to avoid cycling in Bihar since I had seen some bad reports about cycling in that backward state.
UP was great, MP even better and very interesting. Overall it was a terrific tour that grew my love for India even further than I could have imagined. There are so many very nice people in India!
Jun 4, 2013 5:50 PM
Jun 5, 2013 1:26 PM
Excellent time to be in North India!
I left Kathmandu Nov 24th and experienced quite a bit of cold fog first half of December more or less as far South as Orchha. I particularly recall leaving Allahabad Dec 8 in dense fog. Not nice for cycling!
Jun 7, 2013 7:11 AM
4Re: a synthetic saddle, I was very happy with the Rido...
Looks like a great trip.
Jun 7, 2013 8:14 PM
Jun 9, 2013 4:04 AM
6thanks for the input guys.
(Got a rido saddle coming in the mail :D)
Just on the topic of the difficulty of finding hotels willing/capable to accept foreigners for the night ... anyone have any hints/advice/stories to tell?
When I run in to major cities with the inevitable sleazy cheater element, the plan was to strictly stick to hotels at all costs (well ... maybe not all costs .... its not too hard to find an indian hotel manager willing to take that statement literally) . When I would be in places a bit more remote with not so many options, I was planning to be more open to the possibility of accepting invitations (or perhaps more correctly, begging people to help me find a place to stay).
Read a few blogs of travelers and it crops up repeatedly that they accept the hospitality of strangers.
Others have a strategy of finding the nearest police station since they can fast track the local run around of finding a place that accepts foreigners (even read of one guy who tells how the police let him stay in the jail for the night ... in a totally hospitable non-criminal sense of course !!!).
Even though I am planning to take a small tent, I am not really keen on the idea of camping anywhere in this proposed route except as a most dire contingency plan.
While I realize it is practically impossible to blend in with the locals and not attract attention, I have been thinking about ways to minimize this. I am looking at removing a few sort of gadgety things I have grown to appreciate in the course of my previous touring. One such thing are the Shimano SPD cycling sandals. They look like normal sandals (in the western sense at least) but can be clipped in to the pedals. Are these inconspicuous enough to use in India without one's feet becoming the centre of attention?
Once again, any ideas, anecdotes and advice to the contrary much appreciated.
Edited by: kanu108
Jun 10, 2013 5:04 AM
7Hey good to hear you are getting a Rido... you are getting the R2 right?
I have been to India but haven't done any cycling there... but here are my thoughts.
Not sure I completely understand the hotel question... I shouldn't think finding hotels that accept foreigners should be super difficult. Take a Lonely Planet (or if you want to save weight, take photocopies of the accommodation pages for the areas you are going to). Pick a place and head for it.... even if it is full (or if you don't like it) in larger towns there will be others nearby in a similar price range.
I think it's best to avoid camping if at all possible... as for accepting hospitality, you will have to go with your instincts.
I think either SPD sandals, or plain looking SPD shoes will pass without any attention. You might want to avoid kitting out your bike with more instruments than a 747. Maybe keep the Garmin in a handy spot in your pack or panniers.
In a conservative Asian country I like to ride in zip-off hiking pants. I just roll up the right leg to keep it out of the chain, or if the locals' attire seems pretty relaxed, I zip them off to shorts. I don't know if it needs saying, but if you don't want attention, keep your lycra bike shorts as strictly an undergarment. Some of these people have enough hardship in their lives without seeing your butcher-shop window.
Jun 10, 2013 6:31 PM
8Yeah I checked out their website and made sure I got the right one
I have been reading in quite a few Crazyguyonbike blogs about how many hotels in India are not (what they assume to be the case anyway) properly registered to accept foreigners (since you have to fill out that paperwork and show your passport everywhere you stay for the night). So the writers constantly talk about places that advertise themselves as offering accommodation being practically deserted yet saying they are full and can't help them. This is more of an issue when you get out of the big towns and cities, where you don't have so many options.
Previously when I was in India this I didn't really have to deal with this since we were mostly staying in built up areas or staying with friends/relatives on one of our travelling companions.
Yeah, the plan wasn't to openly lyrca cald in india (No one in India would take you seriously in tights), but to wear them under a gamcha or lungi tucked up so it goes down as far as 3/4 leg height... and perhaps just deal with the curiosity it generates when I take a bucket bath in public.
I also plan to daggify (ie to make look daggy http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080527192522AAhzYmW) my bike by wrapping bits of cloth around key places (like the thud-buster mechanism on my seatpost) in an attempt to deflect as much unwanted attention as possible. A bit of strategically placed masking tape has the two-fold effect of making things appear broken while simultaneously protecting the frame.
IMHO making your bike look ugly is a good preventative measure if ever it spends quite a bit of time in the public eye anywhere in the world
Edited by: kanu108
Jun 11, 2013 3:58 PM
9I have ridden in India every year for many years. Since the Mumbai attacks the issue of hotel "level" is being more strictly enforced. However you will rarely be in a place where there is only one lodge and it will not be able to accommodate you. There will be alternatives.
The problem is greater in the Nth. It is not centrally run. In short, it is not a problem for a cycle tourer. Just don't try to arrive at dusk and get a hotel. Arrive by 4.
In Jan last I paid $5-10 a night. Some of the best were actually the cheapest places.
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