Meeting a Cyclist: Shayl Majithia cycling from UK to India

Cyclists seem to come from every profession. Today morning I met a Math teacher from Oxford UK, Shayl Majithia who cycled from UK to India. From Mumbai he plans to head to Myanmar but probably via a long route as he still has many months in hand. He has already been on the road for about 9 months. This is just his 2nd long distance cycling! The first one being a quick 2 week, 2000 km from London to Rome.

We chatted about various stuff from Cycle touring, other cyclists to Indian politics, women rights and so on over breakfast along with avid Mumbai cyclist friend Mehul Ved. Here I will share some interesting excerpts.

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In order: Me, Shayl & Mehul 🙂  We all three are Gujarati. Shayl is British with Indian roots – he can actually read and write Gujarati! Sadly it means he can understand all the rude comments Indian hotel staff hurl his way in Hindi. 😀

Pakistan

Every Indian will probably cock up his ears when there is a Pakistan related discussion taking place. I recently read a book “From Karachi to Kathmandu” – an English lady cycles solo from Karachi to Kathmandu in the 1980s! Yea pretty crazy & gutsy. She made it through Pakistan with help from the Christian minority community there… so her account of it had already made me curious about Pakistan.

Shayl cycled from Pakistan into India via the Wagah border. It was one of the most beautiful countries he had ever visited. Apparently in the area he covered there are a lot of high Himalayas with some stunning landscapes. The people were very friendly and helpful even when he told them about his Indian origins (He is British with Indian roots). And it is cleaner, waaaaay cleaner!

It seems to me that India is a singularly dirty country where people simply don’t have a basic sense of cleanliness at all. It is a really sad matter and I am glad that PM Modi has at least put the issue up on center stage and now we are even paying a special tax for it – still I just don’t find that the common litterer cares 🙁

The -istans

Apart from that it was interesting to know about the awesome hospitality in all the other countries like Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Krygystan….. Apparently it is part of the religious culture as muslims to extend hospitality to guests. Women weren’t in the hijab everywhere. They had their head covered in most countries but no hijab is what I understood.

Apart from Turkey all these other -istans are just names on the map for me. Uzbekistan is now growing in popularity with the avid travelers of India but still not at all mainstream. I always figured these countries may not be safe but now I am wondering about it. More and more I speak to real travellers (not tourists) I am realizing how wrong most of the usual ‘Indian’ perception about our neighbours are.

My travel friend Snigdha visited China a while back and it turns out that our Big Neighbour isn’t actually mired in Communistic problems and poverty – but has amazing infrastructure and health provision for the entire population. There really was no abject poverty anywhere she saw even really offbeat places. Surprise?!

These places will have their own shortcomings and problems to deal with but they are often very different from the common perceptions.

I had a good time chatting with Shayl and his experiences. It is really brilliant to explore the world as a traveler and especially a cyclist. I cannot wait for my next cycling expedition. 🙂

I had a few specific queries related to long distance cycling,

Q: What do you do with luggage stuff once the cycle trip ends? Because you don’t have a backpack there …

“Good question, unfortunately you just drag it around or take a taxi with it. Depends what you are doing at the end of your cycle trip.”

On my previous cycle trip, in Copenhagen I sold my cycle and then was left with two big panniers and all the camping stuff. My backpack was back in Berlin. So I made three bundles and pretty much dragged them around – it was pretty tedious.

Q: What do you suggest with regards the cycle when I plan to do trips in different continents – keep one cycle and then fly with it everywhere or buy/rent one at the location or something else.

He said that good cycles may be available in a lot of places. Depends on where I want to cycle. So most of the places I listed out – Taiwan, Australia – apparently have really good cycles available quite easily. Taking a cycle in a flight might be an expensive option.

So currently I am just researching countries and their cycling culture. I have some places in mind but nothing concrete about my next trip. Need to figure out where I would procure a cycle from first.

All in all a fun time discussing different things with a cyclist 🙂