I had jotted down this post after my first solo cycling and camping trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. This was after many months of that trip – so I am not talking about the euphoria right after the trip. In fact right after the trip, I was heartbroken because I didn’t want to stop the cycle touring or camping at all. And I felt bleak because in India I don’t have adequate infrastructure or social situation to go on such trips.
I am publishing this post now, because I have a whole second level post that jumps a whole new level. But that post is still in making. I need to articulate first, then write and then publish. The changes that happened after my second cycling trip to Australia, Taiwan and Tamil Nadu were a whole different gear.
And my first experience of the Oriental culture was a month in Taiwan! 😀
Delving into the Taiwanese culture was fascinating. So many similarities with the Indian culture and also so much difference. Exploring this new culture was a complete joy and that too on bicycle!Continue reading
Australia is amazing! So much unique flora, fauna, wildlife and also to a certain extent the people culture. The scenic beauty especially the Great Ocean Road (pic above) was so good. And the country/continent is so huge that I have barely explored a bit so there is much room for it to get better. Here is a not-so-quick overview of my time biking Australia,
Cycle distance covered: 300 km
Time spent: 1.5 months (1st Sept – 15th Oct, 2016)
I ended up cycling (& camping) a lot less than I would have wanted and anticipated, I will share the reasons for this in the ensuing post. The upside however was that I ended up staying in AirBnb a lot more. This meant meeting more people, having conversations and making friends. 🙂
(This was my Original Plan)
September is the start of Spring season in Australia, so while I had anticipated colder weeks in the beginning I expected it to get warm by mid Sept when I would start cycling. However, it never really got warm in Victoria. Moreover, it rained like crazy and every week there was severe weather warnings released by the MET department.
In 1 and half month I had only 3 days when temperatures were over 15C. Nights were almost always below 10C and a lot of times as low as 3C. There were chances of it dipping to 0C. Too cold for someone from Mumbai who is used to 28C to 36C temperatures. Along with this it would often be windy and rainy.
So basically cold, wind and wet!
Too much.Continue reading
It was really tough to take the decision of turning back. I kept wondering if I was chickening out. But I realized one thing very clearly – I don’t have gear for cold and wet climate. That’s all. That was the main reason I turned back.
To give you a synopsis the weather became really wet. It rained – a lot, and the reservoirs, rivers all across Victoria were flooding or close to flooding. Moreover in Inglewoods I saw a rain shower that lasted only for 15 minutes but it was so hard!! Like some sort of cloudburst. It freaked me & that shower brought water into my tent as well, luckily I pulled out my sleeping gear just in time and rushed into the caravan that the motel owners thankfully gave me for no extra cost. I stayed in the caravan for 2-3 days. Part of those days the roads were closed, and no one could say what would happen as this weather was just very unusual for this region!Continue reading
When I first started researching Europe for my first solo international trip last year, I looked at many countries France, Spain, Scandinavia…. But Germany wasn’t really a country I considered in particular. Then I zoomed into going on a long distance cycling & camping trip. This brought Germany into my radar. Because it is the best place to start out – keeping in mind the costs and infrastructure both. So Berlin it was! At the end of the trip it turned out to be the one European city I felt I had spent some time in (15 days) and it was awesome.
Before this trip happened, apart from it being some sort of ‘finance powerhouse’ and a hub for Cars – I had no other association with Germany. Except of course the holocaust crap that happened in WW2. And that was my main association with Germany. As I find with so many people at least in my Indian circle – Germany brings thoughts of Hitler, nazi and concentration camps. And here I was planning to cycle and camp in the countryside, solo! God knows how many concentration camp spots I would pass by on my own.Continue reading
If you are looking to choose your first cycle route, here is some help. There are a lot of aspects to consider when choosing the route to cycle, by and large these are some factors to keep in mind. Also, the idea here is not to make it sound difficult – it may seem that way initially. But everything gets managed on the road. You ask people for help or you just figure it out. And there are a LOT of reasons to be doing this….So read on! 🙂Continue reading
Quite a while and I haven’t written much about my Europe trip. Lot of posts need to be written, a lot of people want to know about my expenses and budget and all that. Today I am more in the mood for prose, so writing about Day 1: Cycling Berlin to Copenhagen….
This was the day I was slated to leave my Berlin AirBnB homestay and cycle away! 😉
My home stay hostess was away traveling so I had the place to myself, we hadn’t fixed any time to leave, I wanted to be away as soon as I could, but I knew it will not be so easy. Because the 12 days I had in Berlin to buy all my gear and stuff were a bit less. So much so that, I had bought my camping gear just couple of days earlier and just the night before I had fixed the front pannier rack all by myself (beejesus!)Continue reading
Leaving Berlin to be on the road solo-cycling was a crazy feeling. The most unusual feeling was of not having a specific accommodation booked for the end of day. I was really thrilled but also curious how this trip would pan out. I cycled away chatting with strangers and getting attention as not only a solo cyclist but also an Indian one. Most people even in the most obscure towns recognized that I was Indian – I still don’t understand how considering they had never seen a solo Indian girl cycling. At many of the campsites that I stayed at, I was told that I was the first Indian to do so.
So as I reached my first award winning, heritage campsite – Oranienberg Harbor – I asked a German couple how to enter the campsite. I could see the site but there was a gate barring my way and I needed a card to enter it. The couple didn’t speak English. I anyway pursued the conversation by sign language. The lady was really affected and she started responding in sign language. It was not that tough. Basically I had to go to an office a little way away – I understood that I had to go in that direction. 🙂
There was a whole drama at the office because the harbor master was out and the auto-card-machine wasn’t working but finally I sorted all that out. I went back to the campsite and entered. I saw that couple relaxing outside their caravan. Looking around, I decided to put up my tent near them as the lady was really helpful and it was a good location.
So as I was setting up my tent nearby, the lady came around to ask if everything was fine. I didn’t understand much. I was really tired, smiled, sad ‘gut, gut’ and went to sleep. Snoooze.
I figured the lady found me quite an enigma – Indian, solo, doesn’t speak German – what is she doing out here! But since we didn’t know each others language, I thought it would be an end of it. But not so. The other day the lady beckoned me and starting asking me questions. I tried to answer cause I understand a bit of German. Since English & German have similar roots there are words that overlap….. but definitely not enough to actually converse. Anyway, she managed to find out that this was my first trip to Europe. I had solo traveled a lot in India which is very difficult but Europe is easy so I was doing this Berlin-Copenhagen cycling trip. She was really struck. She told me she respected me a lot. And then obviously she really wanted to talk.
So finally I decided to drop my reticence and get into this. This lady wants to talk German with me, well this is the 20th Century and I have the technology for this. I dug out my smart phone, known as “handy” in Germany and opened up Google translate. Yes, I had not researched any better app.
So out comes Google Translate – I started typing in English, translated in German and put it on audio so she could actually listen to it. She found it all quite interesting. It was then her turn to type – so she typed in German and translated to English. She wasn’t savvy with the phone but she managed.
So this way I found myself having some quite deep conversation with this German speaking lady using Google translate. It was pretty crazy. I was telling her about how the British occupation of India had caused so many changes in our cultural fabric that it was getting so tough to really gets things back on track. The fact that we need to know English – which is a foreign language for our economic growth creates a lot of challenges. Because the language of the person influences his/her thinking and so inevitably there is a conflict. Because in our culture and heart we are Indian while via Language and thoughts we are getting ‘Westernized’… this is probably because for many days I was tackling with this issue within myself. That how can Indian culture and the Western influence in urban areas be sorted out? She did find it a little intriguing…. as she didn’t understand such a thing. The German people have no issue of corroding culture as in most of those European countries their own language Rules!
Anyway the conversation just went to all sorts of topics. And yes, Google translate was quite a limited tool I wish I could have found a better one but it was a really worthwhile effort. This lady who would have been just a helpful German lady became a Travel Friend.
Next couple of days we didn’t get much chance to sit down and talk again because she fell sick, probably got a sun stroke but she always watched out for me. Just before I was leaving she came to meet me and gave me a shopping bag to take with me. In case I wanted to shop anything. 🙂
I asked her if she had an email id I could write to, so we can keep in touch. She went to ask her husband for one, but he got completely freaked out. I was just mildly curious – what’s this now?! I thought it was standard to exchange contact info with friends on the road 🙂
Anyway she came back some time later and got me her address. So I will be writing her a letter now… but I wanted to blog this story before that. I meet so many people on my road… I would like to keep such stories to read through later on. Hope you also enjoy reading. 🙂
I later found out after meeting more German people that they are completely paranoid about giving personal information – in fact that is why a lot of them are not on Facebook or any other social network. So this is why her husband freaked out when I asked his email. Hehe.
And in case you are wondering – no I didn’t get any photo with her. I am a very reticent photographer and I really don’t click selfies.
I had spoken to cyclists here in Mumbai, got their tips. Also researched online. It is important to have clarity on what type of gear you need and things to check before buying. (I will be sharing my notes on gear for a long distance cycling trip a bit later)
So here is a summary of the various ways to search out good, recommended shops to actually buy the gear,
1) Thorough online search – “budget cycle in Berlin”, “used cycles in Berlin” and so on
2) Join relevant FB groups n communities – I joined biking Berlin groups, but didn’t get many suggestions there. It is still a good place to have discussions and share your experiences
3) Talk to locals – I contacted the owner of a Facebook Berlin cyclers group, got some of his thoughts. I also spoke to my AirBnB host and got views there as well. It helped.
4) Talk to local shops and get their recommendations – This is another way to get in touch with local enthusiasts, these people know the industry really well and so should be able to help. Sometimes it helps to talk to them to rule out options. For eg: To sell my cycle in Copenhagen I went about asking cycle shops whether they knew anyone who would buy it. Most refused. One person gave a very low offer – so I ruled out selling back to shops.
The place I finally bought my used bike – I didn’t see it mentioned in any group or web search. I got to know of it, as a recommendation from another cycle shop which was selling new bikes only.
So using the above three methods I shortlisted these places for used bikes in Berlin, Bike Piraten – this is where I got my bike. It would be my first stop next time I go there to get cycling gear
Bikers park – also had good deals and are reliable Mauer park flea market – apparently low quality (and possibly stolen) but if you get a good deal then you can really reduce your expense. This flea market takes place only on Sundays, and it was canceled the week I was there due to stormy weather. So you have to keep back up options.
Facebook groups where people put up stuff to sell – this is how I sold my stuff – the flip side is that you have to keep waiting to find the right product. For me, I needed a smaller cycle size. This was quite difficult in Europe – so groups like this are not the best option eBay Berlin – didn’t see much quality stuff here. And overall I find such places a bit shady to be honest. Maybe some good deals… I don’t really know. But I would prefer the above options over eBay. At least on Facebook I can check the persons profile information before meeting them
Once you explore all the above options, you will start getting ideas and recommendations to get rest of the cycling gear as well. These are some places I would mention in Berlin, Stadler – huge showroom n has some decent budget stuff as well. Helpful staff and a section where you can repair your cycle yourself
Supermarkets like Lidl & Woolworth have some really cheap accessories – worth saving few bucks on. For eg: reflectors n vests
Mauer park flea market 🙂 You can get cycle locks at half the price
Apart from these there are also many small bike shops which sometimes have sale… So those can be checked out..
Again followed a similar search process for camping stuff. I managed to find an online blog that had listed down shops that had good camping gear. I checked out all their online websites and figured out the most relevant shops for me.
Camping gear varies a lot depending on your trip details. For eg festival tents are cheaper but they wouldn’t be right for my trip. Other problem I faced is that while I could see many 4-5 people tents on eBay, there were none for 1 person or even 2 persons.
Also since I was a real camping newbie I figured going for cheap, new stuff would be better than buying 2nd hand and not realizing when there is something wrong with the tent or sleeping bag.
So finally I found these shops, Real.De – is a supermarket with a camping section.
Camp4.De – has some good options. I didn’t visit them though. MontK – this is where I bought my tent & sleeping mat n cooking kit. I got a 2 persons Coleman tent which cost me €85 as it was the cheapest decent camping tent. The single person tent was over € 100.
People in many of these shops were very helpful & they have thorough knowledge of what they are selling… In fact Thomas from MontK gave me so many suggestions about my trip – it was like a summary in 30 mins of all the research I had done online over many hours.
If you are a newbie then I think it is good to go to these respectable stores and get the person to give some gyaan (advise) – as they are really experienced people.
All in all my experience in Berlin was great. Through this trip gear-buying I got in touch with many people and came to know a bit about their culture. 🙂