Cycling In Australia: Inglewoods, Ride 2

Ready for the ride 🙂

Cycle touring is not that common in Australia and that has one fall out – People keep wishing me safety from traffic because that for them is the biggest danger in this kind of travel I guess. As I entered Inglewoods 40km from Atisha Buddhist Centre, I passed by an old woman. She stopped me to say something and I thought it would be good day wishes etc… In Australia people have Good Day conversations with strangers, it is sweet. But instead she said, “Stay safe from the cars. I am gonna worry for you”.

Yikes, so scary.Continue reading

Taking The Cycle via Airplane, Mostly India Related

I am sitting in my Indigo flight enroute to Kochi from hometown Mumbai. Boarding this flight was a total last minute madness mainly because I was transporting my cycle.

I could have planned it better, so jotting down notes here for next time. Ya, I still have appetite for a next time. My parents were probably traumatized by how close I cut it, but that is OK. Next time I will make it easier for them. 😀

In case you are wondering: I ended up dismantling my bike for the first time just an hour before I had to leave for my flight. Everything could have been smooth as I planned it out in my head but well it wasn’t. The pedal got jammed damn bad so much so that finally I cut a hole in the box and that pedal just poked out. No other way.Continue reading

Faxe Ladeplads, Denmark: Coastal Towns #Berlin2Copenhagen

After couple of weeks on the road – cycling & camping I found myself getting used to the lifestyle and loving it. Hence, it was a really grievous matter that I had totally only 17 days on the road, which meant just 2-3 more days to go before I head to Copenhagen (either reach it by bike or take a train or such quicker transport).

Faxe Ladeplads was one of the many quaint and charming coastal towns I passed through in Denmark and it was one of the last such towns on my cycling trip. I was on my way to Rodvig (or even Koge if I could manage a longer ride that day. Koge being 40 km or so from Copenhagen). However, it turned out that my distaste of buying water bottles from supermarkets bit me in my back. I ended up being dehydrated as I didn’t have enough water the previous day and got leg cramps. I had never got such leg cramps before so for a while I was really concerned but then a friendly German guy biking with his family came to my rescue. He lent me some water and told me that cramps are okay, you just have to drink more water and it should be ok. 🙂Continue reading

Fanefjord Church on a Really Windy Day! #Berlin2Copenhagen

As I have mentioned earlier in my Berlin to Copenhagen cycle story that from Stubbekobing to Stege was the maddest day in the entire cycling trip! I wanted to cycle 70-80 km that day but managed a very hard 25 km. It was too windy! Later when I checked the weather, I figured the winds had been 45km/hr that day. This windy meant that if I put my cycle on the stand it will topple, if I am cycling at the side of the road I get pushed into the middle of the road, when going downhill I need to peddle, peddle hard!

At all times the wind was pushing at me from every direction. There are no glass windows like in a car or a strong helmet with a screen in a motorbike. It is just me and my cycle. #Phew that was one hard day but also awesome –  I had never experienced nature in all its magnanimity. 🙂Continue reading

How to choose your long distance Cycle Route?

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

Cycling Berlin to Copenhagen Day 1: Leaving the Roost

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

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.

2015-12-18 10.33.01
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 🙂

Solo Travel & My Extended Indian Family #2

Earlier I wrote about How I manage solo traveling with happy parents. Parents typically tend to be worry warts regards their off-springs, especially their single child. Such is the case with my parents too. So a combination of assuring explanations and spending time helps keep them calm and satisfied. I am also in touch with them during my trips which helps them remain relaxed.

With extended family the situation changes. They simply do not get the time nor mind share that my parents (and other near family) get.

Small detour here especially for any non-Indians reading this blog to understand the context of this Great Big Indian Family. When I say extended family I mean all my mother & father’s siblings, their kids. Grand-parents and their sibling’s families. It also includes a lot of other branches of family, for eg, the in-law family of my married cousins. It also includes a much wider range of relatives who become part via grapevine. So quite a huge number of people.

Obviously not a lot of time or thought will be given to all of them when I plan a trip. So typically, they will come to know of the trip once I have embarked  or they would be informed earlier on but without any explanations. So this leads to all sorts of reactions.

“Don’t take unnecessary risks & don’t waste time”

I got a phone call from my aunt who lectured me about why my cycling trip was not a good idea. This was after I had briefly told them that I am planning to go to Europe and cycle for most part of my trip. And cycling is much slower which means I will be visiting only two cities. It was a very brisk manner of telling them my travel plans and no wonder I got the customary cautionary phone call from them. I had anticipated it.

With my parents I had taken the conversation much slower. I first introduced them to the idea of ‘Slow Travel’ and how I loved it. Later on I eased them into the European Cycling Culture & Camping bit and then told them what I was thinking about my Europe trip. It was a very planned way to let my parents understand why I was doing this. Also why it is totally safe. Because it is important that they are okay with the whole trip idea. Surprisingly though, they thought so highly of Europe that they were really excited about it and didn’t need much coaxing. 🙂

My extended family of course didn’t get any such planned speeches. With them it was more of “Ohh, yes I am going to Europe and plan to cycle most of the time”

Solo travel
Europe on Bike 🙂
Oh yea just two big cities in a month!

Typically the conversation would go like,

“Yes, I am planning to go to Europe for a month or so”

“So which all cities are you going to?”

“Two – Berlin & Copenhagen and other smaller towns”

“Two??!! What will you do in these two cities for such a long time?”

“Well, I plan to cycle from one to the other, so that is why just two.”

Shit has hit the fan 😉

“What?! how can you do that?” “How far are these cities?” “Where will you stay at night” “It is typical of you to think such a mad idea” “I don’t know anyone who has done such a thing” …… and it went on.

Hehe

But anyway after a bit of time the excitement got to them as well. Because obviously no one in family had done something like this, let alone a solo girl. So for this trip by public demand I made a Whatsapp group with everyone in it. And I kept them all updated as I got a chance with random updates from the road. It was something they all really enjoyed. Many of them said they felt like they had traveled European countryside with me 🙂

So this Europe trip was a different level of involvement with my extended family. And probably now that I have been understood to be a different genre of traveller I guess they will respond to my travels differently.

The thing that helps me a lot is that my parents are totally okay with what I am doing at the end of day. It is true that at times they will say “Oh we have no say into what she does” but the fact is they are quite okay with it. So most of the times when my extended family raises questions, my parents usually just go like “Oh, kids now a days do what ever they like and why should anybody impose on them? They are smart enough to decide what they want” This really saves my ass, cause usually no relative goes beyond this.

Only one time I remember I had a relative who really gave me a big lecture. He was clearly a very dominant type and despite me taking his “lot of advice” in jest he just kept going on in front of the whole family – how I need to get married and stop traveling. Solo traveling is so risky. It was one time I felt bummed. So I came back to Mumbai and organized a travel meetup. 4 of us met at Bandra and once again I was back in the element. 😀

So a lot of crazy incidents with extended family. At times relatives would think that I had run away from home… it is difficult for them to conceptualize that I just like traveling solo.

So here are some tips with regards managing the Extended Indian Family with regards Solo Travel,

1) MAKe it Cool with your Parents & Near Family:

These folks are important and ones who care most about you. Spend the time, make effort as needed to keep them cool about it. Once they are cool about it they will support you in face of other relatives

2) Update Extended Family:

I have added a lot of my extended family to this blog newsletter – so they get emails about new blogs. In fact they may be reading this.. “Hellos – extended family!” Also now with all of us being connected on Facebook – they see my travel updates there as well. This sort of keeps them on the same page. So I would always suggest that if you plan to solo travel seriously, don’t lie to your extended family, instead be transparent and authentic. Start a blog or even write a column in the paper and keep them on the same page. Writing a newspaper column will also give you pseudo celeb status 😉

3) Meet other Travellers:

Sometimes like I shared above, you might feel bummed out because relatives keep advising you that it is too risky, you will never get married and so on. The best thing is to meet your travel friends and talk. It will help. You won’t feel isolated when you have like minded people around you.

4) Anticipate:

Relatives depending on their age and personality will be a certain way. Learn to anticipate with out being prejudiced. For eg: I know that when I share my travel adventures with many of the older relatives (and some friends) they will naturally keep giving me safety precautions. It is the first reaction. So once I anticipate this, it gets easy.

5) There is a Time to Lie:

So yea, I always advise being transparent over lying, but there is a time to lie. With really old relatives or major worry-warts – I just lie to them blatantly because I know if I told them the truth they will not be able to sleep. They will go pretty much, literally crazy until I don’t even know, maybe I would have to cancel my trip or something. It is sort of funny because my solo travel interviews and such have come in the Gujarati newspaper and they have read it but that they are able to digest. Just the idea of me going off on my own though, they will just not be able to accept.

So recently I heard that the antidote to Fear is Understanding. So help your extended family understand why you are doing what you are doing. Typically you may not have the time to explain to all of them, well just send them a blog article. Hell, just send them some of my blog articles if that works. 😉