I starting a new series of posts, they will be called tips. This series will be here to help other cycle tourists on their travels, but they may also help other travelers, backpackers, campers or interested readers.

After about two weeks of actual cycling in India, I have found a really easy way to find out how to get to your final destination. India’s road systems are still being developed, there are a few national highways which divide the country. These roads have great signs, these roads also have a lot of traffic and we have a general rule to avoid national highways at all costs. After national highways, there are secondary highways, which sometime are more like the national highways (nice smooth pavement, excellent signage and at times busy) however most of the time they have sections that need some pavement, all the signs are in some language that has different characters and are never busy. After this, there are roads called tracks, which are very bad (terrible pavement and no signage), but very quiet.

When moving through rural India it is hard to find someone how can understand English, it is also hard to find someone who can understand and English speaking tourist saying the name of next town. Syllable emphasis is extremely important here and English doesn’t really seem to care about emphasis. After a few difficult weeks, I have found the trick. It involves a notepad and a keen English speaking local (you can usually find one of these types of people a day). You explaing the route you want to take, making sure to point on the map so that they fully understand, and politely ask them to right down the route  in their native language. Next you put this pad of paper next to your map on your handlebar bag and start riding. When you come to an intersection, you move close to a local and say “which way to ________,”W hen they look at you funny, point at your pad of paper. Instantly, they say the town you are trying to get to, and the rest of your route, and then they point in the direction that need to go.

This system works like a charm, it is truly amazing how well this works. I was thinking of other ways to do this. The only thing I could come up with is to have an English map and a local language map side by side, or a list of all the English spelling of the towns and the local language spelling of the towns. One of the neat (and frusterating) things about southern India is diversity of languages. Each state has its own offical language (there are 5 states) plus a number of local languages to complicate things further.

One of the most useful things I have brought with me this trip has been a notepad and a pen, which I also recomend one brings with themselves everywhere they go.

Posted from Maharashtra, India
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We have decided to take some time off in Hampi, which is a temple town. Back in the 16th century, this was a happening place, surrounded by hills made of granite rocks, Hampi is one of a kind. In the valley bottoms there is extremely fertile soil (home to banana plantations and rice patties) which provide a nice green contrast to the weathered granite rocks. Hampi is a small village (there are many temples to see at Hampi), to the north across the river is smaller village, which is where we are staying. There is no bridge across the river, the only way to get across is hop onto a crowded boat powered by a 15 horse kerosine engine (crazy). Continue down the road south from Hampi and you come to the Old Kingdom.

There are 12 major rivers in India, each year there is a festival for one of the 12 rivers, so every 12 years the same river has this festival. The river that runs through Hampi is one of these 12 rivers, and this is the year that the festival happened here. There were thousands of people here. Sunday was the worst and on Monday it was amazing quiet. We over heard someone talking, there are apperently 50,000 people bathing in this river every day during this festival, amazing.

In total we will stayin Hampi for 8 days, the reason for this extended stay is simple, good food and pretty cheap accomodation. There is a ton of things to see here, temples, ruins, old bazars, ect. I have posted a gallery below, and you can view all the images below. If you click the image it will take you to a bigger image, in which there will be a description of the image and you can leave comments on the image if you feel inclined to (we love getting comments on our blog so please leave comments if you want to say something).

We have also joined a yoga class being put on by a couple staying here at our hotel. The classes have been good so far and since we haven’t done any stretching since we started cycling, we are very tight and need to stretch our muscels.

Posted from Nimbapura, Karnataka, India
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To Hampi

Distance: 96kms
Traffic: Mostly very light, except around the city of Gangawati for about 7-8 kms.
Roads: Rough in places

We had a really early start as we were so excited to get out of our hotel room.  We made really good time in the morning as the winds don’t pick up until 9:30am (we were on the road just after 6:30).  We stocked up on peanut butter when we were in Goa so we’ve been eating buns with banana and peanut butter for breakfast and some snacks, we are running low and really hoping to find some when we get to Hampi, as it is a nice break from curry, especially at breakfast!

The ride was mostly through the rural country until we got to Gangawati, then we rode through these huge mountains of massive boulders, it was so amazing, no traffic hardly and I’ve never seen any scenery like it, I took a few photos but Kelly wants to come back when the light is better to take more.  We ended up riding an extra 8kms at the end of the day, as we missed the obscure turnoff into Hampi (actually the town across the river from Hampi)

We are staying right across the river from Hampi, which is good because there is a fesival going on in Hampi for the next two days and its much more relaxed here, you can take a boat across to Hampi from 7am-6pm).  We found a great guesthouse with some relaxing swing benches in front of the rooms in the shade and enjoyed tourist comforts such as pizza for dinner!  There is lots to see around Hampi, we are planning on spending a few days here, possibly staying until right after Christmas (that’s when the prices double here), then heading out towards Mysore.

Posted from Nimbapura, Karnataka, India
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Merry Christmas

Christmas is a time for Family to come together. That is not going to happen for us this year. Although you may be thinking of how tough it would be to deal with that, it is not that hard when there is no reminder that it is even December. So far, I have not seen a single Santa, no Christmas sales, no Christmas tree and no egg nog.

There have been a few reminders however. You know when a big truck backs up, it goes “beep, beep, beep.” In India, big trucks also make a chime, so do SUVs, cars, and  rickshaws. In fact, everything with a reverse gear seems to make a chime. Being India, the chime couldn’t be anything simple, it would have to be a song of some sort. The other day I heard a chime that sounded like Silent Night. I then thought for a moment and realized it was December and Christmas was coming soon.

There was another reminder, this was back in Belgaum when we met Sanjaav. He was wearing a red Fleece sweater with an embroidered snowman and christmas tree on it.

That’s it, no other reminder of Christmas at all, in fact one would probably think it was July if you were to just look at the weather. Anyways, it doesn’t matter, it is Christmas and both Tanya and I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We miss everyone and maybe next yeat we can catch up for Christmas.

Passing through Kushtagi

To Kushtagi Distance: 68km – major headwinds Roads: Excellent Traffic:  very light Scenery: Rural

After a few days off of cycling, a couple of which we were sick, it felt really good to be back on the bikes.

Once again the roads and the infrequent traffic were great for cycling. We arrived in Kushtagi mid-afternoon.  There is only one Lodge in town and it was fairly nasty, dirty enough that we decided to just keep on our filthy cycling clothes on until it was bed time because there was no shower (so as to keep the clothes we usually change into cleaner).  Luckily though, Kelly found the stairs to the roof of the hotel and it was awesome up there, we just relaxed in the shade, and forgot all about the hotel room.

We went for dinner which was an event in itself, we just ordered until they understood something (even then they brought Kelly a Chai instead of the Thali here ordered), dinner left much to be desired so I ate about 4 bananas afterwards!  We went to bed (in our tent laid on top of the mattress) at 8pm, watched “Friends” on the English channel, and both had a great sleep, and we were happy to get up early the next morning to leave.

Posted from Kushtagi, Karnataka, India
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Temples Around Badami

Touring Temples in Badami
Today we checked out  two sites that were the capital and the second capital of the Chalukyan Empire that was ther ruling force in this area from the 4th centry to the 8th century AD. It was pretty sweet, the guide book  claims that these sites were the embryotic stage of Hindu Architechure. Well worth the cost and the 30km rickshaw ride to get there. Below are some of the pictures from todays excursion.

Posted from Badami, Karnataka, India
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The distance from Ramdurg to Badami is about 42km. We only cycled 20km though. Our stay in Ramdurg was not the most enjoyable stay. Our room was right above the kitchen, and as such we got a lot of the kitchen smoke into our room. The smoke erritated our eyes, and the smell of burnt curry is still lingering on our clothes. That was nothing compared to what was a head of us the next day. Continue reading

Posted from Badami, Karnataka, India
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Distance: 93kms
Roads: Excellent
Traffic: Light
Scenery: Great!

Today was a big day as we want to arrive in Badami farily early tomorrow.

Most of the day was spent on a secondary highway, really light traffic and a sholder to ride on the whole way, though we fought a bit of a headwind.

The last 30 kms were were on a small country road, passed lots of farms, it was such a nice ride! The road was lined with trees, providing some much needed shade from the hot tropical sun.   Most of the dogs in India are really really lazy and don’t do anything when they see you, on this road they were a little more lively and we had to get off our bikes and yell at them a few times.

We passed a massive antient Fort on the way, would have been cool to check out but it was the end of a long day and we we just wanted to get into town and find a place to stay, there will be lots of stuff to see in the next town.

We pulled into Ramdurgh and while Kelly checked out a room, the bike and I drew quite a crowd (about 100 Indian males), it was crazy, the must not see crazy westerners on bicycles very often here!  Now as I write this, I am driking a pepsi in our “hotel” room (no cockroach sitings yet so that is good) and Kelly is driking beer and watching Rocky on the only English channel.  We will check out this town more on our way out in the morning, I don’t think we want to deal with anymore crowns today.

Posted from Rankalkoppa, Karnataka, India
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Distance: 68kms
Traffic: Light
Road condition: Great
Scenery: Awesome

We had another fantastic day cycling in  India today.  The roads have been overall in great condition and the traffic has been extremely light and just picks up a bit around towns.  We have really enjoyed the last few days!

We ended the day in a city called Belgum.  We had a good feeling about the city based on that comming into town, several people stopped to help us with directions and information,  it appeared to be a really nice city . We couldn’t quite find the recommended hotels after looking a while we got the first decent place (and now I have seen my first cockroach…well several cockroaches) and I ensured we slept in our tent in the hotel room, worked out pretty good.

Also on the way into town we talked to a really interesting guy named Sanjaav who is half way through a motorcycle tour  of the whole country of India, he is touring on a motor cycle to promote peace in the country (they are all part of a Chrisitian church in Belgaum) We ended up getting together in the evening with him and his wife and several other of their friends, we really enjoyed the time we spent with them, they are very caring and kind people.  They took us to a great reastraunt where we had excellent food and company, and then got a ride home on the back of their motor bikes.  A great day.

Posted from Belgaum, Karnataka, India
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Distance: 32kms uphill switchbacks
Roads:  Excellent overall
Traffic: Light
Scenery: Awesome

Well this new route we’ve deided on has been full of pleasant surprises.  Today we were prepared to try and ride 100kms or to camp if needed, however after 32kms of uphill a nice lodge called Green Valley Resort in the middle of a very small town called Amboli beckoned, and we decided to stay.  The ride was great this moring, hardly any traffic, roads in good condition and awesome scenery as we clibed into the Ghats (big hills), despite so much uphill, it went quicky.

As we get further from Goa we certaily draw more attention, we had to stop for at least  20 minutes at one point today while groups of people took pictures with us!  It’s so weird but funny!    This afternoon we just walked down the one road in town, bought some fruit and candy and read our books.  Tomorrow we have a longer day and more hills to climb.

Posted from Amboli, Maharashtra, India
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