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.