India is… a pain, it is like one of those pains that when you are meditating appears due to the position and then… equanimity. Trying to keep on what you are doing while the ache dissapears or transforms itself, keep on minding your own bussines : not to react to it, that´s all, that´s it.
Darjeeling was that place that we had in mind all these days cycling, that was our goal: to get out of india again. For that we had to climb from 200 meters to 2200 meters high in less than 80 kms, and without crossing any official border, suddenly we found ourselves out of India. Everyone who visit this place will be agree on it, since you start climbing you can see the differences in single things: another way of living, the culture of this people that are not indias anymore but a mix of Nepalese, descendants of chinese, tibetans, buthanese…. is totally diferent. Also the religion, the most of them are Buddhist.
Aitor loves mountains so as soon as they appear on the horizon his eyes begin to have a special glow. The smile hasn´t disappear from his face and excited starts climbing faster and faster wishing to get them. That is not my case, when I see the peaks on the horizon or… had never been before until now that knowing that those slopes were taking us out of the indian planes towards the Himalaya… oh!! I was feeling so greatfull !!. From the first village we started enjoying it: another way to deal with each other, another way to understand life, what is right and wrong, another people. To start to feel the change it was the greatest moment.
This is the main reason which made us ask the organitation of the Dubai International Travellers Festival, to change our return plane ticket to Kolkata instead to South East Asia (where we were cycling in the moment of the invitation to travel to Dubai).We want to cycle Sikkim, that unique kingdom lost in the northeast of India which so little is known about and, is so appealing to us. After that, the plan is to continue perched to this magical mountain range of the Himalayas and follow its course from east to west, until the winter close again the “doors” to reach there. In spring the snow melts and allow the travellers pass to the remote, pure and mysterious lands that extend beyond.
We want to be the first opening and the last closing!!!. This is our challenge, our dream, the reason which keep our mind strong to be able to stand this crazy traffic, polution, noise… in the Indians lands.
The indian report is not cute but I promise that is sincere and so we transmit it to you:
To those who don´t know India I tell you that the roads in this country are a true chaos. A field in which apparently there is no law, because anyone can go in any direction, at any time and seems to be not much problem for the rest of the drivers as all are use to it and the only thing that matters is hir or her own way, keep moving forwards withouth crashing, that´s all. To make this not happen there is a way of comunication and that are the horns. Horning is the national sport and a means of avoinding the accident , everyone makes it sound almost every moment. There are so many trucks, ricksaws, jeeps… circulating in those narrow roads that the noise at times becomes almost huddening. The most of the trucks have painted in big letters by hand: “please horn” even some of them “Horn Hard!! “.
On this roads there is a law and that´s: “the jungle law” and in that hierarchy, we, the bicycles we are the weakest and … you know what that means. They expect you to go out of the road as soon as any of them horn at your back.
Bumps, dust, pollution, potholes and more dust again. Dogde and…. uff!! almost an accident!!, then… again… pollution and dust, and potholes and like this so on and on. In the main time you may recieve and extra of a current of black smoke straigh on your face from the pipe of a truck…. hot and thick, just for you to breath in!!!
All this and much more my friends, are the things which we was dealing with during this days cycling.
Meanwhile, in our minds, deep as a secret treasure, the images of the snow-covered mountains, the visions fo those remotes and silence lands which we was heading to, was giving us more strength than the rice and lentils which have been the daily food of each one of those days. Although India is a country of delicious and varied foods, when you are out of the touristic areas, the variety become extremely limited.
Dealing with Indians is not something easy and much less being female. Although this is a Hindu country, often we felt surprised how much it resembles what you can find in any Muslim country, as for example Pakistan (remember please that I´m just talking about this area we had covered this time of the Western Bengal; India is so big and varied among all the states, tribes and areas).
In the rural and less touristic areas, women live quite limited and even suppressed. Any relation of men and women who are not relative doesn´t exist. The idea they have about westerners (mostly the man) is based on strange stories and what they have seen in the films (many of them…. emm….emm….let´s say….. emm….. very high erotic content…emmm, ok, being clear and honest: pornographic, and, the problem is that they trully believe that what they see in those movies happen in our countries!!! really!!!)and therefore the respect that they have to western women is… nothing as you can imagine.
To go accompanied by a man makes your life much easier, safe and keeps them away.
This is perhaps the only country in the world in wich we are happy to reach tourist places. By observing reality I had realized that the most of the travellers and tourist prefer the realtion between them and to spend their time in those touristic areas… the rest is the meantime, which, of course has its flavour, attractive and gives sparkle to the trip, but finally…the moments that apparently people most enjoy are in those places, that almost become ghettoes because are totally another different reality to the “real” India.
Years ago in 2006 Aitor crossed India from west to east. Later, in 2008, together we crossed from Nepal to Pakistan and bouth of us enjoyed it so much. We were curious for the exotic of the country and the people, it was so different and our behave was polite and peacefull, we could bear everything wich came to us: good and bad, every situation. Looking backwards, now we have discovered that all these years travelling around thr world made us more rude and in a way even unpolitte and intolerant with certain situations and attitudes.
Again has happened that after returning to a country we haven´t realized about the changes in the country, but the changes in ourselves. Interesting.
Every day we have slept in small hotels which cost so little, skipping the umpleasent experience of camping in India, a country where until now, only we found hospitality in the Punjab state where we was cycling in 2008, but the Sikhs are literally another kind of people, every single day we was invited to homes or in their temples (Gurudwaras) a really interesting people wich seems to westerns one more of the Hindus but that really are an special an diferent group.
The begining of the tea plantations,
the change of the faces and dresses of the people,
the stupas along the way, and the first views of the high peaks of the Himalayas,
warned us that it was only a matter of the final push, tighten the legs and keep climbing giving all our energy.
A part of the Aitor´s family decided that India was a good place to come and visit us, being a cheap country to travel in, they took some days of holidays and, the 3th of February, after havign left our bicycles and equiepment in Darjeeling and after a trip of 43 hours!! by train, we met up them at the Delhi airport willing to explore and enjoy Rajastan for 15 days.
Here we are, in this other India of long moustaches and colourfull turbants,
camels dunes and beautifull women covered in ornaments.
Travelling as tourist in these lands, forced to deal with the most unpleasent things in India: taxi drivers, ticket sellers, and all the people who live on the tourist and travellers; it has made us realized again that we really, really, don´t want this anymore, we choose again and again, an one million times more, to keep travelling by bicycle with total indepence and freedom.
We are wishing to go back on the road again, up there, jump on our saddles and feel again at home!!.