Back to the home page Visit the Geoff Thomas Foundation
Memories of the trip so far: Week 6

Dear fellow Indian road users,

If I shout at you, it's because you've done something silly and very dangerous to me. Looking confused and wobbling your head isn't the correct response.

My European background means that I am used to people looking BEFORE pulling out, driving on their own side of the road (particularly on dual carriageways), not stopping or turning during an overtake, and to the horn only being used when something is very wrong. I am trying to adapt, but all this hooting and driving at me does fray my nerves when I'm not on top form.

If you’re interested in meeting me, asking 'What country from?’, ‘What name?’, ‘Give money!' is really best not tried while I'm fixing a flat caused when one of your mates who ran me of the road.

Thanks for your understanding.


Welcome to India!

I began my Indian stage in Mumbai; the city we used to call Bombay and which all of the Indians still do. The re-branding has not worked. The airport is on the north of the city and I needed to head north. The only down-side to that arrangement is that I'd have loved to have visited and even re-started from the famous 'Gateway of India' in the south where the last British rulers of India departed at independence. To have done that would have meant non-counting back-tracked miles and a fight through the traffic and filth on a huge scale, so I got on with getting out of the city.

I'd cleverly assembled the bike and re-packed the bags inside the airport to avoid hassle from the various scammers and thieves who hang around Indian airports. So when I came out of departures I was ready to roll. I even had my direction sorted and made no wrong turns on my way to pick-up the highway I'd follow for the next 700 miles. The sun was still low in the hazy sky and Mumbai's homeless were just rising from their camps on the hard shoulder and pooing on the embankment as I rolled by.

The first week in India

The smell of India is strong and warm, rather like a summer festival port-a-loo, with odour of refuse too.

I was incredibly tired from the overnight flight with little sleep, so I stopped for breakfast and lots of coffee as soon as I could. That perked me up until after lunch when tiredness, heat and humidity stopped me from enjoying the changing scenery and I sought a hotel after just 65 miles. My plan was to get an early night, lots of sleep, and a very early start in the cool dark night.... But I was so tired I slept on through and had to face the hot sun again for the next morning. I also had to fix a flat before getting going - annoying! I had another flat later in the day too and started to worry that Indian roads might have lots of sharp things to kill tyres.

I stopped super early again as it was vital to adjust to an early rise routine to cope with the heat. I was interviewed by local and national news papers at the hotel, which’d been called after I explained my adventure to the hotel manager. This did take up some time, but it's cool and good evidence for Guinness World Records.

I finally got the early start needed next morning and was even a little chilly for a while. I had to go faster to warm up. It was very busy with trucks pre-dawn, their drivers seeking a cool time to travel too, so I joined the flow of slow moving traffic - trucks here are limited to 40kph! One truck did a bit of 'through and off' with me - I'd overtake it only to find it come back past and lead me for a while before gradient or bumps would slow it and I'd overtake again.

I soon exceeded the distances sweated over on the previous days and knew that a short afternoon and early stop would be my reward for the effort and early start.

The shape of the land had changed from the hills of Maharashtra and I was now in the flat countryside of Gujarat. Frequent rivers looked beautiful and kept the landscape greener too.

I stopped for a second breakfast north of Surat, where most of the worlds diamonds are cut and polished. Beside that high value industry, and on the edge of the city, crops, rise paddies, bananas and mango trees were tended by women while men drove oxen carts slowly along the roads.

I found lodging at a Muslim hotel, very clean, simple, and cheep. They didn't think I'd like it and tried to turn me away, but eventually they were very welcoming indeed. If they'd not have locked me in until 6am next morning who knows how far I'd have gone on what was still my biggest and most enjoyable yet day in India: I raced along the main road at truck pace until mid-morning when I remembered this was supposed to be an adventure and took a back-road into the countryside. It was amazing. I could hear birds and monkeys, not horns and engines, and the black sooty dust I was coated with was overlaid by the paler more natural dust from the earth. The road was quiet, I could look around, and there was so much more to see. Also, trees lined the roads providing cool dappled shade for me to ride in. Passing motorbikes slowed for a chat, and I found everything and everyone perfect.

I reached Rajasthan state next day. It's a hilly desert, so tough cycling. I also had some nasty moments with traffic; when the road is not dual carriageway, the truckers who need to overtake each other simply use the other side of the road - not bothering about anything coming along the other way! I got run off the road and punctured on the rocks and thorns several times before I developed the tactic to protect myself: Simply stop when the trucks are coming and they stop too like you're a cow in the road - which is very common.

Rajasthan was harsher than Gujarat in every way, landscape, road surface, driving styles, and people. My target was Jaipur, known as the pink city mainly because its painted pink. Jaipur is the capital of the state and where I'd leave the NH8 road. On my run-in to Jaipur I decided to detour into the countryside more, having fun and making up for my shortcut back in Belgium. I took a slight wrong turn and instead of adding a little I added a lot, and on some very rough roads too. This detour really improved my view of Rajasthan though, rural people living tough simple lives, smiling and waving from their fields or wells made me forget my aches and pains.

After my longest day yet in India I arrived in Jaipur, physically spent, now finished with the NH8 road, and ready to head east on the NH11 for Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh the next day.