Highest Road in the World by Tandem Bicycle: into Central Asia and Return over the Great Himalaya Range

Ride our tandem with us over the highest road pass in the world (18,380 feet) from South Asia into Central Asia. Pedal thirteen days across The Great Himalaya Range (passes to 17,558 feet) from exotic Tibetan Ladakh in the far north. Take a train to far south India and then bicycle with us from the Arabian Sea on the west to the Bay of Bengal on the east. Stories, photos, videos and music.

We hope you have enjoyed reading the reports of our progress and adventure on our India trip during 2014. All of our original blog articles are now organized in sequence as a complete web series on our adventure.

New Bohemians: 2014 INDIA TRIP

A Walk in a Chennai, India Neighborhood

Immersing ourselves in our Chennai neighborhood has been made more interesting by the onset of the Northeast Monsoon. We dodged the main monsoon in the far north and the west of India, well most of it, but didn’t even know there was a monsoon on the east side. It started with a cyclone, which missed us, but the rains have come hard, making walking the muddy, cow shit and trash strewn streets a bit of a challenge.

People here take it in stride, they have to, they know the drill, keep to the less dirty narrow pavement as much as buses, trucks, cars and motos allow, wade the mud and poop when you have to, rinse your sandaled feet in the least muddy water you find, carry an umbrella at all times; it’s a hard rain that falls brother.

Claire’s Walk in Chennai

We followed blogs of many independent travelers in India, cyclists and non, and many of them cut their trips short because of the intensity of the experience: crowds everywhere, no personal space, gastric illnesses, noise and filth. Some very experienced travelers have not been able to take it, and left early. There were times that tested our resolve, or reason for being here, but as is often the case, when one of us is down, the other bucks them up and we soldier on until we feel comfortable.

Mostly we avoided large cities in favor of villages and agricultural districts. But now we are¬†embracing the Indian urban experience of huge Chennai with some measure of enthusiasm, enjoying the cacophony of street noise, the color and relaxed intensity (yes, I meant those words to go together) of the people. We’re even used to getting ripped off (rarely) because each instance is made up for by a dozen smiles and small gestures of welcome. Even cow shit between the toes doesn’t bother us anymore.

We fly home soon, and are ready after three months, but we’re enjoying opening our senses and memories to an India we’ll most likely never see again. But as with all of our adventures, we come home with an overflowing storehouse of memories.

Walking in an Indian City: Chennai, India

We got here a few days early, finished packing Zippy for the flight home, and are now “enjoying” a real Indian city, Chennai. It is seven million people and not very well organized.

We’re in an area called Pallavaram, a mix of mostly low end hotels, open markets, mixed businesses, a few beggars, wandering shitting cows, mostly mud streets (the monsoon just hit) and the constant noise of all manner of vehicle horns, and a few bicycle bells.

More to come here later. Here is a sample of a reasonably orderly scene just as school let out.

The Enigma of Tamil Nadu

DSCF9243RThe longer we’re here the less we understand.

When looking up the history of a nearby temple, I was directed to the specific references from the Ramayana related to this site. Rather than when the temple was built and how, this history is how it fits into the Hindu creation story.

When life is seen as cyclical, eternal, what is history?


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SAM_2920R“India, the new myth–a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by the two other mighty fantasies: money and God.” – from Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie.

As I read, I always look for the sentence that seems to encapsulate the premise of an entire book, and this sentence did it for me. Rushdie loves to mix metaphors, but so far he hasn’t compared describing India to nailing Jell-O to a wall.

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The colors of India are beautiful; splatters of yellow pigment splash our door. Three white stripes with a red dot are smeared on cars, trucks, elevators and windows; nearly every place the eye comes to rest. The entryway of most homes and businesses are decorated with white and colored chalk rangolis. After awhile the colors meld into a background brown and a new design is drawn.

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We’ve come into the densely templed region of the ancient Chola empire, and a part of India that is devout and fervent in their beliefs. Most temples are brightly painted, a few are dilapidated with vines growing through them. Some appear to be newer temples built over the foundations of old ones.

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The people have been gracious, if enigmatic. Not just the indecipherable head wag, but many other gestures, exclamations and attempts at questions continue to mystify us. Though we understand so little, we continue to strive and hope we can at least promote good will. As my Dad says,

“A smile is understood in every language.”