Travelreport India and Sikkim No 52, 23.2. - 3.5.2012

Kovalam - Kumily - Kodaikanal - Madurai - Thanjavur - Mamallapuram - Orissa - Puri - Kalkutta - Darjeeling - Sikkim - Delhi

Happily the route takes us north, because its getting too hot for cycling. Morning starts with 30, lunchtime over 40 degrees. So we look for a good way across the mountains to get away from the heat. Super descents bring us too fast back to the glowing lowland. In Madurai is a fantastic temple to see with 12 enormous Gopurams, decorated with thousands of colourful sculputres of gods and daemons.

Landscape is very diverse, pedalling on small roads through near desert, wetlands, rice-and corn-, peanuts-, sugarcane-fields, cajou-trees, jungle and eucalyptus forests is great. Mostly we find a quiet spot for camping. This is astonishing, because whenever we stop, many people immediately gather around us and they are very curious. But we love camping much better than sleeping in a dingy hotelroom, chasing mosquitos. And what could be more beautiful than to watch the blood-red sund disappear behind the bushes and then enjoy the silvery light of the full moon.

Along the way we visit many temples and are allowed to watch the rituals. Fascinating, expecially the ritual washing of the gods then the decoration with flowers. Mamallapuram shows temples cut out from monoliths and famous reliefs with szenes from hindu mythology.

In Orissa we encounter some problem and have to change our route, because the Maoists took 2 Italien as hostages. This state is one of the poorest in India. The villages have often no running water, but what is hard to believe, is that most villagers have to do their morning business along the road or in the field. As read in the newspaper, 40% of the population have access to a telephone, but only 22% to a latrine.

Puri to Kolkata by train to meet our cousins. Our first exciting impression is to ride across the 8-lane very busy Howrath bridge and another thrilling experience to cross this overpopulated, chaotic city.

Acclimatization is short for Pius's cousins and they are astonished about the traffic, the crowds on the streets, mini-kiosks in which the owner sits in the middle of the merchandise, street vendors everywhere, the dirt, dilapidated houses and people who sleep in the street. The traintickets have been booked 2 month ago, because the trains are always fully booked weeks in advance. We travel with a sleeper, 2nd Class - our bikes in the same train in the luggage compartement - to Siliguri. The cost for the train ticket is affordable. For the 8.5 hour train ride in a sleeper you will pay 220 rupees (CHF 4.40) per person.

Hard 2 days uphill riding to Darjeeling, which lies at 2100m, famous for the endless tea plantations. Down to Sikkim, there's a1700 meter long descent through beautiful landscapes and steepest streets. Often we watch ladies that pick the tea. Wonderful monasteries, forested slopes, giant mountain sides, clear mountain streams and waterfalls, terrassed fields, views into the Himalaya and friendly smiling people make cycling in Sikkim very enjoyable. However, it is only for people who love to cycle mountains. The roads lead from the valley to the mountain, then back down into the next valley, etc, so even for short day trips at least 1000 meters of altitude must be climbed and at times roads are rough. In the short time we were allowed to share with our cousins Ruth and Roebi, we cycled 500km and 10'000 meters of altitude.
From Calcutta we fly to Delhi to continue to Portugal. It's time to leave India and we are looking forward to Europe and even more for the reunion with our friends and family.

Gathering on the river

Meenakshi Tempel Madurai

Chinese bike collegue

Dosas for breakfast

Crossing to Orissa

Indian Restaurant

with Ruth and Roebi to Darjeeling

Monastry in Tashiding