Cycling anywhere in the world can be so different, yet when it all boils down, it’s much the same. Feet on pedals, hands on bars. Tarmac, gravel, obstacles and vehicles to dodge. What makes it so different is the people. It’s quite common to reach the end of a trip and ask yourself “Would I do that again?” The answer is always the same, and never “No.”
Throughout every experience – good or bad – knowledge is gained. People are met. Food is eaten. Land is traversed, but with the kilometres travelled comes knowledge of a culture. Experience that can’t be attained by always riding the same roads and only seeing the same sights. This is why we travel by bike, not to ride, but to learn.
We had an early morning flight scheduled, which meant an immediate blur of travel – four hours at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, 13 hours in the air, two hours in Delhi, three hours in the air, four hours at Chennai, one hour through to Bangalore, and four hours of being driven — in a half-comatose state — through the winding, potholed laneways and chaotic highways that would place us at our first official destination: Mysore.
A real, immediate introduction to India was seen between the veils of sleep; a myriad of sights new to our eyes. Brightly painted houses, small dwellings covered in tarps, motorbikes carrying at least 20 live chickens, dangling by the feet. A mess of traffic, lines and markings on the road that seemed to carry no meaning for the drivers.
Hustle, bustle and life in every place. Everything moved. Dogs with no home roamed. But everywhere, people gathered in groups, chatting and laughing. There was a certain liveliness in the air that couldn’t be ignored.
We eventually began winding through the streets of Mysore around lunchtime and were delivered to our accommodation. The 180km drive had taken around four hours; traffic wasn’t fast-moving, but rather constantly moving. Finding a soft bed, we both collapsed, to awake running perfectly on Indian time at 7am. We had one day of exploration by foot before beginning the journey, so we left the bikes unpacked.
A market seemed to be in the process of starting right across the road, so we investigated. Spices, fruit and small trolleys attended by old men cooking food which didn’t have names in our vocabulary yet. It was a Sunday, so regular shops weren’t open. We walked through the city, all the time being offered shoe polishing, apples, street food and necklaces.
When night fell, a single palace outshone everything surrounding it. Small light bulbs ran along every edge of the brickwork; many thousands in total. According to the locals, the lights only stay on for an hour each night of the weekend. A South Indian dinner followed, with plates and plates of various curries, breads and rice being piled around us. We slept early, ready for the early morning to follow.