India Day 6: following Tod

We got up early to get ready and go to breakfast so we could cycle before the heat hit, knowing that we had up to 80km to go today. The restaurant downstairs was supposed to open at 7:30, but didn’t open until 8, and our bikes were still locked up, so we didn’t get going until around 9.

We picked up a few bungee cords at a junk shop near our hotel and used them to reinforce our bags, hoping to prolong their lives with the beating the roads have been giving them. It was good timing too, because my previous reinforcement strap broke as I was putting it on. The bungee cords work much better anyway; we didn’t have to tighten any straps today after going over rough roads.

That said, the roads were really good overall; they are definitely improving as we get closer to Goa. Most of it was freshly paved, but a few sections were really rough.

We continue to follow the TOD arrows painted on the road; it is nice to see that we are not totally out here on our own. In fact, when we stopped for water, a man came up to talk to us and said that 2 days ago he saw a group of 10-12 cyclists go by. Some of the TOD signs are words of encouragement (“C’MON!”), which are also helpful.

The ride was very rural, so we saw very few people or traffic the whole way. We rode through a few small cities and had to take another ferry. That should be our last ferry before Goa.

When we arrived at the ferry dock, the ferry was just pulling away, so we sat down at a restaurant next door to the ticket counter. An older gentleman got to talking to us and ordered us some kokum juice. He said it’s great for cycling and is used in ayuverdic treatments. Indeed, it was salty and sweet, probably has good electrolytes. I liked it, but Steve didn’t. He tried to get us to buy a whole bottle of concentrate (half a liter!), but we said it’s too heavy, and he looked at our bicycles and said, “you’re right”.

We asked if they had thali, and he said no, not for 10km after the ferry, but suggested we have some vada pav. This is a fried potato cake sandwich with spices. So we had two, and it was perfect!

After the ferry, we cycled through some beach areas with hotels and guesthouses, some looking quite fancy with proper landscaping and modern architecture. We then arrived at Ganpatipule, where I demanded we stop for some kulfi (Indian ice cream).

Over ice cream, we considered our options and decided to stop for the day there in Ganpatipule, and split the rest of the way to Goa into 4 more days of about 60km each, getting us to Goa Saturday evening.

Hunting for hotels is getting to be a familiar challenge each day, especially as almost all of the hotels have signs in Marathi (or maybe Hindi, I can’t tell the difference) and no English. And only a few are listed online. So we have no idea how much the hotel will be when we ask. They usually insist on showing us a room first before we even get a price.

In Ganpatipule, it was a little easier, as a few hotels are listed on, and Lonely Planet has one pricey seafront one listed, but also a warning that they couldn’t find any hotels that would accept foreigners. Something to do with the Mumbai bomber spending time in this town before carrying out his plot. Well, we can report this does not seem to be the case. We asked one hotel, and he didn’t speak much English but said something about “online only” and “passport”. Maybe it’s a vacation rental, not hotel. He pointed us at the MTDC, the one hotel listed in Lonely Planet. We knew it was out of our budget, but we decided to go look anyway, and maybe the shoulder-season rate would be affordable.

Right in front of their gate, a man came up to us and asked if we are looking for a hotel. Usually, I find these guys annoying because I’ve got enough information online to make my own decision. But in this case, with so many options not immediately obvious to us, I heard him out. He had a room just 5 minutes walk away for much less than the MTDC, and it is the nicest room we’ve had since Mumbai. Probably not the cheapest in town, but it works for us.

There is a famous temple on the beach here that we took a look at. It’s nice, but you have to go inside the fence to get a good look, and it was too hot to put pants on, so we just walked around the outside along the beach, watching the camel rides and horse drawn buggies again. One side of the beach had a small herd of cows laying on the beach. Damn, these cows have the life in India!

We did go into the MTDC to have a snack. There was beer on the menu, but the waiter said today is a “dry day”. Oh well, I’ll be fine without a beer until Goa. I ordered a lhassi and some fried potato things for us. After a few minutes, two women sitting next to us asked us where we were from and then said, “Why did you choose this place to visit? This is not a place tourists usually come. We live in Mumbai and have wanted to come but didn’t make it here for 30 years.” We explained our trip, and they said it was great to see foreigners enjoying their country and their food. One of them said she’s traveled to 20-something countries but when she comes home she knows India is special. Every state you visit here will have different cultures and different food. She said every US suburb is the same, and we couldn’t argue with that! They left us with some fried vegetables to try and good wishes.

We’ve only been cycling in India for 5 days now, and I already feel like we’ve had more human connections than our whole 8 months in Europe. I don’t think that’s really true, but it’s certainly on another level here. People have been overwhelming interested in talking with people who are different from what they expect to see. It’s not universal; we’ve gotten a few scowls or disapproving looks, but it’s really refreshing, and is taking our trip to another place. We are looking forward to this experience continuing and evolving throughout Asia!

India Day 5: they were the best of roads, they were the worst of roads

We started early today to avoid the heat and get a head start on the bad roads. The amazing chef at our hotel made us some kind of fermented pancake slathered with ghee and spices. It was really good and great energy food.

Surprisingly, the roads were the best that we’ve had for the whole trip. Still worse than any European roads, maybe on par with Albania. As always, they varied from freshly paved to almost gravel.

Traffic was almost non-existent though. It was a very quiet ride down the coastal roads with a lot of climbing and some spectacular views.

I found a coastal road on OpenStreetMaps that was listed as “unpaved” but saved us a bit of climbing and about 10 kilometers. Given how bad the paved roads have been, though, we were a little reluctant to try it out. We waited until the turnoff and decided to give the dirt road a try. At first it was actually quite nice, going by fancier hotels and beaches, but quickly it became an under-construction road with just a bed of gravel and 10% grades. We had to walk some of it, and at the end, the road turned into a path so narrow that we had to go single file along with a few other pedestrians and motorcycles. I think it was worth it to go the road less traveled, but Steve was upset about his butt hurting from all the bumps. But we did get to see some water buffalo swimming in a stream! (Plus lots of cows… There are cows everywhere if you haven’t gotten that by now. We may even stop talking about them. They’re like pigeons in New York City; everyone ignores them except the tourists.)

We rode through an actual working fishing village. Small ocean-front and ocean-view homes, not for holidays, but for sleeping after a hard day work on the boat. Women selling fresh fish on the main street and drying fish skins for something. After seeing many Greek fishing villages that are more tourist spots than fishing spots, it was really interesting to see a place like this with 0 tourists (well, I guess there were two!).

Not wanting to make the mistake of skipping lunch before the ferry, we stopped in the tiny ferry town of Dabhol and found a snacks vendor with a couple tables behind the desk and some photos of plates of food with Marathi letters next to them. We hopefully asked, “thali?”, and they motioned us to sit down. While eating, we were entertained by a toddler crawling around and tugging on our shorts and a gentleman who sat down beside us and spoke a few words of English and wanted to know about our trip.

The ferry was easy, once we found it, and on the other side the road surface immediately got better, and the area started to look more upscale. And, our Airtel service started working again, kind of!

I found a hotel with good reviews online in Guhagar and showed up at the door and asked to see some rooms. The one English speaking guy said he’s a cyclist himself and was glad to have us and gave us his locked storage room to keep our bikes along with his. He also said we just missed another group of cyclists 2 days ago, riding the Tour of Deccan. Indeed, we had seen “TOD” painted on the road, and I remember reading about this on another cycling blog. I googled it, hoping we might catch up with them, but they’d just gotten to Goa, finishing their tour that day.

We walked around town and tried to find a SIM card with a different company, but no one had them. So we took a walk on the nice beach, where kids were riding camels and families riding horse drawn buggies back and forth along the beach, then ate a nice vegetarian thali for dinner and went to bed.

India Days 1-4 Photos

Sailing away from Mumbai’s Gateway of India.

Arriving at Mandwa just before we began cycling.

The patio of our first hotel.

The staff posed for selfies with us.

Veg thali by the amazing chef at our hotel in Kelshi.

Door and window in Kelshi.


People working in the fields.

The beaches in this region are almost untouched.

Fishing boats in a natural harbor.

Palm grove behind our hotel in Kelshi.

Not sure what this is, cool building.

We’ve seen lots of cows but this is the first with jewelry.

Ferry map of the Maharashtra coast. Lots of ferries, not a lot of bridges.

Another cool old building.

India Day 4: learning the customs and history

We had a nice lazy rest day in Kelshi, a super quiet beach town in the middle of the jungle. It’s the kind of town that you would probably never think of if you thought of an Indian beach town. The beach is surrounded by agricultural fields (rice?) and the town is small and quiet. It is nice to be so far away from crowds and especially tourists; we are the only westerners in town I think, though there are other Indian tourists from other parts of Maharashtra. We are enjoying it while we can because we will be in tourist-filled Goa in a week.

Our hotel has an amazing chef on staff who made us all three of our meals and told us we were doing it all wrong! He’s got quite a fiery personality, but because he speaks in Marathi, we miss all of his jokes. He has the other guests giggling, though, and he invited a group into the kitchen to give them some tips.

We asked for dinner at 7pm, and when we came down, he asked why are you eating so early? It should be 8:30 or later for dinner. He speaks English really well but doesn’t understand our American accent, so we didn’t get a clarification, but a couple at a neighboring table overheard us and asked if he could help. He said that it’s typical to eat 7-8pm, but there is no set time, so don’t worry about it.

We saw them drinking chai, so after our dinner, we asked for two. “Tea, now?! Okay…” We wondered aloud what we’d done wrong since the other table had ordered it, and he spoke up again and explained it’s usually had in the morning, but some people (like them) enjoy it after a meal or before bed. Okay, one more lesson learned!

The other thing we are trying to master but haven’t figured out yet is eating with our hands. No one has said anything to us about doing it wrong, and some have told us just use a fork and spoon, it’s no big deal. But sometimes they bring our food with no utensils, and we feel like we should be able to master this! I mean, the fork hasn’t been around forever! We already know that eating with the left hand is absolutely forbidden, so we haven’t made that faux pas. But when they bring chapati (like a soft flour tortilla) along with dal (lentil soup), how the heck do you eat soup with that?? After watching some YouTube videos, we’ve learned that there are two tricks. First, as we go further south, we will get rice instead of chapati, so we can mix the rice with the curry or dal and eat it that way. Or we learned a technique for folding up a piece of chapati into a spoon shape and scooping up the dal that way. More practice is required…

Another custom that’s not as easy as YouTube makes it out to be is the head wobble. Apparently in Maharashtra, the head wobble is particularly pronounced, and we’ve noticed that often they will wobble without speaking. It means anything from hello to okay to yes to maybe. Each meaning is subtly different, and we are slowly picking up on it and also trying to emulate it.

We are finding that, except for younger people, the women here are much more guarded when we say hello to them. While most guys will instantly respond back and smile, most women give us an incredulous or worried look, though many do smile or wave. Being in a different culture, I have to stop myself from jumping to judgments or conclusions, so I will just leave it at that and see if we learn more about the gender differences as we spend more time here.

We spent a lot of time lounging around the hotel, so I downloaded a history book on India and am enjoying reading about some of the ancient history of the subcontinent. There’s a nice palm grove in the back of the hotel with walking trails and a swinging bench.

We walked around town again, and it was very sleepy on this Sunday. Tried to say hi to everyone we met, and most people responded with a head wobble at least, but we don’t get nearly as much attention off the bikes as on!

Since our internet has been kind of working, I planned out our routes all the way to Goa, uploaded them to my GPS unit, and made sure there are hotels we can find in each stop. So even if we don’t get internet again, at least we will know where to ride! I also reduced our expectations to 60km/day, as that’s all that’s realistic with the roads and heat. Should be in Goa in about 6 more days.

(Tried to upload photos, but it’s timing out…)

India Day 3: kids are awesome!

(Daily stats moved to the bottom.)

Kids ruled the day for us! So many happy smiling faces everywhere we looked, walking down the street, in cars, on motorbikes, playing in the yard. And almost all of them, when we rode by, their faces lit up and they yelled “hi” or “hello”. A few even chased us for a few seconds. The adults who had kids with them were good spirits and also waved and smiled.

One young man (maybe 12ish) sat down next to me on the ferry and laid into me with a hundred questions in flawless English. “Where did you start?” “Did you fly here?” “How far are you going?” “Do you really eat hamburgers a lot?” “How old are you?” “He’s only 49?” (About Steve lol!! I responded, “I know, he looks older, huh?” and he made a cute kid Indian head wobble!) And on and on. It was really fun to talk to him.

It was another hard day cycling, mostly towards the end. The first section before the ferry was mostly well-paved and flat-ish around the town of Harihareshwar, a popular pilgrimage spot for its well-known temple. But after the ferry, the road was steep, twisty, and horribly paved. Combined with the the heat, humidity, and the fact that we stupidly missed breakfast AND lunch, it was the hardest day we’ve had since the mountains of Albania. Even on the down hill, we could only go 10kph due to the road surface. We had a protein bar for breakfast, thinking we would have an early lunch. At 11:45, we passed a few restaurants but decided to get to the ferry and cross, and look for restaurants on the other side. Well, there weren’t any. Luckily, we had raided a few road-side snack shops (they are all over the place!) and had a decent stock of chips and cookies. ₹5 (8¢) per bag! And we had a spicy potato sandwich on the ferry. But it wasn’t enough.

Thankfully, at the top of the 150m climb, there was a snack shop just as we were out of water. There was a guy having a chat with the shop owner who spoke good English, and we chatted with him for a while. We topped off our bottles, had a really good mango juice, and bought a few more snacks before continuing on. The fellow we chatted with told us that Airtel (the cell phone company that provides our SIM card) doesn’t work in this area. He said Idea or Vodafone is the best. I think our Project Fi phones roam on Vodafone, so they have been kind of working, but as soon as we are able, we will pick up an Idea SIM. India has a mess of cellular coverage and companies, and none of our hotels have had WiFi, so it’s going to be tricky to stay online.

Last night I was able to search for hotels and found a few in Kelshi, another beach town. So we headed for there. We rolled by a beautiful homestay called Cozy Cottage and asked the woman there if she had a room free. It looked like it might be over our budget, but we figured we’d try. She didn’t speak English, so she called someone on the phone and motioned for us to sit and poured us some water. A few minutes later a gentleman showed up on a motorcycle and said he would show us a few rooms in different places. I’m not sure if he owns all these places or if he was just helping translate. He kept inviting us to come visit his hotel later but apologized that there were no rooms available right now. The room at Cozy Cottage was immaculately clean, well appointed, and had air conditioning, but was ₹3500. We prefer not to have AC, and that’s pricey, so we asked to see other places. We followed him 1/4km down to another homestay on the other end of the spectrum. The staff there explained it was made up like a traditional Konkan home from 100 years ago, and it looked like a really cool place for ₹700 per person including all meals. But, it was kind of like a hostel with tiny basic rooms and shared bathroom and shower. I think it would have been a great experience to share meals with other travelers, and we will choose one of these places in the future, but we decided to check out the hotel across the street instead. For even less, just ₹1000 ($15), we got a nice room with free breakfast, private bathroom, balcony, and fan. And we can keep the bikes on the balcony, and they will cook us a veg thali dinner (small extra cost). Sold!

We took a walk down to the beach, and it’s gorgeous, huge by American standards, and relatively clean by Indian standards. So we decided to take a rest day tomorrow and go swimming.

On the way to the beach, we saw two beautiful women carrying bowls on their head. We’ve seen this all over India, and I’m sure you’ve seen photos, but we wanted to take one ourselves, so we asked. They said no! For all the photos we’ve posed for so far, we felt a little disappointed. Oh well, we will ask some others. Meanwhile, Steve snuck a few of some other women. We have some photos we want to share, but the Internet isn’t good enough to do that yet.

I tried to find an Idea store to buy a SIM, and someone pointed us in the right direction, but it was closed. Probably closed tomorrow, Sunday, too. Oh well, I’ll try at our next city. But, right across the street was a Kingfisher sign! I haven’t had a beer since we left Mumbai, and it’s Saturday, so I went to buy one. Strangely, an older man in the store motioned us to a back room. We know that some of these cities are dry, so at first we thought that I had to drink the beer on premises and couldn’t take it away. But after some back and forth, I think he just wanted to chat. The language barrier was already close to impossible to navigate, taking 5 minutes to figure out what he was saying, so we politely declined.

Dinner at our hotel was one of the better veg thalis that we’ve had, and the cook was very friendly, telling us about the weather and food in this region. He said the food is not typically very spicy here because the weather gets really hot, so offered us a green chili pepper to spice it up. I found it perfectly spiced, so I hope I can handle it when we get to more spicy areas.

After our rest day, we will need to decide whether we will continue cycling along the rough coastal roads or head inland to the “Route 66”, where we’ve heard the roads might be better (but don’t know for sure). Our bikes and bags are really taking a beating from these rough roads! Today, Steve’s front brake came loose from all the rattling and nearly fell off the bike. Then his chain fell off, and while fixing it, I noticed another screw that was about ready to fall out. Our bags are holding up so far, but we have to stop every few hours to tighten the straps and bolts that hold them up or else they slip down and start rubbing the tire. If we were only touring India, we’d have mountain bikes with suspension!

Date: 2017-10-28
Start city: Diveagar
End city: Kelshi
Distance (km): 70
Climbing (m): 650
Route description: mostly coastal roads
Road conditions and traffic: some of the nicest roads and some of the worst. The nicest were freshly asphalted with lots of room. The worst were so bad that it was better to ride in the dirt besides the pavement, and so narrow that we had to get in the grass when there was a car (not often, thankfully). Traffic was very light all day.
Weather: up to 43C but drier than yesterday, still humid AF
Stops: ferry to Bankot

Angels all Around us ????

As we left Europe last week after pedaling from Lisbon, Portugal to Athens, Greece over a period of 7.5 months, I was instantly reminded of how blessed and fortunate we truly are in so many different ways which in turn made me think of the “angels all around us”.

These angels come in many forms from the ones watching over us from up above, to the living family and friends we left behind, and to the ones we’ve met so far along this amazing journey.

First I’ll start with the biggest angels we left when we began the journey, and that’s our Mom’s, Dad’s, and Sisters (Michelle, Lisa, Debbie, Tammy, & Heather).  They’ve supported, encouraged, and prayed for our safety on a daily basis, and we definitely feel their love surrounding us.  We were able to spend some quality time with all of them before we departed by visiting Rhode Island, Indiana, Tucson, and Boston which meant so much.  Keeping in contact with them via text, and the occasional phone call to our parents is a true blessing with modern technology.

Our friends Darin and Russ who we left multiple totes with of “stuff” that we couldn’t get rid of as we mimimalized our lives in preparation for this trip are deeply missed.  By texting and sending them postcards we keep in touch but we really miss both of them and thankful for all they’ve done for us from having our mail forwarded to them to Darin sending us care packages along the way…(thanks again for the Peeps you sent to France back at Easter).  We feel the love and energy from all our Mo’s ALC friends/teammates and love keeping in touch through Facebook messenger or WhatsApp with these special angels as well.  With both of us calling San Diego our home away from home (Steve-17 years/Tim-8 years), we are fortunate to have the love and support from so many people and again enjoy the communication we continue to have with them so many miles away.  The comments on the blog and/or social media posts from everyone means so much to us and feeds our engery throughout the journey.  

People that we meet along this journey will often ask us what do you miss from back HOME, and we both always answer “our family and friends”.  We’ve met some amazing people in the 11,000 kilometers we pedaled across Europe, and the hardest part is that we only get to interact with them for one day and maybe sometimes two if we happen to take a rest day.  During our Europe trip we had the pleasure and opportunity to see so many friends from home which made it a little easier and they even brought us Caramel M & M’s to Croatia, which were consumed before the ferry arrived in Hvar from Split.  

I’ll never forget the “angel waitress” that gave me Raki to heal the fresh wound on my elbow from falling off my bike on some railroad tracks in Croatia.  During that fall I cracked my helmet once again reminding me why we wear them and why everyone that cycles should.  We will never forget all our Warm Shower Angels (especially Ana & Diego after a full day of rain from Seville to Jerez), that hosted us in Portugal, Spain, Croatia, and Turkey.  We won’t forget our friend and angel Matteo (an ALC hero we met in 2015) that we met up with in Italy for our ride into Venice, and then he met us again in Croatia to bring a care package that took forever to arrive from the states.  We also had some amazing couch surfing and Airbnb hosts that welcomed us into their homes with the warmest hearts and treated us as if we were their family.  

Finally, for me, (Steve), I know that I have some amazing angels watching over us from up above.  Most days while I’m pedaling and looking at the beautiful scenery around me and keeping my eyes also on the road I often glance down at my Garmin (GPS device) and see two different sets of numbers that remind me of my beautiful Grandma’s.  The first number is 57 (in kilometres) which is the ever so young age that my Grandma Carnes was taken from our family way to soon.  The second number I see a lot is 1111 (I see this in the time almost daily or elevation gain once in awhile)  which was the address of my Grandma Greiwe (my Mom’s mother).  When I see these numbers it brings a smile to my face and makes me aware that they are watching out for us from up above just as they did when they were alive.  These two women forever formed the cornerstones of our families existence and taught me so much that I still carry in my life today and always will.  I’ve named my bicycle Edward Vincent which is the name of my Mom’s oldest brother who passed away a couple years ago.  He’s always held a special place in my heart as a man of principle who did so much for others in his 30 years of missionary work in Indonesia (that we hope to visit while we’re on the Asia part of our tour now), and when he returned to the states in 1995.  I think of my uncle Ed often and wonder what parts of the world he saw and just know he’s keeping an eye on our safety and we’ll being too.  I think of several friends who were taken by cancer in their 40’s and wish they could’ve kept on living to enjoy a full life with their families and friends or done a similar trip of travel like we’re on.  I think of many friends of mine who’ve lost their parents unexpectedly in the last couple of years and wish I could help ease their pain as they didn’t get to properly say goodbye to them.

We have definitely felt the “angels all around us” as we acclumatted to a new continent and culture by arriving in India a week ago.  While we know Asia isn’t the first or second choice of destination travel for many family and friends, we’ve been looking forward to this part of the trip so much, so stay tuned.  

India Day 2: we ain’t fitting in that!

Date: 2017-10-27
Start city: Murud
End city: Diveagar
Distance (km): 29
Climbing (m): 250
Route description: coastal roads to Dighi ferry, then roads to Diveagar
Road conditions and traffic: road conditions same same as yesterday, but much less traffic overall
Weather: much more humid but not as hot, partly cloudy
Stops: waiting for ferry
Another day feeling like a celebrity cycling through India! We swapped contact info with the family we met last night and then took some selfies with our hotel staff and got on the bikes.

We didn’t get going early enough though (after 10), and it was super humid already. Within 30 minutes, we were both drenched, which didn’t happen right away yesterday. The family we’d met the previous night suggested stopping just 25km away at Diveagar, so we started to consider that option.

We showed up at the ferry dock that’s listed on Google Maps and OpenStreetMaps, and someone pointed us down an alley where a bunch of people were walking. Lots of vendors selling juice and coconut milk were there, and one of them at the end of the alley told us, “you have to go to Agardanda”. Not believing him, I walked down the steps at the end of the alley and saw the reason why we couldn’t go this way. A tiny boat that should hold 8 people was packed to the brim with probably 20, some hanging off the edge by the rail. Nope, we ain’t gonna fit on that!

He showed me on Google Maps where the ferry was and we headed off for 7km more. We had to ask a few times because the roads to the ferry don’t show up on my map and our Internet wasn’t working. But finally we arrived at the car ferry just as it was finished unloading. We boarded with our bikes and were soon joined by 8 motorbikes, 4 cars, and a truck overflowing with cargo. Oh, and one goat, who curled up behind Steve’s bike and watched the world go by.

And then it started. I don’t mean the boat, though that also started on its short journey after a 45 minute wait. I mean, the photos. I think that every single person on the boat took our photo, some surreptitiously, others just right in our face without asking, and a few who asked us to pose for selfies. Several guys on the way off wanted us to pose with the bikes and took more photos and more selfies. We all shook hands after, like you do in a receiving line. We had a great time chatting (as much as possible with our limited language skills) and posing with everyone. I asked Steve afterwards, “do you think we’ll ever get tired of that?” I don’t think so… After 8 months in Europe where people think you’re crazy if you smile at them, it’s so nice to be in a country where people smile and wave at strangers. The only weird thing are the ones who pretend to take selfies, with the lens conveniently pointed at us. I usually smile, and then they’ll start brushing their hair, like, “no, really, it’s a selfie”. LOL! But folks here have been incredibly polite overall. We never feel like we are being stared at or talked about, even though we probably are, given their photographic interest!

That put us in great spirits for the ride from the ferry, including our biggest climb yet. It’s nothing compared to the climbs we did in Europe, but with the heat, humidity, bad roads, and cows to dodge, it took a lot out of us. (Oh, and we did too much shopping in Greece and Mumbai. Time to pare down our clothes a bit!)

We started thinking about stopping early in Diveagar, a beach town where we know there are lots of hotels and restaurants. We would get lunch and then start knocking on some hotel doors to see if they had vacancy and what the rates are. Without internet, it was impossible to book a hotel ahead or even find where there might be some. Luckily, I had looked the night before and kind of knew the area.

But one problem, we didn’t have enough cash, and we didn’t know where we might find an ATM! I stopped every few kilometres and finally found a spot with just barely a signal and googled for ATMs. Only two on our route. The first wasn’t there (or we missed it in the intense city bustle), but the second thankfully was, though it took three tries before it gave me anything! I was envisioning sleeping on the beach for the night… Close call, we will plan ahead more from now on whenever we have internet.

Of course, this whole day, we’ve been getting waves and smiles and amused grins from almost everyone we’ve passed. We’ve been happily waving back, honking our horn, and calling out “hello!” (which is pretty much the same word in Hindi I believe). Whenever we stop, someone will walk up to us and ask if they can help or if they can take a selfie. One guy was curious about my GPS unit and pointed at it and said, “map?”. When I said yes, he looked impressed and poked his friend and said something and they smiled.

Not knowing where the hotels might be, we just randomly started cycling through the streets of the beach town, mostly through residential areas, then by the beach access, but finally found some hotels. The first was all booked up, but the second could give us a non-AC room within our budget, including breakfast. We actually didn’t even use the AC last night, so we’d prefer not to pay for it. It has been relatively cool in the evening (just humid) and we are getting used to it. It’s better than going between outside and AC, which just alternates from too cold to too hot.

Lunch was a delicious all-you-can-eat veg thali at a busy place 5 minutes away for 110₹ ($2). They just kept filling our plates until we said stop. The thali was pretty standard compared to what we’ve been getting but very tasty: a bit of dal (lentil) soup, another spicy tomato and potato soup, an okra vegetable mix, some spicy beans, a bit of chili paste, and a bite of hot pickled mango. On the side is one papadum (flavorful crispy wafer) and two chapatis (like a soft flour taco but better!). And a little sweet ball of dough soaked in syrup for dessert. You’re supposed to eat it all with your right hand, but we haven’t mastered that yet, so we usually use a spoon, though we are getting better at picking up food with a piece of chapati. We also ordered some white rice on the side to mix with the dal. My understanding is that chapati and bread is more common to the north, and rice is more common to the South. Here, apparently you can do both.

The hotel had a paper map!! So we are going analog since the Internet has been flaky. Of course, the map is in Hindi (or maybe Marathi, I can’t tell), so, yeah… But at least I might be able to learn enough to match up the squiggles on the map with the road signs for city names.

So by doing 25km today, we are already a day behind the schedule I’d made, but honestly we’ve been having so much fun so far that I couldn’t give a damn about any schedule. I made it only as a guide that we could refer to without internet, as some sections don’t have many hotels so we have to plan a little ahead. Otherwise, we are going to go as far and fast as is fun and stay as long as we want. We have 6 months on our Indian visa and monsoons don’t start until May. This is going to be an incredible trip!

India Day 1: Amazing India

Date: 2017-10-26
Start city: Mumbai
End city: Murud
Distance (km): 68
Climbing (m): 300
Route description: ferry to Mandwa, then coastal roads south to Murud.
Road conditions and traffic: a little bit of everything. Dusty, bumpy dirt roads in full sun recently washed out from the monsoon with heavy traffic to quiet newly paved sections through shade trees by the coast. But mostly the road was a pothole filled mess with moderate traffic.
Weather: sunny, hot & humid
Stops: lunch in Kolmandale, a veg thali, coca cola, and chai
Wow, wow, wow. What an introduction to cycle touring in India. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for it. I’ve read dozens of blogs, guide books, articles, etc, but being here on the roads is an experience that’s almost indescribable. But I’ll try.

First, the traffic. It’s a good thing we spent several days in Mumbai to get a feeling for it, because it pretty much works the same way away from the city, just on a smaller scale. There are much fewer vehicles on the road here, but many more cows, goats, auto-rickshaws, and other cyclists. There seems to be a standard Indian bicycle that’s used here, usually very old, rusty, and beat up, but they must be built like tanks.

So, once you accept that there are no real rules for traffic, just a few suggestions that can be broken when needed (like which side of the road to ride on), then everything just kind of works. Just go with the flow, honk your horn if you’re overtaking someone and want them to know (or pretty much just honk your horn constantly), and learn how to play chicken. Also, the bigger the vehicle, the more right of way it has.

The traffic was so slow that honestly I never felt unsafe. The potholes slowed most cars down to 15kph, slower than the bicycles and motorcycles sometimes. Bigger trucks went even slower, and we had to pass several of them! Going up a hill, an auto-rickshaw filled with an Indian family of 4 couldn’t even work up the speed to pass me at 6kph.

From outside, it may seem scary and random and crazy, but I promise that if you just relax and go with the flow, it’s actually quite civilized. I mean, there are 2 year old toddlers toddling across the street, cows taking a nap in the middle of the road (never been hit in its long lifetime), grandfathers on rikety bicycles, and it all just works. Most of the time… I guess there are accidents, but I haven’t seen any.

Steve has had to get used to cycling on the left hand side, which I think is mentally challenging, but he hasn’t made any mistakes yet. And honestly in India, people drive on the right side whenever they want anyway.

The ferry ride was really nice. I don’t know why we were so worried about it, but I’m glad we checked out the ticket booth the day before so we had some idea where to go. We showed up at 8:45, and there was a boat ready to go to Mandwa (I guess the schedule doesn’t mean anything because there is no ferry listed at that time.). There’s no ramp, so we had to jump a small gap with our bikes in hand to get on, but hey we made it. 210R for us and 200R for the bikes. There was a cute kid on board that was really interested in our bikes and we smiled and waved. Other than that, no one paid us any attention.

Getting off the ferry, however, a group of young adults shyly asked if we would do a selfie. Sure!! Snap, snap, 2 phones and 5 pictures later, they shook our hands and said “welcome to India”. How cool! And that wasn’t the last photo taken of us today. Lots of paparazzi were out on the roads, sneaking photos or outright leaning out the window, SLR or smartphone in hand. A few others asked us to pose with them. I hope they got good ones! If you see us on Instagram, tag us lol!

The roads were incredibly varied. The first 5km gave us a false impression that the ride was going to be beautiful traffic-free roads through shaded coastal roads. But soon the roads got worse, the traffic picked up, and the shade went away as the heat increased. Some sections of road were constant potholes, and it was on one of these that a man on a motorcycle pulled along side of us and asked where we were going. When we said Murud, he said the roads were horrible all the way due to the monsoons. He was partly right, we had some wonderful small sections interspersed with horrible ones, but overall they sucked.

The scenery also varied, from gorgeous coastal cliffs to urban city centers with colorful markets to temples and mosques to jungle-like areas and also a few gritty nondescript spots, junk heaps on the side of the road, etc.

But OMG the people. Whenever I felt a bit frustrated by the roads, the heat, etc, someone appeared to cheer me up. Kids’ faces lit up seeing us and called out Hello or Hi! People in the streets grinned and waved. Many gave thumbs up gestures, and on a particularly tough and sweaty 10% grade just as I was about to feel grumpy, a man passed me and made a pedaling gesture with his hands and a big smile. Many pointed cameras at us, and at lunch someone asked for selfies again. A man sat down next to us at lunch and had a chai and used a few English words to ask us some questions. A truck drove by with a group of colorfully-dressed women in the back, happily beating a drum and singing what must be a familiar song to them. As they passed, they all made a gesture upward with their hands just as I waved, completing the verse, and they laughed and smiled and waved back. It has just been astounding how friendly and welcoming everyone made us feel. Even at our hotel after checking in, a family on vacation from Aurengabad invited us to their room for chai and we had a great talk about America, India, local sights, and our travels.

Finding a hotel was easy. Online, there were only 3 places listed for Murud. We looked for the cheapest one but couldn’t find it. But along the main road there were a dozen places that aren’t online with “rooms available” signs up, so we found one with a restaurant that looked good and they showed us an air conditioned room with a shared patio and ocean view. After some back and forth, they said we could put the bikes up on the balcony, so we said sure!

I wonder how many westerners visit Mumbai or Delhi and feel like they’ve seen India. What we experienced today was so unlike our experience in Mumbai that it’s almost a different country. We are so excited to continue our travels through this interesting and friendly place!

Mumbai, you are growing on me!

Have had a great few days exploring the hidden and not-so-hidden corners of Mumbai, and it’s really starting to grow on me. I’m starting to see more order in the hectic energy that makes this city tick.

Leopold’s Cafe is an institution in the Colaba neighborhood, and we enjoyed a lunch here where locals and tourists mixed. We also enjoyed a hip bar called The Social that seems to be a hangout for a young techie crowd. Heard someone at the table next to us pitching his “end-to-end data mining system” to a potential investor.

Kingfisher is the most popular Indian beer. I like it.

We highly recommend the VizEat service again! We had a delicious home made lunch with Prerana and her daughter and talked about all things Mumbai and travel. We wish them a safe journey to Greece and really enjoyed sharing a meal!

The amazing spread Prerana put out for us. Her daughter bragged about her mom’s cooking and told us all of her friends want to visit to have her food. She is absolutely right, yum!!

A mosque, Haji Ali Dargah, on an island that’s visited by many during low tide, when the bridge is passable.

Mahalaxmi Dobhi Ghat, one of the largest public laundries in the world.

Yes there’s a Starbucks, and unlike the ones in Europe, they have their instant coffee that we love. We bought a few for days when we want to have a reminder of home.

Our hotel breakfast is a wonderful mix of Indian and Continental cuisine, and the coffee is good and strong.

There are interesting figures and statues everywhere you look. Will try to take more photos of these.

Indian kitty cat showing off his Royal Enfield.

After some hesitation, we decided to take a tour of the slum from a great company called Reality Tours & Travel. 80% of their profits go back to the community. No photos are allowed, so here are two of theirs. Our impression was one of a tight-knit hard-working immigrant community (from other states of India) doing jobs no one else wants to do to make enough money to improve their situation.

We felt safer in the slum than anywhere else in Mumbai. The kids were awesome, and we had fun giving them high fives, asking their names, and even watch a group giving a burial and funeral service to their pet parrot.

Their community center is called Reality Gives and supports education programs. It was an eye opening experience, and we recommend it for anyone considering a visit to Mumbai.

Tomorrow, we will take a ferry from the Gateway of India to Mandwa and begin cycling South! We are nervous but excited to see the more rural India! All of the locals we talk to say that we will love this part of India.

We tried to buy tickets for the ferry ride tomorrow, but after handing over the 210₹ for the two tickets, we went to leave, and the guy yelled at us. Apparently you have to use the tickets immediately. He graciously gave our money back in exchange for the tickets. He did confirm that bicycles are allowed, though I’m not sure he understood our question. I think that in India, if we show up with bicycles, things will be figured out. It doesn’t seem like the kind of place with a lot of rules…


Here are the anti-mosquitoe products that have been recommended. We are going to use all of them since you can’t be too safe. Because of the intense monsoon season this year, there is still standing water in parts of the city. The malaria risk is relatively low but there are other mosquito-born illnesses like chikungunya and dengue fever.

The top left are citronello stickers that you can put on clothing. We will try these when we are cycling since our sweat might wash off any repellant we use.

The Good Knight plugin is for hotels that don’t already have repellant. It releases a repellant into the air of your room to keep the bugs away, like burning a citronella candle.

The cream is a DEET cream that’s supposed to feel better on your skin than sprays. (We have spray also.)

Not looking forward to having toxic chemicals on our skin and in the air but I think it’s better than the alternative…