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Citation du moment
« Il n'y a pas de bonnes habitudes. L'habitude, c'est une façon de mourir sur place. »
Albert Quentin - Un singe en hiver

Chiang Mai

28 Jan 2014 | Chiang Mai, Thailand


Visa in the pocket, we take an overnight train to Chiang Mai to save some time, so I could be the following day at the local chinese consulate where they are a bit more flexible: a detailed itinerary will do in lieu of plane tickets!

The few days waiting for that visa, we visit Chiang Mai a bit which would be very nice without the hordes of tourists (easy to identify: most of them wearing trousers with elephants on, mystery...); and we also hitchhike for a couple of days in Pai wich is also very touristy but a bit more relaxed.

Shutdown Bangkok?

21 Jan 2014 | Bangkok, Thailand


Back to Thailand! This time no hesitation, we walk out of the airport and hitch our way directly to Pierre's place. The first guy to take us before we even take a thumb out is Polish (as usual, Polish people are everywhere to take hitchhikers), and then we slowly get on, getting a lot of rides from all kind of people
We get there with the night while a wedding is being celebrated so we join the party, Pierre is so happy and surprised to see us :)
Since my last visit, a lot of things have changed, some construction work has been done on the shop, Pierre is now making his own bread and cheese, missing also the French products apparently!
After a week, we make our way to Bangkok, I have some visas to get there as I decided that enought is enought, too hot for me and getting warmer again, I'll go North!

Bangkok is in a revolution status, after some of the highests in power have been convinced of corruption and with the coming elections, the opposition is organizing huge demonstrations with the motto "Shutdown Bangkok, and restart". The protest is quite popular, with most of the business and political centers blocked from the streets, there are lot of camps everywhere, the cith is a big mess.
As we have to stay there for a few days waiting for my Mongolian visa (the Chinese embassy doesn't want to hear anything without a return plane ticket). We stay at Pui's place, whom company is very enjoyable, and we also meet her friends who make a salsa show for the protest. Being there we try to make the best out of the city, walking around, going to the markets, visiting a bit - thanks to Pui who give us good advices of less touristy places to go.

India express crossing

6 Jan 2014 | Nagpur, Maharashtra, India


It's new year day, everyone is packing and updating their plans, most of the people only have a few weeks of holidays and want to make the most of it while they are in India.
It reminds me that I didn't plan anything as of yet, I had first thought of continuing cycling, but my knee is still painful when I cycle, the couple of hundreds kilometers I make going around Goa remind me of that. We finally decide to travel together for a while with Serena, agreeing that it won't last too long as we both enjoy the lonely travel more nowadays :)
So I have to do something with my cycle, I could take it to any cycle shop but I know they will try to screw me not giving much for it, especially here in Goa where I learnt that white man means money... But today is Wednesday, the day for the tourist market in Anjuna beach; so it's decided, I pack everything and cycle the 30km to the market, Serena will join me there and we'll decide what to do then.

When I arrive at the market, I understand it's not gonna be easy task, the sellers are organized in kindof mafia and are not very happy to see a stranger here, I first play with their attempts at discouraging me, but after a while it's not funny anymore. Nevertheless, I finally met Sean, a british guy living in Goa, who design his own shirts and sell them at the market. He is interested in buying the bike but doesn't really know how to do with it as he has he lives next to Arambole, 30km away and has all his stock to take back on his scooter... I feel he is the right kind of man, so I offer to deliver the bike in the evening for free if put us up for the night in exchange, he smiles, 'deal'.

So there we are, he and his housemate are both super nice, interesting and well travelled man, we stay one more day there so we can enjoy Arambole without being stuck in the tourist mass, and we have to refuse the offer to stay more, it feels like otherwise we would still be there after months :D

While we are there, we decide we will go to Thailand, I have a ticket for there in less than a week time from Kolkata (I had taken it in case of control as you are supposed to have an exit ticket when flying in), and also it's alway nice to have a drink with Pierre, especially as he couldn't make it for the wedding and had tried to get the people coming for an after-party at his place. We take a ticket for Serena on the same plane, say goodbye to Sean and hit the road.

We start hitchhiking our way out of Goa, the first people who take us are going straight to Rajasthan, it's very tempting to go with them, but then we take a turn and cross the mountains with a man who stop each time he sees cows or monkey to feed them bread, it's very funny... And so on, hitchhiking in India turns out to be very nice, there are so many kind of vehicles, and people are so kind, even some random 10yo kids wanted to give us money for the bus... We end up the first evening in Miraj, 240km today which is not bad in India but won't make to Kolkata in time. So we decide to take an overnight bus to Solapur, from where we make our way to Nanded and stop for a few hours to have a look at the city of the last Sikh guru, from where is my good friend Radhika. Those Sikh people are so nice, after my experiences in Gangtok and Bangalore I start to know their uses, so we go to the main gurdwara for a ceremony, and then the guard won't let us leave the temple without making sure we enjoyed the free meal which is served in every gurdwara :)

While we walk out of the city, we meet another Sikh who seeing that we are hitchhiking make a few phone calls and find us a direct truck to Nagpur.
Probably the slowest ride ever :D , it took us some 13hrs to make the 300km. The drivers would stop every now and then to have a meal, a drink, a nap... We finally arrive early morning, with the newspaper delivery truck, and decide it's enough hurry! We'll have a day rest here and take the train to Kolkata. I don't like to hurry....!

Nagpur turns out to be a nice and quiet city, I'm happy also I can meet my friend Maansi here just before leaving the country...

Goa frenchies parties

1 Jan 2014 | Siridao, Goa, India


The time in Goa is relaxation! Lot of friends come here for Charle's wedding: travellers from all around, some directly from France whose mission is to bring French cheese, alcohol and other delicacies that we miss so much -and they don't deceive us!-, and also people from Germany who are from another branch of Charle's family. An uncle lend us a full big house so we can organise our little community while the wedding is being prepared and people pour in. Some spend time going around Goa, chilling at home, sharing travel stories and tips... And of course everything is a good excuse for a good aperitif in betwwen party days, such as Christmas, the wedding itself, new year eve... Good friend, good food, good time, it feels like an holiday ;)

Day 8: The end of it!

17 Dec 2013 | Canacona to Siridao - 75km


It's still night when I leave this morning, I can't wait to be there, see my friends, enjoy a good rest and a real shower. But my knee is so painful today, I can't cycle uphill, I can barely walk actually. It takes it some long hours to warm up and becoming a bit usable, even if still painful. But the motivation is still here, and most of the time the road is flat, following the sea, so I give everything I can and make the 75 remaining kilometers to arrive in time for lunch. After roaming around Siridao, playing ping-pong in the streets in between people's indications, I finally find Charly's house. Laurent is also there since a few days. It's quite a surprise for them, and it's so good to see them after such a long time, and relieving after the cycling trip.

As a summary, it was a great experience to cycle India. It was my mistake to push so much at the end while it wasn't really needed, especially as I didn't expect to do such a distance every day -I was planning more on a 60 to 80 km a day. The road are in good conditions, the main roads at least but there are not so much secondary roads for long distances anyway. The traffic is bearable mainly when out of the big axis, only the buses are really dangerous as they always drive full speed and will pass other vehicles even if it means risking to hit you, I had to pull myself out of the road quite many times to avoid them. But it's impossible to drive by night as most people don't make difference between full lights and crossing lights, making you blind every second.
Sleeping outside was always good, even if some people saw me sometime it has never been a problem. Staying clean is easy as there are water tanks everywhere in small villages (except in Goa) that you can use. I never had to buy drinking water, and never ran out of my 0.7L bottle as everyone is happy to refill it at no charge. And eating is never an issue as you find everything you want on the roadside stalls, most of my meals being 20Rs rice plates that fill you up.

Now I need to decide whether I will continue cycling or not, and if so where to.
What do you think Incred!ble India?!

Day 7: Goa finally!

16 Dec 2013 | Honavar to Canacona - 129km


Today I still have some mountain to cross, and it's not so easy with my right knee which takes hours to warm up before becoming usable. Also, approaching Goa, the road change, the people change. There are more and more tourist/money-attracted people trying to overprice everything, and less and less little road stalls selling everything you need. It took me more than thirty kilometers before I can find my morning coconut that day!

But the end is coming, I finally reach the sea, I can admire Goa's amazing landscape, melting sea and mountains, green nature, palm trees... I pass the border after Karwar in the afternoon, and stop before Canacona after 129km, just a few tens of kilometers remaining for the next day!

Day 6: Across the mountains

15 Dec 2013 | Ayanur to Honavar - 127km


Today I'm late, the sun is out before me. The road starts quite flat in the middle of the cereal fields, but soon enough it becomes mountainous. It gets quite steep, and more, and more, and more again! My endless energy is starting to show its limits, my right knee is getting quite painful without giving much of an explanation. Even if I fight against the mountains, I would definitely hand back my dotted jersey. But anyway, my thought is that I started at sea level in Auroville, and I will end up at sea level in Goa, so everything that is going up will also go down eventually. Well, if I had a good bike it could be that, but the stumps of shoes I use as brakes -and I didn't dare checking the cable- don't give me much confidence in the steep downs.

I do a five kilometers detour on the way to stop at the Jog falls, the second highest falls in India. They don't look to be used to have people coming cycling over there... After avoiding the 5Rs entrance fee (no small profit), I can enjoy the view. Well, it is very nice but it would be better to bath in it, which is apparently not in the plan. After taking a few pictures, I meet Shabaz and his family, from Hubli, who invite me to share their picnic lunch, super nice!

I then make my way across the mountain, getting out of that jungle before dawn as I don't really want to sleep with monkeys around. Scoring 127km that day.

Day 5: An unexpected encounter

14 Dec 2013 | Tiptur to Ayanur - 143km


The day starts early as usual, I feel like my energy is endless. I stop at the first village, Arsikere, to buy new flowers to my lady, when an old man sees me and start talking like crazy, saying he is a cyclist blablabla and wants to take me for a drink. I first think he is the local madman, and people inviting me for a drink or a meal are plenty everyday, but they usually means that I am the one inviting them.
Still I go with him and he orders a breakfast for me, saying it's on him. And then he starts to show me newspaper articles with pictures of him, and also letters, and photos. So yes, he is actually a crazy man, but in a good way ;) . So Umapathi Mudaliyar is a 68 years old man, who has been cycling more than 22000km in 23 Indian states, and going on. And also a runner with several gold medals in various disciplines, such an energetic man! And now he is trying to force-feed me to make sure I eat enough for my trip, and I have to stop him from ordering more food!

The rest of the day is spent seeing various doctors for my baby, at first some of the spokes of the back wheel break. The guy take them out for free, hammering with a flat screwdriver, but has nothing to replace them, it will work for a while like that. Then another one fully repairs the back wheel but he is a crook making that three time the normal price. And finally that same wheel experience a puncture, the guy who repairs it tells me that I should change the wheel at the next city as it is in a very bad conditions. He tells me it costs 300Rs. Well, maybe.

In the evening, after all these adventures, I find myself in a quite inhabited area, the few empty spaces are full of big power lines which I refuse to sleep under, and also I dream of a shower (usually I use the public water tanks/wells but didn't see any today) so after asking around I end up having the local government's guesthouse opened for me for the night.

Day 4: Record!

13 Dec 2013 | Bangalore to Tiptur - 154km


I make my way out of the megalopolis with the early lights, long before the traffic jams come. And back to the motorway up to Tumkur. I have my first puncture after 35km, and as it is quite early, I have to wait an hour and a half for the shop to open, and get it fixed.

For the story about my bike, it is a very old Indian bike that I bought for 1500Rs (less than 20€) in Pondicherry a month and half ago for going around Auroville. It had a couple of punctures and breakdowns all that time but served me well. It's while getting the last puncture fixed -which had been going on for a couple of weeks- that I think about taking it with me, I have a front basket installed at the same time and will think about it. The following day I take it to Pondy in the hope of finding cycle bags, but my best find is to wait until 4pm, when the fishermen are back, to have some made. So finally I buy a moped's box and go to the welding shop to attach it somehow. The rest of the modification and maintenance will be made on the way. Here is no need to carry tools or equipment: there are cycle shops almost every kilometer, and having a puncture fixed costs between 10 and 20 rupees (0.15€).

I reach Tumkur around noon, from there I have the choice to continue on the motorway up to Hubli, which is next to Goa, or to turn direction Shivamoga and enter Goa through Karwar, following the coast, which is quite a longer way. My choice is already made: go for the long way and ditch the motorway!

The ride is easy today, all that going up before Bangalore is now going down. So I just sit on my cycle and enjoy the landscape. The night comes just after Tiptur, I have completed a 154km record today!

Day 3: I deserve the dotted jersey

12 Dec 2013 | Krishnagiri to Bangalore - 80km


The sun is rising and I'm already gone. The road is against me today, going up and down, and up and down again. But I feel so full of energy, I really enjoy it. I feel like today I would deserve the dotted jersey (the one that distinguish the best mountain climber in the tour de France). The closer I get to Bangalore, the busier it gets. At some point there is so much reverse traffic that I feel like I am the one driving on the wrong side of the road.
I pass by Electronic City, where I was working back in 2006, and revive the forever traffic jams on Hosur road, it's like nothing had moved since then. But a lot has changed, the road is now very modern, the sidewalk is walkable, even the traffic is so different, there was not so many car back then, mainly buses and tuk-tuks!

I make it to Bangalore around half past twelve. 80km in 6.5hrs, not bad seeing the conditions. I decide I will stop here to have half a day rest.
I cycle a bit around to see how much the city has changed from what I remembered, and eventually make my way to the gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, the Sikh temple, where I ask for hospitality for the night. I had met some Sikh people before, and was explained that hospitality is a big part of their religion, and I can only confirm that it's true, those people are just super nice. They make sure I can enjoy some rest, have a refreshing shower and eat as much as I can, perfect!