The Real India: 3985km

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”

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Ladakh and Spiti aren’t really India. I mean sure, they are technically, but the people don’t look Indian, the culture and language is Tibetan, and it’s clean, cold, and deserted, words never associated with the rest of India. For the past week I have been in the real India though. The crazy, chaotic, busy India, filled with people, cows, and monkeys. An India, that, unfortunately, I wasn’t looking forward to cycling through. Though I will someday visit the rest of the country, it is not an endeavor I plan to undertake with my bike. That being said, my last few weeks have shown me that it’s the people, not only the climate or scenery, that makes travel what it is.

After spending a few days in Shimla, a city described by a friend as, “a tourist resort for Indians,” since it is so popular amongst the wealthy Indian tourists, I set off to try and find my way to Nepal. I wanted to stay up high in the mountains, rather than drop down as the bus route does, and I wanted small roads and villages, not busy highways. I took a photo of google maps which showed squiggly roads headed East, and though I knew absolutely nothing about the area, I set out to see if I could get across. I hoped it would take me up high, over a few passes and back into the cold, but I was proven wrong within the first ten kilometers as I dropped over 1,000m.

The first day of the ride was treacherous. The road was extremely rough, and since it was hot, everything seemed ten times harder. I decided to finish the day out, then take a bus the next day to cover the next forty kilometers which were suppose to be the worst. As I rode by and said “namaste,” to the people I passed, many of them just looked at me as if I was a purple alien with three noses, a disheartening fact when you don’t even get a simple hello back. I was disappointed with the area, and just wanted to get to Nepal.

I arrived at a guest house on the side of the road and asked the price for a room. I had already noticed a nice secluded place to camp across the street, so after he told me the price, which was more than I wanted to pay, I headed over to the spot. At that point the manager came back out, half laughing, and told me he would give me the room for free. The three chefs who worked in the restaurant (I don’t know why there were three, it looked like they hadn’t had business in years) adopted me for the evening, and it was the first time in weeks I had been with Indian men who were polite and unimposing. Halfway through my first glass of chai it started to rain and I decided that was a sign. Since everything had worked out so perfectly, I should continue on cycling instead of taking the bus the next day.

I still did try for the bus but it didn’t stop for me, which ended up being an, “everything happens for a reason” moment. A mere three kilometers into my day I stopped to buy bananas, and within minutes was invited to one of the lady’s homes. Somehow a night’s stay turned into two weeks, and so began my adoption by the whole village of Kot.

2 thoughts on “The Real India: 3985km

  1. Dear Shirene, Nice to have met at chandra taal. Also I’ve sent you some photographs I had clicked with you. I want to follow your path. I do not know when. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog. Seems being there. Happy Deepawali (festival of lights) and my best wishes are always with you.

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