We made it all the way up to the lower Himalayas! We are in Darjeeling in India now, at 2100 meters high. It was the toughest climb we did so far, one day it took us half a day to go 10 kilometers uphill, but we had a view on the 3rd highest mountain in the world to celebrate that we made it!
And as an extra treat we’re enjoying typical Dutch weather: it is 0 to 15 degrees and it even rains! Indian tourists love this somehow, fleeing the heat. For me it means buying gloves, wearing all my clothes (7 layers) asking for extra blankets and sitting next to a heater in a local bar with a nice apres ski kind of feeling.
We are over a month in India now, but it feels much longer. Every day seems to be a new adventure. We meet the most amazing people!
India can also be super intense. I fully understand why people say they can love and hate the country at the same time.
Crossing the border from Burma into India (from Tamu to Moreh) came with so many changes. The people, the surrounding, the weather, the vibe..
In Burma it was quite shocking to see the poverty at some places, the kind of houses they live in or to hear from them how poor they are.
But just over the border in Moreh (India) the houses looked absolutely miserable, kids sat in rags outside, everywhere there was garbage and it really stank of it.
To just set the mood it also started pissing down for the first time since 1,5 month cycling.
Our whole trip in Burma we’ve been welcomed by the people by saying hi to us when passing by, with kids running after us in enthusiasm.
When we said hi to people in India (because it became a habit now to say hi all the time),
they didn’t say anything back and just stared at you. A very strange feeling.
Postponing cycling due to stomach problems, we took a mental taxi ride with a speed-oholic driver and arrived in the evening in Imphal. It was absolutely freezing, coming from 32 degrees in Burma to 13 degrees in Imphal! Really not what we expected!
We stayed at a house via Warmshowers (cyclers couchsurfing option) and I was lucky the hostess was an Ayurvedic doctor! I got meds from her for my stomach and we had a great dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
We stayed here for 3 nights enjoying their generosity! In that way nothing changed, people here are just as giving and generous as in all other traveled countries so far, it’s amazing!
The food in India is great! It is much less oily than Burmese food. All restaurants here are called hotels, which is quite confusing when you search for a place to sleep 😉
We also discovered quite quickly that the cold weather made everyone sleep in late. Our cycling rhythm in all other countries made us stand up early (6am) to start cycling at around 8.30 am to avoid the heat and traffic.
Now, when we stood up, the streets were empty and we had a hard time to find a place for breakfast, because everything was closed.
From Imphal we had to take once more public transport over the mountains to Silchar,
because we still felt not well enough for a tough climb.
We stepped in the 4 wheel drive thinking we had the taxi to ourselves and it soon changed into a human sandwich with 11 people in it on a 10 hour trip!
Finally arriving in Silchar in the evening I found amazing, the first sight of an Indian buzz: lots of people, sounds of salesmen and traffic, and cows in the middle of the roads!
In Imphal everything closed down at 7pm due to political tensions, here life seemed to start at this time! Eating dinner before 20.30 o’clock was suddenly a strange thing to do.
After one week in India we finally started cycling again and just to make it easy for ourselves, the first cycle was directly 3 days only up hill towards Shillong.
Every time we stopped for a break or to look at the map, people came towards us. It started with one or two but soon there was at least a group of 20 people.
They just stared at us, saying nothing. Till there was someone in the crowd who dared to ask something.
Many people also wanted to have a selfie with us (or mostly with me, the white one), and quite often they were not even interested in talking to us, they just wanted a picture to show their family. Once in a while a photo was ok, but sometimes..
From their car or motorbike they would ride dangerously close to the bicycle, shouting: Selfie, selfie, please! Then they would stop somewhere in front of you on the road, begging you to stop too. It became quite annoying at times.
You just have to start saying no, otherwise you never reach your next destination.
At one point while cycling uphill a lady on the road called us over in Hindi from her shop,
we said hello but we really didn’t feel like stopping for probably another selfie.
But she wasn’t planning to let us go. She started running after us on her flip flops and in her sari, begging us with a big smile to stop. This enthusiasm made us laugh so much and we stopped. She invited us for a drink and even if we could not understand each others languages we had a great time! In the end we were the ones to take a selfie with her!
The more we travel, the more we get to know the country through the stories of the people. And by traveling in India, I learn more about myself then I did in other countries.
I am slowly learning to say ‘no’ to all the selfie attention, without feeling guilty about it 🙂 There are soooo many Indians, personal space is not really a thing here, and it takes time to adjust.
In the lower Himalaya’s however they seem to have space enough and people never ask for selfies here. It feels like a holiday away from ‘the real India’.
But now, after being here for 2 weeks it is time to leave the mountains, the clouds and the cold to go to the ‘mainland’ again and make our way to Nepal.