A tale of endless stairs: Annapurna Base Camp

Once upon a time, these two little human beings arrived in Pokhara to sit down, take a breath, relax and rest for a while. Seeing the magnificent mountains a restlessness awakened and the future took a totally different turn. Every moment of the day the mountains seemed to be calling, asking for a visit, but when asking around people said all hikes were closed due to snow and cold. When hardly any time was left, they suddenly heard a different story. The way to Annapurna Base Camp was open! Temperatures going way below freezing point, but an accessible path leading the way, all the way to a height of 4130meters. No doubts left, the next day the essentials were bought, the backpacks were made and late at night heads were laid to rest with a great adventure ahead. The next morning they took a ride to Kande and left there with only a crappy map, the urge to discover the unknown and the snowy mountains ahead to guide the way. As so often, the beginning was the hardest part, endless stairs leading the way upwards till the top of the first mountain was reached. Or looking back at it, the top of a hill at 2200meters. Up and down it went. From the top of the mountain down to the river flowing way below in the valley and back up again to the top of another mountain. More stairs than you can imagine. A walk challenging you mentally when making your way up, hiding more stairs around every corner. Just when you think no more stairs exist in the whole wide world they pop up in front of you. When you think you have nearly reached the height you need to be that day, you go all the way back down to where you come from to subsequently climb back up to an even higher point. Slowly slowly, shanti shanti, one breath a time and one foot before the other the two little human beings reached a higher point every day. Every day they got a little more scared, would they have trouble with the height? Would acute mountain sickness hold them back? They had heard the most terrible stories going from constant headaches, dizziness and sleepless nights to people who couldn’t get out of bed and had to be taken to lower heights by helicopter. Luckily, it all remained faraway stories. Combatting a daily height difference of at least 2000meters they reached Annapurna Base Camp after three and a half days of walking. Slowly feeling the lack of oxygen breathing became more tiring and climbing more challenging as they were confronted with their own physical boundaries. This was fully compensated and quickly forgotten by the unbelievable sceneries. A different world hidden between the highest mountain peaks of the world. Heaven and earth coming together. Glaciers and frozen waterfalls. Sharp landscapes and falling stones. Natures terrain. Nature being in control instead of people trying to bend the land to their own will. Powerless little human beings against the power of the earth, but there is a crack in nature and the earth carries many scars. One day it were glaciers, now it are merely enormous cracks filled with sand and dust. A view that nearly brings you to tears. The scar will disappear over time and the glacier will remain a simple memory fading away, but never shall it return in all its glory. Even so close to heaven people have left there mark, but still so many among us refuse to believe in rising temperatures. If you have your doubts about how we human beings are slowly destroying our own world, fight your way up to these mountain peaks, dive into our oceans and take a deep breath amidst of our endless traffic. Slowly you may start to see the scars, the plastic islands, the disappearing forests and the pain it inflicts on so many who directly depend on nature for life.

After many emotions and thoughts awakened by such scenery the way back down began. Back to the world we live in, back to daily life, back to reality. Two days of endless stairs, up and down, leaving the snowy mountain peaks behind and taking a well deserved break at the hot springs in Jhinu. Early in the morning, mist hanging above and cold all around. The only sounds being the ice cold river flowing by and birds eagerly awaiting the first rays of sunlight. A last stop in nature before entering city life. Leaving the hot springs behind, entering civilised world couldn’t have been more hard. After a walk of a few more hours, the bus was reached to bring the two little humans back to Pokhara. A hell of a bus ride! Off-roading on a motorbike may be hard, but off-roading on a bus gives a totally different dimension to life. Never could they have imagined that sitting on a bus could feel so similar to crashing. Bruises, plausible brain damage and smiles out of misery were a fact. Making its way through sand, rivers and mud the bus took at least an hour to reach something that could be called a road according to Western standards, although even this may be open for debate. A total of three hours bus ride, two kilometers of city walk and two kilometers of taxi ride the hotel in Pokhara was reached. Life could slowly go back to what once was called normal with yet another cherished memory to carry along and a silent promise to the mountains to return.

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Two worlds together and yet apart

Before entering Nepal I was pretty sure that it would be quite similar to India, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the moment you cross the border an endless stretch of peace awaits you. Less traffic, less sounding horn and epic sceneries. Sadly this beauty is unmistakeably combined with cold during the month of January, although this also may be beneficial as this keeps many tourists away. Prices lower, places are less crowded, people are happier to see you and all you need is an extra jumper. Luckily prices are effectively lower in non-touristy places as you would expect them to be, while this was certainly not the case in India. The lower the amount of tourists, the more they see you as a walking ATM. Crossing the border from India to Nepal also amazingly shows how women rights don’t have to be related to any religion. Many regions we crossed in India were Hindu, as is the main part of Nepal, but the amount of women you see working, you see walking on the streets as the evening falls and the ease of communication (even without a common language) significantly increases. Of course this are only first impressions, but they give a totally different feel to a country, especially as a woman. Without a doubt I would travel alone in Nepal, while my gut feeling tells me this may not be as good an idea in the non-touristy parts of India. For sure it would be possible, but possible never implies easy. I should add here that this may be explained by the fact that India most likely comprises a huge amount of places that aren’t used to foreigners yet, while this does not seem the case in Nepal.

India, my first love in Asia. Nepal, nature you can only dream of, the garden you cannot live without. Blue waters reflecting the beauty above, mountains taking your breath away (literally when making your way up) and sunsets plunging the surroundings in a magical light. India and Nepal may share a huge stretch of border, but apart from that they are totally different countries. Something like two sisters growing up together, totally different people figuring out their place in the world while trying to get along. Together and yet apart.

Another country that stole a piece of my heart, but isn’t it wonderful to be able to give your heart to the world? So much fighting, so much dispute and yet such an amazing world we live in. A blue planet we get to discover while we are alive. Instead of fighting wars, doing a job that makes us unhappy or discriminating against people we may not know, let’s think and try to figure out what we have to offer to this world that makes it an even more beautiful place every day. Why be unhappy if your happiness and enthusiasm can inspire others? You may not have figured out what makes you happy, nor have I, but every step along the way is one where you can take this thought into consideration.

Differences add a hint of mystery

Often you hear that travelling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer and I truly believe there is a big truth to this saying. It hurts to spend money every day without earning a penny, but it opens your eyes to a different world, it opens your heart to so many people you meet, it broadens your way of thinking and it widens your perspective on how things are and could be. The world is not an easy place, things are never as straightforward as you would like them to be and often aren’t what they seem to be. Whether we like it or not, the way we each see the world is a reflection of who we are, our cultural background and our upbringing. It is so easy to say somebody is doing something stupid, but maybe they have a reason for doing things in such a way, a reason that we fail to see. And this leads to one of the harder things you learn when travelling, question yourself, your views, your thoughts and your judgments. Outside of your comfort zone things may feel strange and uncomfortable, but before you know it, it starts to feel familiar and becomes a place you feel safe again.

For me, it was exactly the same when I started off travelling through India on a motorcycle about 2 months ago. Every evening I felt tired, I felt I was not able to ride in such crazy traffic and I thought it simply wasn’t something I could do. Now, having ridden more kilometres in India than in Belgium or anywhere else in the world I cannot imagine having done it any other way. Every day I am not riding my bike I am at least thinking of it. Often I just go and sit on my bike for a while knowing I am ready to continue our journey to Nepal, the rest of Asia and if all goes well, to South America. Not that it isn’t tiring anymore, for sure it is, but that is simply because you start to ride longer days, bigger distances and more challenging roads.

We are staying in Pushkar, Rajastan till the papers for the last bike arrive and as such celebrated Christmas here, although there weren’t many people with the same idea. Christmas may be an official government holiday in India, but that is about as far as it goes. Maybe some other tourists had the same idea, but as it are mainly Israeli tourists here this also doesn’t add much to the Christmas spirit. Anyhow, we enjoyed it a lot, bought the most amazing gifts for a budget of 10€ and ate a true Christmas dinner in a restaurant for again the stunning price of 10€ for two people. I must admit it, is really strange to be celebrating on your own, but again it shows the relativity of the world. Living in Europe, it seems that Christmas is everywhere, while in India it is just a day gone by. Wonderful isn’t it? The diversity, the differences and at the same time the similarities. The media may try to focus your attention on all the differences in a rather negative way, but through this I want to ask you, let’s stay within the Christmas spirit and try to see the beauty of this planet. I plead you, try to appreciate the diversity this world has to offer instead of judging and see differences as an opportunity to question, to learn and to understand. Isn’t it exactly this diversity that makes our world to an extraordinary place with a hint of mystery? So let’s be different, let’s be mysterious, let’s be us!

Food for thought!

It is hard to capture the huge variety of feelings India awakens inside. Suddenly you understand how close love and hate can be related, how pure happiness can suddenly switch to pure frustration and how endless gratefulness can turn into disappointment. It is hard to find words to describe these many experiences, so bare with me. We left off in Goa heading North going through Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh to reach Rajasthan, a state of desserts, burning sunshine and unbelievable cold. On the way a few simple words, meant well and trying to help me, confronted me with another world: “Don’t talk to other men!” Easy to say, but hard to live by if they all talk to you. Some simple words opening up a whole different world, a world of which we easily forget its existence, a world in which women and men live a totally different life and a world where women certainly don’t ride motorcycles. Women ride scooties or sit on the back, obviously. A world that doesn’t fully make sense to me. On the one hand men should not talk to a lady to be respectful, but on the other hand they follow her around trying to take pictures. The contrasts of India. On the one hand India stands for spirituality and peace, on the other hand it promotes crazy driving and distrust. While trying to eliminate inequality by banning the cast system it promotes what I would call racism. Simply looking at the colour of the skin the prices increase. Imagine such situations happening in Belgium or another European country. You are not from Belgium, well, then you should pay 20€ instead of 2€ for the museum, no problem. Why? Oh well, that is just how I think it should be, that’s all. I am sure it would not take long before such practices would end up in the news. In India, the tourist price is something normal. We visited some beautiful, ancient cave temples and yet again the tourist price was more than ten times the local price (15inr local price compared to 200inr for foreigners). When I commented on it and got a little annoyed about it (read: rather something like very annoyed) the guy behind the counter suddenly lost the ability to speak English. Problem solved! If I would know my money is spent well I would not complain as much, but at the same time the buildings are being ruined due to a lack of care, people carving into the walls and rubbish lying around nearly everywhere. The unfairness goes further than this. In many hotels you are rejected simply for being a foreigner, prices more than double and even when buying food you need to know exactly what the price is for each item or they try to charge you an extra tourist tax. Strangely, this especially seems to happen in places where they aren’t used to seeing tourists. For example in Banswara, a town quite close to Udaipur, we had to go to 10 hotels to find a place to stay. Eight hotels simple told us: “No foreigners”, “Not allowed” or “Not possible”. The other 2 places just highly increased their price, so you simply end up with the choice to pay too much or have no place to sleep. For me this is truly shameful behaviour for such an amazing country and casts a dark shade over all the magnificence this country has to offer with for a major part the government to blame.

In contrast, we are often treated to the most beautiful smiles, offered a helping hand out of nowhere and receive free chai in exchange for a bunch of selfies. Just a few days ago we stopped at a small place along the way to have a chai. We only wanted one, but the owner insisted we took a second one and didn’t let us pay a penny. Probably he is poorer than many we have met during this journey and yet he shows so much kindness having only little and sharing all he has. We all have much to learn from such people! I strongly believe that being kind will come back to you in one way or another, maybe not today or tomorrow, but some day life will smile back.

India, different worlds coming together trying to be one. A beautiful, kind, caring world hiding away so much corruption, frustration, pain and dishonesty. A country with so many layers of hope, despair and pain. So many young faces dreaming of a big future while suffocating in the smog covering the cities, so many wonderful women hardly ever leaving the house and so many men bearing the responsibility of taking care of whole families while never being certain of an income the next day.

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Throwback in time

Travelling through India. It is more than simply travelling through a country, rather it is like travelling through space and time. Landscapes change from beautiful beaches over sandy meadows into rough mountains. A loving kind of landscape into a dangerous and treacherous terrain. So much beauty, and yet so much frustration. If you ask me what my biggest frustration is about India, that is an amazingly easy question to answer: the crazy price difference they charge for visiting places and monuments for tourists compared to Indian citizens or lookalikes. They often easily charge 10 times the price or more for foreigner and they are not ashamed about it. Often it is neatly written down on the board indicating the different prices. Luckily, if you would ask me what I like about this mysterious country in the East, my answer is much longer. It is a country that never stops surprising. When you think you have seen everything, it shows you yet another side of itself. India seems to be more of a little world than a country. A place with many faces combining the old and the new. In the morning you can be stuck in the big city traffic for hours, but when leaving the city you may encounter several farmers pulling a plough by hand through the red coloured earth. Life is everywhere, moving around in a flying colourful manner.

After leaving Kovalam behind we headed up into the mountains at Coonoor, Kotagiri and Ooty to then slowly descent back to the coast at Gokarna while passing through the shimmering National Parks of Mudumalai and Badipur, the lively city of Mysore and the rural areas around Shimoga and Sagar. Roads went from impeccable to non-existent, riding at 70km/hour to moving at hardly 10km/hour while combatting the reddish sand and the rocks. Off-road skills, I am surely still working on them! Reaching Gokarna yet another throwback in time was awaiting us. We found a cute little hut to stay in directly on Kudle beach, and with a hut I really mean a hut. A little hut made from bamboo sticks and the leaves from coconut trees. No floor, only sand to softly place your feet in every morning. No bathroom, just a small bed with several layers of blankets taking over the function of a mattress and a mosquito net hanging above. The sound of the waves breaking on the beach to keep you company. Basic, simple and yet mesmerizing. Dreaming of how beaches must have been when they were discovered by merchants and pirates suddenly feels natural. A life so different, so far away of how we all know it in so many countries and yet so special. It makes me wonder why we make life so complicated when it can be brought back to this simpler, slower version. I could keep on talking about this attractive place, but all I can really say is, if you want to go back to basics and can cope with the lack of, well nearly everything, this is the place to go! For sure it is a place I plan to return to before it loses its beautiful simplicity to the tourist industry. After Gokarna we headed to Goa, surely as amazing as Gokarna, but the huge tourist business has found its way here for already many years. Probably Gokarna still is what Goa must have been many years ago.

Following our stay in Goa we continue our journey further North, towards Rajasthan and Nepal, towards colder climates, desserts and the ancient mountains of the Himalayas. Living on our motorcycles, falling in love with people and the ever changing landscape, moving with time, being frustrated and finding utter peace. Living life, discovering the unknown, observing natural beauty, feeling human kindness and experiencing what the world has to offer.

A piece of me

We finally left Kovalam. I am not sure if it was my heart or my stomach aching when we drove away, but anyway it resulted in some secret tears running down my face nicely hidden away below my helmet. I hate crying in public so a helmet perfectly protects me against that in addition to the plausible head injuries if I would fall. People don’t always realize it, but if I care about them, I really care about them deeply and letting go is hard. It feels like losing another little piece of myself. Slowly I lose myself to the world, to the beautiful people I meet along the way and for who I care and feel deeply. It must imply that something must be true about the saying: ’Home is where you are’. Home is everywhere where you can be with people you care about. Following this philosophy the world can easily become your home.

The last few nights I have been feeling restless. It takes hours to fall asleep simply because my body refuses to calm down, but figuring out why doesn’t seem the easy part. Stressed for our big adventure ahead? In doubt of what I expect from the days ahead? Wondering what I expect from my future, what I want from life apart from travelling? Stressed to leave without having the official papers of one of the motorcycles? That sounds quite plausible. I don’t like it at all, but what can you do? We stayed in Kovalam for more than a month while we were able to buy our motorcycles after only one week. All the rest of the time we have been waiting for the paperwork and discovering the South of India, but when you are able to recognize nearly all the photos on the postcards you can be quite sure that you have been at one place for too long. Not that I don’t want to come back, more of the contrary, secretly I am already planning when I could come and stay here for a bit longer. Relax, practice my surfing, discover the beautiful surroundings and enjoy the good company. So many homes to return to, so many people I will always carry with me in my heart and if you are reading this you are probably one of them. I think that is the hard part of travelling, letting go. Every day I think of so many people that mean something for me without always knowing if I even ever meant something to them, but does that really matter? Maybe life is more about what you can give instead of what you gain. If we are honest that is the only thing we can really control, what we give to others, how we treat them and not how they treat you. The people who really care won’t suddenly disappear, the others are maybe not worth the fight to keep them in your life.

The past month made me realize another difficult part of travelling, more specifically about travelling together with somebody you care about such as your boyfriend. Easily you end up seeing each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, something that is hardly ever the case when living at home. Even though you then may be living together, during the day you are often out for work, studying or seeing friends. In addition, when travelling, you are confronted with the best, but also the worst parts of each other without being able to escape. You have to continue, get through it, talk and find a solution that works for both. Luckily this is facilitated by events that rapidly bring you back together. A perfect example is simply going to a gas station to fill up the motorcycles. I suppose you are currently wondering how this can be eventful in any way, well, here it goes. After filling up the bikes we payed with a note of 2000 inr (Indian Rupee) and had to get back 740 inr. Instead of giving our money back a lady working there suddenly refused the money because there was a miniscule little bit of writing on it. Nobody had seen it till the money reached her hands. We didn’t have any other note nor card within reach to pay such an amount of money. Result? We were stuck there for at least half an hour while she told her story to every possible person passing by. As nearly everybody said she should just accept the money, she finally gave us back the money we deserved, or at least that is what we thought. When we counted it carefully she still had to give us 50 inr more. Reason? Oh, that was the damage we had to pay for the little writing on the note. After even more discussion and finally threatening we would call the police if she would continue like that, we got our money. Only in India! But exactly after such events there is nothing better than to be able to talk and laugh about such craziness with someone you care about.

Life, travelling through time without being able to turn back. Don’t regret the path you chose and adapt along every step. Love intensly, smile full of joy, care unconditionally, take a deep breath and open your eyes to the world we all live in.

First Indian riding experiences: falling down and getting up again

Motorcycling in India. In the cities, no fight, just struggle. A few hours of pushing you in between all the other traffic, sounding your horn nearly constantly, losing your companion for a while and sometimes secretly cursing inside of your helmet, but when you get out it is all worth it. Especially the small, winding roads are simply amazing. Of course you cannot always really talk about a road, sometimes there is only a teeny tiny bit of tarmac left in the middle, but that is a good challenge and a perfect way to practice my off-road skills. Not that I had any before I arrived here, but we all need to learn sometime. And sadly, sometimes you need to learn the hard way. The third time there was a major part along the road without any tarmac it started to rain. And like I described previously, not everyday rain as people in Europe are used to. For sure not. Real monsoon rain, although to be correct I should call it real second monsoon rain. Within a few minutes we were drenched right through our motorcycling gear with even our underwear being soaked. Luckily we were wearing a helmet to keep our head dry. After a few kilometers slowly making our way through the mud, which had become more of a river by now, it happened. It felt like something hit the backside of my motorcycle, probably my luggage made close contact with a rock in the middle of the road, although I still don’t know for sure what actually happened in that moment. I started to slide away. Apparently I first made a little jump into the air, but I cannot say I remember any of that. All I saw was that I was heading towards the only few meters along the road without any railing, ready to make a fall of 3 meters. I am not able to tell you what I did or what happened at that time, but I do remember my boyfriend shouting, asking if I was okay and getting up from below my bike while the front wheel was hanging over the edge. A few centimeters further and the bike had fallen down, with me or without me, who knows. A stupid slip together with some bad luck suddenly makes you realize how easily an accident can happen. It took me a while to realize how different things could have been, but at the same time it so beautifully highlights the importance of enjoying life. Not just that one time, not only that holiday once a year, not only when that one special person is around, no, take your life into your own hands. Set your own goals, target your own happiness and know that life is special. Don’t give up on what you believe in. Failing is simply something along the road to reach your goal. So is falling. With some help we picked up my bike, got it out of the mud and continued our way towards our destination of the day. I must admit, the first time I had an off-road like road again I felt scared to fall, but quickly you feel that you nor your bike feel the urge to fall down again and after 3kms at 10km/hour or less we found an excellent road to continue our small travel of the day.

We have visited all places where we planned to stay in the South of India, down to the most southern tip of India, Kanyakumari and now we are back in Kovalam waiting for our official documents. For one bike they have arrived, so only one more to go. Luckily something you certainly train here in India is patience. And if we are honest, if there is something we have it is time and doesn’t time make you the luckiest person in the world?

Blackout, bikes and an adventure ahead!

Bye electricity! I am sitting here behind my little computer, writing to you from a room covered in darkness using a headlight to be able to look around at least bit. Rain has been pouring down all day. Not rain like I know from Belgium, but rain like the end of days has arrived. Rain that gets you soaked till your underwear within a minute. Rain like rain should be during the monsoon, only this time the real monsoon season should already have passed. As this is India this goes hand in hand with the obligatory blackout. A whole town without electricity. A world covered in darkness. Not an orange sky, no lights pouring from the windows, no rapid solution. Only small lights pupping up in the midst of the dark from peoples phones, candles placed on the tables, headlights from a vehicle passing by and torches lighting the way ahead. Life continuous at a slower pace. It has it charms. Of course it limits your plans for the evening, but at the same time it provides time to just do nothing, talk, write, laugh and relax.

 

If all goes well, including the return of some electricity, our bikes will be fully ready by Monday so we will be able to hit the road on Tuesday. It is exiting and scary at the same time, but I suppose this is always the case when you take a leap towards the unknown. How many kilometers will we feel comfortable to ride each day? Will we easily find a place to stay every night? How long shall we stay at places? What if the bike decides to break down in the middle of nowhere? Do we always get up early in the morning to take advantage of the cooler mornings? What if I am not able to cope with my lack of riding experience? What if things are much more tiring that first expected? All little questions that will gradually get an answer along the way, but for the moment they still buzz around in my mind. A dream doesn’t become reality without a little doubt, a smile and a small push in the right direction. Dreaming is also getting lost, adapting, having patience and finding another way to reach your goal. This is also how this journey started. Did we find our dream bikes? No, not really, if we had the money we would for sure have chosen for the Royal Enfield, but did we find good bikes? Well, the only correct answer to that is, we hope so! A Yamaha FZ and a Honda Unicorn. Two lovely bikes that are wonderful to ride amidst the Indian traffic and easily blend in with the bikes used locally. After buying the bikes we sadly quickly learned that the Honda Unicorn was burning oil while riding. We had three options: fixing the engine, buying a new engine or simply buying a whole new bike. After a lot of discussions, doubts, frustrations and disappointment we chose for the first option as people could still easily cheat us with the latter two. This would cost us quite some money that actually wasn’t worth spending on such a bike, but after riding the bike it feels like a fine investment in the journey ahead. Anyhow, we should not complain as we still end up with two fixed bikes for a price of 600€ and are about to take the first steps of our great adventure.

 

Our first Indian bike!

India, a country full of bikes, yet finding one as a foreigner isn’t as easy as one would hope. As a foreigner it is quite impossible to buy a new one, so you should start looking on the second hand market. A good website to start from is OLX (www.olx.in/), but anyhow I would recommend to seek aid from people around. They can help you to get in touch with the local knowledge regarding bikes, help to call the people selling bikes and to go and check out the bikes. People can be so wonderfully kind and helpful. It always fills me with joy to see so much friendliness and goodwill among people. Knowing there is so much beauty and warmth in this world only strengthens my urge to show people they should stop fearing the unknown and the far-away. Don’t believe everything the media is showing you. There is so much in this world that can never be seen from behind a computer or TV screen. Little stories, human contact, amazing lives and shared smiles. Even if you don’t speak the same language, sharing a smile can be the best feeling in the world.

Thanks to a lot of help we finally have our first bike, a Yamaha FZ160! Finding this bike, or rather physically obtaining the bike, was a struggle to say the least. Three trips of about 45minutes to Trivandrum city were required to fetch the bike of which the first two ended empty handed as the seller did not show up. The third time the seller and the bike could be found, but the secret fact that he had also sold the bike to some other people saw the light. Luckily we had offered a little more money and could straightly pay it in cash ended up with us getting the bike. I must admit though that I feel really bad for the other people. Already for a week they were told they had the bike, but then last minute they ended up empty handed. All I can say is, I am sorry, really! This should not have happened, but anyhow. One more to go!

Secretly I am happy it is a Yamaha as this reminds me of my cute Virago 250 in Belgium, even though it doesn’t look alike at all. Also registering and buying this second hand bike can not be done on our own name. Luckily we again found some help from someone from India who is willing to buy the bike on his name. Now we have the bike the struggle isn’t over. It simply indicates the start off all the paperwork, but with a good dosage of luck this will be over in a small week and the big riding adventure can start.

Driving on the left hand side of the road, crazy traffic, enormous busses and hardly any rules except those that are there to be broken, all taking place along beautiful coastlines, thousand of coconut trees and covered with sparkling rays of sunshine.

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Welcome to India!

Back in India. One year ahead, a year of travelling. It may sound strange, but it is hard to let go, to have nothing to do except relax and enjoy. I want a motorcycle, I want to hit the road, go and discover, be part of the unknown, but there is no hurry, life is too full of beauty and there is one year ahead, only it feels impossible to really grasp such and idea of time and freedom. At the same time I still haven’t caught up with my lack of sleep and sleeping at temperatures of at least 30°C doesn’t really make things easier. We did try out our special anti-mosquito technique which comprises of putting up an inner tent, placing this on top of the bed and crawling into it to spend the night inside of it, snug, warm and fully bug proof if you remember to keep the zippers closed. As it is impossible to take anti-malaria medication for a whole year we figured we should find another solution to protect ourselves during the night. Probably many of you are now wondering why we did not simply choose for a mosquito net, well, the answer is really quite simple. If you have a mosquito net that has to be attached above your bed that quickly becomes impossible with a fan dancing around and no attachment points close by. Some among you will know that we could also use a stand alone mosquito net, but that is about the same price as we paid for our whole tent with the only difference that we can also pitch our tent outside if it would ever be necessary and that you don’t have to sleep directly on the matrass if it would be kind of dirty (and oh yes, this can be the case when traveling in India and trying to stay on a budget).

Anyhow, enough about mosquito nets. India has much more than mosquitoes. For those who have never been to India I can maybe start with some tips and tricks to be prepared:

  • Never wait to find an ATM till you are all out of money. There may be many ATM’s around, but these can all be empty. For example, today we went to 6 ATM’s and they were all out of money. Tomorrow we will simply return to check again.
  • When you buy a bottle of water, ensure it is still sealed properly. If not, don’t take the risk as it may end with the bathroom becoming your closest friend.
  • Drink chai! It provides a great energy boost, you can find it everywhere, it is cheap and it provides the perfect opportunity to relax and secretly spy on the beautiful, colourful clothing of the people surrounding you.
  • Probably not everyone will agree on this one with me, but cover shoulders and knees if you are female. It makes life easier and I believe that, if possible, we should adapt to the values and norms of the place where we are the strangers. In general this is also what most people expect when people visit their home country.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle about the price. Keep on smiling, joke around, know what you want to pay before you start and as such it becomes the perfect chance to have a lovely conversation.
  • Talk to people! Don’t always trust what they may say, especially not if money is involved, but you would be surprised by the nice conversations you end up having.
  • Don’t eat or give somebody a hand with your left hand! Your right hand is your hygienic hand while your left hand is, to be straight forward, to wipe your bum.
  • The use of toilet paper is not common so try using water before you run out of toilet paper and when you feel up to the challenge. Don’t get me wrong, you can buy toilet paper, but it can be hard to find and easily blocks the toilet.

Summarized, is India an easy country to discover? Not really, but it is certainly worth the effort. Once you can slow down your pace, once you are able to see through the chaos and once you can let go of how you think things should be only dazzling colours, shimmering light, surprising smells and overwhelming beauty remains.