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Day 285 – India, land of 1001 riches

Day 278-279: Baku > New Delhi

Last day in Azerbaijan, before a long flight to a new country. Departure at 5:55 pm but as always, we must be present at the airport well before. In the morning, we take advantage of the opportunity to pack our luggage in garbage bags (at least for my part) that will go straight to the hold.

After that we went back to our bike shop to “chill” a little bit in order to pass the time, we get tea and cakes. Time of departure is coming, it’s time to find a taxi for the airport. After a call to a friend (who owns a taxi) from our technician, it was only on the spot that everyone noticed that it was not really easy to get two bicycles, luggage and two people in a “normal”car. Following a new call to another taxi, we are now embarked in a model equivalent to the English taxi.

One hour later, we arrive at the airport, early enough so that our flight is not displayed and we have to wait a few hours to know where to check in. Once the information was available, we had the big surprise (well, not so much) that our luggage exceeded the 30 kg included in the ticket. For my case, I have a total of 48 Kg (and still, I have the camera and computer with me) and 44 Kg for Imad. Result: Approximately $250 each for an extra charge to be able to board.

After the happiness of having spent a lot of money on this “bullshit”, we are now boarding the plane, next stop: Sharjah, city stuck in Dubai!

After 3 hours of flight, we have to wait another 3 hours for the second flight to New Delhi. We quickly understand that there is absolutely nothing to do here, that we can’t go outside and that there is no wifi. It was a long wait, but here we are again in an airplane.

A few hours later, we landed at port. But here we are in a queue to get the stamp, which will last 1h30 easy. Once our luggage has been collected (without any breakage), we go outside to reassemble the bike that we dismantled two days before. It took us about 5 hours from the moment we landed to the moment we gave our first pedals in India, for the simple reason that we had a lot of trouble putting the pedals back on but that Imad hadn’t punctured a tire but two!

For the evening we had an appointment at a youth hostel reserved the day before, but we had to cover about ten kilometers before that! I can tell you that the difference was significant compared to everything we’ve seen before. I’m talking about thousands of people on the roadside, businesses of all kinds, but above all a heavy traffic with horns all over the place (for nothing in truth) and where the highway code does not exist. But oddly enough, I, who hated pedaling in Istanbul or Ankara, have much more fun and excitement to do it here, probably because the danger is present at all times and one can easily believe in Fast & Furious.

We are now at our hostel, where we put our luggage down so that we can leave for another bike shop so early to grease my chain and adjust my handlebars (which I hadn’t tightened) but also to make our first Indian restaurant! Back home, we exchange our bikes for tuk-tuks to get to know the city better. We see our first monkeys on the way, the first of a long series!

Day 280-281: New Delhi

For the next few nights here, we have found a CouchSurfer couple to be able to lodge us, a little further south from where we were, the first ones for a long time I have to admit it. So after loading our bikes again, we’re heading for our future “house”. After getting to know each other, we were provided with a double bed with private bathroom and a key to come and go whenever we wanted.

The apartment is located in a “colony”, a secure place with identity check at each entrance/exit. The colonies are in fact neighbourhoods surrounded by barbed wire to separate the different neighbourhoods from the “street”.

We discover new foods, new tastes and new pleasures in restaurants. We take advantage of the time we have left here to visit the city and meet new people!

Day 282: New Delhi > Andhrola

We leave New Delhi in the morning, taking all our time, having planned only 3 days to reach Agra, the city of Taj Mahal about 200 kilometers away. To change what we used to do before, we follow the “classic” routes to make the most of the country.

What’s cool now is that we have almost nothing but flatness on the paths we pass, allowing us to move forward without forcing and enjoy what surrounds us. What we didn’t plan on is that we are now like stars passing through the villages.

Basically, we can’t stop for 3 seconds without all the people in the village coming to meet us. We are like the event of the year, or Lady Gaga when she makes autographs.

For the evening we use our camping facilities, after searching for a place where there is no one there for a while.

Result of the day: 87 km

Day 283: Andhrola > Govardhan

Wake up with the sun lights, time to smoke a cigarette and ready to go. We always leave in the direction of Agra. Still like stars, we have now become accustomed to stop for only 10 seconds maximum to take our supplies and move away from the city to eat more quietly.

At one point I stopped to put a bandage on my knee, in order to relieve the pain as best I could.

Being slightly tired, we decide to stop on a property to rest on hand made beds in front of the house and sleep a few minutes. For the evening, we decide to take a hotel. Imad having fallen ill in the plane and having to spend two horrible nights, it was the best choice to take. Not having found the first hotel on our list, we turn back to the next one. We are delighted to have made a return trip there because we were able to see our first temple but also a lot of monkeys, present almost everywhere in the country.

We go to a 4* hotel, for a very low price (after negotiation), the Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Brij Resort & Spa where we spend a wonderful night and a good meal.

Result of the day: 85 km

Day 284: Govardhan > Agra

Last straight line to our “objective”! After a hearty breakfast (good, no orange juice that day nor Nutella but I’ve been making it for several months now), we’re going back to our new CouchSurfer, the second in two cities!

That day I lost a lot of motivation, I don’t know why. So I figured I’d see what I would do after our meditation week next week.

Before I arrived in Agra, I had my first clash with an Indian who started riding my bike thinking that I would accept and take him wherever he wanted to go. After this adventure, I found motivation when I arrived in the city, when traffic had become denser and people were driving. I think it excites me more than the campaign, I’m talking about driving. I dodged cars, tuk-tuks like the Indians with their motorbikes.

When we arrive at our CouchSurfer, which runs a hotel but leaves it available for the CouchSurfers, we head straight for the streets to look for food. Then, I go to make a local SIM card (the first since the start) to stay connected, wifi is much rarer than usual. It was a real mission for that, because ATM doesn’t work with my credit cards. I had to leave with the shop owner’s brother to go around the town to find some in vain. But thanks to this I was able to ride the bike with him! After explaining that I have US dollars (thanks to the extras of the plane), we go together to a foreign exchange office so that I can finally have cash.

So I now have a local SIM card to have internet everywhere (at least 1 GB/day) if in 3 days I am not blocked! The shop, named after New Look Coffee, is located right across the street from our hotel, the Jahangir Lodge.

Result of the day: 89 km

Day 285: Agra

The Taj Mahal being closed, we choose to visit the Agra Fort today. The Agra Fort is the largest fort in India with almost 3 kilometers of walls! For a price of 500 rupees (about 5€), we have the right to go almost anywhere we want!

After 2 hours at McDonald’s, we saw the most “poor” shopping mall we’ve seen since the beginning. I’m talking about the fact that so few people come here that all the shops are closed and the whole building will soon be closed because of the lack of visitors.

Then we went back to the hotel with another tuk-tuk, which Imad drove, to remind him of his job as a bus driver, which he loves so much.

Tomorrow we will do our first wonder of the world, with a wake-up at 5 o’ clock in the morning to try to be the first on the spot, and then go back to the North.

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