Happy New Year!
We’re starting the new year off right, with a nine-day bike trip with Grasshopper Adventures from Khimsar to Udaipur. It started with a drive from Jodhpur to Khimsar, just a couple hours in the morning. The rest of the group had taken an overnight train down from Delhi so we met up with what seems likely to be a good group, four Australians and two Canadians. A buffet lunch, a short four-mile ride out to watch the sun set over the dunes of the Thar Desert really just to test out the bikes, and then a New Year’s Eve celebration.
The hotel we were staying, an old palace, put on a heckuva party. A live band mixed with a DJ during breaks and let me tell you, the Indians love to dance. It was as though we had our own private Bollywood show. A little fireworks at midnight, limited alcohol (too expensive and they make lousy drinks, to boot), and off to bed.
New Year’s Day morning it was up early for a 9:00 AM departure for our 44-mile ride to Osian. Now, anyone who’s traveled in India would think the idea of bicycling would be pretty much insane. The traffic is intense and chaotic and just unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Who would bike here? Well, based on one day, biking here is pretty great. We were on back roads, you see, and they were flat, reasonably well paved (the last 15 miles were rough, but most of it was good), and largely car-free. Making the bicycling care-free! Oh, and the weather is spectacular, cold to start but warming into the mid-60s. Much better than trying this in the summer when the temperatures soar well above 100 degrees.
I should note that apparently Mark and I were pretty lucky to be biking at all. Three people from our group – the lead guide and the Canadian couple – were up sick pretty much all night. Definitely something about the food and/or water; the Canadians didn’t drink alcohol at all, the guide drank little. Just something about India, I guess, but a lousy way for them to start the biking.
The most memorable part of the first day at least is that I got a whole new sense of the term “tourist attraction.” We are the tourists, of course, but it seems we were also the attraction. Out on the road people couldn’t have been nicer and happier to see us, greeting and waving and shouting. And when we would stop for a break there would quickly be a crowd of mostly younger boys just standing and staring. Sometimes making a little conversation, certainly friendly and all that, but mostly just amazed. You could just hear them thinking “Who are these white aliens, bicycling of all things, and on bikes that probably cost more than my family makes in a year?” Trying to chat with them, though, or at least high-fiving them, was delightful.
Tomorrow up early and back on the bikes for another 40 miles back to Jodhpur. We’ve seen it, of course, but not after arriving on a bike. Should be fun!