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Cycling Around the World

India - Mumbai to Goa, and in the Monsoons

I arrived and more than a week into this amazing adventure. Follow my blog in my diaries link at the top of this page. It's been tough so far, way different than I imagined, and a real struggle some days, but I'm still here, inching my way down towards Goa. 

For this bicycle tour I'm supporting JUMP Children's Charity.

I have now cycled through the UK, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, and I'm now in India.

I am cycling from Mumbai in the sate of Maharashtra, to Kerala. A journey of nearly 2000 km's in what is said to be the 2 stormiest and wettest 2 months of the year - June and July. If it get's too crazy and way too dangerous, I will be cutting the monsoon short and flying out to Thailand from Goa and not Kerala, but I will give it my best shot as you know.

Follow my journey and please support my chosen charity. It gives me a real boost when I see a donation has been made, as I feel my effort is making a real difference.

It's a great little charity that provides photograph and film memories for children with life limiting and terminal illness.

Your donation goes straight to JUMP Children's Charity through a dedicated link. I of course self-fund the whole of my own adventure.

Click on the link to help with what you can.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cycling-around-the-world

A big THANK YOU to those who have already donated to the Charity. Many of whom I met on my adventure.


Steve


Day 146 - 147

I was just about to sit down on my extra legroom seat in economy class, when a stewardess told me that the chair wasn't right and would I like an upgrade. She didn't need to ask me twice.

A glass of bubbly wine (I chose water) as I sat down, a menu for meals, and pure comfort compared to what I had booked.

Arriving in Mumbai and it was surprisingly uncrowded at the airport, but on leaving the airport it was a tad different :)

35c and humidity off the scale, no wind so within minutes I was sweating. Got in the taxi to my digs: Basti Backpackers Hostel, and I couldn't stop laughing the whole of the 5 km's.

Cars weaving in and out, horns honking, all kinds of street life including cows. It was just amazing. It was hard to believe we were in the heart of Mumbai.

Getting to my digs and the aircon was just what I needed. The staff and people I met at the the hostel have been great.

I met an English guy Nick and New Zealand girl Robyn here, and early last night we caught a tuk tuk a couple of km's to a part of town to get a few bottles of beer, and while there we had a nice meal.

Thanks for supporting my chosen charity Nick, much appreciated.

I think the whole meal between us was about £5, maybe less. The tuk tuk was 20 pence each way.

Getting a sim card was pretty straight forward. Half an hour at a vodafone shop, giving my passport details, and my signature about 30 times, and job done.

I had 2 choices of sim plans, the first was 1 month including a total of 42gb of data for £4. Or, 3 months and a total of 126gb of data, limited to 1.5gb daily. That was £5, so I splashed out and went for the 3 month £5 deal :)

My mission for today was to get some medical supplies, tablets and other things I take. Build the bike, see if I could get my phone fixed, and chill tonight, ready for just 25km's tomorrow through the centre of Mumbai to Gateway of India.

I've given myself just 25 km's due to the crazy heat, crazy traffic, and because I will then need to catch a ferry the following morning. It's going to be crazy cycling through this city tomorrow, can't wait.


Picture is of Basti Hostel across the road

Day 148

A relaxing cycle through the heart of Mumbai :) Yeah right!!

Actually, it was no where near as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it was crazy, hot, humid, with fumes and dust thick enough to slice with a knife, but it was pretty amazing and I met some really nice people.

It was only 21 km's to the port at the Gateway of India. A big arch and small port, south of Mumbai city. Now here's where the problems begin.

I originally planned to stay in a hotel north east of Mumbai after arriving at the airport, then cycle down the National Highway 66 to get to Mandwa, a small place on the coast south of Mumbai.

Then I read about a great ferry service from Gateway of India that would take an hour across the estuary to get to Mandwa, so I booked into to digs north of the city centre with the intention of cycling through it to Gateway of India, and crossing on the ferry to Mandwa. Simple hey?

Not so. After cycling all the way down through the city, I found the ferry service shut down 2 days ago in preparation for the monsoon season! So now I'm stuck with what to do.

To get to Mandwa now, it's 134 km's back up through Mumbai city, and then some, then all the way around this huge water way.

Or do I find some other form or transportation to replace the ferry to get me to Mandwa, as I really don't fancy cycling back through Mumbai and all the way out of my way for 2 or 3 days, and all because my 1 hour ferry trip had been cancelled. I'll think about it over night.

So that's a real bummer, but I'm still really happy that I chose to stay at Basti Backpackers Hostel and meet all those nice people. Nick and I went to see Star Wars Solo last night, and we even stood for the India national anthem with the few locals who were in at the time.

And how to dry your washing in India

Day 149

So the problem yesterday was no ferries crossing the estuary from Mumbai to Mandwa, as they had all been cancelled due to the coming monsoons and high tides.

This morning began my challenge to reach Mandwa village, any way I could, to start the cycle down the stretch of coast to Goa and try to cover some ground before the monsoons hit full force soon.

Well I’m here in Mandwa village and I’m knackered, it’s just so hot and humid and past lunch time, so the heat and humidity are about to reach their skin shredding blood boiling peaks, so I spotted some digs in Mandwa: Ranavali Farm House and Resort.

I quiet and really nice little place with great staff, and a pool. I met a lovely family who were just leaving and we all did a photo shoot and had a chat before they left.

My lunch here included potato paratha, paneer masala, and the tastiest mangos I have ever had. Mango’s that are grown around here I’m told, are some of the best in the world and the wild monkey’s like them too.

Looking forward to heading on down the road and getting some distance in, although the distance won’t be anything like I’m used to due to the oppressive heat and humidity. The last time I felt it like this I was in the Brazilian Amazon, it’s just like it.

I’m really looking forward to Kerala and wondering what it will be like in the monsoon, I was last there about 10 years ago with my wife Sue and we loved it.

We caught a train up to Goa, which was 16 hours, and then drove all over Goa for a week, we also spent a couple of days on a rice-boat on the backwaters, another must do activity in Kerala.

Time now for a sleep, I had just 4 hours last night as my digs turned out to be attached to a disco wine-bar. I was kept awake, but the music was actually really good, so it was kind of hard to get really angry about it :)

Day 150

Firstly, I have never tasted mango’s like the ones around these parts. Mongo for lunch and dinner yesterday, and breakfast and dinner tonight. I just can’t get enough of them.

I set out from Mandwa this morning and covered 59 km’s to just the other side of Kashid. It is a big holiday here and it is packed out, I was so lucky to find digs.

So hot and humid I could have cut the air with a knife. So thick in fact I think I inhaled enough to put weight on.

I called in to see a guy named Anil, who I believe hosted Leana Niemand on her journey down the coast. It was only about 10am so I had plenty more distance to cover so just had a quick chat and carried on.

About 2pm today I was so exhausted that I took a room in a small village, and as you usually get what you pay for, I needed a huge refund from the £9 I paid.

I just didn’t have it in me to continue on, so I moved in. There is no internet in town and no phone signal. These were my first problems.

Then I realised the windows were tied on with string with massive gaps all around for critters to come and go as they please. No shower, only a tap half way down the wall.

I was so hot and tired that I lay on the floor under the tap and administered an hour of DIY water-boarding. A towel on my face and the water pounding my head. It’s not so bad :)

And then to top it all off, there was a power cut that locals said might not get fixed until tomorrow. I was out of there like a greased weasel!

I found these digs with AC, 2 ceiling fans :) (big wash night), and quite modern.

There was a monkey galloping a hundred meters away in line with me today, and I say galloping because this thing was huge. I only thought there were little monkeys here, but not so, it was a right gangly looking thing too.

It was also a day like yesterday, meeting loads of really nice people, lovely families with lovely smiling polite children. Really makes my day.

Day 151

For my post today, your getting just a picture of a sign that I thought read:

“For those struggling in the heat and humidity

Warm beer 1 mile

Cold beer 6 miles”

Turned out I was wrong and was hallucinating! The sign reads something else but I haven’t a clue what :)

I have taken some really nice pics on my camera but not many on my phone, and unfortunately, since I’ve left Mumbai, this is the first hotel I’ve been able to find that has WiFi, and because I logged in with my phone, I’m not allowed to log in with my laptop.

Mobile signals have been few and far between too. One minute I’m on 4G, then 3G, then nothing for 10 or more km’s.

And when you see a hotel sign that reads something like Tropical Beach Resort, you have to accept that none of those words might apply :)

I’m aiming for a hotel high in some hills tomorrow, and they recon they have WiFi I can use with all my devices, and the views they say are amazing.

It’s a tough bit of India along here, and I have to say, that I’m actually looking forward to out of season Goa.

Day 152

So lets talk about the roads between Mumbai and Goa. Well up to now they are pretty bad, I mean really bad.

In this picture the road is really great passing through this small village, even with the usual animal obstacles. Sadly though the majority of roads are lumpy and bumpy, with potholes, nails and sharp objects to avoid.

Climbing a steep hill of only around 50m or so, can feel like 200m due to the condition of the surface, and also the humidity and heat. I can only comment on this last week out from Mumbai, and as I am about a week away from Goa, things could easily improve.

Monkey's again in the road today, but as soon as I got my camera out they were off. Big things. I'm told they are Gray Langurs and don't like cyclists :). I've been on a little downer today, as I think it has just been a bit of a struggle with the heat and humidity and road conditions.

Also feeling a little lonely and missing my loved ones. I get like this from time to time, it's to be expected of solo travel. I've got myself of mango sandwiches today and taken on a Biryani. It was actually really nice.

It's not touristy in these parts, and the villages are all working villages for locals, so the food is obviously geared up for them of course, as to be expected.

I on the other hand lack the stomach of a crocodile, so I have been trying to introduce little bits of local food as I go, until today, when I chowed down on veg Biryani, and a few other veggie items.

I would still recommend going veggie here. It's just a precaution I suppose.

Monsoon Weather, from my lovely room balcony of course :) So glad I'm not out in it tonight

153

So imagine my surprise after days of mango sandwiches, the Indian meals yesterday reminded me why I was only eating mango sandwiches :/

Passing through the coastal town of Ratnagiri, I happened across a Domino’s Pizza! Crazy but true, or at least the signage looked genuine. So I dropped my gear of at my digs around the corner and legged it back.

So of course this hungry tired and exhausted traveller, friend to many and worshipped by many more… sorry :) got a little carried away there, just had to dive right into that pizza joint.

The menu of course was nothing like what I recall in the UK, although it’s been years I think since I have been in a Domino’s, and I shouldn’t expect the menu to be anything like.

I ordered a Mexican veggie pizza, garlic bread sticks, and a coke, and I actually enjoyed every bit of it.

As I get closer to Goa, things seem to be changing, it’s busier and becoming more Westernised, sort of, and not that I think it should of course.

I have booked ahead to Goa and I will be staying in a room for 7 days for 10 sobs a day, and it actually looks great for that to be honest, just 3 minutes walk onto the sands of Calangute beach, which will be pretty wild at this time of year with the monsoon.

But I have been giving it a lot of thought about my next destination, and whether or not to continue down the coast of India a bit more before flying out to Thailand, or fly out to Thailand from Goa where I might find it easier to book flights and sort things out.

I understand that the weather in Thailand is probably not all that great in June, but I’m pretty sure it will be much better than the weather farther south here in India, and I'm no looking forward to another country already.

The reason for the week in Goa is to wind my neck in, chill, take in a few waterfalls and natural attractions and see if I can get med's which I haven't been able to bring with me to India, so have gone cold turkey and I think I'm feeling it.

I'm also lugging around my tent and all my camping gear, about 10kg worth of things I haven't used here and advised not to either at this time of year.

I'm wondering if I could scale down my camping equipment for Thailand and South East Asia, what do you think? Any of you had experience with being able to find digs easily as apposed to camping?

Day 154

If anyone tells me they have followed this coastline from Mumbai to Goa and have never pushed their fully loaded touring bike up any of the small but ever so steep and crumbling hills, I will never believe them :)

Seriously, all the way through Europe I never pushed my bike up a tarmac road once. Pushed it up a few rocky and gravelly tracks and trails though.

It broke my heart to have to push my bike up tarmac roads here, but unless you are a super athlete, it really has to be done on this coastline.

Even the downhill’s have vertical up-hills on them :)

The landscape is really changing now and it’s getting much greener and thick with vegetation. There are more people and animals, and thousands of small dogs. Thankfully they don’t chase or bark at you, and even they get out of your way.

I contacted the airlines today to see about getting my bike and gear on a flight to Thailand in about a week or so, and they recon no problem, although there are no special allowances for the bike, just that it goes on as the checked luggage allowance.

This is pretty typical really. Most of the airlines I have spoken with since starting out, will say the bike can go on as just the checked baggage allowance, which is fine, but that still leaves the rest of the luggage which has to go on per kg of excess baggage.

I think the thing they are selling is that because it is classed as sporting goods, it doesn’t have to go in the oversized price category, just the special baggage category, so I guess there are some savings.

What I have done on my last 2 flights is unzip my sleeping bag and wrap it around my bike for protection, and so I don’t have to check it in with my luggage. I also wrap the bike with my waterproofs and 2 empty pannier bags.

If they say the box cannot weight more than 32 kg’s for instance, I wrap my bike with everything I can until I reach the weight limit.

I’ve worried about my bike in the hands of the baggage handlers in some places, but up to now the cardboard boxes have barely had a scratch. I

I also think it’s a good idea to leave a little wriggle room in the box. Packing it really tight will make it easier to bend something on the bike if badly handled. Just a theory.

Day 155

Managed to get some internet tonight from a good friend at the hotel who let me tether to his phone, it's been really hard trying to get internet or even a phone signal.

Rain has been constant and heavy for the second day now. It's torrential at times to the point of flooding the roads completely, and too wet for me :) I have booked my flight now to Bangkok and will arrive on the 13th, so just a few days away, and I'm really looking forward to it.

It is really beautiful here and lots of smiley friendly people, but as the monsoon sets in things are quite hard. Paperwork seems to be hobby here. Everything has multiple signatures, and I don't just mean one or two.

Multiple copies are made of everything too. With duplicates having their own triplicates :)

I had some eggs this morning and some tea but then that was it all day, I just couldn't find anything and with the rain coming down hard now, I dare not venture out.

I will be exploring Calangute tomorrow weather permitting. The monsoon rains here are said to be very different from the rains in South East Asia, and can be all day long for days or weeks on end.

Day 156

I’m now looking forward to leaving more than ever. My time is done here but I still have until 11am on Tuesday to go.

I really don’t like being caged, waiting, in or at the mercy of anything, it drives me crazy. I’m a wild thing 🙂
The airlines were a ripoff. I went between Jet Airways and Air India, as some others couldn’t understand what I wanted.

Basically I have a boxed bike weighing in at 24kg with box, and 30kg of baggage.
Jet wanted £240 for the flight, Air India wanted £220 to Bangkok. No direct flights, with both changing at Mumbai.

Jet demanded £500 for the baggage and Air India estimate it at £300.
And, they all insisted they couldn’t sell me a ticket unless I had proof of onward travel from Thailand by way of another flight only.

Or, a return ticket back to India. To get a return ticket back to India, I had to also have a returning India visa of course.
Luckily I have a valid multiple entry visa for India. I got my ticket with Air India.

If I had not had a valid re-entry visa or ongoing flight from Thailand, my only option would be returning to the EU. This part of it and this crazy constant heavy rain while not being able to get out and about (no tuk tuk’s where I am in Calangute) has been the real spoiler.

PROBYK in Panjim Goa, kindly provided me with my free cardboard bike box. Thanks guys. Met some wonderful people and made some great friends, and it was and still is a crazy experience.

Nearly 10am here on day 156 of my travels and just look at this weather! Need food and hope to get out at some point today to find some. Hold on, Antony here at my digs is just going but making me boiled eggs and some toast. Saved 🙂

Day 157

Still raining, but as this is the time for local people to holiday, everywhere is really busy, heaving in-fact.

I saw another European yesterday, and he stood out like a sore thumb :) much like I must do no doubt. He was there and gone in an instant in the crowd.

The main Calangute Beach where I am is really getting bashed by the storms. Huge waves took a life yesterday morning.

I was talking to some locals at the time I took this pic with my phone, and they told me that a man was swept away just now right here and they can’t find him.

I’m told that like a lot of people who have come from inland to holiday, he may have had too much to drink before entering the water. At this time of year, people are not allowed to swim due to the huge currents and riptides.

Not been able to get out for a bike ride due to the conditions, I’ve been pretty much hotel-bound. So I’m boxing the bike today and getting a few things sorted, as I leave in just 2 days time for Bangkok. Weather permitting.

Chomping on Betel Nuts last night with some guys here, and can’t say I see what the attraction is. Then again, about 12 years ago my wife Sue and I took my daughters to Florida’s Disneyland, and on the flight back the girls asked us to stop smoking cigarettes, and neither of us have smoked one since.

So I guess chewing Betel Nuts is sort of a similar habit, not very nice but a habit all the same. Paan, was another thing I tried but not over keen. It’s a combination of betel leaf with areca nut and is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects.

Felt nothing I don’t think. But then again...I’m still chewing it as I write this post :)
Not normally one for uploading my lunch :) but I just had to share this pic of my lunch today of the best Paneer Chilli I’ve ever had. It’s a deep fried sort of Indian cheese, cooked until crispy. This was here at The Food Hub restaurant in Calangute Goa.

Day 158

Bike boxed taxi booked, and itching for pastures new.

Just made it back to my digs in time before the heavens really opened up, from lunch at my favourite restaurant.

The only place in town where I have found a half decent internet and phone signal on entering.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is not to be able to use my laptop or even tether my phone to my laptop, the signal is just far too weak.

So I’m writing everything on my phone in notes, then wandering around until I find enough of a signal to upload my post.

Welcome to India hey :)

I will soon be in Thailand all being well. My original plan was to get a train or another flight up to Thailand’s Chiang Mai, then circle my way around and down through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and back into Thailand.

That’s now changed. I’m now going to start cycling from Bangkok, through Thailand up to Vientiane in Laos. From there I will make my way to the Vietnam coastline and follow it down to Ho Chi Minh City.

Getting visas as I go is going to be my biggest issue I think, but then I don’t really know much about this process at borders. I really just thought; why do I need to use transportation to get to Chiang Mai to start my cycle, when I can just start cycling from touching down in Bangkok!

Plus, it will be nice I think to have a bit of flattish landscape for a few days through the centre after this wild-mouse of a coastline in India from Mumbai. So if anyone has a nice gentle route for me from Bangkok BKK airport to Vientiane, let me know, city or town to town.

Thank you to all those wonderful people I’ve met here in India, and thanks India for one heck of an experience. Pic: The short walk to the restaurant from my digs,

Day 159

So here I am sat in Business Class for the first time, and it’s quite plush, but this is only a short flight from Goa to Mumbai, then it’s just extra leg room for 7 hours to Bangkok.

The estimated £350 in excess baggage was reduced to £180 by wearing everything I could ( really not easy in this heat ) and carrying about 10kg in my hand luggage :)

In order to get the extra legroom on the second flight, I had to take a £25 deal for the first flight that included the Business Class, priority baggage, and my bike wrapped with fragile stickers too, not bad for £25 extra, giving me that extra legroom.

Thailand here I come :)
And so ends my quite short but very interesting cycling in India, from Mumbai to Goa. Next, I'm off to Thailand.