Buzzing in South India: Moving On
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
India. A full on attack of the senses. At times amazingly delightful and others a sour kick of reality. Bright colours flash with beautiful saris, delightfully surprising foods and curious smiles. School children walk in long rows down the road on their way home. A shy wave here and screaming “Hello!” there. Dusty cities open up into beautiful landscapes of marsh plains, coconut trees and rice fields. People toil with water buffalo on the land. Some carry heavy loads or guide goats to greener pastures. They all stop to wonder.
Magical temples and cows at every corner. Cows stealing bananas, eating from garbage dumpsters and always where you least expect them. They own this place. Deified creatures of wonder. Different types lumber through streets, crossing at their convenience, as the car horns blare. Amazing to stare at though.
But the horns. They blare on repeat as buses barrel like crazy through traffic and by crowds of people. Incessantly they ring. Different types of horns fire at piercing volumes and indicating patterns. The soundtrack to my insanity. I brace myself as the next wave comes. I loath the one that sounds like a circus. The bicycle puts me down at ground level for all of it. Right in the field of energy giving strength and crushing difficulty. The use of the horn here makes China look tame. There is no end and no escape.
But, why did I come to India? Because it is a place I have always wanted to see. Because it would be a challenge. Because I knew it would be crazy. Plain is boring and India is anything but. No cycling tour around the world is complete without struggling through and experiencing the wonders of the land of Kings, historic conquest, dazzling foods, religious power and the multiple faces of forgotten souls. I love it, it drives me to the edge of insanity, but I will never tire of it. Each day is a fight and each a surprise. I am learning a lot about myself in India and where I hope to be in the future. The struggles I face are only momentary and have helped me to become more in tune with reality of the world around me. For everything missed, there is something gained inside.
I arrived from Kabul, Afghanistan in Chennai, on India’s east coast. With the road blocked by being refused a Pakistan Visa and Canadian citizens only being able to tour Iran with an expensive guide, I was forced to fly out of Afghanistan. I flew to warmer weather and a new adventure. India was never on my original route, but things are always changing. With little planning I was launched into the tropical whirlwind that is South India. Welcomed into the home of an American living in Chennai, I stayed for a few days as I reassembled my bike, sent a ton of backlogged messages and prepared my route. The goal was to ride to the southern most point of India, Kanniyakumari, then head up the west coast towards New Delhi, as I explore the different regions in time with their food, people, history and customs. Along the way I will be visiting the next community with Free the Children, as we raise funds to help build a new school. For more information on Verdara, Rajasthan Province, check out the community profile as well as the video from Free the Children on their work in India HERE.
If you would like to donate to my charity and help be apart of building the new school in Verdara, India click HERE.
Riding out from Chennai I was buzzing. The streets were crazy, the traffic and air thick. There was food everywhere, fresh papaya, bananas, pineapple and street snacks. On my budget it is only local fare for me, which is full of flavour and exciting spices. The dosa and samba are go to staples. Eventually the busy city opened up into quieter country, where I could breath a bit and quit looking in 360 all at once. I pedalled to wonderful places like Mahabalipuram and then onto Auroville. I was welcomed into Auroville with open arms and allowed to camp at a place called New Creations for a few days. Auroville is an fantastic place where people come to live the simple life based upon healthy eating, mediation, yoga, peace and close community bonds. Some people live here full time, others come for half the year and some like myself are just passing through. For more information on Auroville check out their website HERE.
From Auroville I continued on riding long distances and pushing myself in the heat. I eventually reached the tip of India at the beautiful Kanniyakumari. From there I moved onwards on my journey up the west coast towards New Delhi. I now rest in the backwaters of Kochi, in a peaceful oasis on the southwest coast. It hasn’t been a race in India, but I have been able to cover long distances. With over 1000km of road already down and a top day of 162km, I feel like anything is possible. I even had time to break my third back rack on the rough roads. I hobbled along with a light heart over bumpy roads and patched the snapped metal with duct tape for a day and half until reaching a place with a spare rack. I have felt strong, motivated and energized by riding in the warm weather. Though my sunburnt nose would argue otherwise.
One thing I was very excited about on my first few days were the temples. They are everywhere. They are of all different shapes, sizes and forms. They are beautiful. They are intricate. They are individual to each region in terms of history, location and emphasis. Some of the cities date back to 1500BC. The temples of the south also boast as some of the oldest in India. Magical places to walk around barefoot in the early morning.
As I pass through different little villages, towns and heaving cities, it is apparent how important Hinduism and religion is here in India. It pervades many aspects of daily life. A lot of it I am only beginning to understand. But I am doing my best to read and ask questions in order to uncover the idiosyncrasies that make this place tick. Though many parts of the old system of India have been outlawed, such as the caste system is still very much alive in parts if you talk to the locals.
Hinduism in a nutshell is made up of a complex company of gods and deities, each with different specialization, power and purpose. I’m sure we have all heard of the trinity of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. The faith is heavily based upon the principles of religious harmony, unity of existence, divinity of humanity, as well as knowledge of the three Gs: Ganga (river). Gita (script), and Gayatri (mantra). Among all of the numerous animistic gods and polytheistic powers, there is the resounding faith that all can be joined within one ultimate unity. I have not even begun to understand the myriad of gods or the customs of following the faith. However, one passage I read from the Upanishads, sums things up very clearly and makes things that much more complex.
‘When a teacher was asked, “How many gods are there?” he replied, “As many as were mentioned in the formula of the hymn of praise to the Vis-va-devas: three and three hundred, three and three thousand.” “Yes, but how many gods are there really?” He was asked again. “Thirty-three,” he said. “Yes, but how many really?” “Six.” “But how many really?” “Three.” “How many really?” “Two.” “How many really?” “One and a half.” “How many really?” “One.” “But, then, what are these three and three hundred, three and three thousand?” “Oh, they are only the various powers.” ~ The Upanishads
For me though, it is all about the chai stand. That is my temple. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, my allegiance is with the pure and healing energy of Chinese teas. But, the sweet jolts of energy at 15 cents a pop can’t be beat. Getting me over the long distances. Shining holes in the wall that call me off the road for momentary breaks and recovery. The chai man is a person of skill and power. He controls the hoards tapping in waiting as he froths another pipping glass of dark sweetened tea at arms length. The mixing gives it the airy taste, cools it to drinking temperature and combines the ingredients perfectly. With a few arm movements and a splash of tea the job is done. I think of the great respect I have for these men. It is a thankless job in cramped and very hot conditions. For one day I remember thinking of opening my own chai shop with whizzing hands and an indifferent pride for my craft. Quiet dreaming and empty thoughts over long distances.
Continuing on up through the west coast, I think back on how far I have come. All the people that helped me get to where I am. The road drifts on by with the whirling grind of traffic and the rolling hills of Kerala. My bicycle ticks over 7500km since beginning this journey. Snapshots clip in my mind of days long gone months ago while riding in little Chinese towns, a funny time, a simple smile, a good meal, or nights sleeping out under the stars. I think of people back home during the holiday season. How I miss my family, girlfriend and friends. How I hope to make up for all the time I have spent away. In three years I haven’t been able to be home for Christmas. Sorry Mom&Dad. Sometimes there are too many hours to think as I spin silently through the day. But if you ever catch me laughing to myself while riding along down a backroad somewhere, I’m not crazy, just deep in thought. To the road ahead. Happy holidays!
Posted on December 20, 2014, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, Cycling, India, Inspiration, Motivation, Thoughts, Travel and tagged Adventure, Amazing, Around the World, Auroville, Beautiful, Bicycle, Challenge, Charity, community, Cycling, Dreams, Exciting, Free the Children, Freedom, India, Inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi India, motivation, Oneadventureplease, People, South India, Sunset, Thoughts, Travel, Travel Photos, Travelpics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.