We needed two cars to take our bikes to where we were going to start our India adventure. The Kapoors live right in the centre of Mumbai, and it wouldn’t be our most cleverest idea to try and start cycling from there! It was a good way to see some other parts of Mumbai without fearing for our lives – plenty more time for that. 30 minutes later and a £1.50 taxi fare (UK taxis take note!) we pulled off the motorway and into a layby.
Getting used to cycling on the correct side of the road again, we headed off towards Nashrik. The Indians seem a bit more reserved and inquisitive than other countries, but they were soon wobbling their joyful heads from side to side from the overflowing buses and fairground style trucks with the best horns yet – some played a whole tune!
We were hoping to find a hotel around 40-50 miles, but despite the new signs, most of them along the highway would have struggled to pass as a garden shed! And I didn’t fancy being a mosquito feast! The landscape was lush and green, but it was very humid compared to the dry desert heat of our previous weeks. We ended up having to climb to nearly 2,000 feet and cycle for an hour in the dark (not what we wanted to be doing in a new country) before we found a hotel. Well I thought it was a hotel, as I charged up the steps and into the reception. It wasn’t. It was a temple and the people there were less than impressed that I still had my dirty cycle shoes and socks on. Luckily we did find one further down and Jon even managed to get a 40% discount.
So end of my first day in India. Obviously so different to the western culture, the class divide is really highlighted not only by the servants of the more privileged, but the daily struggle with life. It’s difficult to understand a life where there are very few aspirations, ambitions or dreams. Living life is a challenge in itself. Sometimes it feels like us cycling!
After a bit of a lie in and a little bit of Internet work it was off to get a haircut before meeting Jankidas Mehras sons and to have a photoshoot at a remembrance plaque in his honour. It was great to meet the sons of another great Indian legend and inspiring to read some of the newspapers cuttings, the man had met Ghandi who asked him to raise the Indian flag in the Zurich games during the British occupation, despite sparking controversy he was hailed a hero and played a key role in securing Indian independence.
The rest of the day we relaxed, listened to some of Sidhants music and sent out a few emails.
We arrived in Mumbai at 4am. We hadn’t slept since Thursday 3 days again so we were shattered. We had a job making sure our bikes came off the plane safely; our baggage belt was mixed with 3 other flights so it was an absolute market. We had to fight our way to the entrance onto the belt as the supervisor was adamant they would come through on the belt rather than being bought through as fragile items (like the stickers read which were plastered all over the boxes). I was less than impressed when one of the baggage handlers plonked one of the bike boxes on the belt then realised that it actually wasn’t the most sensible thing to do and had to leap to grab it to stop it toppling off the side.
It was funny navigating through the busy airport terminal with a wide load of 2 huge bike boxes, we managed to upset a few people including Dom himself when he stubbed his toe on the trolley losing a toe nail in the process-ouch! Despite persistently being told not to, a tip seeker insisted he push my trolley with all our bags only to somehow crash spilling the bags all over the road- what a doughnut! No tips for you then pal.
We got to our friends Ruhan (and family’s) place around 7am. Holly and I met Ruhan last summer when we got engaged in India, he is the son of a very famous Bollywood composer, Mahendra Kapoor, and Ruhan himself has played the lead role in successful Bollywood box office films, he also sings, composes and performs with his son Sidhant who has an amazing gift of being able to compose and produce he is even in his final year of an animation course father and son make an awesome team! The talent doesn’t stop there though, his beautiful daughter Rishika studied to become a chocolatier and now hand makes and wraps delicious chocolates from home and has been working to build up her business for the last 5 months. Ruhans wife, Witty is a fashion designer- Indian dresses are amazingly colourful and sparkly really pleasing to the eye, holly will vouch for that. They also live with Ruhans mother who has endless fascinating stories about life on the road and her travels with her late husband, the house is filled with trophies ranging from golden jubilee (50 weeks at the box office) to lifetime achievement awards to Indian equivalent of Grammys. I found in really inspiring as we too are trying to achieve something although on a very different scale, I still found it motivating and encouraging.
We caught up for a few hours battling heavy eyelids but soon crashed out for a couple of hours. Once we got up Ruhan helped us find a map of India and he and his son helped us plan our route to Kolkota. I mentioned to him that I’d read about Jankidas Mehra the legendary Indian freedom fighter and cyclist an ironically it turns out Ruhan knows his sons, between them they managed to get some interest from mainstream publications for the following day.
Later Ruhan took us on a small tour of Mumbai and then it was back to his place for a delicious home cooked curry something Dom and I had been dreaming of since we left the UK. He also arranged for a massage for me which was awesome, Dom foolishly declined.