Thursday, 8 January 2015

The plan

This year it's India, from about at as far south as you can go to about as far north as you can go. Through 9 of the 29 Indian states. 5,000 km of varying terrain from the flat coastal backwaters of Kerala, up and around the hilltop tea plantations of the Western Ghats and on through Delhi and Shimla, up into the northern 'badlands' of Kashmir and Jammu. Climatically challenging too, I'm expecting 30+ deg afternoon temperatures in the deserts of Rajasthan and sub-zero night-time temperatures in the mountains of Kashmir. The highest pass en route is 5,563m, so not a lot of oxygen about and a distinct possibility of altitude sickness.

I have a zoom-able route here India2015 - Cycle route | RouteYou  but no set times to progress along it, although I'm hoping to average about 500km per week. The only key dates are, if it happens, meeting up with cycling buddy Mark Sewell in Gujarat to tour the hill forts of Rajasthan, and my flight home from Mumbai. 

The route statistics are a bit intimidating............

I'll be taking the backroads wherever possible and expecting to ride stretches of unsurfaced tracks and ford streams (snow melt in Kashmir). I don't know where I will be staying each night but will start looking at options from late afternoon onwards. The tent and mattress are going with me in case I don't find anything or in case a wild camping opportunity arises. In big towns I'll look for decent accommodation but in rural villages it's going to be very basic. 

EATING - Food will be whatever is offered at the roadside eateries. There won't be a lot of choice but the cuisine will change as I head north, rice-based in the south, wheat-based in the north. All will be tasty. I will buy 'tiffin tins' in country and will fill them during the day with ready cooked food, either as my evening meal, or my breakfast the next day. I'll have some emergency food like bread/biscuits and tinned tuna. I'll carry up to 5 litres of water, depending on availability, and will take water purification tablets and maybe a filter. I can't make my mind up about carrying a stove, probably not. 

THE BIKE - I'm taking the Santos Travelmaster, which has not had a real outing since the Turkey trip (Beirut by Bike). It's sporting new Schwalbe Marathon tyres, and my trusty B17 saddle is perched atop a ridiculously expensive Thudbuster suspension seat post. Oh, and big flat pedals. That's it. 

Spares-wise I'm taking a couple of tubes, a set of brake blocks, Rohloff gear change inner cables, spokes and a drive belt.

CLOTHING - I'm avoiding Lycra and padded cycling shorts this trip (but will pack a pair or two just in case). It will be DIY laundry each evening, so a minimum of clothes, except that I will be taking a long-sleeve shirt and a down jacket for the mountains. Oh, and I'm going to be trying out some merino wool T shirts and undies for the first time on this trip..... attracted by the well-documented comfort and no-pong properties of wool (how does that work?). Despite the airport hassle I will probably end up taking  4 panniers.

TECHNOLOGY - I've had bad experiences with Internet cafes so I'm taking my ASUS notebook (< 1kg) and an iPhone with handlebar mount. I'll be using the Pocket Earth app on the iPhone for gps navigation so battery life will need to be managed. I'll take a Garmin GPS for back up. The bike hub generator will top up a 15,000mAh battery on the move and I'll charge all my USB stuff from that. I've read that electricity is rationed in Kashmir to certain times of the day.  
Prepaid data packages are relatively cheap in India (research) so I plan to buy a SIM card in Mumbai. I'll be writing up the trip offline using the Blogger app and uploading it periodically. 

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