The first day of cycling was far and away the best day of this trip. It was gorgeous, our guide and driver are awesome to be with, and we are mastering mountains we would have bet money we couldn’t conquer. All the inane clichés apply, and the name the Indians have given to this land – “God’s Own Country” – is the most adequate way to describe the deeply verdant jungles, flowers and fields of tea, banana, pineapple, jack fruit, papaya, mango, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, tapioca, and too many other things to name. These plants are landscaped across the mountains of the hill country or “hill stations” as the Indians call them, and each day we ride through kilometer after kilometer of breathtaking life in the hills.
The people mostly wave excitedly as we ride by, but some gawk, and a newspaper truck even photographed the crazy foreigners puffing up these hills (it is an offense to non-professional cyclers trudging up these hills that they aren’t considered mountains, but such are the insensitive categories of science). After a lifetime of recreational cycling (mostly to the bars on sunny spring days), we are becoming intimate for the first time with first and second gears, which we have spent consecutive hours in the past couple days. During the Buddhist retreat we practiced eating and walking meditation – a zen-ish attending to each bite and step taken. Cycling meditation is, as Josh says, absolutely requisite to make it up the hills. Yesterday the middle 20km of our trek was almost all uphill, and it requires a very singular mindset to plod along, in the tortoise-speed of first gear, unforgiving wind of the mountain (yes, I am going to call these hills mountains) after unforgiving wind.
While our muscles have adjusted surprisingly fast (not to say we aren’t sore, but we’re not dying; maybe because we go so slow), even our cycle diapers cannot prevent the punishment of unpadded seats on the underside of the pelvic bones, and we ease down gingerly after raising up onto our pedals to accommodate potholes and the occasional speed bump. We continue to be astounded by our ability to push through these rides, so far only once opting to be “transported” (loading the bikes and ourselves into the truck; we love the kind euphemism) for the final 20km, which we were told was all uphill and even steeper than the previous 20km had been. Mindfully watching the incline during this transport, we had no regrets; plus, we’d already gone more than twice as far as we’d ever ridden a bike, and more uphill kilometers than the previous 30 years of existence combined.
We have been at camps or homestays so far, getting a unique taste of boonie-hill-country residencies and home cooking. There is little hot water, so we fill up a bucket with the warm water and bathe out of that. I have pretty much renounced washing my hair, electing to distribute the grime of my sweaty scalp through my lovely locks with a brush in an effort to avoid dreadlocks.
Our Luxury Tent
Inside the Tent
But we are loving this trip even more than we hoped, and it is passing all too fast.
Till we connect again
Views from Homestay in Adimali: Karadipara