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  1. #1
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    India (North and South) in January-March - thoughts, tips and advice

    Hi there,

    Myself and a friend are hoping to go on a 6-week tour this winter to India. It will be our first visits to India although we have cycle toured elsewhere before and travelled fairly extensively.

    It would be great to hear anyone else's experiences while riding in India, I have heard a lot of horror stories about the roads but an equal measure of encouragement too...

    I am stuck, however, with deciding where to go. I have been looking for regions which have shortish distances between towns, villages and sights, with a climate which will be fine for riding in at this time of year and enough to fill six weeks. I plan to spend stretched at national parks/reserves too as I am not much of a city-dweller and am a a wildlife watcher at heart. I am not averse to one or two train trips as well to cut out some of the longer distances but would rather not rely on this much.

    I have basically whittled it down to:

    - Himalayan foothills - but not too high due to the cold! (Places could include Corbett NP, Ranikhet, Almora, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, Chandigarh, Shimla... Suggestions please!).

    - Kerala, S Karnataka, W Tamil Nadu (Places could include Western Ghats, Ooty, Fort Cochin, Trivandrum and the many parks along the way... Suggestions please!).

    Is it madness to be riding in the southern Himalayan foothills at that time of year? We are fine with cool weather, being British, but would rather not have to bring thick sleeping gear or lots of layers. Is tent/sleeping bag necessary at all?

    Have I completely missed out some obvious amazing places I shouldn't miss?

    Have I overlooked other amazing areas which would make a good 5/6week trip?

    Literally any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Cheers,

    H

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    This page contains 6 links to information about bike touring in India.

    They might not all be of interest to you but some probably will.

    If you haven't already, you should also check www.crazyguyonabike.com .
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
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    Wow, really good stuff, thanks for this

  4. #4
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    I haven't toured in India...yet. But I've been doing my own research, and also got a lot of advice from 2 women I met in southeast Asia who have toured extensively throughout India. Season aside, they both thought that either the far north or the south were best-suited for touring, so both of your options would fit that. Central India sounds way too crowded and chaotic to be enjoyable on a bike, at least for me. I've read quite a few trip narratives on crazyguyonabike.com, and found a significant difference between recent trips to southern India and ones which took place 10 or more years ago. It sounds like the level of traffic in coastal areas of Kerala, for example, has exploded in recent years, and that it's no longer so pleasant for biking near the coast. However the Ghats appear to remain relatively quiet traffic-wise, and that's where I decided I would go for a winter trip. By the way, I did tour in nearby Sri Lanka in the winter, and it was a great place to visit. I should add, though, that the cycling there varied a lot. Many roads were good, but some were awful. But it has a wonderful mix of things to see, friendly people, great food, and other tourists told me there are fewer hassles in Sri Lanka than in India (and I have also been frequently told that southern India has fewer hassles than northern India).

  5. #5
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    What do you do for water in India given that in most places the water isn't really potable for western gastrointestinal tracts?

  6. #6
    mev
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    I took a six week loop through South India: http://www.mvermeulen.com/oneyear/india.htm

    That was a decade ago, and India has changed some since then. I worked from Bangalore for two weeks this past January and also six weeks last summer - only cycling I did was local riding with a mountain bike I have there. However, my impression is still that South India is a fun place to ride and January/February an ideal time for that area.

    As far as the water question goes, one picks up bottled water (~15 Rs/liter was what I found) and make sure the seal is real. Also for this area, makes sense to stay in hotels and not plan on camping.

  7. #7
    Macro Geek
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    If I were to return to India – I last visited 32 years ago – I would pay more attention to the quality of the water, and take measures to ensure my drinking water was safe. (But then, my perspective was formed by developing hepatitis and spending three weeks in a hospital, having several cases of giardia, and requiring two years to recover fully after returning home.)

    I would bring an electric "wand" to place in a metal tin to boil water. Plug it in, boil the water for 10 minutes, allow it cool somewhat, and drink up!

    When electricity is not available, I would consider using iodine tablets to kill off the nasties in the water.

    Staying at a fancy hotel is no guarantee that the water is safe, as I learned one fateful day!

    As for where to go on your trip, you might want to consider organizing your destinations according to a theme that interest you: musical performances, religious temples, Moghal Empire architecture, hill stations, prehistoric sites, places where Gandhi walked, areas where people speak Dravidian languages… You get the idea…

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone for this. Some good tips.

    I have decided to go ahead with planning a Karnataka & Kerala tour, flying in/out of Somewhere like Goa or Bangalore and then leaving via Trivandrum. Good idea?

    I would like to visit nice coastal towns, hill stations and national parks. Any recommendations?

    Also, to anyone who has cycled into or through national parks, is this possible? What restrictions are there with taking bikes to or through parks and do I have to book in advance? Is there usually somewhere budget to stay?

    Thanks again!

    H

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