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Margao Monday January19 2009 


Today we leave Palolem Beach. We know already at the start that we only have a short ride to the next goal - Margao. We therefore choose to follow the coastal route via Cabo Da Rama and Betula, which is slightly longer but it will eventually lead us to the National Highway 17 and further north towards Margao.

The coastal road stretches along a valley between Highway 17 and the sea. There is almost no traffic and you can even hear the songbirds chirp in the groves lining the road.

At the beginning the whole valley is bathing in the pale red light from a low standing sun, but still it is chilly and even cold in the morning. Local people on motorbikes are really well wrapped-up in both jackets and sweaters.

On one side we meet forests and groves and on the other side newly planted deep green paddy fields whose waters reflect a clear blue sky and the sun's early morning rays jumping on the surface. 

After some 10 kilometres we meet the journey's worst hills so far. They are both long and steep, something like 12 percent at places. That explains the low average speed - 15km/h for the day.

Nor can we benefit from the downhill slopes, as the road is so bad that it requires full concentration and good brakes.

Janne fights valiantly and successfully to conquer the sharp, steep hills, even though he only has a few gears to choose between.

In Margao we try to get the gearshift repaired. Janne finds a very good repair-shop and the owner seems able to fix it but unfortunately it turns out that an important part is missing!

The repairman makes his job as good as possible under the difficult circumstances and from now on Janne may use four gears on the rear wheel and three gears in the front.


Bicycle Facts for January 19, Palolem – Margao

Distance 48 km, Runtime 3h 20min, Average speed 15 km/h



Panaji Tuesday January 20


Also today's stage would prove to be short. The day's goal, Goa's capital Panaji/Panjim is just about 40 km to the north. We start later and take it extremely easy since there is only one challenge, a single major hill.

We expect to stay in Panaji a couple of nights before we slowly (we have plenty of time) set out further north.


Bicycle Facts for January 20, Margao-Panaji

Distance 38 km, Runtime 2h 20min, Average speed 16 km/h


Panaji Wednesday January 21


Panaji is the capital of Goa, a small city with less than 100.000 inhabitants on the left bank of silvery Mandovi River, with beautiful red-roofed houses, built in Latin style.

But Panaji is not India! Okay, perhaps on the paper, on the map, but not in reality. It is a city with a south European if not to say, Portuguese atmosphere.

We have rented a room in the town’s probably most expensive but far from best guesthouse - Alfonso Guest House, following the recommendations in the Lonely Planet.

Well, it is nicely situated close to St Sebastian Chapel at the crossing of the 31st January Rd and not far from the river under shading Platan Trees but there are better options in Panaji. 

Old Goa

Earlier today we took a bike ride to the province's old capital city, Old Goa, which lies about ten kilometres east and is the erstwhile capital of the Portuguese dominions in Goa.

According to the travel literature, Old Goa competed in its time (the 1600s probably) in greatness with both Lisbon and London. Nowadays there is not a much left of the former greatness, except for a couple of churches affiliated to various congregations, including the Se Cathedral, the church of St Francis of Assisi, the church of S. Caetano, and notably, the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains the body of Saint Francis Xavier who was given the mission to spread Christianity in the east-Asian Portuguese colonies.

Otherwise to be found is a couple of tourist-restaurants, a few postcard-dealers, a bus terminal (for the Old Goa-people working in Panaji) and a number of smaller canteens, primarily for the locals.

We followed the other tourists and looked at the enormous churches, where sweepers and cleaners were picking litters. At one of the local tearooms we had a cup of tea and some Indian pastries before cycling back to Panaji.

(For those who want to know more about the old capital city there is an excellent website if you click here.) 

Tomorrow we intend to follow the coast up to the famous beaches in North Goa. If we find it interesting, we might stay at least four or five days. There is just a fully month left before flying home, and we have only slightly more than 600 kilometres to Bombay. That means plenty of time for laziness! 

Arambol Beach, North Goa Friday January 23


The cycling here to Arambol yesterday was more of strategic importance, a castling to be in position for the final attack towards Mumbai via the small and hilly roads along the Konkan Coast.

From Panaji to Arambol is not far as the crow flies. We therefore chose to cycle here via different minor roads, which meander up through the farmed landscape along the coast and through small sunburned villages.

At a junction, we were forced to ask for the right way. We asked a short well-dressed man, in a spotless white shirt and ironed trousers. He kindly showed us the right way, asked from where we came and introduced himself as "Rosario d'Acosta, indian and shopkeeper." He spoke good English, but no Portuguese despite his name.

As I’ve mentioned earlier there is not much reminding you of India here along Goa's frequent densely populated tourist beaches. You easily find the tracks of the Portuguese who ruled and ravaged here until the early 1960s, when they were thrown out.

Overall, the cycling reached 40 km and the average speed is just not worth talking about! 


If Palolem Beach is the southernmost of Goa's many popular beaches, Arambol is the northernmost and perhaps the most established, at least according to the travel guides.

Tourists here in Arambol seem to be different from those who occupy the beach in Palolem. Here the tourists are either very young or pretty old, while in Palolem there are many more families. There is more of high life and partying in Arambol while Palolem has a more laid-back atmosphere.

Most of the “elderly” are what Lonely Planet describes as " hippies who have been in hibernation from the 1980s in Arambol have been aged in style."

To tell the truth I'm not sure I share that view. Most people who can be considered to belong to the category of "hibernating hippies" seem to me just as otherworldly and self-absorbed and drug-cantered as any other junkies.

The youths are mainly from Europe, most of them just ordinary, but some are more "Indian" than the Indians themselves in their search for an identity. There are also a lot of Rastafaris as well, who are probably more likely to come from Sacramento, Tel Aviv, St. Petersburg, Prague, Riga, Hudiksvall than from Kingston or Addis Ababa.

Remarkably many are from Israel and the old Eastern Bloc - the Baltics but especially from Russia.

Moreover, Arambol is much like other similar resorts in Goa; a village a hefty stone's throw from the beach area, where the locals live. From the village, there is as a rule a winding narrow road down to beaches. The road is lined all the way with hundreds of confusingly similar pavement-shops; they sell the same fabrics, the same stone stuff, the same elephants carved in wood, the same T-shirts, bags same same same, same of everything. Gadgets and knick-knacks and energetic marketing.

The already narrow road here through Arambol is becoming narrower the closer you get to the beach. Barely room for two passing in width, but busy by the dense traffic of motorcycles and mopeds. The last one hundred meters down to the beach is contaminated of sewage water, which you must squish in.

The actual beach strip is infinitely long. Several kilometres of dazzling white soft sand.

Along the first kilometre are many small unpretentious restaurants in a row, door-to-door and built in simple bamboo structures. Behind this line of eateries there are small "huts" - cottages of varying quality, price and size, but often both simple and cheap but appropriate. (It is said that when the tourist season is over the whole lot is demolished, to reappear the following season.)

We have for instance rented a couple of these unpretentious' bungalows, built of bamboo and intertwined palm leaves as roof. Inside there will be a double bed with a mosquito net, a fan, a small cupboard, a shower and a toilet. We got two such "bamboo-huts" for the price of what we paid for our "tree hut" in Palolem, 600 Rs. 

We will probably stay here for four or five days before we take aim at Mumbai. 

Bicycle Facts for January 22,  Panaji-Arambol Beach

Distance 39 km, Runtime 2h 20min, Average speed 17 km/h, Maximum speed 47 km/h


Vengurla Monday January 26


We leave Arambol Beach without much grief. We believe it has become too much of a tourist-life and too little of India recently. Yesterday the locals celebrated something up in the village. The small whitewashed church near the junction between the road into the village and down to the beach, was more than filled with festively dressed people. Although it looked pretty lively all the people were dressed in black, both men and women. Men in elegant decorated suits and women in fashionable dresses. It appeared to be a Christian feast.

At dawn we cycle onwards and passing the now deserted church through the village and following the main road north to highway 17 and the invisible border between Goa and Maharashtra. The trip goes along the pastures and cultured fields. It is an easy cycling and we arrive at Vengurla early in the afternoon. 

Bicycle Facts for January 26,  Arambol Beach-Vengurla

Distance 42 km, Runtime 3h 20min, Average speed 14 km/h, Maximum speed 50 km/h


Malvan Tuesday January 27


Malvan is a town of narrow cosy streets, heavy traffic, many shops and it is in fact really nice ... and very Indian.

We feel good again after the many days along the tourist-packed beaches at the Malabar Coast of Goa. Malvan is a major fishing port, and outside the hotel lots of fishing boats bob in their moorings and at a small shipyard nearby, workers give old fishing vessels with worn wooden-hull a layer of plastic coating. It smells strongly of fish, sea, and liquid polyester! 

Earlier we have logged over 70 km a day on average, but since some time the distance has slowly decreased. Since we left Arambol and Goa and started cycling north towards the Konkan coast, we have only finished 100 kilometres of the more than 500 remaining to Mumbai.

There are mainly two reasons for the shorter stages. First, there are many hills, both long and quite steep. Second, there is no need to hurry since we have almost a month before flying home. We are well ahead of schedule. 

Tomorrow are we focusing on the mountains being a part of the Western Ghats to the north and towards a place called Devgardh.


Bicycle Facts for January 27,  Vengurla-Malvan

Distance 52 km, Runtime 3h 40min, Average speed 14,5 km/h, Maximum speed 47 km/h


Devgardh Wednesday January 28


We leave Malvan at dawn and after a rather pleasant ride we arrive at hot, dry and dusty Devgardh, where we after a little searching and with the tips and help from the locals get a room on a family hotel - Green Villa, which, moreover, is painted in yellow. The little hotel is situated a bit outside of town.

We have gradually realised that the small road along the Konkan coast has become increasingly worse. The surface consists of old, worn down asphalt where coarse gravel and sand are exposed. After an uphill you are often immediately rewarded with a pleasant downhill but not in this case. Instead, there are several slopes upwards in stages and then you have to traverse over a vast tableland, which has almost no vegetation except for a few dry straggling trees and sparse dry grass cremated by a merciless burning sun.

The roads are so bad that you have no advantage of riding downhill. Instead, you must hang on the brakes to keep the speed down. 

Bicycle Facts for January 28,  Malvan-Devgardh

Distance 60,5 km, Runtime 4h 23min, Average speed 14,1 km/h, Maximum speed 45 km/h


Rajapur Friday January 30


Today, we had expected a rather pleasant trip of about 50 km up to Rajapur.

It did not become pleasant! 

In Devgardh we had received a tip about a new path, a shortcut over the mountains, over the Konkan Hills, via a newly built bridge, Aamberi Bridge. The first fifteen kilometres to the crossroads at Padel Canteen everything worked out as expected. Singing birds almost no traffic and clear blue skies. But then the fun ended!

The remaining 30-40 kilometres were almost impassable. What was left could not really be called a road anymore. You could find well-dispersed, isolated patches of asphalt, but otherwise the road was completely perforated of potholes filled with stones and gravel. A few hundred meters here and there one could reach, at most, 15 km/hour. The average speed of the day (11km/h) indicates, however, a more typical speed!

At some places, we had barely steerage-way in our desperate attempt to avoid the deepest potholes.  Under these circumstances cycling downwards was almost as time-consuming as cycling upwards.


On one occasion a steep downhill began with a piece of decently passable and partly asphalted road, and because I had a naive hope that it would remain so, I increased the speed significantly.

Some fifty meters further down, the road suddenly and abruptly ended.

I was approaching in a far too high speed the critical point where the road suddenly was transformed into a gravel pit surrounded by deep hollows. I braked hard and desperately. The bike disappeared under me and was slipping in among the bushes alongside the road while I continued to roll and slither down the slope and finally disappeared in a dusty cloud a few dozen meters further down. 

I was lucky to get nothing but some minor blessures, especially in the palms (remember to wear bike gloves) and a sore hip. Otherwise I was quite OK, albeit a little giddy. I walked the remaining distance to the bottom of the hill and found that less than hundred meters further down there was a school. The schoolyard was full with pupils. They stopped playing and looked at us curiously. I could have become the news-of-the-day if the accident had happened here instead.

We took a break for rehabilitation at a small cafeteria before we continued to Rajapur. 


-Rajapur is a city God probably forgot, says Janne.

The actual town is situated a bit off the State Highway 17 and lies isolated deep in a river valley. Once here was a creek that was navigable and in colonial time both England and France had factories here.

We roll down a steep winding road to the city centre. It is a Muslim dominated town and since it is Friday you consequently hear prayers from the muezzin echoing over the densely built area from the speakers of the neon green mosque.

The mosque lies next to a square, which is filled with people who either are on the market or waiting for the bus at the bus terminal.

Rajapur has got about 10.000 inhabitants and is a hub of commerce for the many surrounding villages.

Nearby, labourers cast a new concrete-bridge over the dammed and partially dry river. Janne is looking for a place offering Internet-access and receives a tip about a computer-guy living in an apartment in an old tenement house built of a worn flaky concrete. But he is not at home.

-He is in the Mosque for the Friday prayer, the neighbours suppose.

We return uphill the steep road to the highway, where our hotel is located. 

Tomorrow, we will proceed towards Ratnagiri. 

Bicycle Facts for January 30,  Devgardh-Rajapur

Distance 55,5 km, Runtime 4h 30min, Average speed 12,5 km/h, Maximum speed 55 km/h


Ratnagiri, late Saturday evening January 31 


When we leave Rajapur in the morning, we have to choose between the highway that is 75 kilometres or the so-called "Coastal Highway", a "shortcut" over the mountains and just 60 km. We ask a guy, who speaks poor English, about his opinion of the coastal road. He shakes his head and shows a serious face when he illustrates his view. We choose the highway wise from yesterday's experience.

About the highway, however, curiously enough there are significantly more and longer hills upwards than downwards. At least that is the way you feel and the hills are both numerous and often infinitely long. Anyway 75 kilometres later we are here in Ratnagiri. Tomorrow morning we expect to continue towards Ganatipule, which is famous for its pristine beaches and thousands of Hindu pilgrims who visit the town's seaside-temple.    

Ratnagiri itself is a bustling vibrant city with around 80 000 inhabitants. There were probably twice as many today when the entire town was turned into a gigantic market; fruit and vegetables, blouses and bras, underpants and tools, crockery and cutlery, pans and pots, hats and caps and plastic things in all shapes and colours ... yes to put it short: everything. That means Saturday Market in Ratnagiri! A sizzling firework of colours and shapes!  

The city is said to have “a nice beach with fine white sand and a glittering, but not so clean water", says Lonely Planet. We took no swim.

Furthermore, we have probably ended up on the city's worst accommodation. We do not know the name of the shelter, but there is a signboard outside the miserable house that says something written in the local language with the addition of "Lodge." 

Excerpt from a mail:

At the moment I have squeezed  myself into a small booth in a Cyber Café, owned by a couple of energetic young people. There is barely space for standing, the fans work badly or not at all, the mosquitoes bite and it is a warm, humid evening in Ratnagiri.

Now just after nine o'clock in the eve, the city is emptied slowly and soon it will be deserted and dark. I feel the slight breeze from the sea and can see billions of stars glistening on the dark blue sky. It is a magical, tropical night that slowly and eventually turns into a tiger-night.

Bicycle Facts for January 31,  Rajapur-Ratnagiri

Distance 75,6 km, Runtime 4h 35min, Average speed 16,9km/h, Maximum speed 53km/h


Guhagar Tuesday February 3


We arrive in Guhagar pretty "late" in the afternoon. "Late" means that we arrive after three o'clock, which here in India is an important time. Most restaurants close at three o'clock and then open first in the evening.

As there is a great demand for both energy and fluid after having finished the cycling for the day, we in general are eager to start looking for somewhere to eat. But in Guhagar all the restaurants were closed. We cycle to the rather empty beach, which is protected by a sparse coniferous forest, and manage to get the owner of a small beach-kiosk painted in salmon pink to cook omelette with toast and coffee.

There is a special reason why we arrive late today. After about 20 km cycling we are in place called Jaigarh, located at the edge of a broad estuary. The landing place for the ferry is deserted. Some old men who are playing cards tell us that the ferry might show up at ten o'clock, but will not leave before 12!

Since it is only just past nine we stroll around in the small fishing village, take a few pictures and try to kill time.

When we take a cup of tea at a small teashop, we get an offer from a man who owns a boat to ferry us across the water for 400 rupees. We jump at the offer and are on the "other side" just after 11.

Otherwise, the cycling works out entirely as planned, in spite of the fact that the road coating is missing in several places and we have to keep a low speed. But we are becoming familiar with the geography here along the Konkan coast; long, hard, dusty and sunburned mountain-roads. We also know that "the road" every now and then ceases to be a road other than by name. Okay, we have understood that now!

Bicycle facts for February 3rd Ganpatipule-Guhagar

Distance ca 57 km, Runtime 4h 10min, Average speed 13,7 km/h


Dapoli Wednesday February 4


The day couldn't have started better.

The sunrise is as beautiful as a picture postcard, and the air clear and warm. Girls and women in saris colourful as butterflies are on their way to their jobs.

A fine morning, quite simply, and everything points to a pleasant ride to Dapoli.

Even the sun has its spots; my rear tire turns out to be flat when we are ready to start. A puncture has emptied the tyre during the night but after a quick repair we leave Guhagar.

Although we are slightly delayed and in spite of the many hills, we arrive at the mouth of the river Vashishti and the ferry in Veldur at midday. We wait about an hour for the ferry, but according to schedule it should run every half hour. We pay 5 rupees per person and 3 for the bicycles. We have time to drink coffee on the small ferry before we call at the small village of Dabhol after 20 minutes. We are about halfway to Dapoli.

It turns out that Dapoli is located on the top of a ridge and the day ends with a couple of sweaty slopes.

We put up to a hotel with the pretentious name "Top of the Town" and pay 400 rupees for a room.

Bicycle facts for February 4th Guhagar-Dapoli

Distance ca 47 km, Runtime 3h 30min, Average speed 13,6 km/h


Hari Hareshwar Thursday February 5


Since Dapoli is situated quite high on a hill, there is much of downhill cycling in the morning before arriving to the beautiful fishing port of Harnai (approximately 17 km).

Eventually, in the small thoroughfare village of Kelshi, we obviously make an incorrect choice between two roads.

After having breakfast we ask local people about roads and directions. Everyone is pointing out a little, narrow, unassuming and winding road that ends abruptly in a dry bay. There is also a small half a metre broad track, but it does not look as if it was used very much. The beaten track continues behind a rock edge where it seems to disappear.

We therefore cycle back to the village and select a different and much larger road towards the ferry in Bankot.

The road is certainly larger in the sense of wider, but in a pitiful state and there is as usual lots of ups and downs over several high mountain ridges.

Later however, when we arrive at the berth for the ferry in Bankot, it turns out that the track we rejected was the right way!

Something like a kilometre behind the rock edge we find the ferry.

We then understand that we cycled several tens of kilometres unnecessarily.

Bitwise the road we have chosen is barely able to cycle. Down to the ferry terminal in Bankot, where we cross Saviri River and continue towards Hari Hareshwar, today's destination, we have to carry our bikes.

We arrive at Hari Hareshwar at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Like many places here along the Konkan Coast it is exploited for a rapidly growing tourism. We rent a bungalow at Beach Resort and intend to stay for two days.

The main building at Beach Resort is a real breach of style. It is a three storey building in a so-called post-modern style; tight straight lines and large glazed facades. Older low houses and shacks surround the “Monolith”.

We are the only guests at the facility, consisting of a main building with a restaurant and several rooms and a dozen bungalows.

Bicycle facts for February 5th Dapoli-Hari Hareshwar

Distance ca 70 km, Runtime 4h 45min, Average speed 14,6 km/h


Murud Saturday February 7


Deep bays and rivers cutting into the landscape tear the coastline up here close to Mumbai. That means a lot of ferry crossings, which can be very time consuming. So far, we have had to cross rivers or bays four or five times. On the stretch from Hari Hareshwar up to Murud there is a ferry at the small town called Dhigi.

After the ferry crossing there will only be about 10 km left to Murud, which allows us to take it pretty easy today.

In Murud, we put up at Dipsons Hotel.

Bicycle facts February 7th Hari Hareshwar-Murud

Distance ca 62 km, Runtime 4 h 20 min, Average speed 14,7 km/h


Alibag Sunday February 8


Two days in Alibag is more than enough even if the beds at Seaview hotel are comfortable and the hotel entrance is located only few meters from the beach. But the sea here does not invite to a swim. It has not a pleasant and inviting turquoise to light green colour but varies from bluish brown to entirely brown.

The water is allegedly polluted and contaminated of emissions from Bombay, which is located on a peninsula just a few tens of kilometres north. The huge city has almost 20 million inhabitants and the systems for cleaning the sewage are mainly simple and underdimensioned.

However, it is so shallow in Alibag at low tide that you dry-shod can walk out to the ruins of a fortress more than one kilometre further out.

Bicycle facts February 8th Murud-Alibag

Distance 55 km, Runtime 3 h 35 min, Average speed 16 km/h



From a Mail on 9/2:

Tomorrow it is time for last the 20-25 kilometres of our journey. We will be cycling along the coast to a place called Mandwe. From there we take the ferry across the bay to excessive large Bombay where we expect to land some time late in the morning next to the triumphal arch Gateway of India. A more stately finish Janne's and my bike trip in southern India could hardly get.

Mumbai Tuesday February 10


When we come to the long Ferry Jetty in Mandwe there is a long queue. Most people are on their way to work in Mumbai.

The ferry is of a simple wood construction and is not particularly suited to carry bicycles. The trip takes almost an hour. It is windy and the waves are pretty high in Mumbai Harbour. The old wooden hull creaks and wails. Many of the passengers are seasick and avert, with a simple hand movement and without looking up, the elderly man who walks around and selling coffee and tea.

We land as expected, right next to Gateway of India and we have to fight our way through the mass of arriving passengers from all three ferries lying abreath. We lug the bicycles and the luggage through the flood of people streaming up and down the stone-staircase either on the way to their jobs or to the ferries.

Then, finally, we are standing on the large open asphalted square in front of the giant arc, Gateway of India, and hence our cycling tour from Chennai around the southern part of the Indian continent, is completed.

Bicycle facts February 10th Alibag-Mumbai

Distance 25 km



From Gateway if India we pass the enormous Taj Mahal Hotel. There is an ongoing repair work after the terrorist attacks in November. Doormen in elegant uniforms welcome guests in black limousines. We continue, however, to the Bentley Hotel, which is popular among backpackers and situated in a middle-class area just a few hundred meters from Gateway of India and Taj Mahal in a district called Colaba.


From the start in Chennai almost all the way up to southern Goa is flat cycling. There are no tiresome hills, but sometimes you feel it is more a transport and less of cycling. As you can find from the diary notes, road condition varies a lot, from the worst being hardly passable to quite good and newly asphalted highways.

Good cycling conditions require not only good roads but also variation concerning hills and slopes and preferably winding roads through small cities and villages. Long endless roads, can often be very boring even if the road otherwise is in good condition.

The northern portion of the narrow coastal plain between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea is known as the Konkan Coast or simply Konkan and stretches along the Arabian Sea from The southern tip of India all along the west coast of India.

The northern rugged section of the Konkan Coast is called the Konkan Hills. Mountain ridges stretching down to the Arabian Gulf like gnarled fingers dominate them.

You cycle uphill brown cremated mountain slopes, across dry cinnamon-brown plains down through the green lush river valleys, along endless rice paddies and through villages lying as colourful beads at the coast. There is a cool breeze from the Arabian Gulf and you have the sun in the back.

Many of the roads along the Konkan Coast are indeed in a pitiful state, and most of the time we worried about our bikes and whether they would stand the extreme strain or not.

Despite what is written above, Janne and I completely agree x that the route from southern Goa along the Konkan Coast over the numerous hills and slopes to Mumbai has definitely been the best and most interesting cycling, a fact also certified by other cyclists.

The Traffic

The traffic is sometimes insane.

I met on one occasion an American cyclist in Siem Riep in Laos. I lamented over the hectic and unpredictable traffic there.

-This is certainly nothing, he said and told me about his eight month cycling in India. 

He told about the bus drivers who reigns the roads, about pedestrians, about men, women and children and cyclists and minor creatures who fled in all directions when the busses roared through towns and villages; Quite often several in width and where left-hand-driving rules only seemed to be an option.

Janne and I now share the same experience

-Bus drivers are worst, said John in Kovallam. Truck drivers and ordinary motorists behave more decently. But the bus drivers …, John shakes his head.

We passed several road accidents where mostly busses and trucks seemed to be involved.

Equip your bike with a rear-view mirror so you can have good control over what is approaching from behind, so you can keep away, and possibly run into the gravel alongside the road if necessary.

But don't let the traffic stop you from cycling in Southern India, or India in general. By being observant and aware, after all, cycling in rural India through small towns and villages is an outstanding experience.

Just watch out for Indian bus drivers!


Total Distance: 2830 kilometres

Cycling time:162 hours

Number of hotels: 45

Number of cycling days: 43

Average daily distance: 66 km

Average speed for the entire trip: 17.5 km/h



Dharavi is considered to be Asia's largest slum area. It was originally a small isolated fishing community, inhabited by folk of the Koli tribe, at a bay to the sea and a marsh area in the northern parts of current Mumbai. Now there are just more than one million people living on about 175 hectares, without electricity, running water or toilets.

(For anyone wishing to know more about the slums in India in general and Dharavi in particular the Indian journalist Kalpana Sharma's book "Rediscovering Dharavi" could be recommended)


Amar is well over 60 years and with a semi-long grey hair and a bushy grey beard.

He sits mostly on a small stool outside his kiosk at Cuffe Parade in the city's south side quite near the World Trade Centre.

From his place he sees in southeast the many skyscrapers that form the city's southern skyline.

-There lives one of India's most prominent industrialists, " Amar points at a building on the front that rises some thirty floors high and built in dark glass and cream-colored concrete and with a helicopter platform on the roof.

I guess he is talking about the owner of the Tata Empire Ratan N. Tata,  which recently bought the car manufacturers Jaguar and Land-Rover, is cooperating with the SAAB on the "Swedish" aircraft fighter project, JAS, and just having launched the world's cheapest car - Nano.

But I am mistaken. (But it gave me the opportunity to tell something about the Tata). Amar corrects me and says that it is Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man.

Mukesh Ambani can from his window in the skyscraper, which cost one billion dollars to build, just behind Amar's kiosk, squeezed between high-rise buildings and wall-to-wall with the condo complex Palm Springs, see the slum Cuffe Parade. Smaller than Dharavi but also previously a swamp, and close and revealing portrayed in the best-selling "autobiography" Shantaram, by the former bank robber and heroin addict, Australian Gregory David Roberts. (The book is said to be currently filmed by one of India's most successful directors - Mira Nair.) I have put quotes around the autobiography of the simple reason that it later emerged that some of the material in the book is pure fiction.

(But most people today talk widely about Mr Ambanis newly built dwelling, a twenty-nine stories high building called Antilia Mansion. [Antilia is a synonym for Atlantis and considered another name for Paradise. My note.] The building is a piece of architectural art and a picture can be found here!


The economy in India is growing fast as well as the middle class and the social inequalities. Only in Mumbai it is estimated that half a million people are so called pavement dwellers, people, mostly women and children, who are bound to live on the street.

Nor would it be wrong to tell that between 15 000 and 20 000 farmers commit suicide every year in India, leaving wives and children destitute. A desperate act, it may seem, but the reason is considered to be a consequence of the same globalization praised to the skies by market liberals.

The farmers here cannot compete with subsidized agricultural products from North America and Europe and are therefore caught in a debt trap they cannot get out.

I could also write about the great Indian people, unabashedly and intrusively curious, but generous, helpful and with a formidable ability to survive under poor circumstances. They are certainly the mother's of invention or, as the Indian journalist Kalpana Sharma puts it in her book "Rediscovering Dharavi":

The stories from Dharavi show us that poor people are survival artists.

Yes there is much one could write about!

Incredible Indians!

Incredible India!

Maharashtra Map
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FRONT PAGE        PART 1         PART 2         PART 3         PART 4         PART 5

 Photo Gallery
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 Photo Gallery
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 Photo Gallery
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Maharashtra Map
click here!
Maharashtra Map
click here!
Photo Gallery
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At the Gateway of India - Photo: Nicolas Hosa

Ulrike Rodrigues  
lives in Vancouver, Canada and has been writing about independent travel, alternative culture,  sustainable transportation and riding a bicycle since 1990.
Read about her cycling in Goa here!

Photo by Nicolas Hossa

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