Highlights from a Vagabond’s Motorcycle Wanders of India

It goes without saying that India is a massive country. In 3 months, I got to explore only one strip of it, traveling West to East, sticking largely to the North. I hope to return some day and travel the country more extensively but, for now, here are the highlights from the areas I was fortunate enough to have visited.

In the hills around Uttarkashi. Photo by Peter Philips

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A Vagabond’s Budget in India

India is one of the more inexpensive countries on the backpacker circuit. Depending on your habits, tastes and where you travel, you can live pretty effing cheaply in this country for as long as your visa will allow.

[010/366]Money!

Make your Rupees stretch. (Photo credit: rvgpl)

I set my own budget at a projected $1,250 CAD dollars per month (all costs in this section will be listed in Canadian dollars, as this is the currency in which I do my finances), and this wasn’t a difficult goal to stick to. It was in fact generous (as any budget you’re setting for yourself should be to allow for wiggle room and emergencies).

Over the course of 3 months, my total spending in India came to a grand total of $4,350.16. But this includes the approximately $1600.00 purchase of Hrithik, my Royal Enfield motorcycle, from which I regained around $1200.00 when I sold him in Darjeeling.
Given this, my actual loss of finance was more like $3,150.16, or about $1,050.00 per month.

So how’d this break down? Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Driving in India, part 2 – The Practical Details

India’s a challenge to travel by motorbike, but it’s sure as shit a rewarding one. I particularly loved the high mountain roads in around Rishikesh and Uttarkashi, and the road to Darjeeling. I’d loved to have continued on to tour Sikkim, and heard amazing things about the riding in that area (and on into Nepal) but sickness unfortunately cut my travels short.

Along the road to Uttarkashi.

For an account of the general oddities and challenges you can expect to hit along the way, check out the (largely humorous) Part 1 to this series. But for the more practical nitty gritty, continue reading on.

Getting started

First off, you’re going to need a bike. Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Travel in India

No doubt, India is a challenging country to navigate. With around 350 different languages and dialects, a swarm of different religions (and sects of religions, and contrasting opinions on how to practice said religions) and a seemingly different culture every time you switch neighborhood, let alone state, it’s hard to come to any solid conclusions of how to do. . .well, anything really.

More than anything else, India is a country of contrasts. If you go looking for the wide-eyed street kids in rags and robed babas with painted faces that occupy so many of our media-fueled impressions of India, you’re sure to find them. You’ll find the insistent street vendors and the cows occupying city streets and the painted rickshaws driving like madmen. But if you look a bit harder you’ll also find a country pulling itself into the modern day, and you’ll find an educated youth, hungry for knowledge of the world outside their own and eager to converse with you about it.

Just one of the many faces waiting to greet you in India. Continue reading

Guest post: The Indian Head Tilt

My (I like to think) long-awaited ‘A Vagabond’s Guide to Travel in India’ series is all written and just awaiting upload. And, as a primer, today’s post is a guest post on the most vital aspect of any communication in India – The Indian head tilt, also known as the Indian head wobble.

I would have struggled to sum up what the gesture indicates, but Arthur, who originally wrote the piece for The Listserve lottery, has done a fantastic job. I inquired with him as to whether he minded my passing on his brilliant summation to a few more people, and he happily agreed.

Here then, without further ado, is Arthur:

You just landed in India. You’re a bit stressed: it’s absolutely normal. But let me just tell you a simple thing, and everything will go just fine. In a matter of days, the Indian in you will be fully awakened.

The head tilt. Continue reading

The Journey ‘Home’

In the end, I ended up selling Hrithik to a local tour company in Darjeeling. I liked that. It meant that he’d go on to see the Nepalese mountain roads, even if I would not (at least not this time around. Mark my words, I will ride those fuckers eventually).

After 2 and a half months together, I bid farewell to my beloved Hrithik.

The end of the trip went by in a blur; driving to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over the peaks of the Himalayas (which was awesome), selling the bikes, arranging flights, heading back into Patna and parting ways with Pete. . .while I left for Canada he continued on to Thailand. Continue reading

A Perfect Day in Darjeeling

I’ve mentioned before that a stunning photo does not necessarily indicate an awesome experience. That statement works both ways.

No photo can accurately sum up the day I had on April 21st of the year 2012. It was perfect, for too many tiny reasons that just do not translate well to pixels (though I suppose these words are also technically pixels. Or are they? My god I am not not good with computers). It doesn’t even make a good story, really (which doesn’t really say much for the quality of the post to follow). Nothing particularly epic occurred. It was just a lovely day.

It started off with the best pancakes I’d ever had, courtesy of Sonam’s kitchen. Continue reading

The Restorative Effects of Mountain Roads on Mood and Health

The road to Darjeeling is fucking stunning. The days of travel leading up to it (if fading in and out of consciousness during a raging fever can be consider ‘travel’) had been marked largely by worry and depression but, as we rounded a turn to catch our first glimpse of green on the twisting road to the former British hill station, my joy came right back to me. I was delighted to find that it hadn’t gone too far.

I wish I’d some pictures of the sharp switchback roads leading to Darjeeling but stopping in the middle of them is probably frowned upon by the traffic coming up behind you.

My spirits continued to rise as we did. As we cleared the first town at the mountain’s base mist rolled up through the long trunks of the shadowed forest below to crawl lazily across the road before us, shining silver in the afternoon sun. Its rays broke through the canopy above in slivers that created for us the illusion we were riding through thin walls of light. The roads began to twist and turn and rise at alarmingly sharp angles and steep degrees but I don’t remember feeling afraid or nervous. . .just highly, unwaveringly focused as I struggled to negotiate the 350 lb bike, intent on not stalling out in the middle of one of the hairpin switchbacks, relieved to no longer be in a hospital or hotel bed with sickness wrapped around me like a thick, clammy blanket. Continue reading

Joy Swing

As I’d picked up my bike early into my Indian wanders, I’d yet to travel in India by train. A couple posts back, I described the anarchy that is an Indian railway crossing. In Patna, I learned crossings have NOTHING on another process involving railways: obtaining a ticket.

Many Indian trains are booked weeks in advance. But for many routes the railways set a couple tickets aside as specific last minute buys; there are tickets designated only for foreigners, tickets set to be sold only 2 days before the journey. . .Pete and I were hoping to take advantage of this opportunity.

Unfortunately, so, it seemed, was the rest of Patna. Continue reading

Buddhist Technophiles and Cross-Cultural Pollination

Bodhgaya’s a temple town. Pretty much every country with a significant Buddhist population has set up a shrine here, the reason being the nearby Mahabodhi temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and its celebrity Bodhi tree, underneath which Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

The Mahabodhi Temple

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