Wednesday, March 25, 2015
tricks of the trade
In my earlier blog about what this fool has done, I described our travels by bicycle as comparatively easy, and now that we are Delhi and feeling elated about having cycled 4,333 kms, the trip in hindsight appears almost seamless with no significant untoward events . Admittedly, there were some hot humid days in Goa, and the five days leaving Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas were very tough - for reasons of topography ie mostly hills and some unusually inclement weather. However, overall, our ride of has been quite comfortable due to a number of reasons.
This trip began with the notion of riding from Goa, through the center of India to Amritsar near the Pakistani border, to the Himalayas and return to Delhi. One of the challenges in planning this was that, unlike other well cycled areas, I could not find any other blogs, travelogues or other mention of anyone else doing this route or one similar to it.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to ensure we could find accommodations each night within a reasonable riding distance of 60 - 70km each day. As such, my route planning consisted of finding dots on a map, sized and shaped to reflect the population of the place, to ascertain whether we could bed for the night, a task not helped by Google since the word 'hotel' in India is often synonymous for an eatery, but the thought of sleeping on table tops was not very inviting.
Fortunately, we discovered that Google uses the Indian Yellow Pages Directory to map "hotels". However, in a rapidly growing and tech savvy country like India, where very few use landlines and even fewer advertise in the Yellow Pages, we were pleasantly surprised to find more good quality lodgings, many built quite recently, than indicated by Google. As well, after a few weeks of riding and finding lots of comfortable places to sleep, and hotels/eateries along the way, and with our improving physical stamina, we were on a number of occasion able to cover more than 100 kms per day, giving us a wider selection of destinations and places to stay.
Of course a lot more goes into a bicycle trip than eating and sleeping, and I wanted to share some the simple aids and tricks of the trade, that have made our travels over the years so much more enjoyable, as shown in the photograph below.
Given the objective of travelling as lightly as possible and without carrying too many duplicates, it is important to be able to repair clothes, shoes, bags, bicycle parts that crack, break, tear or otherwise become unusable.
My first choice for repair almost anything is duct tape: strong, flexible and quite fashionable in the colour black. Duct tape is suitable for many tasks that require mending, binding or patching. In an emergency it has even served to fix a thread bare tire.
Next in line in my bag of fixes is super glue, in gel format. Gel, unlike its conventional format that oozes everywhere, and usually binds one's fingers to everything to which it is applied, has the same properties of strength with the virtue of having the consistency of toothpaste, and staying in place once applied.
I also carry some chicken wire: highly flexible and strong to bind and secure larger objects together, a case in point on this trip is the repair to my alloy bike rack that cracked in three places. Since the rack repair would have required very high temperature welding, my gel super glue and chicken wire has done the trick for the last few months.
In the food department, our all time favourite is a half liter light and compact, electric kettle. Along with two plastic bowls and two small cups, we have been able to enjoy tea and coffee, at any time (albeit that finding dark, French roast Arabica coffee in India has been a minor miracle! as was finding mint tea for Ali) and we have also discovered the joys of preparing whole grain instant noodle soups, as well as quick cook oats, which are especially useful for early morning starts to beat the heat or afternoon snacks.
The bowls are also handy for salads, with a simple folding knife and a peeler, we have made Israelian (as it is often called here) salads of tomato, carrots, cucumber, onions and peppers and combination of fruits as well.
There is also a 20 foot length of yellow nylon rope, great as an indoor or outdoor laundry line which is a must if you plan on traveling light and washing clothes frequently.
A three inch LED flashlight (rechargeable by simply plugging into an electric socket), is most handy when walking at night; reading the small print on maps and of course, during the fairly frequent power outages.
There is also the boy scout's favourite: Swiss Army knife, with it scissors, blades, files, magnifying glass, pipe cleaner, tweezers, toothpick, bottle and can opener etc.
However, there is no substitute for some innate curiosity, a bit of child-like wonder, a sense of adventure to discover the joys of travel, hopefully helped by a few tricks of the trade.