Mind is the Ride -Adventures in Cycling and Philosophy

This is my blog of my cycle ride from Bristol to India.

Also check out my AUTHORS SITE where I explain about my crowdfunding project for “Mind is the Ride.”

A book based on this ride and a journey from Western to Eastern philosophy.

P1030655

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Article and Songs from the Trip In Boneshaker Magazine

Boneshaker Issue 11 is out now with the article “Soft Soft Soft the Sparrow Sings” about Jen and I’s journey to India by bike and a preview of songs from the album of the same name; tunes I wrote on the kids  guitar strapped to the back of the bike.

There are lots more details on my music site www.jetssingssongs.com

The magazine is available aross the UK, global stockists and online.

You can read about my cycle trip to India in the article and the background to some of the songs I wrote on the way.

Here’s a link to the bandcamp site where you can hear seven songs from the  album, that goes along with the Boneshaker article.

Happy Riding

Jet

 

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Back Home!

 

Back Home! Bristol

After a night in a travellers site (who were very welcoming unlike the official camping site down the road) we embarked on a balmy ride through the backroads of Southern England. Having cycled 11000kms  it was a thrill to discover just how gorgeous an English Spring can be, punctuated with the odd ale in sleepy weekday pubs. And the sun. Hot but not that hot. And the breeze. Cool but not too cool. After the dry desert lip cracking wind of the Middle East and the Indian humidity this Spring climate is a real blessing.

And the English . We love ’em, being English whippets ourselves, but some can be right rude and clunky. The only times we’ve been crowed at,  just for being cyclists, have been in the UK. Once on the way out- “get back in the cycle lane”- as if cyclists shouldn’t be on the road- and on our return through Southampton where a woman went into a frenzy because Jen momentarily wheeled the bike (Jen wasn’t even cycling ) across her path-“You cyclists don’t have your own rules you know.” The woman threatened to call the police.

It makes you wonder if there is something threatening about cyclists for the more uptight Brits. As if the freedom and independence that cycling represents undermines their sense of motorway order.

But the rest of this ragged isle were as kind and curious as the rest of this ragged planet. There was a particulary warm and kind man in a Wiltshire village who gave us long and melodious directions when we got lost on the backroads. His Wiltshire accent was so sonorous and familiar and yet so unfamiliar, an echo of  Bristol West Country tones.

And then the last pootle into the city of Bristol along the legendary Sustrans route 4 bike path. Our mate Joe turned up in a  boater hat with his ipod playing swing tunes from his pannier rack and Jen’s sister was resplendent on her sit up and beg cycle. And one by one  more of our mates turned up until the final few yards and we  freewheeled across the “Finish” line- a roll of wallpaper someone had found outside a house- the informal recycling system of East Bristol.  Everyone strolled to the local pub for the cheapest ale in town and it was brill to see so many old faces and say hello without having to explain our strangeness. After passing through so many homes that were home to others it was such a relief to be back in our own base. That wonky road sign was our wonky road sign, that charity shop was our broken charity shop,  and that terraced house, squeezed in a hundred, thousand others, our home.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us on the way and has been following this blog.

Our ride has been an adventure into the unknown, an unknown that has proved to be human kindness, an endurable care that extends around the planet like a force of gravity.

Don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe the 24hour rolling news that broadcasts terror into your living rooms. Most living is done outside those  rooms. And that living is not terrifying. But a world of quiet kind extraordinary giving.  Go see.

xx

jen and jet

billy and bertle

Return River crossing across the Hamble river Southampton (first crossing was in May 2010)

Home from Home

Billy Bertle take a rest English Country Lane

 

Billy and Bertle Au revoir

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Reunited with the United Kingdom

 Cheese mainly. And cake. Lots of cake. This has been the bike petrol for the last month. Oh and the odd the train that took the strain out of the legs.

Ran out of steam half way up a hill in Tuscanny. Took a slow loco to Nice and then a sleeper train to Paris. Found the Paris Marathon and  cycled in the opposite direction to the tides of runners, which felt like we were cycling to the beginnng of our own endurathon. Found the Champs Elysees. Cycled down that. Found the French croissants. Ate them.

Cycled through the glory of Normandy in Spring and found all the bluebell woodlands we left behind last May. Surreal. Felt like our trip was a bluebell bookended dream. We are now just skinnier birch saplings on the bluebell covered floor.

Met Eric a French cyclist who let Jet have a wobbly go on his recliner bike.

Upright cycling to le Havre. Ferry. Use up loose change. Cycle off ferry. Man in fluro jacket says “Follow that truck”. He says it in English Not French, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Hindi, Maltese, Italian, French. But a friendly ballsy English. We follow the London Thames Estuary gravelly accent, the soot of the truck and are back in Blighty.

Parents buy us a pint in a Travelodge and remind us to put our bike helmets on. We stay with Richie and his housemates in Portsmouth and Richie makes us a veggie breakfast. Heaven.

Now we cycle back to Bristol along the south coast.

Back to a tiny dot in a big world.

But a lovely.

Tiny.

Dot.

.

Campsite Normandy

 

Eric teaches Jet to use recliner bike

Jet with bluebells Normandy

 

Monets Garden Giverny

 

net result of bike touring

 

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Arrived In Italy With a Thumpio

Relaxing at the end of 2000km ride in India,Bombay

Wellll…..

Got on a train to Bombay with bikes, fought at midnight with taxi drivers, stayed with two lovely lovely souls in Bombay (Kunal and Helen respect respect). Got on a big container ship in Bombay just as the disaster of the Tsunami in Japan was being broadcast. Port security official in Bombay invited Jet into his office for what he thought might be a bribe but in fact was the official showing Jet an Indian newspaper with news of the Tsunami “You want to go on the ship still. You sure this is safe?”

“Yes,” says Jet, “we’ve got strong hearts.”

“OK,” he says, as if giving us permission, “You are kind of adventurers.”

So we got on the container ship with our hearts somewhere in our chests and, after the normal India port chaos, found ourselves once again in the air conditioned world of International Freight. This time the crew were much more friendly and the Croatian captain and his wife made sure we were well looked after. Tsunamis weren’t really top of our worry list. We were heading through the Suez canal as every country nearby seemed to be in civil uproar. But for the crew the real threat was piracy. This was something we had dismissed as we were told on a previous voyage that the ships were too fast for Somali pirates. But the Captain and the crew took it very seriously and the atmosphere on board noticeably lightened after we’d got past the Gulf of Aden and Saudi. The Captain said there are 2000 sailors held captive on “mother ships” off the coast of Somalia. Some container boats now have snipers. Ours had fire hoses.

After two weeks we arrived in Malta to find roads littered with Ferraris, day glo racing bikes and the odd horse and cart. Beside the road were African refugees and economic migrants. Reverse culture shock set in again.

 We then took a ferry to Italy and are currently cycling through Tuscanny. The weather is fantastic, blue skies, a spring breeze and daisys bobbing in the green grass. A blessed relief after the scorchio deserts of Iran and the humidity of India.

Jet in his usual language gatecrashing has been trying to speak Italian by adding “io” to the end of every word and scowling at poor Italian waiters because the average meal costs 15 pounds instead of the 50p for two thalis in India.

Jen has been indulging in Spring.  Spring will be continually springing as we travel north and you don’t have to pay for bluebells bobbin by the roadside.

We will continue cycling until the Euros or time runs out and then take a train to North France and bob across the channel for the homeward jaunt.

(Photos to follow, this computer don’t like cameras being attached…)

Peddle through the daffodils for us wherever you are.

j n j

x xd

found a camera friendly computer in France!…

daydreaming on a cargo ship, suez canal

 

The HUGE engine

 

Dramatic exit from Middle East and the Suez

Land ahoy! Arrive in Malta

 

A friend in Pisa

woo spring, Tuscany

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Top of the Teas

There is an Indian gesture we see a lot when we’re on the bikes – the hand is upraised, the fingers spread out and wrist twisted from side to side, as if changing a imaginary light bulb. What this seems to mean is “what’s going on?” or “please explain?” or most likely “what are you crazy people doing cycling at midday with all that stuff when its 33 o c and 92 per cent humidity?”

The short answer is we’ve got a train to catch. The long answer, our ultimate purpose, we discovered a couple of days ago but we’ll get onto that later. But first to fill you in on our adventures since the last post.

Having been completely knackered and a bit aimless we found a paradise beach on private land where we managed to plug ourselves in for recharge via our achey toes and a socket somewhere in the soothing sands and sea. The beach hut had a palm tree growing through the middle and there was no one else around but the fishermen and a very attentive guy who seemed to pop up at every moment to offer Chai tea and Kingfisher beer, just as your arm flopped out of the hammock. We had to get our own water out of a well but it all added to the shipwrecked appeal.

All charged up we began peddling again, realising we had to cover another 1300 km in about 3 weeks to get to the train we’d booked two weeks before, not thinking then we’d get lost in beach world.

The road was beautiful to begin with until we got funnelled onto the coastal national highway and truck madness. The Indians build their vehicles around a big fat horn. They get the loudest, blastiest horn they can find and then build the rest of the machine around it, leaving the brakes till last.

Following the advice of our friends Freddie and Guy (www.abikejourney.com) we took a sharp left turn and wheeled through the interior plains, coming across a performing elephant on the way, and up, up , up into the lush hilltop tea plantations of the Western Ghats.

Right when we started this blog we came up with a page called “Top of Teas” where we promised our best tea stops. Lack of time and the infinite nature to tea stops put an end to further updates. But we can inform you that, here in the Western Ghats, at a hill town called “Munnar”, we found our Top of the Teas. We negotiated our way over a 1800m pass and up one last hill to the house of  Mr Iype, a local character who has been hosting tourists in his place in the middle of the tea shrub hills for the past 20 years.  Mr Iype beckoned us to sit us down in his cozy front room, with sofas much like Jet’s nan used to have, and widescreen windows overlooking the plunging valleys and made us a cup of Tetley tea with a dash of milk and a shortbread biscuit. “This,”  said Mr Iype, gesturing at the endless rolling green crop, “is where your tea comes from.”

Ah- Top of the Teas. We discovered the point of our journey, nearly 10000km from the UK to India to get a good cuppa. We had a cup of cha just before we pottered onto the bike path in Bristol, and here in India, we had come again to the grail, the circle complete, the simple but ultimately very complicated cup of tea. All those tea stops, the “stepping stones of life”, by which we negotiated all those kms over so many countries.

Jen was entranced by the Spice Gardens we found further down the hill, cardammon and vanilla and cinnamon and all that stuff that sits at the back of our food cupboards and don’t end up using enough. We saw what it really looks like in the shady groves of hilltop Kerala.

Right now we need to cover another 300km to the Southern tip of India, catch the train back to Bombay and thence, fingers crossed,  get a boat to Malta to trainfrog with our bikes back to the UK.

For now we toast you with our cups of  tea from afar.

j n j

x x

Paradise Hut

Jenny Gardens

Monkey God hugs Shiva (can't get this image right side up but tilt your head)

Grubs Up (Massive Thali Take Out)

Temple Elephant Festival

Jet finds his tea.

Cycling through tea

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No battery power remaining.

"No battery power remaining"

After the shock of reaching the finishing line we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. It seemed so daunting to cycle all the way to India we dare not think of what we might we do when we actually arrived. So we continued what we’ve been up to for the past 9 months. Peddle peddle peddle… The route south from Mumbai was  pretty remote with only scant tourist infrastructure and about ten ferry crossings.  It had a coastal topography a bit like Cornwall. Up and Down and Down and Up and Down and Up and…. The humid heat was a bit of a jolt after the dry heat of the Middle East and we spent a few days feeling dizzy and bewildered. We finally discovered “Wadi and Pow”, a kind of ad hoc veggie burger you can get in most of the villages and this kept us going till we reached the curry stops.

Somewhere into the second week, while Jet was encouraging Jen to “go a bit faster. We need to make it to the hotel….” his own legs failed him like a stalled engine and he had to push his bike up the hill. A fever ensued that rather worringly ebbed and flowed like the sea. Thankfully after a few days the snot kicked in and we realised it was just flu , of a rather tub thumping Indian variety. With Jen taking the fore we cycled woefully slowly along the beautiful rugged coast barely faster than the plodding buffalos. Although there wasn’t much traffic we met lots of  friendly bike tourists.

We peddled slowly into beach world and have been subsequently making slow progress from coastal shack to  shack unto the flatter sands of the state of Goa. 

Jet took a picture of the bikes gathering sand in one shadowy beach cabin and then the digital camera announced “No battery power remaining” and turned itself off.  That’s how we both feel now. We got to India and now we need to plug in somewhere. We’re having a go at the beach horizontal method but finding the whole Tourism shenanagans in Goa a bit topsy turvy. You can get a freshly squeezed orange juice and high speed internet here but the Thalis taste curiously bland and the super smooth roads seem too good to be true.  It’s beautiful but the chaotic fire of India doesn’t burn so brightly. It’s battery power may be a bit low… sucked up by all those digital camera clicks, ours included.

Part of us wants the challenge of the wayward  road the other part wants a banana milkshake and a lie down on a palm leaf sun lounger.

We met an amazing guy a couple of days ago. He cycled for fourteen years around the planet and then sea kayaked and dinghied for another fifteen.  He gave us lots to think about. Not that our trip was a minor trail ( in fact to us it still seems a moon journey) but that the world is endlessly offering you roads to go down, if you choose to take them. We have been taken aback by how many people are cycling long distances in all the countries we’ve visited. They don’t write books about it, most don’t  do blogs  but they are quietly peddling about having a nose.

We will continue to have a nose around India and plug in to the Chai battery power.  Apparently its even more humid down south reaching 100 percent humidity in March. Thank goodness for the Ocean. The cyclists Spa.

Thanks so much for all the comments we have recieved on the blog. You have been stalwart companions.

(We’ve just noticed that all our photos have gone a bit”stretchy”- this is something to do with the blog site changing its formatting so we apologise if we look a bit funfair on your computer. Click on the photo and it should appear more normal or at least to scale)

Happy bright pixels and saris in the sunshine to you all. 

j n j

x x

Dolphins jump in front of container ship on way to India

Start of India cycling -just south of Mumbai

Dawn Start Goa

 

Happy Tractor

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