The short flight from Cincinnati to New York and then 14 hours to New Delhi,
India was cramped and uneventful; one of our better flights. Our bikes and
luggage arrived safely with us which kicks this part of our tour off with
positive news. I find it stressful to land with only one bike or missing one
of our boxes.
New Delhi, India, population 15 million, is one of the most chaotic and
densely crowded cities we have visited. To add to the confusion the entire
city was ripped up due to the incredible amount of construction that goes
with a booming economy. The badly needed commuter train is being expanded
and many streets are seeing makeovers. I noticed a lot of new schools where
students learn engineering, all things computer, and medical professions.
The better schools boast UK accreditation and easy grade transfers to
international schools. The boom in education is needed to train the workers
in the new industries.
crowded roads and interesting wiring
Basic Indian "cycle" shop
We stayed in New Delhi a month which was much
longer than expected but we had to take care of a lot of medical things. The
private hospitals here are excellent. Their patients consist of India’s
growing wealthy class and foreigners. Most of the doctors had spent time
working in other countries, especially the USA and UK. The hospital staff
including the doctors and nurses could speak English well although their
Indian accent threw us some times. Everything looked and smelled like a top
hospital in the USA, that sterile smell is unmistakable.
We had extensive medical checkups and dental work done, including all the
modern X-rays, ultrasounds and EKGs. The cost is about 10 – 15 % of the same
medical treatments in the USA. The drug prices are unbelievably less as
well. We met people getting skin cancer removed, having heart surgery, and a
hip replacement. The foreigners sought any treatment that wasn’t so pressing
they had the time to fly to India for US$1,200 to save US$50,000+ off their
Everything in the hospital technology wise looked the same as home but the
wealthy in New Delhi came from a variety of backgrounds. Hindu women floated
across the room in colorful saris, a Muslim man in his special white hat
stared at reports with daughters wearing scarves, a Catholic held rosary
beads hoping to avoid bad news from the doctor, a Buddhist prayed at the
little shrine of Buddha, and a Sikh wore an impressive turban.
Hindu women wearing saris at Gandhi's Memorial
Muslim men cooling off in the mosque
After watching all this I decided it is much
better to be in the hospital when no one in your family is actually sick.
Many of the locals were dealing with urgent problems which caused unexpected
somber family reunions. No matter what religion or ethnic background all
families act the same when faced with this kind of a crisis. In the waiting
room we saw an obvious family leader gather everyone together to discuss
their situation. This is where the universal human bond of love in ones
family is on display. We have seen it all over the world. It is the very
thing that makes us all human.
Free public hospitals are available for
Indian citizens but the waits are suppose to be huge and the equipment about
10 years old but to most poor Indians this care is very welcome.
One day we walked over to the train station
to see what it would take to get our boxed bikes on the train. The station
was jammed packed with bodies. Scam artist tried to make us believe the
ticket window was closed, broken, or some other lie. They wanted to take us
to a place where we would buy an expensive ticket through a travel agent and
they would get a percentage of the sale. We were approach by a dozen such
scammers before we found the international ticket window and knew it wasn’t
closed. I do not mind someone working on commission but I hate the lying and
deception. I could not imagine all this confusion while we had big bike
boxes and gear in tow. We agreed that it would be wiser to buy our train
tickets ahead of time, without our luggage in tow.
Congested roads are normal in New Delhi
The next day we read the headlines in the
local newspaper “Two die in stampede in New Delhi train station” http://bit.ly/d4DlKe
After reading about the seasonal surge in people riding public
transportation we decided to hang out in New Delhi a little longer.
Both of us made good use of the extra time. We had filed an extension for
our USA and Arizona taxes so Cindie was able to finish and file
electronically. Our business taxes are complicated; to say the least. I feel
very lucky to have a smart wife who does this for us. Cindie Travis is again
awarded the Down the Road Publishing’s employee of the month. She seems to
win every month. I had the easier job of preparing our 3rd book to be sold
in PDF eBook version. (see http://www.downtheroad.org/Publishing) We are
working on versions that can be read on Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.
But really, all these excuses about keeping us in New Delhi would not have
stopped us if we really wanted to leave. The real problem was we did not
know where in India we wanted to go first.
We usually take a lot of time to research an area before we land in a new
region or continent but we were so busy publishing our new book and
preparing our bikes/gear that planning our multi-year India and neighbors
trip had to be put off until we were sitting in our New Delhi hotel room.
Here we poured through our guide books trying to figure out where we would
like to go.
India is hard to plan for but at least we have settled on where to start and
therefore where to ride the bus. Why didn’t we just cycle out of New Delhi?
We are in this to have a good time and cycling in New Delhi’s crazy
congested traffic, with 110F – 120F summer temperatures did not look like
fun to us. So, for US$16 we jumped on a bus to a small town high in the cool
mountains called McLeod Ganj near Dharamsala.
The 14 hour bus ride was one of the worst in my life. I was dazed out on
motion sickness medicine. The road was full of bumps and holes and the bus
rocked from side to side even on straight flat stretches. The worst part was
when they insisted our two boxed bikes had to be tied on top of the bus
instead of inside with the rest of the luggage. At an early morning break I
inspected the bikes and found the rope dangerously loose. I asked the
baggage man to readjust the ropes. He felt how loose they were and chuckled
while he said in English “One more hole and your cycles would have littered
the road.” It was a good thing the driver wanted to stop for tea.
Mcloed Ganj and Dharamsala are famous because they are the home of the
exiled Dalai Lama and what is left of the free Tibetan government. We chose
this place because it was pleasant and with the coming monsoon season we
wanted a cool retreat where we can do some hikes in-between rain storms. We
were here a couple days before we found a basic apartment for $160/month and
plan to stay until mid September when we start riding through the Indian
Himalayas towards Nepal.
We do have plans to attend several of the Dalai Lama’s free talks and his
birthday celebrations (July 6). Cindie has signed up for several Yoga
classes (more on that later) and I plan to tie up a bunch of loose ends for
our business. The day hiking is excellent with many trails going up into the
pine covered mountains and connecting villages. This feels like a much
needed vacation from our trip.