Incredible India – an international campaign of the Indian government to promote the tourism has been launched in many countries long time ago, so you might have seen a TV spot advertising the beauty of this huge country. It truly is incredible – we visited only a tiny part of Northern India between May and October 2013, but it was enough for us to really appreciate its charm. We were never one of those people who spoke of India as a magical or spiritual destination and we never planned to visit it in fact. Now, after more than five months of cycling in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand we know that we will be back there sooner or later. Tired, but overwhelmed by its definitely special atmosphere we would like to share our experience with you.

Most of our time in India we spent in the high mountains on the North of the country; the “real India” can be found on the plains and nothing is more Indian than the holy river Ganga. As soon as we descended from the hills of Uttarakhand we realized, that we entered a world so different from where we cycled throughout our mountain adventures.

At the Ganges

In Rishikesh

Sadhu in Rishikesh

Rishikesh was our last “big stop” before entering Nepal. It is considered a holy city and hosts hundreds of Indian pilgrims as well as Western yoga adepts. It is an interesting place, for sure.

Prayers at the Ganges

Fire ceremony - Rishikesh

Woman in Rishikesh

Girl in Rishikesh

To be honest, we expected more interesting architecture in India. We could only enjoy some of the remaining of the Brits and a few Hindu temples. The rest was rather boring or, lets say it – ugly.

Architecture in Rishikesh

Buildings in Rishikesh

Trio in Rishikesh

Rishikesh people

Old man in Rishikesh

Lakshman Jhula

Ganges - Rishikesh

Female monkeySome of the visitors take it quite seriously in terms of spiritual excitement and devotion. We saw many Westerners and Israelis meditating (or trying to) in public, or, like a fellow below, praising Krishna and Rama with his own loudspeaker.

Hare Krishna convert

Indian hairstyle

Haridwar Shiva

Hindu cycling

India that we enjoyed was hidden. To get to some nice places we had to take very small roads, and avoid main roads or highways at any cost.

India is not the cleanest place on our planet. We had a pretty hard time cycling along hundreds of tons of garbage everyday, watching people literally living in the middle of  a dumping site. India is a developing country, but it should not be an excuse for a total lack of waste management. We saw rivers clogged with trash as well as rotting bodies of dogs and cows on our way and people throwing plastic bottles out of their cars every single day.

Garbage in India

We really hated the noise on the streets. People use horns in India for no reason, and since most of the drivers have no idea about driving, they honk when they want to turn, they honk when they see something unexpected on the road (especially two fully loaded cyclists as us), while taking over, or just for fun. This resulted in at least a thousand of horn blows, straight into our ears, causing frustration and aggression at the end of the day.  We had no way out from the situation, we could not stop people from blowing their horns – explaining the nonsense of beeping was pointless!

We have never seen such inpatient people! Indians are not able to wait, everybody wants to be first. They are all rushing even when they do not have to (because their home is just around the corner), and while stopped by something (a car that is trying to park or join the traffic or a rail road barrier) they become hyperactive and either blow their horns again or try to pass. Queues in shops? Forget about it! On the road though it results in some seriously dangerous or stupid situations, and used to make us very angry.

Crossing the railwayOn the other hand, India is full of surprises and beautiful people, curious and friendly.

A man and his goats

A boy and his goat

Musician in India

Clay house in rural India

Heavy loaded Hindu woman

Elephant road sign

Streets of India

Hindu festival

After such a long time being in one place we felt relieved and happy leaving India for Nepal. We had a very hard time during our last days there and this feeling didn’t want to leave us until the very last meters of Indian territory. As a cherry on the cake we had to excuse us on the last border checkpoint on the Indian side, because the guards insisted, that our visa expired (we had 2 weeks left) and we had to explain them, that number 11 is November, and now it is October, number 10, so our visa is totally fine. We already had the departure stamps, but it did not matter for them. We thought that we can go, but then one of the customs officers found our Cambodian visa (which expired months ago) and was convinced that it was our Indian visa – despite of a huge CAMBODIA title and once again we had to instruct the officials how to inspect visas. We had a similar problem in Turkmenistan. Why do they always put the dumbest soldiers on the border will remain a mystery for us…

Anyway – we entered Nepal happily and we know that India will waiting for us.