Silke und Hauke

We are Silke (25) and Hauke (29) and last summer we left Germany for a cycling trip towards Asia.
Living in: Elsfleth, Deutschland
  • Day315

    There is the ‘Delhi Gate’ in between New Delhi and Old Delhi, but the cities merged and blurred into each other. The contrasts we encountered between poor and rich, between messy and neat, between dirty and clean, between shocking and acceptable, between noisy and calm, between sordid and modern, and so on, were so sharp that they became indescribable for us. You need to see it, hear it, smell it, feel it. This incredible city is predicted to become the largest metropolitan on earth in 2030, with almost 40(!) million people living there, in a single city, that’s half the German population! We’ll not try to write about what we experienced there, our three days there were intense whereat the unbearable heat and humidity were just side effects.

    Delhi is surely not the right place to reflect our journey of more than 10 months, 12440km on the roads, 125 nights in our beloved tent - although we tried to find words while we enjoyed a combination of our most beloved Indian dishes in a quiet rooftop restaurant above the bustling main bazaar. Time is flying fast, but traveling should never be about quickness.

    Therefore, we find it suitable what Tim Winton once wrote about long-distance cyclists:
    ‘When I see cyclists grinding away at the roadside, their swags and billies strapped behind them as they pump and shine along the highway’s perilous edge, I find myself embarrassed to be moving so fast. We’re each traveling through the same landscape, these mad bastards and I, but surely their experience is deeper, more authentic. They must absorb things I miss entirely.’

    We absorbed a lot and we’re very thankful that we could take the chance to discover the world by bicycle for such a long time. We’re thankful that our circumstances of life allowed us to do so, for many many people on earth this is unthinkable or impossible. We’re thankful for so much humanity, we’re thankful to the fascinating and inspiring people and fellows we met everywhere, we’re thankful to the welcoming countries we could visit and we’re thankful to the wonders that nature has created.

    Now, we’re looking forward to come home, to spend time with our families and friends and to whatever the future may bring. So far, we know that Silke is going to look for a job in northern Germany (and suffer from wanderlust soon) and that Hauke is going to continue cycling for a while (he left his bike and most luggage in Delhi).

    See you soon!

    Silke & Hauke
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  • Day312

    Bye bye, Himachal!

    July 7 in India

    And there it was, finally: Rain! What a weird feeling to cycle through the rain again, but we actually enjoyed it that the rainy season eventually had caught us - although some showers from overtaking trucks were a bit too much of the wet element.

    We found a nice family running a guesthouse in a quiet, hilly area near Chail. When they proudly showed us the surroundings of their home, we could feel that they care a lot about the environment and their health.
    They produce their own organic food in some small fields and in a greenhouse, like
    peas, pumpkin, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, pepper, onions, chilies, potatoes, beetroot, apple, apricot - two cows give fresh milk every day... And with these fresh ingredients they prepared some of the most delicious meals we had in India, thus we had to extend our stay there :)

    There were two birthdays in the big family, so we also got to know other members - we’re so happy about this authentic familial experience towards the end of our journey, thanks a lot Param!

    And then we absolutely wanted to pitch our tent one last time, and there was only one night left before our train to Delhi would leave from Kalka. Actually, we’ve developed quite a sense to make out possible camping areas on our maps during the last months - but this time we were wrong: Aiming at a hilly area near Solan, still marked as a forest on the maps, we were surprised how fast this village must have been exploded and eaten up the greens. It was so crowded, difficult to cross, so much construction going on, but we didn’t give up. Just before dawn we found a spot in the curve of a steep serpentine, apparently only used by pedestrians, and we were so glad! Even the view was quite nice from there though.

    The roads became busier next day, the traffic gradually increased and soon, we found ourselves back in dusty, bustling India again: Bye bye Himachal Pradesh...

    In the evening we reached the train station in Kalka which is equipped with a parcel office and, surprisingly, a dorm room. While the helpful guys in the office took care of our bikes we could even find some sleep till the departure of our train in the morning - we’re coming to like the Indian railway system more and more :)
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  • Day307

    Part of the game

    July 2 in India

    We were already about to come to the end of our journey and then it yet happened: Our first accident. A cow blocked our side of the road when a car came from the front. While we were overtaking the cow, it happened that one of Silke’s front panniers got tangled up in one of Hauke’s so that Silke fell down with her bike. As we enjoyed lots of rapid downhills these days, we were going quite fast. But luckily, nothing serious happened, light abrasions on knee and hip, one swollen knee - and a genuine, red, smarting racing cyclists' road burn around one elbow. After the shock went away, the pain came up, we treated the wounds and continued cycling.

    Along the road, we occasionally saw ropeways going up to some villages high above which are only accessible by steep footpaths with many stairs. The government supplies these remote villages by sending up baskets full of foodstuff - those poor people living up there in their oases of peace should not lack Coca Cola and other convenient food, of course...

    Back down below 1000m, the heat took away our motivation to continue cycling and when we faced our last, unavoidable ascent up to almost 3000m, some laziness sneaked in: We stopped a pickup and hitchhiked up to the hill station Narkanda. This allowed us to stay there for a couple of days in a refreshing climate and to explore the dense, surrounding pine forest by foot :)
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  • Day304

    Staying high

    June 29 in India

    The number of military posts increased and we knew that we were as close as never before to Tibet (goosebumps!), but all we could see were mighty snowy peaks on the other side of the Spiti...and one ahead which we weren’t aware of but had to climb. Luckily we met two friendly Indians who pulled us half the way up till we saw a nice spot to pitch our tent. They simply attached our bikes to their motorbikes with ropes - what an amazing idea, and what a relaxed ride!

    At the back of our minds there was a subtle disgust against the heat down in the plains, and some fear of the chaos we expected of Delhi...but we knew that we had to go there in about 2 weeks. Thus, we tried to spend as much time as possible as high up in the mountains as possible these days.

    We found Nako and Kalpa to be great places to do this and spend a lot of time there, took some days off from cycling, relaxed, went for walks through the orchards, talked to the locals and enjoyed spectacular views of the holy Shiva Peak (Kinnur Kailash at 6050m).

    By the way, when we described the local agriculture and the accurate fields, we forgot to mention the huge apple orchards and clever irrigation channels they’ve built. However, the farmers are talking about the climate change they are suffering from. There has been a lack of snow in the increasingly warmer winters since a few years, causing a lack of water in the summers and shrinking glaciers. The Himalayas are the area where the recent drinking water problems of India start...
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  • Day299

    Preservation efforts

    June 24 in India

    Tabo became famous after its thousand-year-long anniversary in 1996 wherefore tens of thousands pilgrimaged to the old monastery. It has the most impressive temple we‘ve ever seen, built from mud and so old, but with well-preserved, beautiful mural paintings, stucco and terrifying wooden figures coming out of the walls. It’s almost dark inside, there’s only a little opening in the middle of the roof where some sunrays may enter and any other light (cameras as well) is strictly prohibited to protect the artworks. The lighting conditions create a mystical, even terrifying atmosphere which made us taking every footstep with a lot of care, and humility.

    The cute village Mane manages to keep tourism at a low level and maintains its traditions. It is certainly not harmful that it is hidden by the surrounding mountains on a higher plateau and invisible from the road. There is only one homestay, which is still a true, non-commercialized homestay where the family was around us or we were around them, eating together in their living room. And their were so many kids, strikingly curious kids, super excited to see us foreigners, keen to help us with our stuff when we arrived and always around - great fun!

    We’re so thankful to all the road workers continuously maintaining the road. Conditions are still bad though, but without their efforts the roads would become impassable within a few days. Some stretches are so dangerous, meaning the landslide or shooting stone areas where those poor people permanently clear the way, risking their own lives and making it possible for us to cycle here (the poorest of them even live along the road in tiny tin shacks). Thank you!
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  • Day294

    Pin Valley

    June 19 in India

    Coming to Kaza, which is the headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti, felt a bit like entering back into civilization, we could choose from menus in the various restaurants, there were hotels, guesthouses and souvenir shops, a fruit and vegetable market. But still, power outages came frequent and there was no mobile network. At least two places have set up a wifi, which worked a little between 2 and 3 am when the town was sleeping. It was the first time after 10 days that we could send and receive messages and unfortunately there was not only good news: Silke’s Grandma had died already a week ago... :(

    To mourn and to make other thoughts come, we decided to leave Kaza again. Therefore we had to get an ‘Inner Line Permit’ for an upcoming stretch of 28km. A typical, nerve-racking Indian bureaucracy act with many pass-photos and lots of paperworks followed. There’s only one road, thus every foreigner has to undergo this useless process. The official reason is that we would get as close as a stone’s throw from the Tibetan border...however, it is what it is.

    We cycled into the Pin Valley which we also call ‘Windy Valley’ since we went in and out due to heavy gusty winds. The winds occasionally pushed us to a standstill but the valley is beautiful and still a bit off the beaten track, overall a worthy detour. It’s a side valley formed by the Pin River which merges with the Spiti River.

    As we entered, there was a transformation from the stone desert to acres of greenery and green mountains. There’s a chain of lovely villages and (not muddy) Mud is the last one and a dead end apart from a few hiking paths.

    People are so hospitable there (they tried hard to enable us watching the Germany match against Mexico, which didn’t work...and we’re quite happy about now) that we decided to stay longer. We enjoyed the peace of this place, went for a nice walk and enjoyed tons of ‘Tibetan pizza’ (which is actually just a sandwich of two simple chapatis with some veggies and cheese in between, fried in a pan, but delicious!).
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  • Day291

    Ki Gompa

    June 16 in India

    The prayer halls and homes of the monks were built on top of each other around a little hill, creating a Buddhistic fortress where about 300 monks of all ages live nowadays. It is rich in history and we were so fond of the atmosphere that we decided to stay overnight, which is possible for a small contribution.

    It was our first night in a monastery and we could experience a bit of the monks‘ daily life. A very nice Lama took care of us, prepared some basic meals, even a midnight tea, and tried to answer our questions. We slept at the top of the hill what allowed us to watch the young monks doing their prayers or monk discussions on the roofs below. Just search for some videos of monk discussions and you’ll agree that this is an interesting technique :)

    There were some other travelers we had a great time with, sharing stories and enjoying the fantastic views and the tangible stars at night. Sometimes visits to the most remarkable places make you meeting the most remarkable people...
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  • Day289

    Record-breaking Spiti

    June 14 in India

    Isn’t it on the dice that the spectacular location of the Spiti Valley could make some good advertisement to attract tourists?
    Of course it is and that’s what the tourism department of Himachal Pradesh does (and the local population chuckles about): They claim to have the highest bridge in Asia, the highest village in the world, the highest city in the world, the highest post office in the world, the highest rooftop café in the world and so on...

    It works, the tourists are coming, but most of it isn’t the truth and altitude indications on the signposts are always doubtful. We trust our GPS, our maps and enjoy our time, record yes or no :)
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  • Day287

    Julley, Julley Spiti!

    June 12 in India

    Loosely translated, ‘Spiti’ means ‘the middle country’ - a name given as a result of its location and traditional ties with both India and Tibet. The average altitude of this region is higher than 4000m. Quite often we were wondering if it’s still India we’re in...

    ...And not only once we should hear that the people see Spiti as a ‘little, free Tibet’. They are so hearty and easygoing, but also working hard to make it through the unforgiving winters - their favorite time of the year because there’s no work to do and lots of social life: Traditional celebrations, singings, table games, but also drinking and television (if exceptionally there’s no power outage).

    It is both surprising and fascinating to see that almost the entire physical work, in the fields or at construction sites, is done by women, some of them even carry their child on their back, and there’s no ‘too old’. They mainly grow potatoes, green peas and seabuckthorn. The shapes of the fields are never the same, always fitting perfectly into the given terrain, they are so well maintained and look so accurate that the veggies have no other option than being delicious - the demand is tremendous.

    The white Spiti houses with their black framed windows and flat roofs which are covered with reefs to keep the snow away are remarkable and perfectly fit into the surroundings. The little villages are just lovely and when a whole village is under sound exposure from a megaphone playing 'Om Mani Padme Hum' or speeches of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual atmosphere thrills everyone.

    In Losar, the first Spiti village on our way, we soaked up the spirit and enjoyed our first accommodation since 10 days. There was still no connection, no wifi...
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  • Day285

    Kunzum La

    June 10 in India

    It’s a 4550m high pass and notorious for its fast changing weather, it was a fight to get up there and we had to push our limits. We’re proud that we made it on our own - but told us that we don’t want to go any higher on our bikes, at least not in the foreseeable future :)

    On our way up we met Aurelio from Switzerland and Himanshu from India, they were cycling the opposite way, and told us that we would be almost there. This wasn’t actually true...but it helped!

    By the way, sadly all other cyclists we met went in the other direction, some guys from India, a guy from Japan, one from Columbia, a couple from France, a couple from Thailand, a guy from Singapore and a couple from Italy. It was great to spend at least a few hours with them, listening to fascinating experiences...but it would have been awesome to cycle with you guys!

    Behind the pass, our exhaustion was overwhelming and we ended up camping as high as never before, at almost 4500m, in a beautiful spot though.

    Julley, Spiti!
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