When I first heard that people in India wipe their arse with their hands I was horrified. I’m used to travelling fairly rough, but that takes it to a whole new level, one I wasn’t prepared to explore. Yet one week in and I’m sorry to say, I have had no other choice. Not only am I now incredibly conscious of the environment due to India’s underlying waste issue, I’ve come across not one glimpse of loo roll, tissue or anything else that could be used for the occasion.
When I ask people for a bin to put my rubbish in they just point to the floor. When I find a “bin” I see it being tipped out into a river or on to the street once full. There’s a real problem here and I’m trying my best to contribute in the smallest way possible, even if that does mean drinking from wells and going without a few home comforts.
So my first Indian rail journey was actually rather pleasant. I managed to sleep off my fever, catch up with some life admin and eat to my heart’s content. We were in AC 3, the lower of the AC classes which was good enough for us and probably the comfiest bed and only air con we’d have during this trip. I didn’t hold out much hope for the bikes but thankfully found them on the platform soon after we had arrived in Chennai.
Chennai, or Madras as it used to be called, is one of India’s largest cities and our first taste of Southern India. I was super excited to see the sea again so we headed straight for the beach after checking in to Broad Lands Lodging, an encounter which went the same as many I’ve had with Indian business owners. It begins with an ever-so friendly good to see me, I hand over the money and then something suddenly changes and it appears that I am a huge inconvenience to them. It’s all very odd but amusing nonetheless.
Marina beach is the second largest in the world and certainly one of the most busiest beaches I have been on. Food stalls and fair ground rides cover the sand in their thousands. I particularly liked the look of this merry-go-round which was unenthusiasticly turned by a fat old lady who clearly hated life and probably found the battered toy cars in a skip somewhere.
Swimming is prohibited due to the sea’s strong currents but we did spot some people on the waters edge. Their refreshing dip was soon put to a stop by the local police who had no hesitation with using their batons to get them out.
Sunset was beautiful even though I was on the east coast of India. I can’t wait until I reach the west to see the big red sun in all its glory. I couldn’t help but pick up some local street food on the beach. I went for some plantain and received a plate of batter with a sliver of food inside, a classic example of all Indian snacks. Despite being my idea of hell (I hate oily foods) it was actually pretty delicious like most fried Indian foods I’ve tried.
Here’s another foodie photo from my traditional South Indian breakfast consisting of what can only be described as a potato filled pancake, mashed potato with rice, fluffy rice cake, sugar sweet, curry, coconut chutney and fried doughnut. Not bad for under a £1/$1.
I only had half a day in Chennai which seemed plenty. We took a morning walk along the beach to the fort of St George and had a look around the grounds and in St Mary’s Church. As you can see my ‘off the bike’ fashion still needs some working on and I could really do with a pair of normal looking sunglasses.
I can confirm that no women were harmed in the making of this next photo. This woman is merely having a nap next to an Indian wheelchair. Note: we did not push her off.
A huge hater of public transport, I can’t leave India without getting a TukTuk. I found a cool looking cafe half way across town so we got a lift with one of the many TukTuk drivers. We had to use our Google Maps to direct him, nearly crashed a trillion times and was charged more than we agreed – of course we were – but we made it!
Ciclo Cafe is a hidden gem perfect for cyclists like us. The level of detail in the decor is outstanding with everything being made from bike parts. The western menu has western prices but the chocolate walnut brownie is to die for. Cyclist or not I highly recommend a visit.
One thing I love about India is the sheer number of cows that roam the street. I love these two stunning heffas which have bells on their horns, a traditional in Chennai I hear. Many also have different coloured horns and necklaces, how cute!
When I tell people I am travelling by bike they automatically presume I am riding one of India’s most iconic bikes, a Royal Enfield. These can be found everywhere as can these beautiful old colonial style courtyards.