One of the most fun aspects of a long cycling trip starts weeks or even months before departure: Route Planning.
Maps are one of my favourite things. They are, in and of themselves, a “choose your own adventure” story. Choose your mode of transportation, in my case a bike, and follow the lines with your finger. No, not the big thick highway lines, those are filled with cars and trucks, stressful, polluted, and dangerous. Pick the thinner ones. Imagine a stop to watch for waterfowl as you cross a big river. Imagine the people you will meet in the village on the other side. Think about where a day’s ride, 80-120 km to be comfortable, might take you and where would you stay when you arrived? Where could your next day’s ride take you from there? And the next? Where would be a nice place to spend a relaxing day or two of rest? Follow that path for an hour or so. Now go back to your starting point and follow a different road. What’s the story on that route? Do you like it better than the first one? Oh look! You’ve just spent an entire day imagining a hundred different trips with a hundred different stories to be found in each.
As I prepare for a few weeks on the road in India, I am overwhelmed with choice. The ride will likely start in or near Delhi because that’s where our flight lands – and I don’t want to haul a bike around too far when I can just ride it. But where to go from there? Do I head north in to the Himalayan foothills? (Not too far, it’s likely to be colder than I”d like if I get too far north), west in to Rajasthan and Gujarat? East toward Kolkata? Or south toward Madhya Pradesh and beyond?
In the end I know whatever direction I go I will have a wonderful and memorable time because it’s as much about the small things: talking to people in a village at a lunch stop, as it is about seeing a monument or museum. But like I mentioned before when we were in New York City, a destination is useful to provide a direction and sense of purpose. It is along the route dictated by the direction that all of the adventures happen.
So this is where I’m calling on you, dear readers. What are the places you love in India? They don’t have to be tourist spots, in fact, if you are already living there, what are the places that make you love where you live? Is there a snack stall in a neighbourhood you keep going to? A temple that makes you feel peaceful every time you go, a park that cheers you up just by being there, or somewhere that just makes you think. Or are there places that you love just because of a personal story you have from when you were there. To give you comparable examples, if you were to ask me this question about Toronto, I’d want to take you to the Toronto Reference Library because it is so beautiful and is, in my opinion, like a temple for books and knowledge, on to the Toronto Islands because they’re so peaceful and free of cars and yet so close to the city. And we could make several trips to Scarborough because whatever food you craved from anywhere in the world could be found there.
Add your suggestions as comments below. I’ll take everyone’s suggestions and plot them on a Google Map that I’ll add to this entry and keep updated. As we get closer to departure day, I will use them to figure out a general route to take and share that as well. And if I happen to pass through where you live, I’d definitely love to say hi and meet for coffee or chai.