Month: November 2016
Just finished our buffet dinner in the Padang Lords Eco Inn in the beautiful city of Saputara (also known for its snakes…) and we were both shocked when we realized that already 6(!) days are passed since our last post. Time flies, especially in India.
Today we had a very nice track from Vyara to Saputara. The mountainous area and spectacular views made it a great day for biking. We decided to take the small roads and never regret our choice.
We had our breakfast at a street food “restaurant” using our rule “cook it, peal it or leave it” in order to minimize the chance of a Delhi Belly?.
The day before we were both still very tired as the alarm woke us at 8.00h. The cause of this tiredness was the traditional Indian wedding of Vikas, an engineer working for IWI-CryoGas, the night before.
We were presented as real celebrities dressed in traditional Indian clothing and could witness all the ceremonies, and there are a lot, from (very) nearby. It’s an unbelievable noisy and colorful event with nonstop dancing for hours, an outdoor dinner with > 500 guests and of course the actual deed of the wedding by a priest (in India this is enough to get married official as well).
We were lucky that Nayan brought us a gift for Vikas and his bride, as we have to be very careful with our cash. Prime Minister Modi decided overnight that all the 500 and 1000 notes are worthless in order to fight against black money (80% of the transactions in India are done in cash, even the purchase of real estate…). The results are huge queues for the working ATM’s (most of them don’t work at all) and you’re only allowed to take 2000 Rupees per day (approx. € 28,-).
We slept in the house of family Joshi and had a great time with them. The breakfast was delicious and we were not allowed to leave without taking some sweet and nuts with us. Thank you so much for your kind hospitality.
Along the street we were stopped several times by people who recognize us from the newspapers. We now start to understand the position of a celebrity and feel like true Bollywood stars!!
The initiator for all this publicity was Savir, another business friend of Ronald. We were kindly invited to stay in his house and we had a great time together with his wife Kavita. We had a great BBQ and some very interesting conversations about our future.
Sam was also joining and he is the “boss” of the Vadodara international Marathon organization.
They invited us the previous day for a meet & greet with approx 80 people and a lot of press. We had several interviews, were filmed and photographed 1000 times and found ourselves in a lot of newspapers the next day.
Mira Erda was also attending the meet & greet and she appeared to be the only female Gokart and F4 champion of India. With only 16 years, she dreams from a career like Max Verstappen. She and her father invited us for a Gokart demo on their own circuit and this was a great experience. We could drive as much as we wanted and got a private course in a twin-kart and the whole circuit was ours….
Before the Gokart event, we visited an Indian barber. Obviously there was a body language issue, because both Ronald and Maurice were cut much shorter then wanted.
If an Indian barber asks “should it be shorter”? Then don’t nod no, because this means yes…. do you follow?
In the two days before we visited the headquarters and production facilities of both CryoGas and INOXCVA, followed by photo sessions and a presentation of our trip to the employees.
A special remembrance was our visit to the King’s Palace, the kind invitation to witness a traditional dance lesson and performance from Ipsita, a Karaoke evening with some medicine and the reunion with the father from Nayan.
We like to thank Nayan & Alka and Savir & Kavita for the superb hospitality; you made our stay in Baroda/Vadodara an exceptional and unforgettable experience!!
Before we share our thoughts and first experiences of India, we will briefly talk you through our last 48 hours in Oman.
We were invited by friends of our family who live on the outskirts of Muscat. Hamdam, Gunni and their daughter Sara provided us with great hospitality and conversation.
The second day we took the chance of visiting the university Gunni works at (great piece of architecture), before preparing our bikes for the flight.
Talking about that, Gunni managed to gather a lot of cardboard boxes so we just had to focus on disassembling the bikes in a correct manner, make sure we don’t lose any bolts & nuts and encase the bike in cardboard. The panniers were put into 2 big plastic bags for check-in.
That same evening we were brought to the airport to catch our 00:30am flight and with the help of Hamdam, who knew one or two people, we were able to skip a few lines ?. Once again thank you Hamdam, Gunni and Sara for everything you did. We had a great time in Oman which ended on a high note.
Although we were able to sleep a little on our 2.5 hours flight to Ahmedabad, we arrived in a drowsy state. However, both our bikes and bags arrived and we managed to reach our hotel for an early check in. From 07:00h -11:00h(Indian time) we took a nap as we were invited to visit the IPR (Institute for Plasma Research) at 13:45h and we still needed to reassemble our bikes.
At IPR we were warmly welcomed by Ritendra Bhattacharya and his colleagues. After a small introduction by Mr P.K. Atrey it was our turn to talk about our journey and explain the bikes. Last but not least we were given a tour through the Cryolab, where Demaco has been delivering the cryogenic test facilities for the ITER Cryolines.
It was here, where we met with Nayan Pandya who is a business friend of Ronald.
Together with him and his colleague we were taken to the Vishala restaurant in Ahmedabad.
This restaurant serves a great variety of authentic Gujarat (the region Ahmedabad is part of) food which is delicious. Not only do they serve food, but there are dance performances, a Marionette theatre and a utensil museum showcasing a vast selection of ancient Indian utensils. What an incredible first day this was!
The next day we visited the Gandhi museum who lived in Ahmedabad between 1918 and 1930. It was here where he prepared the so called Dandi March. This was the non-violent resistance against tax on salt. All in all a very special and inspiring place.
We then headed to our hotel in Gandhinagar and this was a special ride for us, as we surpassed the 10.000km mark!! ??
Yesterday has been a very remarkable day for us as we were able to play our part in the ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan’ (clean India mission). A group of 21 cyclists is currently biking from Kashmir (a city in the North) to Kanyakumari (a city in the South) to create awareness about this movement. This is a well organized event and the group of cyclists are flagged off and welcomed in the cities they stay. Yesterday we joined them for a 140km ride from Gandhinagar to Vadodara.
We were flagged off at 10:00h in the morning by a group of 2000 exited people. Ronald was given the podium to talk about our tour and show his support to the ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan’ movement. As a result of that everyone wanted to take a picture with us. We definitely set up a new record when it comes to the amount of selfies ?? We felt like celebrities, really!
Now to the ride itself… this was a great experience and well organized. Every 30km or so we had a small break with refreshments.
The time was flying as we both found ourselves in good conversations with the 21 cyclists.
It was dark when we arrived in Vadodara where we were welcomed by both the local rotary club, sponsors as well as colleagues of Nayan who joined us too. Hats off for that Nayan ??.
For dinner we had home made oven backed pizza and they were just finger licking good!!
This morning we woke up early to flag off the 21 cyclists. To our surprise we were honoured with a medal and a certificate for biking with the group. After a couple of photos we headed back to Nayans place as we had an interview appointment with the national TV. This time we felt like actors who share their thoughts on their new movie… we were sitting in the garden namely with our bikes in the background talking about our trip, the do’s and don’ts, what to think of etc. In the afternoon we had a Traditional Ayurveda massage appointment which was a great way to relax our muscles and mind.
As you can see, we have been a little busy the past few days hence why the post is a bit longer. India is, as they promote themselves, incredible and we are extremely grateful to experience all of this. We can’t wait to see what still has to come…
PS: cycling in India is a bit different…
After picking up our bikes in Abu Dhabi last Friday, we hit the road to Al Ain. This is a nice city at the border to Oman. Due to the very short night before, we decided to award ourselves with a hotel and really found one in the middle of the desert. This was the worst quality/price ratio we have encountered so far….
Three drips of water per Minute came out of the shower, the Airco with the noise of a Boeing 747 had two modes (extremely hot or extremely cold), the tv was interacting with the TL-lights, no meals and breakfast available; but boiling water was served complimentary, so we could prepare our Nescafé and Good Noodles?.
The next day we targeted a place somewhere in Oman, but Ali didn’t allow us. This very friendly helicopter pilot, payed for our breakfast and invited us for lunch in his place in Al Ain.
We only biked 58km this day, as we were also invited for a sleep next to the camels at his farm in the desert. Before that we met the friends and neighbors of Ali (who left us for a couple of hours to work at the airport). They surprised us with fresh camel milk, dates and nice conversations.
On top of that we were invited to see them train their falcons (each with a price tag between €15.000 and €50.000?) in the desert, which was indeed a superb experience (except for the poor Turkey, who didn’t survive the attack of the Falcon…?).
Then it was tea time of course with delicious sweets. Ali was a bit later as expected so dinner was late too and we had to skip the camel farm. Instead we slept in his house and were served with an extended breakfast and fresh laundry the other day.
Time to say goodbye and to cross the border of Oman. At this border we couldn’t buy a visa but were directed to the police station 14km away. At this police station they directed us to another border halfway our track to the coast, another 50km away. Finally we could buy our visa here and reached the beach after 128km of biking.
A nice camping spot on the beach and a dive in the Indian Ocean was our reward. A very weird situation came up when two men were casually walking with a huge bull along the beach…
The day before yesterday we biked along the coastline in the direction of Muscat. A fantastic road with nice views and friendly people everywhere.
Invited for lunch by a taxi driver and we witnessed a few camels who were taken for a walk on the beach; “may we take a picture?” Sure please jump on the camel and so Maurice did….
Another bull was taking a fresh nose and it appeared that this was in preparation of a bullfight which is allowed in the stadium of Barka.
Yesterday we reached Seeb after passing the huge gardens and palace of the Sultan of Oman. Unfortunately concealed by high walls and armed guards.
We had great grilled fish for diner and had to walk back to our hotel with our shoes in our hand because of the high tide…..
After our Westin experience, it was time to pick up our family at the airport of Abu Dhabi. The cause of this short break in the Emirates was on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Ronald’s father (Maurice’s grandfather…). As a present of his children, Theo was invited to visit the “Dekkers on trek” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We were hosted in the Gateway hotel in the old part of Dubai and spend 4 days together?.
The Monday was used to discover the Marina area and to recover from the flight from Amsterdam.
That night we had dinner on the banks of the Dubai Creek with a perfect view on the “dows”, the lighted old freight ships now in use to entertain tourists.
Tuesday we had a relaxed morning before we were heading to the other downtown to visit the Burj Khalifa (the highest building in the world) and the Dubai mall (the biggest covered shopping mall in the world).
What an incredible buildings and what an overdose on luxury and materialism. We had a terrific Lebanese dinner and witnessed several shows of the huge fountain. The Wednesday we started with a visit to the spicy souk and crossed the Creek with a so-called Abra, a water taxi on ancient boats.
After a power nap of our birthday child, we were ready for a real desert adventure. With several 4×4 trucks, we had a rally in the dunes followed by a BBQ and some entertainment (camel drive, quad drive, belly dancer, shisha and henna painting).
On Thursday we visited the Jumeirah mosque including a tour and presentation about the rituals and facts on Islam. A very interesting presentation with sometimes a bit too much “local color”…
Time to take a dive into the warm Persian Gulf and relaxation on the Jumeirah beach as a preparation for the last diner together. We had a reservation in “the Hide” for a delicious steak and on top of that the waiters came with a tasteful surprise with a candle whilst singing “happy birthday to you” for an impressed (grand)father.
Early Friday morning, we dropped the entire party at the airport from Abu Dhabi and took our bicycles from the Westin parking to pick up our trek again?
We had a great break with our family and enjoyed the presence of our (grand)father very much!
Since our last post a week ago, two major events came on our way kept us from posting…
The first one was the kind invitation of the Westin hotel to host us for two nights and the second one will be commented on in our next post…
It took us one day to Dubai again and one day from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. It’s not very funny to bike in the Emirates… nerve wrecking it is. The roads are huge with 6, 8 or even 12 lanes and as long as you are in the crowded city areas (and believe us; Dubai and Abu Dhabi are huge and crowded), it takes a lot of time to pass through and to survive on the emergency lane of the high ways. There are simply no “small” roads.
When we reached Abu Dhabi and the entrance of the 5-star Westin hotel, the tables had turned. In a warm, friendly and quite atmosphere we were welcomed by Oliver and Nicolas in person and they made sure that the check-in went smooth and that we could enter into our beautiful room immediately. With a terrace overlooking the driving range of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club and an ice-cold Dutch brew in a green bottle with a red star (we’re not allowed to mention the brand here ?) our second surprise was there. But it became even better! The management of the hotel invited us for a drink in the “Lemon & Lime Bar” and we were quite overwhelmed with the variety of gin-tonics. For instance the one with Safran was a true surprise, as was the one with Basil. The Earl Grey flavored one and the gin with Blackberrys were great too…
This first night was completed with a delicious dinner at the Italian restaurant and we thank Oli and Nicolas once again not only for their company and nice discussions! Then it was time to go to bed. And even this was a great experience as we have never slept in a bed with this ‘heavenly’ quality. The only problem is that at a certain point of time you have to wake up and get out of bed…. This time it appeared to be not that big of a problem. We had an extended breakfast and a reservation for the 9-holes competition course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The clubhouse is designed in the form of a huge Falcon and you have a breathtaking view over the different holes when you pick up your electric cart and clubs (everybody gets a golf cart which is equipped with a touchscreen showing your exact position and distance to the next hole ?). We played a flight together with two Canadian helicopter pilots and decided to have our lunch together as the conversations were still going on once we finished the game.
After we waved the Canadians good bye we went for a complimentary treatment in the heavenly Spa and Massage Centre of the hotel. After so many kilometers on the bike it couldn’t have come better!! In the afternoon Ronald had a very nice meeting with the marketing manager who made our stay possible. The reason for inviting us was the excitement about our trip and the combination of sporting (biking) and relaxing (sabbatical), which are also the pillars under the concept of the Westin hotels.
Maurice insisted on a last gin-tonic with Monkey-47 from the Black Forest before we dived in our tremendous pillows again.
Thank you Fred, Shweta, Oli and Nicolas for this unforgettable experience, we truly enjoyed it!
This morning we’re having a coffee and breakfast at Starbucks with proper wifi: Time to write a post again and watch the fishermen at work.
As we have mentioned in our previous post we headed towards the northern part of the Emirates and cross the border to Oman. Once we escaped the 8-lane roads, packed with truck-like SUVs and where it’s a rarity to see drivers using both hands on their steering wheel, we headed back towards the coast to enjoy the little breeze coming from the sea.
That evening we found a great camping spot on the beach after an exhausting day. The next day before crossing the border to Oman we had lunch at a Pakistan restaurant. The manager was eager to lecture us about the Koran and since Maurice listened to him with great interest the manager refused any payment.
When crossing the border we experienced something new… the UAE officials made us pay to exit the country ??
This however, didn’t spoil the fun and we enjoyed a beautiful ride along the coast line towards Khasab where we set up our tent on the beach next to a food truck. With the company of a few Bangladeshi we had dinner (fresh grilled shrimps and calamari?) before jumping into the sea.
The following day our plan was to bike through the mountains towards the second border in Dibba.
The roads however were so steep and sandy that we had to Zickzack to get up. This in combination with the brutal heat and high humidity, caused for a higher heart rate, dehydration and a reduced blood flow… after fighting these conditions for 8km in which we climbed 400m in altitude we had to turn around and bike back (and this doesn’t fit at all in the mindset of the Dekkers…).
In Khasab we tried finding people who would bring us up the mountain so we could proceed with our journey but to our surprise we were told that non-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) people are not allowed to cross that second border.
Sooooo this made us change our plans. We headed back to the UAE yesterday through the same border we entered, this time free of any charge!
Oman left a very good impression to us, it’s clean, well organized, the people are friendly and the nature is overwhelming. We’re lucky to enjoy at least a part of the mountainous area and are really looking forward to seeing the other part of Oman next week.
At Bab al Bar we found another nice camping spot on the beach and Maurice was so nice to jump on his bike again for collecting two hot cappuccinos at the Double Tree hotel 2km away. After a dive in our bathtub (the Persian gulf) we went to sleep early. First in peace but from 1 o’clock in the night surrounded by young people with loud music…