Hype Dark logo

Searched for

by SS at 4:49 pm on Saturday 8th May

There's no doubt that being a vegetarian on a tour through Africa is going to be tough. Indeed, it's tough even if you go anywhere in continental Europe (to French chefs: true vegetarianism does not include fish). The strange thing is that most Africans tend to be vegetarian, purely because of the high cost of meat. As soon as you head out to a restaurant, they usually lack much in the way of truly vegetarian options. African waiters usually are unwilling or lack the lateral thinking ability to possibly ask the chef to prepare a meal without meat.

Most of the riders who started the tour as vegetarians have started eating meat again - some of them are mainly vegetarian but will eat meat when there is slim picking. There is one vegan on the tour who has remained solid throughough. I've managed to avoid meat but have had to adjust my diet to compensate - both for the lack of options and the heavy strain we're putting on our body. Regarding the latter, I don't feel as if we receive enough protein on the Tour - the kitchen goes to some effort to make sure we get some protein (beans or chickpeas most of the time, tofu a couple of times!) but occasionally the dish is entirely vegetable based. At lunch too, there is often no vegetarian option that includes protein while meat eaters usually get some form of meat. (Understandably it's hard to find meat substitute at a lot of places but lately when the supermarkets have been well stocked, I fear that us vegetarians have been forgotten.)

I've developed a few tips for helping anyone who intends on staying vegetarian for the duration of the tour.
1) Don't be fussy.
It's hard enough finding vegetarian food sometimes that you can't insist on strict separation from meat products. At one place in Sudan that served burgers - the eggs were cooked next to meat burgers and often on top of them. They were perfectly happy to serve fried egg burgers but you had to take what you could get.

2) Find your supplements.
In order to recover at all (your body starts burning muscle on the longer days on the bike - protein is a must) you'll need to supplement your meals with food that is protein heavy. Almonds/peanuts are quite good for this, as are eggs. True vegetarians would argue that eggs are cheating but you'll really suffer if you won't / can't eat these. Many of the TDA dinners include eggs, and most African restaurants that can cook vegetarian dishes will usually cook eggs.
Protein powder is quite useful and many of the racers use recovery drink. I've been using whey powder since Nairobi where it was available in the malls. I would recommend developing some scheme for stocking up with protein powder (at least if you're trying to race or be somewhat quick) or just buy it when you can (Nairobi onwards) and ration it carefully. Care packages which you could get sent to each major city (with mild difficulty) would be perfect for this - if you have the budget of course.

3) Eat well on rest days.
Rest days are when your body is trying to rebuild all the weary muscle tissue from the previous riding week - you need to fuel it appropriately. I've felt a lot better when I've had several good meals on rest days. Unfortunately this isn't always possible so you need to remember to keep food spare. In Sesriem in Namibia where we are now, the restaurant at the campsite doesn't offer anything vegetarian and is unwilling to cook anything vegetarian (with the exception of fries). Consequently I've had to make my own arrangements and luckily had some quick cook noodles to hand.

4) Bring a big dish.
At dinner every rider will be served before open kitchen is called and anyone can come and grab how ever much food they like. This means that non vegetarians are welcome to help themselves to the vegetarian option (which they usually do). If you don't get enough food on the first round, there is a not insignificant chance that you won't get any the second time round (depending on what the non-veg option is - i.e. fish). Bring a big plate and you'll get more than enough the first time around.

I'll go through the countries and just briefly summarise the food available on rest days when we have to feed ourselves.
Chicken is quite a popular meat dish but so are falafels and koshary (a strange spaghetti/rice/curry blend which is delicious). Vegetarians will have no problem here.

Falafels are still quite easily found. Eggs are quite popular too. In most restaurants though, you'll struggle to find a good vegetarian selection.

Nearly every restaurant will offer a 'fasting' version of food which is meat free. The bread (known as injera) and curry combination doesn't sit well in most peoples' stomachs though so you may find yourself resorting to Western food. Usually this will be pizza or pasta and they'll usually offer a fasting version of this. Egg dishes (sandwiches and omelettes) are available at most cafés (as well as superb fruit juices). Not an issue for vegetarians.

The Kenyan staple, ugali, is often served with beans and spinach at local joints. At more upmarket restaurants though, it's usually served with meat and you'll have to ask to have it without meat (literally in Swahili: bila choma). Meat in general is big in restaurants. Eggs are easily found, as are chapatis.

Catering on the safari was acceptable although the vegetarian option was fairly plain compared to the meat option. There's an excellent cafe in Iringa (the Hasty Tasty Too) which offers a huge menu and lots of vegetarian dishes. It's far from the campsite the TDA uses but well worth the visit.

I ate well at the Western chain restaurants and the campsite. We didn't eat any local food so I can't compare.

The campsites in Zambia are very touristy and we spent most of our rest day at a mall - vegetarian food was easier to come by. On the cruise down the Zambezi river though, the vegetarian option was terrible - a plain pasta dish. There's an (apparently) excellent vegetarian restaurant in Livingstone - the waitress never brought my order though so I will reserve judgement. The local food is meat based (at least at the fairly touristy restaurant we visited) so vegetarians will have an easy time ordering the single option available.

In Windhoek, the pricier restaurants will have a good vegetarian selection although the focus is on game meat which is specially available here. At the more cost effective fast food chains, there are few vegetarian dishes on offer - they will usually be out of stock too.

South Africa-
We'll see but I'm hopeful.

As for cost, I'm usually offended by how much vegetarian dishes cost compared to meat dishes. We pay the same price for buffets and on one occasion, the TDA organised a dinner on a rest day where I was forced to pay $5 for a single fried egg. At Western restaurants the price difference is slight - vegetarian dishes usually cost just a little less. Sometimes though, restaurants will exhibit logic and a vegetarian meal will work out much cheaper.

Finally, these are all my own observations and I may probably have overlooked something. It is possible to survive without meat with some slight added pain.

3 comments posted so far
Akshay Patel wrote at 7:01 pm on Sat 8th May -
Sunil...are you gay?
Beth (Dave's sister) wrote at 1:08 pm on Sun 9th May -
Thanks. It was interesting to learn more about the food on the trip and how you cope as a vegetarian. It can be hard sometimes to find good vegetarian options in parts of the U.S., so I can only imagine what it must be like in small towns in Africa. Not to mention the challenge of higher calorie and protein needs during the race.

Thanks, also, for your descriptions of the decathlon events. Sounds like the decathlon was a big hit - kudos!
wrote at 2:23 pm on Sun 9th May -
I was told the same about Akshay - is Akshay gay?

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 4:13 pm on Saturday 17th April

It was a short and pleasant day into Lusaka, 104km and there wasn't a huge amount of pressure to race with most riders taking it easy. I took quite a few photos, enjoyed the cooler temperatures and generally chilled out.

Lusaka was much revered before we arrived for its two shopping malls which include a multiplex cinema, a Subway fast food restaurant and a huge Walmart-esque supermarket, a SuperSpar. With the thought of ice cream and Subway sandwiches on our minds, soon after we set up camp at the Chainama Hotel where we were staying, a group of riders journeyed to the Arcades Mall. My findings - well it was the Subway I know from home, in some form. There was no choice of bread (it was white or brown) and I was bemused to see a sticker on the counter 'Introducing Our Newest Vegetable: CUCUMBER!', besides the newly discovered elongate green vegetable they only had onions, tomatos and peppers. A pretty sparse sandwich but still pleasing to the palate.

After our sandwiches, we went for ice cream next door at a restaurant called Food Fayre, an astonishingly warm place - in fact, so warms that some of their stock was melting. Luckily the soft ice cream we had from the machine was still cold and dipped in caramel sauce, still delicious. After this, we milled about online for some time and then went to see Clash of the Titans (others also went to see Blindside). Some hilariously Hollywood moments but it was relaxing to sit in a comfortable chair and let my brain switch off.

That evening we went for drinks at a South African chain bar called Rhapsodys and I found one of my favourite cocktails - a chocolate martini! While alcohol or cocktail afficionados may denounce the purity of a martini with chocolate in it, I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is a fan of chocolate, milkshakes or even chocolate milkshakes. After that we took a ride to the other mall and had dinner at a Zambian Irish Pub - also part of a chain.

The next morning we did a repeat of the buffet breakfast trick and visited the Lusaka Golfview Hotel, a fancier business class hotel neighbouring ours. It cost nearly as much and perhaps was about 70% of the breakfast at the Sheraton in Addis - not a bad effort and I certainly filled up, eating four courses consisting of:
- Plate of fruit, yoghurt.
- 3 egg omelette, 2 boiled eggs, baked beans, potatos.
- Plate of pastries
- Bowl of cereal
Plus lots of juice and hot chocolate.

After some bike maintenance (my grand plan to swap my chains every two weeks so they would wear evenly failed because my spare chain rusted in my bag!), I travelled into town alone on a mission. It was refreshing to leave the false luxury of the malls and experience the genuine Lusaka city centre. Full of office buildings and lots of small shops, there are also two large markets - the town centre market and the Lusaka city market.

On a mission to find an item, details of which I can't divulge now into order to maintain the surprise, I visited both markets and spent a good couple of hours walking around and haggling. The final result was that of success - a relatively rare item which I didn't think most Africans would have need for. The markets were great fun - if you're milling around Lusaka, go visit them.

Running some other errands around town, I noticed that all the pharmacies smelt absolutely terrible in addition to being extremely busy. Medicine is a hot commodity in Zambia it seems and it was interesting to notice that the few pharmacies I visited were run by Indians. Asking for directions was also mildly confusing because they refer to traffic lights here (and I'm told in South Africa too) as 'robots'. I despair for the future where the best form factor for robots we can come up with resembles a stacked set of coloured light bulbs.

I stumbled across the ultimate in modern convenience (at least for the rugged adventurer-traveller), an internet cafe-barbershop. After getting my rest day shave, I made my way down the staircase to the internet cafe and plugged in my laptop with no time wasted. After stocking up on toilet paper and snacks for the next week, I walked up to the main road to take a bus back to the hotel. Having managed my time poorly, it was now 5:30pm and right in the middle of rush hour.

Luckily I found a seat on a fairly large minibus. The seats inside were arranged such that there were five seats across and an aisle running down where the fourth seat in each row would sit. In order to reach any of the rows, the person in that seat would have to stand up, fold up the seat and disembark. At first I started off in the frontmost of these folding seats and as people disembarked, had to move to the back of the bus to fill those seats. Eventually, while we were close to my stop, I had to fill a seat at the back. All was well until the man of average build next to me got off and was replaced by a woman of a much larger build. Only one word is apt to describe this - squished. Aside from the lack of space and the stagnant smell of body odour, the ride was fairly pleasant and I was happy that I disembarked at the correct spot to make it back to camp.

No comments yet
No comments yet!

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 6:41 am on Tuesday 6th April

0510: Yawn. I'm packing my sleeping bag into its sack. The ground is damp outside. There's no running water at the hotel/campsite and the toilets we have available to use are a horrific mess. I'm taking my inhaler and overclocking my body for the ninth day in a row, trying to compensate for my lifelong mild asthma.

15km: It's early in the morning, Adam and I are riding together, fast. With only this day to finish before the section is complete, we're both eager to maintain our sectional rank of 4th (me) and 6th (Adam) overall. We're trying not to gain any extra riders as we overtake group after group by sprinting as hard as we can each time we pass. After the third sprint we need to slow down - pushing so hard has left us breathless and weary. With no more groups in sight, we draft each other, each leading for five minute intervals before switching with the other.

35km: Adam decides he's unable to maintain the pace we've been doing. We cut back to about 70% of our previous speed. The wind has picked up and is doing it's Malawian trick of rotating between head-on and side-on. Occasionally the grey clouds shower us with drizzle, the spray from the road slowly soaking my jersey. I'm glad that my MP3 player and camera are well wrapped in own-brand Ziploc (tm) bags.

40km: One of the many children standing by the side of the road yells out 'give me money!'. I ask him, 'why?'. There was no audible response (but we were travelling at some speed above 25kmph).

50km: 20km until lunch. It's PVM bar time. Caramel nut. With a quarter of the bar left to go, it's my turn to lead and I'm struggling to breathe as I speed up to overtake Adam. It only takes another thirty seconds to chew the remainder of the bar.

73km: Lunch arrives, we've just overtaken Rod and Juliana and been overtaken by Stuart and Gisi. There are quite a few riders at lunch, we purposefully left quite late in the morning. It doesn't seem like many riders are racing hard today but there's no sign of Jethro or Tim who cleared lunch earlier. Nothing too amazing for lunch today, although there's an appreciated reappearance of wholewheat bread which Jen dutifully slices for the other riders. Adam doesn't want to leave in a hurry so I go on alone and wait for Stuart and Gisi to catch up.

80km: It's hard work in the wind. I'm struggling to get anywhere near 25kmph on some sections of road. My stomach is rumbling. The single sandwich I ate doesn't appear to have satisfied my appetite, understandably.

83km: Stuart and Gisi catch up. Stuart suggests we each pull for 5 minutes and leads us on. It still feels windy but with the draft we're easily going 5kmph faster.

95km: Gisi finishes her pull after ten minutes and Stuart comments 'guess we'll pull for 10 minutes now'. She rotates round and I'm at the front now.

110km: We're getting closer to the capital city of Malawi. Every so often there are eight flags lining a twenty metre section of road, four on each side. The traffic is heavier and we're sometimes pushed onto the side of the road.

121.5km: We hit our first roundabout of the day and the beginning of the only real navigation we need to do. It's straight over this one and soon after there is heavy traffic blocking the road. We slow down considerably and cautiously filter through the traffic (the truck incident leaving Arusha still memorable).

124km: We're stuck in traffic behind a bread van with the slogan 'Choices Bakery - Where success is always one step ahead of us.'

1105/133km: The finish flag is in sight. It's a quick sprint to the dinner truck's trailor which is home to the timing device. It takes a couple of button presses but my finish time is eventually registered. Stuart signs in but Gisi waits a few minutes, trying to give him second for the section (having made up time by winning the earlier mando-day and hence receiving a 30 minute time bonus).

1350: My tent has been set up, I've showered, eaten an egg club sandwich and finished watching yet another terrible (romantic?) comedy movie. My head is weary from the last sleepless night (Easter in this country is also celebrated as some kind of harvest festival with genuine discotheques, one of which was held in our hotel/campsite) and it's time for a nap. Pitching up my tent under a tree was a wise move and despite the overwarmth outside, it's pleasant enough to sleep. I fall asleep quickly.

1500: I wake up in a daze from a heavy, deep slumber. It's warmer now than earlier, the sun has come out. I grab a PVM bar (lemon & lime) and walk to the bar, trying not to trip. While eating the bar I accidentally bite my tongue.

1530: A group of riders were heading into town looking for Nandos and I hopped in, riding shotgun in the back of a local's Toyota pickup truck. After visiting an ATM, I spend half of my newly acquired cash on a veggie burger and peri peri chips. We're in Malawi, and eating at Nandos. Frickin' amazing.

1610: Jason and I are searching for ice cream in the Metro Cash & Carry. It's like some kind of wholesaler and there are fridges full of drinks and food littered around the supermarket. None of them seem to be particularly cold inside though. Perhaps this is a new selling tactic. The ice cream doesn't look appetising but I walk out with six packets of biscuits and a 100g bar of Cadbury's chocolate to last me through the next section.

1720: The section results are out, I'm third for the men's race. A hard couple of weeks racing and it's come to some sort of fruitful conclusion written in black marker on a drywipe whiteboard.

1750: It's time for the fifth meal of the day, campsite dinner. A pleasant Thai green curry served with a plateful of rice goes down quickly.

2030: After discussing the milkshakes available at Steers, a South African (I think) fast food chain, we finally snap and get in the taxi that is conveniently already at camp. Stomachs all rumbling a bit, Dan orders a pizza, Jason a burger and I have fries. Many delicious pseudo-milkshakes (lacking genuine milk) are consumed.

5 comments posted so far
Ash wrote at 3:23 pm on Tue 6th Apr -
Good job Sunil. 3rd in this section!! Quite an accomplishment. You're almost there. In 6 weeks you will be done.
TDA FAN wrote at 11:03 am on Wed 7th Apr -
I loved this hour-by-hour account. Congratulations on your stage results!
Paul B wrote at 5:47 am on Thu 8th Apr -
Hey man, congrats, 3rd is no mean feat. Enjoy Malawi while it lasts, and remember when it gets tough: at least you don't have any revision to do this year.
Paul B wrote at 2:26 pm on Fri 9th Apr -
Also, Nando's is a South African chain, so it's not all that surprising that you'd find one in Malawi.
Paul B wrote at 2:27 pm on Fri 9th Apr -

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 1:54 pm on Monday 29th March

James, our tour cook, does an excellent food profile of every country that we pass through. Two of the token East African dishes which I wanted to try but hadn't yet are ugali and chips mayai. On our last evening in Iringa, we went to a popular local bar, the Miami Bar, for dinner. The bar was in itself an advertisement for Kilimanjaro beer - the walls, table clothes, doors and bar stools were all massive logos. We ordered food with a mixture of Swahili straight out of the Lonely Planet African Phrase Book and English, coveting help from our seated local neighbour.

The ugali was as I expected, perhaps a little disappointing but only because of sheer familiarity. The chips mayai however was superb in the same way that peanut butter is. Imagine an omelette and a bowl of fries. Now imagine the chips inside the omelette. A fairly heavy meal but well received regardless. This brought my sum total of egg consumption over two days to fourteen eggs.(Digression: the best part of this trip is our ability to eat whatever we like without thought for the consequences. I will begin to detox a fortnight before Cape Town.)

Starting the next section on Saturday morning with a brisk helping of Weetabix, I soon found myself cycling with Paul Porter, a rider from last year's TDA. We ride at a similar pace and rapidly made our way to lunch and then to camp, being the third and fourth riders to arrive into camp. I'm not sure where we rank. It's amazing how much this helped - when I was riding in the front my heart rate would be pushing 160 BPM, and when I was riding in the back, my heart rate would drop down to 140 BPM - a good opportunity to rest. I've also noticed lately that my heart is recovering much quicker, dropping back to resting heart rate when we free wheel down hills within a matter of seconds and ramping up pretty quickly too.

At lunch, we rushed out as soon as some of the other riders started to arrive. Normally I average 2 sandwiches per day and Paul motioned that we should leave as I was just about to start eating my second sandwich. Not wanting to waste a good sandwich, I tried my best to eat it quickly but managed to destroy the pure structure of it whilst doing so. As I started pedalling on my bike, the sandwich fell apart completely and the bushes 50 metres from our lunch stop are now littered with sandwich crusts. A saddening reality of the tour.

The scenery in Tanzania is pretty stunning, we're at some altitude (approximately 2,000 metres) and for brief stretches of road, it looked like we were floating in the sky - clouds seemed to be at ground level. This road is filled with large trucks and similar so we've been banned from listening to iPods (I don't own an iPod but a Sandisk Fuze - took their warning to mean don't listen to music). This meant it wasn't possible to listen to any suitable soundtrack to the scenery.

That evening we camped in our second forest camp, in a forest that appeared to be heavily logged down a dirt track (and we thought we'd left it behind!). The grass was long, up to a metre in height, and several riders reported seeing snakes. As I was setting up my camp in the grass, I was bitten twice and observed another rider's tent being covered in crawling insects. Promptly I decided to move my tent to the dirt track which let off the main dirt track - slightly inconvenient and not as soft but you can't put a price on peace of mind.

No comments yet
No comments yet!

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

Mmm, protein.
12:55 am on Friday 19th February by SS
No comments yet
No comments yet!

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 2:53 pm on Thursday 4th February

We're on the eve of our rest day now and I've finally had a chance to glance at myself in a mirror. Shockingly, my appearance remains fairly decent, aside from a fairly haggard beard and fairly messy hair. Neither are a problem though, given the lack of reason to look respectable and having to constantly wear some form of hat (either a helmet or a baseball cap to keep the sun at bay).

This next week of riding is going to be tough - it is one of the two longests contiguous riding weeks we have, seven days of back to back riding. We begin the week with two 160km days of road riding followed by our first (beautiful, hopefully) taste of off-road as we head through Dinder National Park. This park has been shut to the public for nearly a decade and we are quite privileged indeed (we were invited by the minister of that state). We're camping one night in the park, in the fine company of lions (we're told).

After this, we head to the border with Ethiopia, where in addition to kids throwing rocks at us (more on this later), we can eagerly anticipate our first mando-day. Mando (or mandatory) days are race stages which racers must compete in and cannot use their grace days (we are given three grace days to use for our worst three stage times) to cancel. They are mandatory because they are known to be difficult and this first mando day is no exception. The entire day involves 2500m of climbing. I'm hoping that there will be some nice downhill sections but I fear being struck with rocks whilst freewheeling could potentially be catastrophic, if not for the rider but for the bike.

Khartoum has been an interesting rest day. Woken up by the usual prayers at 5am, I was unable to sleep and ventured out to the intersection with the main road near the campsite where several kiosks and stalls have been set up. Walking on the street with my 'Africa-tan' was great for blending in with the locals (if not Sudanese, I at least looked Arabic) and I ate a sugary fried breakfast similar to that in of Dongola - the bread is sometimes called mandazi elsewhere in Africa and is usually topped with sugar.

After laundering our clothes (back to 80% of being completely clean, I'm beginning to think 100% cleanliness is impossible for a non-professional launderer like myself), Adrian and I began our hunt for a post office from which to send postcards back home. At first we flagged down a rickshaw and tried to make the concept of post (Adrian showed him a letter, then made some flying motions and tried miming a stamp) clear. When this appeared not to work, my Lonely Planet African Phrasebook came to the rescue with the Arabic spelling of post office and our rickshaw driver, having asked many other people for further direction, took us to the DHL office relatively nearby.

Once we were there, I queued to ask the DHL receptions where we could post a letter and they gave us the address of their DHL head office in the centre of Khartoum. Another taxi ride later, and we walked into the office to find out that it would cost 210 Sudanese pounds (approximately £50) to post a letter to Australia. Resigned to failure and not wanting to spend much more on the overall act of posting items back home, we were about to leave but asked if they knew of an actual post office - the answer, 'yes but it's far away'. Determined to finish the task we had started, we asked a taxi driver to take us there and to our surprise we arrived at an actual post office in Sudan.

At this point we didn't actually have any postcards with us, having not managed to find any shops that sold them (Sudan is really quite far from the popular tourist track) and it was yet another surprise when we saw stalls in front of the post office selling postcards. It became really obvious that tourists rarely come to Sudan (or at least don't send postcards) because the majority of postcards on sale looked like they had been printed ten or twenty years ago. They also had a variety of tourist guides on offer, 'Sudan - 1999 Tourist Guide'. Anyway, if my parents actually receive my postcard, I'll be satisfied.

Onwards now, Eastwards out of Sudan.

P.S. If you would like a postcard from any particular country that I have yet to visit, drop me a message via the contact page with your postal address and the country you'd like a postcard from. I'll try my best!

2 comments posted so far
wrote at 9:59 pm on Tue 9th Feb -
You are doing brilliantly loved your blog on the tour d Afrique website

keep on going
wrote at 4:06 pm on Sun 14th Feb -
Good Luck with rest of the tour :) I am enjoying reading your blog and all the places you have visited and the adventures you are experiencing.;)

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

With the locals
2:39 pm on Thursday 4th February by SS
No comments yet
No comments yet!

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 5:45 pm on Sunday 31st January

Tonight we're at a 'Canal Camp' although some of the TDA staff have
given this camp an alter-name of the 'dead Camel Camp' because of the
three carcasses of camels surrounding the campsite. We're still fairly
near the Nile but tomorrow will steer away from it and further into the
deep of the desert.

The heat here is like nothing I've ever experienced before. The day
usually starts off fairly cool (in fact, trying to leave my sleeping bag
every morning has become harder and harder. At about 9am, it starts to
heat up (we normally leave camp at 8am) and gets steadily warmer. I'd
hazard a guess of around 10 degrees Celsius in the morning, reaching at
about 40-45 degrees at the warmest, about 2pm in the afternoon. The last
few days I was getting in quite late in the afternoon because of various
'challneges' (not sitting down / punctures) but tried today to reach
sooner to avoid the heat.

Water consumption is a big issue here - we need to drink many litres
worth in order to stay hydrated. Today whilst riding I drank about 6
litres of various beverages (occasional 'Coke stops' are one of the
luxuries en route to camp daily) and was still heavily dehydrated when I
arrived at camp. There are clay pots by the side of the road which
contain water for anybody to drink - I didn't try any of this today but
will to tomorrow. Something about the pots' construction causes the
water to stay surprisingly cool.

The other beautiful aspect of being a touring cyclist is that your
calorie burn is sky high - effectively meaning that you can eat as much
as you like and not gain weight. The sweets in Dongola were amazing, a
pastry similar to blaclava but available in a variety of different
forms. I bought snacks for the week of riding since eating only savoury
food quickly gets weary - 64 custard creams and 20 'Caramelo' chocolate
bars. The custard creams are holding up perfectly except that the fat
person inside me finds it hard to resist them (I've been through about
20 biscuits today already...).The chocolate bars lost their solidity and
are now delicious liquid chocolate.

It's strange that having been a vegetarian all my life (intially beause
my parents were vegetarian and then later because I didn't see the point
in switching), I've been seriously contemplating eating meat. Some of
the dishes that I see my fellow riders consuming look incredibly
appetising, made worse by my insatiable cyclists' hunger. I've resisted
so far and probably will do until the end of the trip but I do wonder if
I'm missing out on something good now. In addition, it's physically hard
to consume enough calories to balance the deficit and despite eating a
huge amount at dinner, I always wake up with a rumbling stomach.

3 comments posted so far
Moose wrote at 10:55 pm on Sun 31st Jan -
Consume some protein bro! You'll end up in Capetown either as a tanked up omnivore or an emaciated vegetarian... :P

Ahimsa be damned, think of how many bugs you must squash whilst cycling anyway!
John N wrote at 10:34 am on Mon 1st Feb -
Love the blog, and fantastic effort to be still EFI.
HRL Anish wrote at 5:40 pm on Wed 3rd Feb -
Awesome post...I love you Sodhi!!! (I promise i'm not gay!)

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

1:20 am on Wednesday 13th January by SS
No comments yet
No comments yet!

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.

by SS at 2:29 am on Friday 4th December

My flight from Goa to Cochin was mildly eventful. I was much ridiculed by the astrologer in Pallolem for flying instead of taking the convenient and simple train ride, to my defense, I plead ignorance. While the train pretty much travels in a straight line, the flight involves transfers to an airport some distance away from both airports and a stop over in Bangalore.

Bad weather to Bangalore held up our plane and we spent four hours waiting in the considerably dull Goa departure lounge, distracted only by the supply of free samosas at the airline's expense. It seems the karmic law of the universe had not fully satisfied itself and the south Indian thali I ate the night previously caused severely painful acid reflux, to the point where I spent most of those four hours sitting doubled over. Naturally, my medication was locked inside my checked in bag.

Once the plane was underway, it was a pleasant trip to Bangalore (where they had held up the ongoing plane just for us) and then Cochin. The taxi ride from the airport to Ernakulam, a large town in Cochin, was reminiscent of my initial bus ride through South Goa; beautiful scenery surrounded the taxi whichever way you looked out of the window. The terrain was markedly different though, adding large patches of water to the green leafy vegetation of further north. These are, of course, the popular Kerala backwaters.

Ernakulam was a relatively mediocre place for a tourist, lacking much to see and being a typically bustling (and hence gratingly unfriendly) Indian town. To its merit though, the food was the cheapest that I have eaten yet in India - an accolade not to be taken lightly, given the generally low cost of filling your stomach elsewhere.

My hotel was a pleasant cottage affair which was attached to a restaurant. The room itself was one of the nicest I had stayed in and I elected to save money on the rate by foregoing air conditioning. In the end though, I spent a considerably quantity of time in the room and the heat sapped my productivity.

Breakfast each day was usually whatever they had prepared, which for reasons unknown to me, changed daily. In any case, it was delicious - chapatis one day, parathas the next (which are called parottis everywhere there for some reason) and a dosa the next. This would all typically be accompanied by some variety of curry. Yum.

Dinner was also authentically south Indian - dosas, idli and vegetable noodles (well, perhaps not so authentic). In my quest to cool my body temperature, I walked the street to find a milkshake or similar (a particular favourite beverage group of mine). To my great joy, there was a restaurant not ten metres from my hotel which had an extensive menu of lassis and shakes.

After ordering and grumbling about the 3 rupee surcharge on take out orders, I casually observed the sweet lassi being made. As he added all the usual ingredients, my mouth watered with keen anticipation. Just before he was about to mix it, alarm bells went off in my head as he took what appeared to be a child's beach spade and shovelled a large quantity of curious looking powder from a bucket into the blender.

My fears were confirmed when he told me that the bucket contained sugar. As I gingerly sipped the drink, my thoughts wandered to the, now likely, onset of Type 1 diabetes. A quick mental walk down a chain of logic later and I concluded that 'hey, I'm in India, not going to get such drinks back home'. So if you catch me drinking a lassi at home, remind me of this story.

I spent a day in Cochin on a government run backwaters tour which consisted of painfully slow cruising down peaceful canals filtering through various villages in the Kerala countryside. It was a curious sight to see and reflected a lot of the backdrop in the Malayalam film I saw in Goa. After lunch we took a houseboat to various islands, snapping some unoriginal but spectacular regardless photos. From the description our guide gave us, it seemed that the majority of Kerala's income derives from the coconut tree or many derivative products of the coconut tree.

The next day I took the ferry to Fort Cochin, a considerably more tourist oriented area. Queuing for a 2.5 rupee ferry ticket was far more stressful than it should have been, perpetuated by the insistence of the ticket seller to only sell tickets for five minutes before the imminent departure of a ferry. Arriving just after a ferry had left the jetty, I found myself near the front of the quickly growing queue for the next ferry, suffering from all the usual discomforts of queueing in India.

A ticket later, I boarded the ferry, taking care not to touch any of the rusty exposed metallic surfaces (although my tetanus shot should have allayed any fears). As we approach the Fort Cochin jetty, it was necessary to breath in through my mouth as the vast amount of algae growing on the surface of the water immediately surrounding the island emitted the most unpleasant odour.

I walked first to the chinese fishing nets, curious contraptions which line the sea front of the island. It was here that my paan craving (which hadn't been satisfied for a day previous when the combination of a Muslim festival and the paan sellers only being Muslim had basically halted the supply of paan) drove me to request a meetha paan from a stall near the nets. This paanwala did not seem to think it was possible to make a paan without supari and I was much disappointed with the resulting leaf filled with paste and little else.

Walking onwards, I was repeatedly bothered by an auto driver who would not accept that I wanted to walk around Fort Cochin on my own. After about twenty minutes of walking around lackadaisically and repeatedly asking him to 'go away', he finally departed. As I explored the narrow streets and gazed upon the ancient churches, I wandered into a bookshop and picked up a copy of the Upanishads, on the advice of my friend the astrologer. This will hopefully be the first step to understanding the nature of Vedic spirituality.

A relatively expensive lunch later, I headed to Jewtown, and was much in awe of the variety and calibre of the articles in all the various antique shops. Unfortunately the synagogue was shut but I was able to get a feel of the place. After picking up a small metal elephant as a gift (and not being able to knock more than 10% off the price - those sellers stick to their guns!), I grabbed an auto to take me back to the ferry jetty.

The roads in Fort Cochin are fairly average sized and you would only just able to fit two cars side-by-side. As the rickshaw puttered down Bazaar Road, we came to an abrupt halt. Peering out from under the canopy, I noticed a large load bearing truck parked on the side of the road. Immediately next to it was a similarly sized truck trying to get past. The driver was yelling at the pedestrians near the parked truck to move it forwards, while the pedestrians assured the driver he could safely pass.

Lots of shouting later and this truck passed with what must have been mere atoms of free space. Assuming that this was the only truck foolish enough to come this way, I was shocked when I saw yet another truck move forward to try and negotiate the constricted section of road, behind it were at least another four trucks. At this point my driver admitted defeat and turned the rickshaw in search of an alternative route.

3 comments posted so far
Moosra wrote at 2:08 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
Type 2 Diabetes, not type 1.

YES finally the biomedroy strikes back with pendanticism to match SS' compsci fervour.
HRL AA wrote at 4:29 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
You pedantic roys!
SS wrote at 10:25 pm on Fri 4th Dec -
Damn, you're right. I got confused - oh well, good to know this for when it does eventually catch me.

Comments have been disabled. You can probably comment on this post on Geek On A Bicycle.