Cycling from Mumbai to the Taj Mahal

by tkos on October 10, 2012

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Cycling the 1,500km + from Mumbai to the Taj Mahal in Agra will take you through the alcohol free state of Gujurat and state of castles being Rajasthan. Our particular route bypassed Surat for a unique opportunity to explore an ex-pat teaching NGO project in the tiny village of Kadod, through a media circus in Vadodara and Ahmedabad, into a Prince’s palace in Udaipur, an attempted gem scam in Jaipur and finally to the queue for tickets to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

There are a few stretches where you really need to search well for hotels, especially between Udaipur and Jaipur. Two in particular that were in ideal locations and the only hotels around within riding distance were Bilwara Midway and Lake Umaid Palace. Neither of them particularly flash and roughly INR1000 each (after negotiation in low season). Despite good looking websites, both had a couple of cockroach residents, but you will get used to that by Rajasthan.

 


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What we loved the most:

  • Getting a great insight into what we believe is a fantastic NGO initiative. The teach the teacher program in Kadod will eventually eliminate themselves from a position, promoting self sustainable skills in the field of education throughout the community.
  • The media circus we flew into in Vadodara and Ahmedabad. A few calls from some friends and the press were all over us. We featured on the nightly news and at least seven newspapers. Not so much for our involvement with charitable projects, just more about the cycle trip. So if you do it to, they will be all over you as well!
  • Udaipur. Probably due to our fantastic host, we were lucky enough to witness an authentic Pooja (religious celebration) with his family while we stayed in his Heritage Hotel right on the water.

What was like a broken spoke:

  • It pains me to say it, but unfortunately, the undercurrent of India’s attitude and utter disrespect for women raised it’s ugly head in Rajasthan, more than anywhere else in India. Numerous incidents where young men would run towards Kimmi and grab her backside while local onlookers would laugh and encourage the behaviour. Other incidents where they would ‘accidentally’ rub their hand across her breast during brief crowded encounters and lewd gestures from passing traffic whilst cycling were all common in Rajasthan (especially on the highway in between Udaipur to Agra). It’s not enough to put you off coming to India completely, and we have never been in any real physical danger, but it does happen, it is common and it is an ugly stain for India.

What’s it worth:

  • Everybody will tell you that India is super cheap, but you can spend as much or as little as you want. One night in a hotel can cost you INR 250 but you will be sharing with some bed bugs and a few cockroaches. INR 2000+ will get you AC, wifi, clean sheets and a flat screen TV. Always check about, as quality and price can vary considerably. A cheap roadside lunch will be INR 500 and you will have so much food, you won’t be able to move. If the restaurant is fancy (ie- has cutlery), you can spend INR1200 for roughly the same food. A bottle of drinking water (1 litre) should be INR 15 but we have paid up to INR 50. Exchange rates at the time of writing are GBP£1=INR 85, AU$=INR 50. We have spent approximately INR 2000 per day.

Top Tips:

  • Kankarwa Haveli in Udaipur is definitely worth a shout for a great place to stay. This family run heritage hotel is a home away from home. It’s not in the budget range, but with beautiful rooms and private balconies overlooking the lake, nor should it be.
  • The Taj Mahal opens at sunrise, but the time you get in, even if you are first in line before the gates open, the sun has well and truly risen. One or two hours later (8:30′ish), the crowds are a little less and the shadows on the Taj are a little stronger.
  • Dress conservatively if you are female. It won’t completely protect you but might minimize attention.
  • As usual, couch surf. It is the local people of India that make it great, and not so much your waiters and luggage carriers from your hotel.
  • Search for hotels along the route by typing ‘hotel’ in the search bar on Google Maps.
  • Eat fruit you can peel (ie bananas and oranges) over apples as the skin might not be clean. Don’t drink tap water.
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TownKM's NightsWhere we slept
Mumbai021Couch Surf
Vasai501Hotel
Palghar601Hotel
Umbergaon701Hotel
Valsad651Hotel
Navsari501Hotel
Kadod502Couch Surf
Ankleshwar721Hotel
Vadodara957Personal friend
Nadiad651Hotel
Ahmedabad557Couch Surf
Himmlatnagar901Hotel
Kherawara901Hotel
Udaipur904Kind Stranger
Chittorgarh1181Hotel
Bilwara Midway791Hotel
Kishangarh1341Hotel
Jaipur1052Couch Surf
Umaid Lake701Hotel
Bharatpur1121Hotel
Agra703Hotel

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