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Report 28 +++ February 2006 +++ India: Curiosity everywhere

The country of India exceeded our worst fears when it came to overcrowding and dirt. The subcontinent is with 329 people per square km one of the most overpopulated countries in the world. To imagine the misery or to be in the middle of it are two different things. We didn't expierience India from the view of a package tourist, who sleeps in 4 star hotels with air-conditioning looks at famous and sanitized tourist attractions. We expierienced the so-called "Incredible India" (as it's called by the local people) on the road, suffered the filth and stench and the obtrusiveness of the uneducated people of the country, whose eyes mostly stared into space with a blank look of despair which seemed to register us with neither affection nor dislike.

We wouldn't recommend camping outside for cyclists in India. We tried it several times in order to avoid the dirty towns, where you are forced to sleep in narrow and isolated hotel rooms often without windows. However if you don't do anything to stop it, dozens of people come to your tent and stare at you. European people are used to having a private space around them, but the people in this country didn't seem to understand what that meant. In order to watch over our bicycles at night we would always leave the entrance of our tent slightly open. At 6 o'clock in the morning, while we were still sleeping, people came and stared into our "bedroom" while brushing their teeth with bamboo sticks. In such situations we shouted to the people "Go away, go away", and gesticulated wildly. Mostly they didn't understand or would come back after a few minutes.

Unlike Europe, camping is allowed almost anywhere in India. The people are not bad, they just wanted to know who we are and where we come from, and this is why we didn't feel good when we always drove them away. Possibly they were just worried about our safety. But nobody can imagine the feeling of dozens of people are staring at you and observing your every movement. We were absolutly surprised on our way to Kolkatta to find suddenly a short part of a new highway with four lanes having been on a very bad road with only two lanes. But the people of West Bengal use highways differently from European people. On the hard shoulder were bicycles and ox-drawn vehicles, and on the passing lanes, women dried cowpats and grain.    andreaslina(at)yahoo.de