Week Thirty-Seven: Unexpected Culture Shock

13/12/18-19/12/18

Country: India
States: Maharashtra & Goa

Distance cycled: 196km / 122mi
Elevation cycled: 2,097m / 6,880ft

We started this week with roughly 180km and 2,000m of climbing standing between us and beers on a Goan beach with a friend. Oh and we only had three days to do it in. Now I’ll admit that sounds like plenty of time, but we’d already cycled three hilly days straight and were in desperate need of a day off. If you remember we clocked 481km and 4,080m last week. We were shattered.

Dan and I each came up with a plan of attack to get us to Goa on time – and in one piece. Of course they were two very different plans… Dan wanted to have a full rest day and then cycle two 90km, 1000m elevation rides. I wanted to skip the rest day and cycle three 60km, 670m elevation rides. Both plans had pros and cons and we debated them fiercely. Actually, tiredness got the better of us and the debate turned into an argument mid-ride in the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully arguments are a rarity (surprising, I know), usually brought on by lack of sleep. And you’ll be glad to hear that after some heated words were exchanged, we calmed and came to a compromise. Rather than our usual 5am start, we decided to have a long lie in then, if we felt rested, we’d ride three 60km rides. This worked out quite well in the end, as I was glad of the much-needed lazy morning and Dan was glad to have split up the relentless rolling hills.

We reached Goa and got a big dose of culture shock. Yup, we were as surprised as you probably were at reading that sentence. Seriously, it was strange.

As I mentioned last week, we have barely seen foreigners since arriving in India six weeks ago – maybe ten and we’ve only spoken to one. Yet as soon as we crossed the border from Maharashtra into Goa, they were everywhere. It was bizarre. We felt like we had left India and arrived in Zante or Ibiza, or some other destination that’s overrun with scantily-clad men and women drinking morning, noon and night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – you can’t beat a seaside session in the sun – it’s just we weren’t expecting to find it in India. Well I wasn’t. Dan had pre-warned me that Goa would be touristy, but even he didn’t remember it to be so busy and boozy.

What was so culture shocking, you ask? Everyone speaks English here for a start, whereas we’ve often had to communicate with gestures and random Hindi words. All menus have at least ten pages and ten cuisines; we’ve been served whatever the chef cooks. Women are driving scooters in their bikinis; we’ve not even seen a bare knee since Russia really. Beach bars play western music; we’ve only heard Hindi stuff. Prices are alarmingly different, too. For example, chapatis are thirty rupees; we’ve been paying five. Dal fry is one-hundred-and-seventy rupees; we’ve been paying sixty. Goa is just so un-Indian.

After we got over the initial culture shock, however, we did find some comfort in being able to order pizza for £2; having loo roll in hotels and being able to flush it down the toilet; and easily finding supermarkets that stock ground coffee, peanut butter and honey. Plus we’re no longer the star attraction. We just blend in. It’s quite nice to be totally ignored for a change. We’ve enjoyed the ease of Goa so much, we’ve decided to take a week off the bikes for Christmas here. Why not, eh?

After a rough ol’ ride getting to Goa, we were so ready for some beers with a friendly face from home, Nat. The three of us worked at the same ad agency about four years ago. Dan and Nat actually worked on the same team in the Motion Department and became really good friends. It was so lovely that our timings worked out to meet. 

Nat and Dan’s lovely ex-boss, Millie, sent us some beer money, which was very much enjoyed.

Nat and Dan’s lovely ex-boss, Millie, sent us some beer money, which was very much enjoyed.

Nat also came bearing gifts. Once we knew we were definitely meeting, we did a few quick online orders to her place, which she then kindly brought out to us. The thing we were most excited for was the Platypus Gravity Filter, as that means no more manually filtering water – our hands are so relieved.

We’ve been quite lucky with getting bits and bobs sent out to us on the trip. Dan’s brother, Jacob, joined us on the bikes in week six and brought a care package. Then we went home for Dan’s cousin, Tom’s, wedding in month four and stocked up. Then Tom, who lives in Dubai, came out to meet us in Nepal in month seven. Getting bits sorted for Nepal was like a military mission. His wife, Jodie, happened to be working a Dubai-London flight just before Tom left. We had twenty-four hours to get an order to her hotel in London before her turn-around flight left for Dubai again. It worked a treat and we got our third care package. Then we met Nat in month nine. And funnily enough, we’ll see Tom again in Dubai in January, month ten, with another order being brought over from the UK!

Nat brought out a merino t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt for Dan. Bikini shorts for me. Plus a Platypus Gravity Works water filter, antihistamine bite cream, two deet roll-ons, and Boots Once suncream. This is the best suncream ever: it’s water resistant, sweat proof and lasts eight hours. Perfect for cycling.

Nat brought out a merino t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt for Dan. Bikini shorts for me. Plus a Platypus Gravity Works water filter, antihistamine bite cream, two deet roll-ons, and Boots Once suncream. This is the best suncream ever: it’s water resistant, sweat proof and lasts eight hours. Perfect for cycling.

We had a wonderful two days with Nat, her sister Ellie, and Ellie’s friend Tonya. Ellie and Tonya have just finished their PhD in heart regeneration at Oxford University. What an amazing achievement! Although they were super humble about it. They’ve been travelling around India to celebrate and Nat managed to swindle a week off work to join them.

We had a wonderful two days with Nat, her sister Ellie, and Ellie’s friend Tonya. Ellie and Tonya have just finished their PhD in heart regeneration at Oxford University. What an amazing achievement! Although they were super humble about it. They’ve been travelling around India to celebrate and Nat managed to swindle a week off work to join them.

We waved goodbye to Nat, Ellie and Tonya, as they headed inland for a safari trek. All we did after that was cycle 12km to the next beach and take another day off. This Christmas beach break might just be the best idea we’ve had on the trip so far…

You can’t spend a week on the beach without a bat n’ ball. We opted for a badminton set to be honest, as we thought it would be easier than tennis. LAZY.

You can’t spend a week on the beach without a bat n’ ball. We opted for a badminton set to be honest, as we thought it would be easier than tennis. LAZY.

Does it get much better than this?

Does it get much better than this?