He now loves spending most of his time on the saddle and circling destinations on the world map that he would like to explore on the two-wheels of his bicycle. Tom was introduced to cycling about 12 years back when he took a ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, Laos and since then there has been no backpedaling!
Q1: Tom, let me begin by asking what brought you back for a second time to India?
India is so vast and has such a rich ancient history and deep cultural roots that one visit to this incredible nation can never be enough to know it completely, in fact not even in a dozen visits. The people here are so accommodating and friendly that every interaction with them gets etched in your memory. Both my visits have been unique with one thing in common – each time I left the country, I had lovely new people added to my friends list.
I don’t think I could ever tire of India, and plan to return many times.
Q2: You said, both your visits have been unique. How exactly, can you elaborate?
Sure. So, the first time I visited India was back in 1990s. At that time, I was new to the world of foreign travel. I visited Varanasi in the northern part of India which is more of a spiritual destination. It brought me up close to the Indian traditions, religious beliefs and culture. Back then, India’s infrastructure was in an emerging phase too, the roads, houses, people were not urbanized yet compared to its other Asian counterparts. But today, some parts of the country are as metropolitan as any other city in the developed world. India has matured and come a long way but at the same time, some parts of it have still retained their roots deep in culture and tradition, which is the most fantastic part about India.
And another major difference is that I got to explore India on a bicycle this time. Thanks to Bike Street Boys! Last time my visit was to the Taj Mahal and other touristy places while this time I got to see the real India which is more remote and non-touristy.
Q3: How was your experience riding with Bike Street Boys?
The team at Bike Street Boys took care of us end-to-end. Although this was my second visit, I was still quite apprehensive about riding on Indian traffic roads. But Bike Street Boys had been thoughtful enough to select countryside roads, which not only took us away from pollution and traffic but also gave us an opportunity to see the other side of India. I enjoyed the scenic routes, pollution free climate apt for cycling, and the local experience along our way.
Q4: What was your most memorable experience from Ride of Pi journey?
Celebrating Pongal in a village with some local families was the most amazing part of my journey. India is a land of festivals and we were very fortunate to be able to witness one of them. There was dance, music, food and so much joy. One family that we met, comprised of parents and their five children living in a small hut in the center of their small village. Even with such limited material wealth, they were still such a warm and welcoming family. They offered us local delicacies made from their first harvest, of course, after it was first offered as gratitude to their deity, a beautiful custom of expressing gratitude for the bountiful harvest.
Another highlight of the trip was the lake side resort in Dindigul where we could spend an evening relaxing amidst spectacular views and a glowing sunset over the lake, followed by a peaceful sleep after a full day of cycling through the beautiful countryside.
Really, the entire Ride of Pi itinerary is perfect! The first few days included warm-up rides on flat terrain until we get to climb the mountains to reach Kodaikanal to experience its cooler temperatures and panoramic views. The 4-hour nature hike in Kodaikanal was very informative too as Mr. Vijay Kumar, our guide and hiking expert was a well-read man himself, showing and explaining the flora and fauna of the region.
At Munnar, we stayed among sprawling tea plantations, and before the trip's end in Kochi we stayed on a houseboat in the peaceful Kerala backwaters where we spent a well-earned leisurely afternoon, followed by a relaxing dinner.Overall, the trip was very well planned and thought out to be a perfect cycling holiday.
Q5. As a parting thought, any feedback or suggestions for improving our future rides?As I've now been so fortunate to have experienced over 15 cycling trips around the world using many companies, I can say from experience that Bike Street Boys successfully integrates the joy of cycling through this spectacular country with the experience of sharing local culture, customs, food and friends in a way that makes you feel like you're a part of India, instead of just passing through it. I hope you continue to expand your routes in India as I will surely ride with Bike Street Boys again!