India: Big, loud and colorful (they must love noise)

 Day 1,928 since October 10th 2013: 168 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.  

The greatest enigma may just be for anyone to understand India

pano

I understand Iran. The Iranians feel miss represented by their government and want to be recognized as peaceful, intellectual people of a modern world. I understand Pakistan. The Pakistanis feel that the media has painted them unfairly and want the world to know that they are modern, friendly people who get cool haircuts and take selfies just like anybody else. I am struggling to understand India? What do these people want?

My struggle in getting a grip on India is probably due to the continental size of the country, its overwhelming diversity within all thinkable fields and its profound history and sometimes complex history. I do know this though: Indians LOVE India and they LOVE cricket. India has 29 states, 2,000 ethno-linguistic groups and 645 indigenous tribes (52 major ones). As I mentioned last week they have 1.3 BILLION people which makes this one country responsible for 18% of the world’s population. How crazy a thought is that? Indians know better than anyone that India is not perfect. They will in fact spend a lot of time pointing out what is wrong and what could be better. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you too can point such things out. That is an Indian privilege. They are fiercely proud of India which is something of an oxymoron given the amount of trash talk they give their own country :) Have no doubt though…India is a great nation and it is shooting forward as a rocket!!

India Gate

India Gate, Delhi.

According to Standard Chartered India’s economy is going to overtake USA by 2030 based on nominal GDP. That is only eleven years from now!! And that will make India the world’s youngest major economy. By 2030 you can also expect India to have an overwhelming young population and more than 1 billion internet users!!! By the sheer size of India it is estimated that every second three new internet users go online for the first time in this country. Mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanos, forests, desert, canyons…you name it: it is in India. India holds several mega cities, the country has a Space program, they are responsible for the lowest meat consumption in the world per capita, they have around 50 million monkeys and 330 million cattle. Cattle are sacred, there is a caste system which in some cases still controls socioeconomic status, food is great, hospitality is high, development is moving fast and it is one of the noisiest countries I know of!! It’s India!

handcraft

You’ve heard of the world’s tallest mountain (Mt. Everest). You may even have heard of the second tallest (K2). As of this point of your life you now also know that the third tallest is Kanchenjunga in India which reaches 8,586 m (28,169 ft) into the sky. I just missed participating in the Kumbh Mela festival which is the world’s largest religious festival. It drew in some 150 million people this year but I was busy oiling Once Upon A Saga a making sure that this little project will run smoothly for a while to come. I met a few people who went though and they said it was amazing. Millions gathering in good spirit, bathing in the holy Ganges River and living in tents. The logistics of such large events is just mind boggling. Some poor logistics coordinator will certainly need a well-deserved rest after that. Nah…no festival for me…I’ve been battling bureaucrazy, getting my laptop fixed, making presentations and meeting up with people. I certainly do a lot of things within the Saga which are not strictly required for achieving a journey to every country without flying. Some of the things I do are to keep myself sane. Some of it is to build a sustainable future for myself and my fiancée. However most of what I do is in direct connection to ensuring that we will successfully reach the remaining 35 countries and make history.

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

I’ve been to India before so I don’t feel too bad about not seeing all the sights this time. I have in fact seen far more of India than most people including Indians. Back in 2010 one of my very good friends and I flew to Chennai to start an epic motorcycle journey across four countries. We started in the south of India and finished in Istanbul on the European side of Turkey. My Friend Cam Brookes is from Melbourne, Australia, and in some ways you can say he introduced me to adventure. Biking through India and Nepal on two Royal Enfield’s was his initiative and it has been life defining for me that I joined him. The Royal Enfield is a classical Indian motorcycle which is sometimes nicknamed the Harley Davidson of India. They are not meant for speed. They are meant for cruising and the sound an Enfield makes is easily distinguishable from anything else in traffic. It’s a deep “thuk, thuk, thuk, thuk” sound sort of like an old fashioned fishing boat. It sounds super cool and you feel cool riding one. So unless you are Indian or otherwise have some unique knowledge of Indian geography this list might not mean a lot to you. But here are some of the main places we rode through back in 2010: Chennai, Kallakurichi, Coimbatore, Ooty, Mysore, Hosdurga, Hampi, Om Beach, Panaji, Baga, Lingasugur, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Tanuku, Annavaram, Srikakulam, Kolkata, Krishananagar, Maldah, Balurghat, Darjeeling, Legship, Pelling, Tashiding, Rabongla, Gangtok, Mangan, Lachung, Siliguri, (in and out of Nepal), Lucknow, Agra and Delhi. Lots of great adventures are packed into that list!!! But that was then and this is now.

z2

2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

Z3

2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

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2010 motorcycle journey with Cam the Aussie :)

This visit within the Saga is my third visit to India overall within my life. In 2010 we rode around as described and entered Nepal from Sikkim. Then after Nepal we returned to India making that my second visit and now I’m here for the third time. Within the Saga I will reach India four times before we continue east through Myanmar and Thailand. Logistics, logistics, logistics… I remember Delhi from 2010 and I can hardly believe the change which has taken place. A lot has happened. The city is cleaner, more efficient and there are far less cows to be seen. I was told that many cows have been relocated to sanctuaries. India has more than 500 animal sanctuaries. Getting the cows of the streets obviously makes traffic flow smoother and also makes the city somewhat more hygienic. Although you probably wouldn’t call Delhi’s traffic smooth or the city hygienic just yet. All I’m saying is that India is certainly on the right path and heading in the right direction. Remember: India is a young country. Young but so incredibly influential on the global scene. I’ve said it before: India is everything! So your impression of what India is would largely depend on which “keyhole” you are looking though. In the big picture it is a country to be in awe of. There is no country like India. I see why they are proud.

shave

I had a $1 USD haircut which didn't turn out to well. Good thing I wear a hat.

I came across this list during some of my research. India leads world production within: Banana, mango, papaya, lemon, buffalo milk, goat milk, chilli pepper, ginger, chick pea, millet, jute and wood fuel. I don’t know…I just find it fascinating. India is such an interesting country. I love some things about India and other things make me want to jump off a bridge. Like getting my visa for Bangladesh. Bureaucrazy!!! Will it never end? Having to supply more documents at the embassies than the country’s foreign ministry informs on their website. Having to pay more money too. What can you do? Complain? Ha ha! Yeah...give that a go... I began like this: “Sir, we need document XXX (for no reason whatsoever)”. A lot of this is hopeless beyond sanity. All my documents will end up in a box covered in dust. It will silently die in a storage room. For at least half of all the forms I have filled out over the years I could have written Donald Duck and no one would ever notice. “Sir, you need to deposit $118 USD to the bank”. Which bank? Any bank. They don’t have a bank account. They needed a Demand Draft. Okay, so I had to find a bank. Make the payment. Get the document. Print it. But how? Where? I receive the needed document on my phone. Now I “just” needed to find out how to get it printed on paper. Challenge accepted! I got it done. Okay: next challenge. I walked for a while and located a bank somewhere between the narrow busy streets of a filthy neighbourhood. “Yes, sir? Sorry sir. You cannot deposit money without a bank account sir”. I insisted and was referred to the branch manager. The manager called over a woman and received a form. He filled out some of it. Then he continued a conversation with someone else. Then he filled out some more. His phone rang. I waited. Finally it was done: “Sir, please go and make the deposit at counter number five”. Sounds easy? Nobody in the bank had heard about a counter number five?!? I insisted that the branch must have one?!? The manager sent me too it?!? I ended up with a guy who complained about how everything always ends up at his desk. It takes time. But eventually it gets done. I brought the print of the unnecessary document and the Demand Draft back to the embassy but the gate was closed. They told me it would be open. The security guard then told me to wait five minutes. Then later on he told me to wait for thirty. I finally submitted everything. There went the first half of that day. “Sir, please come back and collect on Wednesday at 5pm”. So I did and now that visa is in my passport. One less thing on the list. This was by the way not an unusual day for me... I know people mean well when they say “have fun”. “We envy you” they say. If people only knew.

Map

This is how my GPS has tracked me across the first 168 countries. You can zoom on the map HERE.

What I do is not comparable to a vacation or a holiday. It is also not comparable to a business trip. What I do falls into the category of climbing a difficult mountain, getting frostbite, being tired, being out of air, doubting, cursing, smiling, grinding teeth, laughing, winning, achieving… You can call me a lot. But you’ve never heard of a tourist who reached 168 countries in a single unbroken journey completely without flying ;) It’s not a blunder. It did not happen by accident. Oh well…I don’t know who I’m writing here. You have probably been following the Fridag Blog for ages. You know ;) There is light ahead. I can see it. The tunnel of countries is getting shorter. ‘Only” 35 more to go. But let’s head to Mumbai first. I have a few engagements there before turning towards Nepal.

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The Indian Red Cross Society Head Quarters, Delhi.

The Red Cross Red Crescent takes up a lot of my time. I call it the RC. That is lot easier. I have reached 164 national societies around the world. The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) is the last so far. If I cannot wrap my mind around India then there is no way I can wrap my mind around the involvement of the world’s largest humanitarian organisations work within India. I met some great people at their national society headquarters in Delhi. They have a prime location next to the Parliament building. Parvinder Singh is the Communication Manager and a really bright guy. I enjoyed speaking with him. He has a lot of insight on many matters. He introduced me to several people. Among others I joined the Deputy Secretary Mr Neel Kamal Singh as he gave a lecture to a classroom of young beautiful faces. I believe they were healthcare students of some sort but those details were lost on me. What was clear to me was that the deputy secretary had their full attention. I especially liked when he told them a story of three blind men whom had been sent off to feel an elephant and report back what they discovered. The first man touched its leg and reported that an elephant is like a tree. The second touched its ear and reported that an elephant is like a large leaf. The third touched the elephant’s tail and said an elephant is like a snake. Then the deputy secretary deputy said the RC is like that. Some will know about evacuation. Some will recognize blood donation. Others will speak of combating loneliness while others will point towards vocational training, first aid, the youth movement, fund raising, disaster response, immigration, search and rescue, family links and just about a billion other things! Which part of the RC have you touched? Or in many cases which part of the movement has touched you. India is an “elephant” too.

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Deputy Secretary Mr Neel Kamal Singh keeping the studens on their toes ;)

Parvinder also introduced me to Leon Prop from the International Federation of the RC (IFRC). Sometimes you run into people like him. He is the type who lives and breathes for the RC and will work tirelessly for the humanitarian cause. We had a good talk and I remember a story he told me about the actions of the IRCS work specifically in one state. India is a massive country and while many are moving into middle class economies some still have a long way to go. Imagine that someone from the north of India had to travel south to find work. Unfortunately he passes away and the family in the north have no means of transporting the body home. The IRCS branch in Tamil Nadu offer a unique free hearse service within the state and even trans-border. It is no small task as they handle tens of thousands of transports every year. It is just astonishing. I cannot describe the IRCS better than what they can themselves. So why not take a look at their website right HERE.

Lene

Lene Kolhhoff Rasmussen, Delhi.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lene Kohlhoff Rasmussen (www.kohlhoff.dk) the other day as she dropped in on Delhi. She is a traveller, adventurer, author, public speaker and an all-round Viking from Juelsminde in Denmark Lene is a member of the same travellers club as I am: De Berejstes Klub (DBK). It is the largest travellers club in Denmark and has room for every kind of globetrotter. Lene has been to 86 countries and 17 territories across five continents. She has authored a book called “my journey along the Silk Road” and she is currently writing about her adventures along the greatest, the longest and the holiest river in the world. Three rivers. Can you name them? ;) We sat down to speak a bit about the world, have dinner and drink a beer. We are after all Danish. The next day Lene headed out to mingle with 150 million people at the Kumbh Mela festival.

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Main Bazar Rd., Delhi.

I’ve met several interesting people lately. Tina and Ivan from Slovakia were in town and had treated themselves to a night at The Lodhi Hotel which is pure luxury. They wanted to know if I would join them for dinner? I sure would! We had a great evening talking about various high profile travellers and interesting achievements. In the end we had to agree there is no shortage on crazy people (myself included). Tina and Ivan live in Moscow, Russia, and have done quite a lot of traveling on their own. Ivan has set himself an endless goal: he collects UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The good thing about them is that there are always new ones popping up so he will never reach the last one.

MSK

I had a great time visiting Maersk in Delhi. We had a chance to discuss culture, perception vs. reality, logistics, motivation, strategy, tactics and off course go over the adventure of trying to reach every single country in the world in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. India became country number 168 after more than five years. Let’s keep on keeping on. (P.S.: I love the photo bomber on the couch).

pushup

So, we are now more than halfway in the #OUAS30dayChallenge and you've got to love how people at the magnificent Humayun's Tomb couldn't care less about me doing 27 pushups :) I do wonder why sights like this one are not on everyones lips? I guess India simply has to much to offer it's guests.

DSV

I had an amazing time with these guys from DSV in Delhi as I made my 78th Saga presentation across the globe. DSV is a Danish based global freight forwarder with 45,000 employees in more than 80 countries around the world. DSV India was established in 2006 and now has 20 offices in 18 cities, employing approximately 750 employees.

One evening I met Jens Moeller Laursen (www.kbhrundt.dk) and Jesper Groenkjaer (www.tryllestav.dk) who are another two Danish Danes from Denmark, a small Kingdom in the high north of Europe. They too had been to the Kumbh Mela festival. Jesper is a magician, author, adventurer, public speaker, entertainer and probably a lot more too. He has been doing magic in all sorts of hotspots around the world in order to share the language of smiles and amazement. He’s a good guy and I’d definitely go and see one of his shows/lectures. Jens was traveling with him. Jens is just as nutty as the rest of us. He decided that you do not need to go far to find a good adventure and set out to walk on EVERY street in all of Copenhagen, which is Denmark’s capital and his home city. Copenhagen is not as grand as Delhi but it is still a city with some 1.5 million people and, what you might assume to be, an endless amount of streets. Apparently not? Jens managed to walk on all of them (238 hours / 1,032km (641mi)). Both Jens and Jesper are likewise members of the Danish Travellers Club (DBK).

Monkey

India has about 50 million monkeys and Delhi is home to around 30,000 of them.

At one point Jens, Jesper and I spoke about becoming accustomed to certain things to such a degree that we hardly notice them anymore. As such I thought I might have left out a lot of stuff which is strict routine for me and has been for a very long time. I don’t spend any time explaining how I pick which hostel to stay at, how to catch transportation on the road, how I negotiate a price with an auto (rickshaw) driver, how I handle foreign currency - and the list just goes on. I could of course go into such details but that is not at all where my interest lies. You can find countless travel bloggers who will give you all the advice you will ever need. The other day I left the Red Cross HQ and walked out to the street in order to catch an auto. Something was by my feet and as I quickly glanced down I noticed it was a monkey sitting there on the sidewalk. I did not even take a photo. Instead I decided I wasn’t going to take an auto but call an Ola driver. A lot of countries have alternatives to Uber and in India it’s called Ola. You’ll find Uber as well but I have found Ola to be far more reliable. You won’t believe the amount of time I spend going between places in Delhi. 30 minutes here and 40 minutes there. Frankly a lot of my week has been eaten up in various forms of transportation: meeting people, heading to embassies, getting my laptop repaired etc. The Danish Embassy was kind enough to invite me for a cup of tea. We talked about how they could use the Saga to promote Denmark within India. It makes perfect sense and I’m very happy to see Danish Embassies taking such initiatives. It began in Pakistan and I hope to see it continue as we wrap up the Saga over the next year or so. I also picked up my new passport at the Danish Embassy. I think that is passport number eight since I left home. I applied for two passports: the regular ten year and a supplementary two year passport. I’ve travelled with two passports since the Saga began in 2013 and I’ve had them both renewed several times. However this time the Danish Police (who needs to authorize the second passport) are having the hardest time understanding why I would require it. That is Danish bureaucrazy for you. If the Danish man who is making modern world history by visiting every country in the world without flying is not eligible to have the supplementary passport then who is? I spend so much time on stuff like that…emails are still going back and forth…   

laptop

Nehru Place is where you go to get your phone or laptop fixed in Delhi. We took it appart to find out that the problem was the software. Onfortunately I had to come back two more times because we didn't get it right the first two times. That took a lot of my time too... But it was cost efficient and now it works...I think.

The air is really polluted in Delhi and Mumbai has the same issues. I have done no research into where it comes from. It could be all the vehicles. Maybe factories…crop burnings? I don’t know. But it is often hazardous to breathe it. The air is hazardous! The air is poisonous! What does it take for us to learn?!? They say spending a day in Mumbai is like smoking a hundred cigarettes. I have a friend who grew up in Delhi and can deal with it but his son cannot so now they are getting ready to leave. Let’s go back to the “we-have-poisoned-the-air-we-need-to-breathe-in-order-to-stay-alive” bit. If you want to test something then you need to push it to its limits. In other words you need extreme circumstances. India is “extreme circumstances”. It is the only country of two with more than a billion people. That is as extreme as that gets. Delhi has more than 20 million people. We are using fossil fuels to make ourselves go faster. The exhaust from the fossil fuel driven vehicles we use is damaging to the air quality and ourselves. What do we do? We keep betting on fossil fuels?!? Delhi is the extreme. The results are in and the air ranges from unhealthy to hazardous every day. It is a wakeup call if there ever was one. India’s government is taking all sorts of initiatives in an attempt to do something about it. 1.5 million electric rickshaws are already on the roads and some 11,000 new ones hit the road every month. Things are moving the right way for most things across the globe…my only concern is if we are moving fast enough?

Air1

On this day the air quality index number was 352! I have not seen it below 180 while in Delhi.

air2

India is great. There is no doubt about it. We are in for a ride and I am curious to follow India’s development as more and more people move into middle class and the rate of children per family slows down. Did you know that Japan has around 125 million people today but the population is estimated to dip under 100 million by 2049? Germany has roughly 80 million citizens today and is estimated to have 67 million by 2050. Denmark also has a negative growth rate. Women can decide over their own body. Family planning is becoming more widespread. More and more women get longer educations, seek a career and realize their dreams before settling down and starting a family. It is basically across the board that families get smaller. Many chose not to have children, some only want one while others dream of two. I am one of three siblings. My parents each had three/four siblings. My grandparents had even more. The world is changing in oh so many ways. Are you ready for it? It will happen in your lifetime. The first people to live on Mars have already been born.

laundry

Laundry on the cheap! Of course you can find laudromats and dry cleaners. Lot's of people have washing machines too.

Metro

The metro in Delhi works really well. It is a great way to skip traffic.

On another note people often ask me where I sleep and the answer is basically that it could be anywhere. I’ve slept directly on the ground a few times, at five star hotels, on buses, trains, boats, in my hammock, at private homes etc. Nothing beats a good hostel though. For me a great hostel has a good location, a solid breakfast, an inviting common room, a low rate, reliable WiFi and a caring staff. At Jugaad Hostels in Delhi I found some brilliant staff who could answer just about anything, help with bookings and give advise. Good stuff!!

HostelMix

Jugaad Hostels in Delhi.

Listen…my entries are not exactly short and neither are most of my answers to the things people ask me about. I have a lot to say but you’ve got stuff to do and so have I ;) I’d like to end this one by saying that Indians really take hospitality seriously. Forget about the driver that’s trying to rip you off on the side of the street. I’m talking about the same driver once he goes home or if you meet him when he is not trying to make a living. Perhaps more than from any other country I have been to, I have received invitations from people who want to meet me in India. People want to travel to where I am. People have offered to pay for my journey to their villages. I have received lots of invitations to stay in people’s homes and it is frankly overwhelming. Another few things they take serious are cricket and food. I got on the train from Delhi to Mumbai and there was no end to the burping and farting from both men and women. I was traveling on tier 3. There might have been less of that behaviour on first class. I’m in a different part of the world once again and things are done differently. This is in essence what it is like to travel and experience the world ;)

Mumbai

Reaching Mumbai. A temperature difference between 21C (69.8F) in Delhi and 28C (82.4F) in Mumbai.

MumbaiStairs

Mount Mary Steps, Mumbai. India is a country which loves color :)

MumbaiThor

Seth's welcome to me on the front door. I'm well taken care of in Mumbai ;)

 

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - We've come this far - that makes me smile.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

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