Money, Compliments, Publicity: Varanasi to Vizag and Beyond

A man once said the pinnacle of success

is when you finally lose interest

in money, complements, and publicity.

A noble enough idea, I suppose.

But how on earth he does this,

heaven only knows.

I know I’m gonna need a lot more of all three of those

before I ever have the nerve to turn up my nose

at any money, compliments, publicity.

– Todd Snider, “Money, Compliments, Publicity”

2015-02-28 to Ambodala 002 (res)

Recognize this guy?  According to the papers, he’s a “Young Globetrotter.”  A “maverick.”  A badass American that “pedals across borders for fun.”

Naw, just a humble fauxbo who enjoys long rides under the blazing sun and longer nights worrying if monkeys are going to steal his samosas and ravage his tent.  Oh, the joys of India!

Let’s get right into it with little list of happenings from my 22-day, 2000km ride down the subcontinent :

2015-02-22 to Balumath 010 (res)

Day 1: Two dudes in an SUV roll down the window and chat me up.  They offer to buy me a chicken but I suggest we have tea and savory snacks instead.  Camped a forest just off the side of the road.  118km.

Day 2: A dude on a motorbike chats me up.  When I mention needing a snack, he brings me to a little restaurant.  The owner comps my meal of flatbreads and tea.  114km.

2015-02-24 to Birmitrapur 009 (res)

Day 3: The owner of my hotel from the night before catches up with me along the way and tells me to stop at his restaurant in the next town for a free lunch.  In the evening, a friendly uncle leads me to the local Dharamsala (pilgrim’s hostel) and pays the $0.85 tab.  Then he takes me for a bit of street food.  Then his cousin takes me to see the town’s most famous temple.  Then he brings me to his cell phone shop, where his nephews come and chat with me for an hour, uttering such sweet sentiments as “Sir, you don’t know how many wonderful memories you are making for us right now.”  Then back to his house for a five-course meal (including Chana Masala, chickpea curry) courtesy of his wife.  124km.

2015-02-25 to Sundargarh 012 (res)

2015-02-25 to Sundargarh 014 (res)

Day 4: Same uncle buys me a breakfast of tea, fried puri flatbreads, and a few jalebi funnelcakes, and sends me on my way.  90km and five hours later, some uncles at my lunch Dhaba wake me up from my nap to invite me for a beer.  “One glass” turns into three, they bust the whiskey out, and loads of snacks (including omelettes and Chana pakora, deep-fried chickepeas) ensue.  I break away at about five, manage another hour of cycling, and stop in the next sizeable town and check my map at the main intersection.  Within two minutes, a few twenty-somethings circle around me, offer to guide me to a guesthouse, then take me out to the best Chai shop in town.  Contraband is also an option, but I use my rough riding schedule and my already weakened state as an excuse.  111km.

2015-02-26 to Bargarh 001 (res)

Day 5: Same hooligans treat me to breakfast.  About 5km out of town, an uncle asks me to pull over without explaining why.  Normally I’d refuse and chew him out a little, but he’s got an adorable little girl on the bike with him, so I try to stay cheerful.  She asks to take a photo with me – another request that I refuse for most dudes and uncles, but will allow in the case of extreme cuteness.  As we say our goodbyes, the uncle asks if I need anything.  I say no, joking that I have my bedroom, kitchen, office, and garage all on the bicycle; he pulls out 100 rupees ($1.50) and insists I take it.  129km.

Day 6:  In the morning, I turn down an alley in search of a snack.  One dude sitting there reading a newspaper turns to the page with my photo on it; I guess those guys who ambushed me at lunch the day before claiming to be reporters hadn’t been lying!  Dude says “Meeting you is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.”  At lunch, I stop at a fancy hotel hoping for a big meal.  The owner offers me the use of a 3-star room to shower and rest in, then comps my meal, one of the best Thalis (sets) I’ve ever had.  An hour later, a dude on a moped passes me and chats me up.  He suggests we stop for tea and for some reason I’m willing.  He also insists on buying me a few packets of cookies.  That evening, I stop at a Dhaba to camp; the owner has his chef cook me up another awesome Thali and serves it to me with a small bottle of whiskey, all on the house.  126km.

Day 7: Chai courtesy of a reporter trying to convince me to wait until his camerman and translator could come and do a proper interview.  Free lamination of the previous day’s newspaper articles courtesy of a shop owner who appreciated my message and my willingness to chitchat with her middle-school daughters, who spoke perfect English.  Free oranges and sweets courtesy of a dude on a bicycle who was returning home after a trip to town to interview for a job as a forest ranger. Camped under a ginormous mango tree.  101km.

Day 8: Dinner (fermented rice pancakes and coconut sauce) and dessert delivered to my hotel room by my friend Surya’s uncle’s nephew or something.  He had never heard of Surya.  125km.

Surya 005 (res)

Day 9:  Morning munch of free dessert snacks from last night.  Breakfast provided 25km down the road by more of Surya’s relatives, an uncle and auntie who arranged for some reporters to meet and interview me at his shop.  Packed lunch, dinner, soft drinks, and bagged lassis courtesy of the same.  Slept nearby at Surya’s friend Praveen’s place. 145km.

Surya 002 (res)

Days 10-12:  Meals at home with Surya and family.  Praveen’s parents also made sure I had my fill of tea and snacks and made me promise to come back for more.  Also treated to tours of Surya’s hometown, Vizag.  AND Surya arranged a massive (by my standards) press conference for me, which got me and 3RR into about 15 newspapers and even on to TV.  No cycling, except a bit around town and to show off for the cameras.

Day 13:  Breakfast with Surya and family.  Enough flatbreads and curries for lunch and dinner prepared by mom, packed trash-free into my tupperwares.  Camped behind the staff quarters at a gas station.  155km.

2015-03-08 to Pothur 007 (res)

Day 14: Raju, a Vizag politician-and-philanthropist who spotted me first in the newspapers on Day 11 and then again on the highway on Day 13, treats me to a village tour, an awesome dinner prepared by a village auntie, and a night in an air-conditioned room with fluffy pillows.  105km to meet Raju, 20km via his station wagon back to the village.

2015-03-08 to Pothur 016 (res)

Day 15: Breakfast with Raju and friends.  Lunch offer from a dentist out for a morning ride (“I feel like I’m meeting an alien or somthing from National Geographic!,” he said to me) refused because I hadn’t yet hit 100km.  Five coconuts (nearly broke my bike) and a watermelon courtesy of Ravi, a solar engineer who chatted me up from his motorcycle.  He promised to send me a solar charger from his company.  Camped outside another Dhaba. 177km.

Day 16: Teenage Dhaba chef decides not to charge me for my curry, roti, and salad.  He probably felt sorry for me since I dismantled my bike in the parking lot to give it a nice cleaning.  Camped out behind another gas station. 158km.

Day 17: First day with no freebies, but a friendly uncle in the town of “Sullurpet” did help me to find a budge hotel and wrangle the price down from $7 to $6.  168km.

Day 18: A dude in Muslim garb on a motorcycle in Chennai, a city of some 15 million, passes me on a main thoroughfare and silently extends his arm, handing me a cold bottle of orange soda.  Dinner and free shower and floor accommodation courtesy of my couchsurfing hosts Nina and Hannes.  85km and then DONE.  Almost.

Day 19-20: Two more nights surfing Nina and Hannes’ floor.

Day 21:  Last day of the ride, 145km to Pondicherry.  I bought the pizzas, my friend Jihye bought the refreshments.

Day 22:  Off. 2015-03-16 to Sadhana 001 (res)

Day 22:  A paltry 8km to reach Sadhana Forest.  Free clothes from the free store, free hut in the forest, free bananas and jackfruits and papayas from the trees, free hugs, music, massage, etc any time.

About those oblique references to journalists, reporters, newspapers, interviews, and so forth: here are some photos from the press bonanza that Surya organized for me.

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 006 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 015 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 010 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 012 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 013 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 014 (res)

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 018_2 (res)

Yeah!  That’s my baby!

2015-03-03 Visakhatpatnam 019 (res)

The next day, my website got 900 hits.  The all-time high had been 162.

2015-03-04 Visakhapatnam 001 (res)

2015-02-24 to Birmitrapur 001

IMG_2585

Telugu 09

Telugu 10

Telugu 01

Telugu 02

Telugu 03

Telugu 04

Telugu 05

Telugu 07

Telugu 08

Telugu 11

Telugu 12

Telugu 06

2015-03-04 Visakhapatnam 004 (res)

And now, some that might be a little more accessible to all of my readers who  don’t happen to speak/read Hindi and Telugu.  Sure, they’re full of “modified” quotations, irrelevant information about my bachelor status, and mistakes regarding my age and itinerary, but most of them managed to mention the Three Rules and my eventual destination, Sadhana Forest.

English 04

English 05

English 01

English 02

English 03

Kashiyatra (res)

…aaaand, a throwback to Varanasi, where Surya arranged for me to give a talk at Benares Hindu University.  Fifteen minutes to tell a thousand students about three rules and my journey of 30,000km.

And one last video

Or at https://youtu.be/2L-NLhc84Rw, if that doesn’t work.

This entry was posted in India and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Money, Compliments, Publicity: Varanasi to Vizag and Beyond

  1. Jamey says:

    This inspires me and reminds me of the profound generosity India has to offer and that bike touring tends to provoke. Thank you for sharing.

    • Michael Roy says:

      Hey dude! Thanks for stopping by. Bring your bike next time you come to India, let’s go for a ride. I’m gonna shoot for Ladakh in August…

  2. Suze says:

    Wow, can’t believe I get to host such a celeb!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I know this guy!!! and his close friend-overloaded bicycle. ^ ^ Look good !

  4. Lotus Ian says:

    I know this guy ,and his close friend-overloaded bicycle!!!^ ^Look good~

  5. Pingback: South India in 6,000 Calories per Day | Three Rule Ride