All India Cruise
A dream comes true
For almost 20 years we have been traveling with our guests to almost every corner of India. From the heights of the Himalayas, through the deserts of Rajasthan, to the sanctuaries of the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, over the mountain heights of the Western Ghatts, through tea and spice plantations, along endless white beaches to the southernmost mainland point of India in Kanyakumari, we learn on our two and three-week trips to know almost every aspect of this diverse country.
The thought has always flown through my head to offer a big, comprehensive journey through all of India, the indescribable diversity of this quasi-continent with one big throw. A few years ago I tried it, but only half-heartedly out of fear of this challenging project. But now, after almost two decades of intensive India experience, this project should become a reality.
All important places in India on one big tour, this is our All India Cruise . And you can be part of it. You will be on the road for 45 days and afterwards you will be able to rightly claim that you have seen, experienced and went through India.
The destination airport for international flights is New Delhi. From here a domestic flight continues to Srinagar. The domestic flight is part of the booked trip. Return home from Trivandrum in Kerala.
1. Day: Flight to India (New Delhi)
Let the adventure begin.
The visa has been obtained, the vaccination card is up-to-date, the flight is booked, motorcycle clothes are stowed ... and you're on the plane that will take you to India's capital New Delhi.
Have a good trip!
The international flight to India is not part of the trip. The service we provide begins with the domestic flight from Delhi to Srinagar. (see day 2)
2. Day: Flight to Srinagar
As soon as we arrive in Delhi, we are on our way. You may have to change to the domestic airport, but a free shuttle bus is available and the plane takes off with the destination Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Your Royal Enfields are impatiently waiting for you here and can hardly wait to carry you safely through their homeland.
3. Day: Relaxen on Nagin-Lake in Srinagar
But before you start, relax and get to know each other first. On one of the noble houseboats on Lake Nagin it is time to arrive in this world that is so strange to us. Enjoy the peace and quiet, India will soon cast a spell over you and demand a lot from you.
You will long for your horn-free time.
4. Day: Srinagar - Kargil / ca. 200 km
The first day of driving and also the first challenge. After a leisurely start through "Switzerland of India", the Soji-La, a 4-thousand-meter pass, awaits us, which is one of the most difficult passes on our journey due to the extremely poor road conditions. Let's hope it doesn't rain. You'll see why.
But don't worry, we've conquered Soji-La dozen times, and apart from a little flutter, nothing has happened yet.
Welcome to the Indian Himalayas
5. Day: Kargil - Lamayuro - Alchi - Leh / ca. 225 km
Kargil is the last purely Muslim city on our trip. Strolling the city streets is worthwhile cultural study. You will only feel the difference to the Buddhist empire beginning behind Kargil all the more clearly. After Kargil, beer will also be cheaper. Since all alcohol consumption is forbidden in the Islamic Kargil, the hotels pay dearly to satisfy the addiction of western tourists. Here a bottle of Kingfisher easily costs three to four times the normal price. I recommend a little abstinence.
Times are getting better for beer drinkers too.
6. Day: Daytrip to the Kardung La / ca. 80 km
A trip to Ladakh without visiting the highest pass, the Kardung-La, is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower or Rome without the Coliseum. Only about 40 kilometers lie between Leh, the capital of Ladakh and the pass. Part of the driveway has been paved, but the last 15 kilometers are tough. Here the boundaries between on- and off-road become blurred. But the wild ride is rewarded with the unique feeling of having reached a truly unique place in the world, not to mention the tea in the highest tea shop in the world.
7. Day: Leh - Sarchu / ca. 260 km
We're leaving the Himalayas and heading south. Five high passes are on our way. All around 5,000 meters above sea level. Ladakh means "land of high passes". Today we learn to understand why this name is more than justified. We spend the night in a stationary tent camp at around 4,000 meters above sea level. But our bodies should be used to the altitude in the meantime and we should be able to spend the night without damage.
8. Day: Sarchu - Sissu / ca. 135 km
Even today we still experience spectacular landscapes on our drive through the high desert of Ladakh and Lahaul. In the evening we reach Sissu, where we spend spend the night.
9. Day: Sissu - Rewalsar / ca. 170 km
The Rohtang-La, the last pass on our journey. So far, all traffic between India and Ladakh has passed through it. But now the Atal Tunnel is finished and open to traffic. Most of the traffic is now routed through this tunnel. Especially the countless trucks that had to laboriously struggle up to Rohtang-La will now choose this easier and shorter route. The Rohtang Pass is now entirely ours and it will be a pleasure to cross it. However, we have to reckon with the fact that the Indian government will no longer make any effort to maintain the pass road, and the journey over the Rohtang will become more and more of a real adventure, even more than it has always been.
Currently the Rotang Pass is closed and open to local traffic only. We hope that this will change again before our next tour. Otherwise we too will have to drive through the new, nine kilometer long tunnel.
Rewalsar is a small pilgrimage town built around a sacred lake. Here several religions coexist peacefully, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. The oversized statue of Padmasambhava towers high above the city.
10. Day: Rewalsar - Amritsar / ca. 265 km
290 kilometers doesn't sound like a particular challenge. But in India you have to apply different standards, and especially in the mountains there are always unexpected surprises waiting for you. Nevertheless, in the late afternoon we will reach our destination for the day, Amritsar, the "capital" of the Sikh.
11. Day: Amritsar
Amritsar is a very lively city. The traffic dwarfs everything that Europeans are used to or can even imagine. We'll leave the motorbikes at the hotel and set off on foot. The destination is the city's landmark, the Harmandir Sahib , better known to us as the Golden Temple .
The contrast couldn't be greater. Everyday life in India is raging outside, and there is contemplative silence within the walls of the temple area. Religious chants float over the lake in the center of the temple complex, the believers stride silently around the water, some take a holy bath, others sit in silence in religious immersion on the white marble steps, still others line up in the queue of those waiting to get inside to visit the Golden Temple.
12. Day: Amritsar - Sri Ganganagar / ca. 275 km
We are leaving Amritsar and heading south. Our next destination is Rajasthan. Since the distance from Amritsar to Bikaner is too long for one day, we make a stopover in Sri Ganganagar.
13. Day: Sri Ganganagar - Bikaner / ca. 240 km
Today we reach Bikaner, our first stop in Rajasthan. The change of landscape is announced long before reaching Bikaner. Rajasthan is a desert state, and the lush vegetation of the rainy state of Himachal Pradesh is receding more and more. Yellow-gray and a pale green are now the dominant colors. Sand and rubble on either side of the road. Just a few thin thorn bushes here and there.
14. Day: Bikaner
There are three things that make Bikaner special. One is the magnificent Junagarh Fort, which we have firmly planned to visit. But then there is also the lively hustle and bustle in the city. Above all, watching what is happening at the central level crossing is a lot of fun. After all, we are staying in a hotel that was once the residence of a high minister of the Maharajah, and in which we will live, like in a museum. A descendant of the minister converted this house into a hotel and his aim is to recreate the atmosphere of the old days and he has truly succeeded in doing so.
15. Day: Bikaner - Jodhpur / ca. 250 km
We continue into the interior of Rajasthan. But before we make our way to Jodhpur, we have one more extraordinary item on our to-do list. About 30 kilometers after Bikaner we reach Deshnok, a small, dusty desert town that has a temple that is known throughout India, the Karni Mata Temple.
The stars of the Karni Mata Temple are rats, sacred rats. Hundreds of them scurry across the temple courtyard, crawl over walls and stairs, gleefully eat all kinds of goodies from large pots that the temple guards lay at their feet. The animals are not afraid of anything. They know that they are the attraction here and that everything revolves around them. If a rat crawls over your feet, this is a sign of the greatest happiness, and if it is even a white rat, then you don't have to worry about the future anymore. However, I have never seen a white rat, and so far the animals have stayed away from my feet. It's a shame.
16. Day: Jodhpur
After spending the morning in our beautiful hotel by the pool, a visit to the Mehrangarh Fort is on the agenda. The Mehrangarh Fort is a large, very well-preserved and well-kept palace complex. The Maharajah has already won many prizes for giving an exemplary insight into the history of the palace and the city. The audio guide, which can be rented for a few rupees, is particularly recommended.
Then we drive to the Jaswant Thada Memorial, which is made of white marble. You immediately feel like you've seen something like this before, and that's why this complex is also called the Taj Mahal of Jodhpur.
The real highlight, at least for gourmets, is the Makhani-Lassi in the Shri-Mishrilal-Hotel. Connoisseurs claim that it is the best lassi in all of India. I look forward to your judgment.
17. Day: Jodhpur - Pushkar / ca. 185 km
We are now in the middle of the desert landscape of Rajasthan. All around nothing but sand and rubble. The only change is the women with their sarees, who appear particularly colorful here and stand out like colorful, blooming flowers from the monotonous gray-yellow of the landscape.
18. Day: Pushkar
Pushkar, holy Pushkar. Devout Hindus from all over India make a pilgrimage to Pushkar in order to be able to take a cleansing bath in the holy lake once in their lifetime. In Pushkar, where around 15,000 people live, there are around 400 temples around the lake. It is the only city in all of India that has a temple in honor of Brahma, although Brahma is considered the creator of the universe according to Hindu mythology. The reason for this is a long story that I'll tell you another time.
But not only devout Hindus make a pilgrimage to Pushkar, it is also a meeting place for backpackers from all over the world. Nice side effect of this fact is that you get really good pizza, but only vegetarian. In general, there is only vegetarian food and alcohol is strictly forbidden. This in turn has religious reasons.
After all, Pushkar is a shopping paradise. Many of the colorful shirts, pants, scarves, etc., which can be bought in relevant shops all over the world, come from Pushkar. In addition to pilgrims and backpackers, traders from all over the world can also be found in Pushkar.
A really colorful hustle and bustle
19. Day: Pushkar - Jaipur / ca. 145 km
It's only a two or three hour drive to Jaipur. So we still have enough time in the afternoon to stroll through the old town and let the busy, no better, the hectic go through us. Of course, the famous Palace of the Winds is also on our way, and those who feel like it can take a look at the City Palace. There are also some famous lassi shops in Jaipur. Otherwise, the hype surrounding this city is exaggerated to my liking, and half a day in Jaipur is enough.
20. Day: Jaipur - Agra / ca. 240 km
Today is our last day in Rajasthan. We are on our way to Agra and will probably not arrive until evening. The highway from Jaipur to Agra is brand new, but the volume of traffic is correspondingly high. So be prepared for a long and arduous journey.
21. Day: Agra - Gwalior / ca. 120 km
The alarm clock rings early in the morning. We have to be at the Taj Mahal before sunrise. On the one hand, it is the best time to admire the Taj in the rising sun, and on the other hand, there is not so much going on at this time. Later the Taj is completely overcrowded and a visit is no longer much fun.
After the Taj, it's back to the hotel and breakfast. Then it's off to Gwalior. After a short drive we arrive here in time to take a leisurely look at the gigantic palace complex.
22. Day: Gwalior - Orchha / ca. 120 km
We leave Gwalior and drive to the pilgrimage town of Orchha. Orchha exudes a very special atmosphere. Pilgrims sit and lie in the streets in their orange gowns. They eat, sing, pray or whatever comes to their mind. They give themselves completely to their faith. Their god Rama, to whom the largest temple in Orchha is dedicated, will sort it out. Religious chants can be heard from everywhere. Everything happens a little slower. I am sure you will also automatically shift down a gear.
But Orchha is not all about sadhus and a Rama temple. We also find a gigantic palace complex, a holy river, a necropolis, and, and, and ... you will definitely not get bored.
23. Day: Orchha - Sanchi / ca. 285 km
In the third century BC, India was predominantly Buddhist. This was not least due to the sometimes dubious commitment of Emperor Ashoka. He carried the Buddhist idea into every hidden corner of the country. The so-called Ashoka Pillars, which he had erected all over the country and on which the main features of his politics were recorded, are famous.
Sanchi was an important Buddhist center at the time. Many of the sanctuaries erected at that time, especially stupas, are still preserved today. They are among the oldest witnesses to India's Buddhist past.
24. Day: Sanchi - Maheshwar / ca. 330 km
The next two days are mile-eaten. We have to go a long way. Fortunately, there is an interesting city halfway, Maheshwar with a palace that is well worth seeing. This is where we will spend the night.
25. Day: Maheshwar - Ajanta / ca. 260 km
We continue and reach the next destination, Ajanta, towards evening.
26. Day: Ajanta
For me, visiting the Ajanta Caves is one of the highlights of this trip. For many centuries, from the 2nd to the end of the 7th century, Buddhist monks lived in a valley near the small town of Ajanta, who laboriously built a total of 29 cave temples into the rock. The buildings are in different degrees of completion. Some are ornately decorated, paintings adorn the walls, ceilings and pillars are carved in stone. Others are still under construction. The reason for this are the hostilities that were brought against the Buddhists from the 7th century onwards and which ultimately led to their expulsion from the valley near Ajanta and the end of building activity in the temples.
27. Day: Ajanta - Ellora / ca. 100 km
Very close by, only about 2 hours drive from Ajanta, we find 34 other cave temples in Ellora, not only built by Buddhists, but also by Jains and Hindus.
In addition to the caves, the Kailash Temple especially captivates our attention. It is the largest rock temple in India completely carved out of a natural ledge. According to scientific estimates, thousands of workers and artists worked on the building for over a hundred years. An organizational, technical and artistic masterpiece.
28. Day: Ellora - Panchgani / ca. 355 km
We have a long journey ahead of us. But it will be nice and ideal for motorcycling. We reach the mountains of the Western Ghatts, a ridge along the coast that borders the Deccan plateau to the west.
29. Day: Panchgani - Kolhapur / ca. 170 km
Another day of fantastic motorcycle ride through the Western Ghatts
30. Day: Kolhapur - Goa / ca. 235 km
Finally we leave the mountains and reach the former Portuguese colony and the former hippie paradise Goa. There is not much left of both the Portuguese and the hippies in Goa, the Indians have recaptured their holiday paradise .
31. Day: Goa
Today it's time to relax. A quiet day on the beach, a drink (or several) in one of the nice beach cafes, shopping in the countless souvenir shops, a walk through the town ... The main thing is that we enjoy this day of peace and quiet and without Enfields.
32. Day: Goa - Hampi / ca. 315 km
Now it goes on again. Strengthened and with fresh courage, we will ride an impressive 330 kilometers today. We drive inland to Hampi, one of the most extraordinary spots in India.
33. Day: Hampi
In Hampi, it looks as if giants had pelted each other with boulders in a funny game in the distant past. These mammoth pebbles lie everywhere, individually or in heaps. And in the middle there are large and small temples and the remains of palaces and stables.
The buildings date from when Hampi was the capital of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar, from the middle of the 14th to the middle of the 16th century. Seeing everything is almost impossible, at least not if you only have one day. But a walk over the extensive grounds gives a good impression.
34. Day: Hampi - Chitradurga / ca. 140 km
We continue south. We make a stopover in Chitradurga. The Chitradurga Fort, a huge fortress from the time of the Vijayanagar Empire, is located directly opposite our hotel on a nearly 1,000 meter high cliff.
I found the adjacent historical picture on the Internet.
35. Day: Chitradurga - Belur / ca. 165 km
The 12th century Chennakesava Temple is located in Belur. It is one of the most important examples of Hoysala architecture. Filigree figure reliefs adorn the outside of the temple, and inside the turned soapstone pillars in particular grab our attention.
36. Day: Belur - Shravanabelagula - Mysore / ca. 175 km
On our drive to Mysore we make a detour to Shravanabelagula. There is a Jain sanctuary with a huge Gomateshwara statue, high on a mountain that you can climb using many steps carved into the rock (on stockings, shoes are not allowed and the rock is too hot to go barefoot). Shravanabelagola is one of the most important Jain pilgrimage centers in India.
37. Day: Mysore
In Mysore, a true maharajah still resides in his palace. Most of the palace is open to visitors, but he still lives somewhere with his family. And on the occasion of his birthday and other important events, e.g. every Sunday at 7:00 p.m., the palace is lit by thousands of lightbulbs. But the palace also looks great during the day without lighting.
It was only completed in 1912 and built by British architect Henry Irwin. It contains architectural elements of traditional Hindu, Indian-Islamic, Rajput and European influences. The floor plan is reminiscent of Buckingham Palace in London.
Otherwise, Mysore is a lively metropolis with many small and large markets and a street with very good coffee roasters. Yes, there is coffee in Teeland India. It is grown in nearby Coorg and processed in Mysore.
The largest Nandi figure carved out of a rock can be found on Chamundi Hill just 5 kilometers away. Nandi is Shiva's mount.
38. Day: Mysore - Ooty - Mettupalayam / ca. 175 km
The drive from Mysore to Mettupalayam takes us through a wide variety of landscapes in India. First it goes through a large nature reserve. Then we climb the heights of Nilgiris, a mountain range of the Western Ghatts, over a side route blessed with countless curves and take a short rest in Ooty, a hill station where in the old days the British, now well-heeled Indians, escape the heat of the lowlands. Then it goes on the other side over countless curves back down into the valley to Mettupalayam.
39. Day: Mettupalayam - Munnar / ca. 190 km
Now we come to the world of tea and spices. This is where the wealth of Kerala comes from, and this is where the conquerors from Europe were drawn, who were of the opinion that this wealth was actually theirs. Hour after hour we are now surrounded by tea plantations, maybe for the first time seeing how cardamom and pepper grow and, if time allows, we can learn in a tea factory how the invigorating drink goes from the plant to our cups. The roads are in good condition, very curvy, and sometimes a bit narrow when a bus comes towards you.
40. Day: Munnar - Madurai / ca. 155 km
The journey takes us for a while through the tea landscape. In the afternoon we reach Madurai. One of the largest Hindu temples in South India is located here. In contrast to the states of northern India, Tamil Nadu, in whose capital we are now staying, was never conquered by Islamic invaders. We thus have the opportunity to experience Hinduism in its purest form, and that is hardly possible anywhere as well as in the Minakshi Temple of Madurai.
Religious chants sound softly through the entire complex. Prayers, meditators, but also visitors who picnic here determine the picture. The smell of incense sticks and rancid butter pervades the hallways It's always full, from early morning until late at night. A visit to the Minakshi Temple is an experience that you won't soon forget.
41. Day: Madurai - Kanyakumari / ca. 245 km
250 kilometers are ahead of us, and then we are at our destination, at the southernmost mainland point of India, in Kanyakumari. We made it. We cruised all over India, from the heights of the Himalayas to the point where three seas meet and which is therefore particularly sacred for devout Hindus. The Indian Ocean is to the south, the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Arabian Sea to the west.
At eight o'clock in the temple there is usually the evening pooja, a religious ceremony that normally only Hindus are allowed to attend. Only here are non-Hindus allowed to enter the sanctuary and take part in the ritual. With a red dot on our foreheads, we will leave the temple and douse the success of our trip with a good Kingfisher beer in the hotel.
42. Day: Kanyakumari - Varkala / ca. 140 km
Every morning hundreds, thousands flock to the southern tip of the country and look forward to the sunrise. Of course we will also get out of bed early and take part in the spectacle. The first rays of sunshine are greeted with big ahh and ohh, then it goes to breakfast and the last trip of our great journey. When we arrive in Varkala, we check into our hotel, hand in the motorcycle keys and take a deep breath.
What an experience! And what a wonderful place to end this trip. For dinner we visit one of the numerous restaurants on the cliff and enjoy freshly caught fish. When the last glasses are empty, it's back to the hotel. I am sure that in your dreams you will start all over again at the top of Srinagar and relive the entire journey.
43. Day: Varkala
Seize the day! Enjoy the moment! Varkala offers more than one way to experience the pleasant side of being. Good food, a relaxing Ayurveda massage, yoga on the hotel roof, sunbathing on the beach, and, and, and ...
44. Day: Varkala
Everything, including a trip like this, will come to an end at some point. Today is the day. The last dinner together. Then we have to say goodbye to each other. In the night your plane goes back home.
45. Day: Flight Home
I could imagine that you have gotten such a real appetite for India and that this will not be your last visit to this unusual country.
See you soon, Namasté