The Freedom Of Cycling
Kody Block was the Content Creator for the 2023 Hippie Trail and has been posting some fantastic videos and photos on our Instagram account. He files his last blog from the finish line in Goa.
2,750km. 6 weeks. 18 cyclists. 7 staff members. 1 beautiful journey.
If you had asked me at the beginning of this tour what my expectations were, I’m not sure if I would have been able to give you a straight answer. It is one thing to travel for 6 weeks, but it is another entirely to do so by bicycle, pedalling your way through unfamiliar territory that creates unanticipated challenges. Not to mention this was India we’d be cycling through, a country that, looking back now, seems so easily misunderstood. In the weeks leading up to departure, it wasn’t uncommon to hear comments like:
“Why would you go there?”
“That place is a dump!”
“There’s way too many people there.”
“Have fun getting sick!”
What I have found, though, is that in life our preconceptions rarely meet reality. We can prepare, and in many ways should, as much as we want to for a big event or, in this case, a big trip, but there are some moments in life you can’t fully grasp until that moment arrives. And I think I speak for everyone on the Hippie Trail when I say that there’s no way we could have fully prepared ourselves for what this tour had to offer.
Cycling nearly 3,000 km, every day offered a unique, vibrant, and above all else, welcoming culture. Every kilometre presented sounds, sights, and smells you simply can’t find anywhere else in the world. Exotic, local dishes that explode with flavours on every bite (As one of our cyclist Eric says: “You just can’t eat too much Naan!”). From small villages to tumultuous cities, Hinduism thrives, most commonly identified by bright, beautiful Hindu temples in small villages. And the Indian people? They can only be described as genuine, curious, and kind, eager to learn about you, and just as eager to take a selfie with you!
While these were some of the similarities we found throughout our entire journey, each of the three sections of this tour had something unique to offer. Section 1, the Royal Rajasthan Ride, was filled with bustling cities and historic fortresses, many of which doubled as a hotel for our overnight stay. Section 2, Temple Caves & City Lights, showed us the India that once was, and how it has contributed to the India we see today. Here we explored the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, both considered to be some of the finest examples of ancient rock-cut caves that include Buddhist monasteries, Hindu and Jain temples. From there we boarded a ferry for the chaotic city of Mumbai, kindly greeted upon our arrival by the Gateway of India. We spent two days here before venturing south down the Konkan Coast section. Heading towards Goa, we were met by a geographical paradise of lush greenery and captivating beach views, traveling each day with the Arabian sea by our side.
While there was much to experience over the past 6 weeks, what struck me the most was the unique nature of traveling by bicycle. Slower than the pace of a car but faster than walking, it allows you to be truly present, immersing yourself fully in your surroundings, taking in every second what the environment has to offer. As our tour leader Carolina put it – “When you’re on the bicycle, you smell the place, you see the place, you hear all the noises. You feel the air in your body. You feel the wind in your face. And doing this while you are traveling, you’re also taking the experience of seeing the world at a pace, with your eyes, that nobody else is going to see.”
Hippie Trail cyclist Elias defines his reasoning for traveling by bike – “You go out and you see different scenery, different people, different customs, and that enriches you. When you go back home, your perception of the world is much, much wider.” This is what we like to call the ‘freedom of cycling and we witnessed it on the faces of our riders every single day. From Agra to Goa, each day produced expressions of wonder, adventure, challenge, struggle, strength and achievement. While some approached this tour with years of international cycling experience, others had no experience at all, simply looking to test their mental and physical strength, and to step out of the comfort zone of daily life. No matter the level of experience, they’re all cyclists who can leave this trip with a sense of accomplishment, knowing they not only faced the unknown and the unexpected, but conquered it, witnessing the ‘real’ India that could only be seen by the saddle of a bicycle.
"Turn on, tune in, Drop out" It was 1967 - the Summer of Love - and Timothy Leary had this advice for his young followers at the Human Be-In taking...