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Pedalling across the continents

TIMES NEWS NETWORK  
[ MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2002 11:44:22 PM ]
If you are interested in cycling long distance… which here means across continents, then you have to be ready to make sacrifices. Girlfriends for one. That is precisely what 25-year-old Tobias Friedmann and his pal Sebastian Vogt decided to do once they made up their mind to cycle from Berlin to New Zealand. “We broke off,” quip the Germans.

The duo mounted their Rs 75,000 American and German-made long-distance bikes and started pedalling on April 8 for a journey that would take them across continents and an estimated 20,000 km. Cycling at a steady clip they came into Chandigarh looking around for an internet cafe, which strangely seemed very elusive to their eyes despite their abundance!

“We are both students and had been cycling within Europe as and when we could get the time. Then we decided to do something big and check out people and places in Asia and beyond. We plan to spend an average of $ 500 (about Rs 25,000) every month. Until now that has been sufficient,” says Tobias.

The neatly attached cycling panniers that carry all their luggage, including tents, spares, puncture repairing equipment in addition to digital trip meters counting the kilometres as they slip by, has seen them through quite well this far.

The route to date has taken them from Germany to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and finally India. From here, they plan to cycle to Nepal, perhaps Tibet, and then into China before turning their front tyres south and biking across South East Asia.

“Traffic in India is very dangerous. It is a nightmare to ride on roads with big trucks and buses driving dangerously close to the edge of the road. We feel very scared for our lives,” says Sebastian. However, the two feel that traffic is even worse in Pakistan. “Whew!” they says in unison. Even putting up tents in India is a problem. “Unlike Europe and other parts of Asia which are sparsely populated, India is very crowded. Now, you cannot expect us to put up a tent in the middle of a city street. We have to find a secure place, which we do not easily. This has pushed our costs up as we have to stay in hotels,” adds Sebastian.

They arrange their visas either in advance or in the country that they are cycling in. Looking for something to eat, they both cycled into the university campus, where they made interesting viewing for onlookers at the students centre. Worried for their expensive bikes, the two started rolling them up the ramp to the third storey of the centre before a university guard came running and asked them what they were up to. After understanding their problem, the guard unlocked a room and parked their cycles inside!

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