After I’d dropped the bike off at the Almaty bicycle shop I spent a pleasant few days in the city getting things sorted for India and catching up with people I’d met in Bishkek.
Part of the sorting involved culling my luggage and sending some winter stuff home to the UK. I was fairly brutal with this, determined as I was at the time not to ride in the cold again. Looking back I may have been a bit hasty in sending some stuff back – too late now though!
The trip to the post office was an experience in itself, with a Kazakh postal worker gamely stuffing all my stuff into a box that was a touch too small but making up for this with copious amounts of duct tape. Later while paying, I was preceded in the queue by an old lady who looked like she was literally going to explode with anger over some issue with a letter. A security guard came over but thought better of the no win situation of trying to chuck an old lady out. Thankfully she calmed down as quickly as she angered in an almost eerie fashion.
Having sent my winter stuff home and removed some stuff I had never even thought about using (e.g. a travel sewing kit) my check in luggage was down to 20kg exactly which I was rather happy about. I was now ready to take the flight I had booked.
Rather surprisingly the bike shop I used: Ekstremal had agreed to pick me up from where I was staying at 5am and drop me and my bike at the airport. This was pretty much perfect and took all the stress out of getting the bike prepared for flying and the stress of trying to move it around in a box.
I was a little worried it was too good to be true so I was very happy when I arrived on time at the airport with a packaged bike ready to fly. Manoeuvring it to where it needed to be was a challenge in itself as it was hanging off the trolley over a foot on each side and the box was sagging in the middle.
At check-in the ladies looked at me somewhat askance with my massive box and two check-in bags. Luckily I had pre-booked to fly with my bike and Air Astana charges a flat fee for bicycles; mine was so heavy at 25kg that they asked if I had two bikes in there. I went off to pay and when I came back my bike and luggage had disappeared. I presumed where they needed to go. I was quite relieved as I don’t think seeing my bike being manhandled in its box would have been soothing.
The flight itself was easy at just over three hours and it wasn’t long before I was getting off the plane in India and entering a whole new region. I got through immigration without any issues and went to baggage claim. My two checked in bags arrived quite quickly and so I went about trying to locate my bike. I got passed along a couple of times until I was told to stand by a conveyor belt for large items. I waited here for a while but couldn’t but think that my bike was a little large to fit through there. Then looking over at the belt my checked in luggage had come in on I saw my bike waiting on a trolley for me. Thankfully it looked to be in one piece.
I had originally planned on assembling my bicycle at the airport and then riding to the hostel I was going to stay at. After some thought I decided this was a stupid idea and got a taxi to the hostel instead so I could reassemble my bike in a more comfortable environment. Luckily the bike and its box just fitted into the roof rack on top of the taxi. When I asked if I should tie it down the men there said no and that it would be safe.
After ten minutes in the taxi I decided that safe was a relative term as I certainly didn’t feel safe inside the taxi myself. It had been four years since I was last in India and I had forgotten how absolutely insane the traffic is.
Cars, buses, trucks, bicycles, motorbikes and tuk tuks weave in and out of lanes to the steady sounding of horns. I had thought the driving in central Asia was scary but this was another level. It made it worse knowing that in a few days I would be trying to negotiate it myself.
Somewhat surprisingly I arrived at the hostel in one piece and even more surprisingly I managed to get my bike reassembled and in working order again.
With that done I spent the next couple of days getting together some of the items I would need for travel in India: sun cream, insect repellent and anti malarials for instance.
I also tried to get used to the heat of the day, though most of the locals seemed to think it was very cold I certainly did not.
I also did a bit of sightseeing:
Every Tuk Tuk ride I took rammed home how dangerous the journey out of Delhi was going to be – 30kms across one of the world’s craziest mega-polises I hope I would be able to pull it off.