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November 9, 2006

Mowgli's Land

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

LOCATION: Nagpur, Central India
Longitude: N: 21.15°
Latitude: E: 079.09°
Miles from Singapore: 5770

Animal lovers will be relieved to hear that no 4-foots were harmed in the making of this vlog! In fact the monkeys you see in the video weren't the least bit phased when I unsheathed the khukuri knife. It was only when I picked up a rock to hurl that they eventually scarpered; so they're obviously used to having stones thrown at them by the locals. Quite an unnerving experience though, as over 30,000 people die each year in India from rabies, and the shots are very difficult to get ahold of apparently. It would have meant abandoning the bike for a bus or train to get to Mumbai pronto where I could hopefully find treatment. Out in the sticks they use a homeopathic treatment that has a limited success rate.

With only a thousand kilometres to Mumbai I feel like I'm into the final furlong of this current leg. I'm trying not to think about what awaits in Mumbai though: a few days off before the usual stressful preparation of Moksha for a sea crossing, then many more thousands of miles of pedaling before it all ends in Greenwich next summer. It still seems so very far yet to go! Will the light at the end of the tunnel ever get bigger?

The important thing of course is to focus on what's happening right here right now. After leaving Varanasi this north/south highway that I'm following (that is claimed to be the main artery for all of India but sometimes dissolves into a farm track - see photo below) gradually climbed out of the Ganges river basin and onto a high plateau that I've been riding for the past week. The result has been cooler nights and fewer people in general which has made for a less stressful and hectic riding experience, and more interesting surroundings with rolling hills and brief stretches of forest that sometimes extend for several miles without another human in sight. These last remaining islands of natural habitat are often dominated however by hordes of aggressive monkeys that line the roadside and wait to ambush unsuspecting cyclists! (see vlog).


The punishing pace is taking it's toll on both bike and rider though. The bearing assembly inside the BOB trailer wheel is very much in need of being replaced, but I think will last to Mumbai. And for some bizarre reason I am breaking on average a spoke a day on the new rear rim purchased in Kathmandu. It has been happening so routinely, and with no apparent pattern to its cause, that I've given up replacing them and just let the wheel wobble slightly. It seems to be doing fine like this, although I've had to disengage the rear brake (which cause a minor fender bender today with a moped coming the opposite direction, being unable to stop quite as fast). The chain also broke yesterday for the first time on the entire journey, but fortunately I still had the spare links that Gary from Cyclon Cycle on Pulau Pinang, Malaysia supplied me with back in June.

And for myself - I've put myself on antibiotics after having consistent diahorrea and a respiratory infection since crossing into India. A few days ago I couldn't go for more than half a kilometre without diving into a bush, so something had to be done if I was to get to Mumbai before Christmas. India is a very hard place to keep healthy it seems, particularly if one is relying on roadside food-stands for sustenance.

Mechanical and health challenges have however been compensated by the highlight of passing through 'Mowgli's Land' these past few days. Rudyard Kipling's famous 'Jungle Book' recounts the absorbing tale of a young boy raised by wolves that has raised questions of what prompted the story and where was it set. The idea for Mowgli probably comes from a case recorded in 1831 by William Henry Sleeman of a 'wolf-boy' being captured in Seoni district. 'Seonee Hills', 'Waingunga River gorge' where Shere Khan met his end, and 'Kanhiwara village' are all actual locations in Pench National Park that I took a detour to visit for 24 hours. Once part of a huge jungle belt stretching several thousand square kilometres and home to several thousand tigers, rapid deforestation of the valuable teak trees over the past 150 years has reduced the forest to just a few hundred square kilometres and tigers respectively. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have sighted not just one tiger during my short visit but a family of four! And one in classic tiger pose draped over a rock, just as in my childhood imagination reading the Jungle Book.

The tiger is truly is one of the most beautiful animals I have every set eyes on. The King of the Jungle indeed. Mum, as soon as I finish this trip we'll come back, OK?!


Posted on November 9, 2006 1:11 PM


You continue to inspire, Jason. Be safe, and we are all looking forward to your arrival in Mumbai.

Posted by: tagami [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2006 4:21 AM

Hello Jason…..

You have been on the road quite some time, and I don’t know if you want to be reminded, but from what I remember you have had unpleasant encounters with whales, sharks, giant lizards, snakes, ants, crocodiles, dogs, muggers and now monkeys….

You’re adventure continues to amaze. As always I send my best wishes for your health and safety.


Posted by: Jake [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 12, 2006 3:38 PM

That's some presence of mind to be filming tigers out in the wild - one's first reaction must be to run in the opposite direction. Going to see Colin Angus speak tonite, armed with relevant questions

Posted by: Darcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2006 1:44 PM