Journey Reports

India   December 17th 2016, Agra, India
Incredible India


Jakob & Ernest:

Where and how should we start to describe this crazy and fascinating country? It is impossible to describe all experiences here or all aspects of this country. We will try to describe some of our most important experiences and insights.

Currency problem

After arriving at the Don Bosco facility in Mumbai, we were mainly confronted with the currency problem. Modi, the reigning Prime Minister of India, declared the two most used Rupee banknotes (500s and 1000s) invalid. There were huge problems across the country as how to get cash. In India, the bulk of trade, whether small or large, is in cash.

The government explained that the reason of this action is to combat corruption. From a certain sum on everyone had to be able to prove where the cash comes from.

Up to 300m long queues formed in front of banks and ATMs. People slept in front of the banks to get cash the next day or to exchange the now invalid banknotes. In the early afternoon there was often no more new cash available, and people were sent home after hours of waiting. There were dozens of deaths in the country. Victims died either from exhaustion, heart attack or dehydration. Fortunately, we still had Euros in cash to exchange these to Rupees in exchange offices.


India is by far the poorest country we have visited up to now. Through the Salesians we had the opportunity to visit the biggest slum of India, Dharavi in Mumbai. Here, the Salesians mainly support women. They run "self-empowerment" groups, give small loans and such enable women to look after their families independently. On our way through the town or through the slum we saw almost lifeless people lying on the roadside, children in too big, worn-out T-shirts, who begged everyone with big eyes. Garbage dumps and extremely miserable hygienic conditions are omnipresent throughout India, under which the poorest of the poor try to master their lives. It is difficult to explain how a slum or a shabby neighborhood looks like and how you feel when you go through it.

The Indian government has calculated an official wage per day, with which a worker is not yet regarded as poor. The value is 32 Rupees per day, which is 50 Eurocent. How can a man be regarded as non-poor with this reward?

On our journey through very deserted but beautiful areas with very bad and small streets we saw families living under plastic plasters and washing their clothes in filthy, nearby waters. The supply of drinking water is also very difficult in many parts of India. Women and children often have to walk several kilometers to get to a well.

Be careful on the road!

In many reports we have read that driving in India is a major challenge. We can now fully support this.

After a three-week break in Tehran due to the long wait for the Indian visa, we had to drive through Mumbai completely without training. Unfortunately it takes a bit to get out of a 20 million city. In addition, of course, we also had to adapt to driving on the left, which requires a higher concentration and four eyes. A constant all-round view was necessary in order to not be crossed by a car, truck or moped or being hurled from the saddle by cows, water buffalos or goats.

In India, drivers have their own laws. The right of way has usually the one who has the larger vehicle or who has the least fear of being passed over. If you drive with a lot of vigor and courage and without stopping at crossroads, you have the greatest chance to reach the desired direction.

Initially our route went a few kilometers along a highway until we got to the next city. Suddenly we saw a lifeless body right next to the road. It was a dead child, perhaps 12-13 years old. Probably the child had been lying there for several hours, which could be seen because of the smell and the flies.

We were totally shocked and stopped while we were thinking about what to do. We stopped several cars and asked what we could do and pointed to the child, but nobody wanted to take care of it. One driver even said that he saw the body, but did not want to have anything to do with it. We were speechless and did not know what to do. The situation has been very overwhelming. We then went on.

After this cruel experience, we immediately contacted a local at night and asked how to behave in such situations. The answer was very surprising to us: in case of accidents involving dead or seriously injured people, first aid is often not given by people who are nearby. Why this is so, is quickly explained: because of fear. Because when the police arrive at the place of the accident, those who are involved are taken to the police station. They are considered suspects.

Our Indian contacts were glad we had not called the police...

The incredible fathers

Now we want to report something beautiful about this country, which has made us incredibly often speechless and enthusiastic.

First of all, we want to thank those hundreds of Fathers who helped us on our trip. No matter where in the country, they gave us a roof over our heads, gave us good, healthy food, good advice and much more. It was incredibly difficult for us to camp wild on our route. A few times we managed to set up our tent, but even if you drive through untouched nature and feel absolutely alone, suddenly a few goats appear, and shortly afterwards follow the shepherds.

For all problems or difficulties, the Fathers were there for us and we could always rely on them. We drove from one church to the next. The Fathers on site always knew already, who we were and had prepared a room as well as a dinner and breakfast.

Even though we are admittedly not really practicing Christians, we felt very much at home among all the priests and nuns. Regardless of which congregation they belonged, they all took care of us. We were able to get a unique insight into the various cultures and thus had the chance to discover Indian dances, traditional food and traditional costumes.

Once, just before a great feast in a small community in the middle of the Pampas, the priest woke us at 4:00 AM, and we were allowed to be part of a goat slaughter. Each of us got the opportunity to kill a goat with a brave cut through the throat. The applause of men and youngsters who had only seen whites a few times in their lives sealed our first animal slaughter in a traditional way.

After more than 1000 kilometers in flat India, we are now looking forward to our perhaps biggest challenge - the Himalayas.

{Translation from German: Webmaster}

Slums in Mumbai^ Slums in Mumbai ^
 i20161217-02 i20161217-03 i20161217-04Sugar-cane molasses^ Sugar-cane molasses ^
 i20161217-06 i20161217-07Don Bosco School^ Don Bosco School ^
 i20161217-09 i20161217-10 i20161217-11 i20161217-12 i20161217-13 i20161217-14 i20161217-15With SVD Fathers in Jhalot​^ With SVD Fathers in Jhalot​ ^
 i20161217-17 i20161217-18Traditional dancing in the Indian culture^ Traditional dancing in the Indian culture ^
Traditional killing of goats for a feast^ Traditional killing of goats for a feast ^
Feast^ Feast ^
 i20161217-22 i20161217-23 i20161217-24 i20161217-25 i20161217-26 i20161217-27Good Morning!^ Good Morning! ^
Hosts^ Hosts ^
Waste^ Waste ^
 i20161217-31 i20161217-32 i20161217-33 i20161217-34 i20161217-35Taj Mahal​^ Taj Mahal​ ^

Comments to this report:

Burkhard Rühl writes:

December 18th 2016, 19:26

Danke für euren sehr informativen Bericht! Dafür nun haben die Inder unter Ghandi in einem gewaltlosen Kampf die englischen Kolonialherren hinausgejagt! Aber ich glaube, es ist das Kastensystem, das die Zustände, die ihr beschreibt, zementiert. Jetzt, auch dank eurer Bilder, bin ich wieder unterwegs mit euch. Bin gespannt auf den Himalaya, liebe Grüße

Pedal for humanity writes:

December 21st 2016, 06:03

Hi burkhart! wir sind auch she gespannt auf Himalaya! Hatten lange keine Berge mehr! Danke und bleib dran wir werden berichten! ;)

Burkhard Rühl writes:

December 21st 2016, 10:42

Erinnert ihr euch noch daran, dass man hier in Deutschland bald Weihnachten feiert? Ich meine Tannenbaum, Geschenke kaufen, besonders gut essen und trinken? Sowas wünsche ich euch nicht, sondern dass ihr mit ganzem Herzen da seid, wo ihr seid und weiter als Sendboten von Menschlichkkeit durchs Land radelt. Der Weg ist das Ziel, liebe Grüße

Martin Heilscher writes:

December 30th 2016, 11:29

Hallo meine lieben Freunde,
Ich hoffe ihr hatte schöne Wihnachtsfesttage, voller Frieden und netten Menschen. Da ihr unglaubliches leistet, ist es auch gut, dass ihr so viele unglaubliche Erlebnisse erfahrt. Hier um mich ist gerade Alles sehr hecktisch. Selbst die "stille" Zeit war extrem komprimiert. Da denke ich oft an euch und sehe mir euere Bilder an. Sie zeigen mir dass es auch anders geht und Wichtigkeiten relativ sind. Obwohl ich mich dann nicht mal aufraffe euch zu schreiben, seit gewiss ich bin stehts eng bei euch. Habt einen schönen Jahreswechsel und möge euch die Freude nicht verlassen.
Liebe Grüße Martin

Burkhard writes:

January 01st 2017, 19:40

Ihr seht sicherlich schon den Himalay. Ich schau mir immer die Bilder an, die kommen, wenn ich auf den Ort klicke, in dem ihr gerade seid. Das ist bester
Erdkundeunterricht. Gerade habe ich den Himalaya gesehen und auf Wpedia studiert und dabei erfahren, dass er pro Jahr mehr als 1cm größer wird. Ein Ehrfurcht gebietendes Geschöpf der Naturgewalten! Ihr könnt euch glücklich schätzen, es staunend zu erbkicken, dieses Geschenk zum Neuen Jahr. Möge 2017 viele schöne Überraschungen für euch bereit halten und euch gesund und gesärkt ans Ziel eurer Radreise bringen, aber auch heil wieder zu uns zurückkommen lassen.

Herzliche Neujahrsgrüsse

jakob und ernest writes:

January 02nd 2017, 12:28

Lieber Martin und Burkhard,
Es ist immer wieder schön von euch zu hören und wir freuen uns riesig, dass euch unsere Berichte und Fotos gefallen! Ja, das himalaya ist überwältigend schön! Den ganzen Tag geht es rauf und runter über kleine Straßen, die sich durch unberührte Natur und kleine Dörfer schlänglen. Die Gastfreundschaft ist unglaublich und wenn wir zwischendurch die schneebedeckten 5-6000er in der Ferne blitzen sehen kribelt es am ganzen Körper vor Ehrfurcht und Freude am Schauspiel der Natur. Bis bald und euch und euren Freunden und Familien ebenfalls ein frohes, neues Jahr! Möge der Stress sich lieber Martin in Grenzen halten;) wenn nicht steig auf Rad und strampel den Stress weg;)

Fritz (Webmaster) writes:

January 02nd 2017, 18:33

Lieber Burkhard, Du findest so oft treffende Worte: es ist -neben vielen anderen Dingen- wirklich "bester Erdkundeunterricht", den wir Fans dieses Projektes geniessen dürfen!

Lieber Martin, Deine Kinder haben bestimmt in dieser Hinsicht den größten Gewinn, wenn sie den Spuren ihrer radelnden Helden auf der Landkarte, in Bildern, Erlebnisberichten und (Wikipedia-)Landes- und Kulturbeschreibungen nachspüren. Spannender kann Erdkunde kaum vermittelt werden :-)

Herzliche Neujahrsgrüße an Euch und alle, die dieses Projekt mit Spannung verfolgen!

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