The Telegraph
Thursday , December 5 , 2013
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Bicycle diary, German-style: duo log 4,000km & counting

A year of planning, six months of preparations and more than 4,000km of biking and some flying in three months. Phew!

School friends Lukas Drescher, 20, and 21-year-old Til Fischer took their almost-nine-month break between school and college to break away from the routine and set out on a “great adventure” — from Freiburg in southern Germany to celebrate Christmas in Thailand via Calcutta.

They reached Calcutta on November 27, three months after they left Freiburg. Metro met them at the German consulate in Alipore on Tuesday.

“We wanted to go travelling after finishing school. Til and I decided that it would be a grand adventure. We planned for almost a year before we set out,” Lukas said. They had finished their A-levels and have around nine months to start applying to colleges.

“We planned for around six months. Initially, we thought of travelling by bus. But decided it would be nice to do it on bicycles and see the countries and be close to the people,” Lukas added.

“We are not cyclists and have never done this kind of a journey before. I researched on the Net about what kind of bike I should get,” Til said.

They bought two KoGA Miniyata bicycles and tents, packed their backpacks and headed out. Lucas funded his adventure with savings from his job, while Fischer senior is sponsoring Til.

The first phase was Europe. They followed the Danube from Donaueschingen in their fatherland down to where it meets the Black Sea. They travelled through Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria to reach Istanbul.

“We don’t need passports in Europe and we could camp almost everywhere. So we cycled and camped throughout our trip in Europe. Sometimes we checked into a hotel,” Til said.

The boys followed a flexible itinerary — no fixed hours of cycling or how long they wanted to stay in one place. The only target is to reach Thailand to celebrate Christmas with their fathers and Til’s girlfriend. “When we camped we usually woke up early so we got an early start. Not so much when we stayed in hotels. Sometimes we travelled for two hours, sometimes nine,” Lukas said.

They got their visa for Nepal and India in Istanbul, the next leg of their trip. They flew to Kathmandu intending to cycle through Nepal to Siliguri and cross into Myanmar en route to Thailand. But had to fall back on Plan B after learning that they can’t enter Myanmar from India. So they decided to head for Calcutta.

“The roads in Nepal were very good and no traffic at all in one of the days during a strike. It was perfect for us. We decided to cut through Jogbani (Bihar) to Calcutta instead of Siliguri,” Lukas said.

The boys put up at Forbesganj for a couple of days for an indisposed Til to recover. When they hit the road again, they made it as far as Malda before giving up and booking a car to Calcutta.

“The roads were bad and not suitable for a bicycle ride. My eyes were burning because of the smog,” Lukas said. “We are going to fly to Bangkok from here.”

Rainer Schmiedchen, the German consul general in Calcutta, has reeled out a list of places to see for the duo: Chitpur, Victoria Memorial, Howrah station, Jorasanko, the flower market and Belur Math.

Before taking in the views of Calcutta, the boys are off to Varanasi for a few days by train.

From Thailand, they plan to travel down Southeast Asia to Australia “until money runs out” because time remains a flexible companion for these two youngsters.