They’ve done it all and more. Camping outdoors in -15 degrees Celsius in eastern Europe, cycling through snow and rain, seeing dramatic landscapes (their favourite being eastern Turkey). Meeting warm and friendly people like the Serbs and Croats, who invited the two strangers in from the cold and gave them a place to stay; like the modern youth of Iran, in stark contrast to the veils that the women wear. And making new friends, like the Guha Thakurtas of Salt Lake.
‘We met them over breakfast in an inn on the spice trail to Ankara, in Turkey,’ says Dipak Guha Thakurta. The two couples ‘ separated by a generation but similar in thought ‘ struck up a friendship and the Marchioris were invited to stay in the Calcutta couple’s home. The young duo took up the offer. Taking the train from Goa and then cycling from Howrah station to Salt Lake was a cakewalk.
‘India is definitely our favourite place for food,’ laughs Stephane, 30. ‘We love spicy food. And the country is so colourful. Particularly since we had spent the month before that in Iran, where all the women are in black,’ says Sheri, 28. ‘It was very difficult for me to adjust to wearing the veil, even while brushing my teeth. It was also very hot. But the youth are very educated. It was great talking to them,’ she adds. In Syria, the men were more ‘touchy’. Communication was also a problem.
The Marchioris started from the French Alps ‘ they lived in Paris ‘ to Germany. From there, they followed the Danube river through nine countries and into the Black Sea in Romania. Then it was Turkey, a detour to Syria, back to Turkey and Iran. From Tehran, they flew to Delhi last October. They’ve been to Agra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Mumbai, Goa, Hampi and Calcutta in six months. Diwali in Delhi and Christmas in Godhra ‘ the first time in church at Christmas for Stephane ‘ were memorable. A flight to Bangkok is next.
It was on a trip to Paris in 1998 that Sheri met her French husband, a nurse. A planned impulse is how they describe the round-the-world trip. ‘We saved up money for five years,’ says Sheri. The bikes were Stephane’s idea. Their 14 pieces of luggage contain everything they need, each with a purpose ‘ kitchen to bathroom bag, tents, tools, books, medicines. For the next two years, they plan to travel through Southeast Asia, China, Tibet, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia (‘by this time, money will be a necessity, so we’ll work there for a while’) and then across the US.
The two have done research on the 30-odd world heritage sites they’ve visited, of which 11 are in India. Check out the results on www.traveleur.fr.st.
‘ NISHA LAHIRI