India

I checked in to the Traveler's Hostel in Mumbai for five dollars -- in order to devise a new plan. Could I get through Nepal to China? Was it possible to enter Myanmar and Bangladesh to the east? Should I ride back to Pakistan? All of these questions haunted me as I made the rounds at the embassies in Mumbai.
A couple from London checked in to the Traveler's Hostel one day, then checked out the next. "This place is disgusting . . . people shitting in the streets. We're going back to London!"

The hostel manager whispered to me, "If you've never been out of the West, don't start in India!"
In the end, I decided to cycle northeast, to Nepal, and try to enter China through Tibet. The route would take me through the wildest and most remote parts of India. Oddly enough, camels were a common sight in Maharashtra once I traveled about 100 miles east of Mumbai, and water buffalo were even more common.
I was cycling toward a park on my map labeled Kanha Kisli National Park -- probably not such a good idea, because the paved roads disappeared. I began to see wierder animals -- an Indian bison crossing the road, for instance.
I camped in the jungle most nights, which caused me no end of worry -- mainly because the park I was headed for was marked by a tiger drawing on my map. I began to think I was pulling another bone-head Syria maneuver.

I was even kept up one night by a nightmarish moan that shivered my spine for days after. I later learned the source -- a large deer called a barasingha (hard to see, but in the distance in the photo.) Some adventurer -- kept awake, wide-eyed, by a deer!
But there were things in the jungle a little more dangerous than deer. I heard a rustling in the brush, and stopped along the path.

Photo 1 -- tiger walks toward the path. Look hard -- he's there.
Photo 2 -- tiger lays down when he sees me standing there gaping at him.
Still can't see? Here's a zoom in of the same photo, high resolution. Staring right at me.
I soon came to Kanha Camp, a lodge on the outskirts of the national forest catering to tourists. I stayed there a month -- free room and board in exchange for driving a jeep-load of tourists into the park every now and then. It was the perfect rest stop after about a year and a half on the road. 
I know readers will be disappointed that I don't have photos of Pradeep, Raj, and Vijay (the guys who ran Kanha Camp) but none of those photos made it back through the Indian mail. The best I can do is a picture of Raj's nephew, Aneesh, who came for a visit one weekend.

Here he is goofing off against one of the Kanha Camp jeeps, while impatient tourists linger in the background.
When I first arrived at Kanha Camp, Raj said, "Don't you realize you just cycled through miles of tiger-infested jungle!"

When it was time to leave, he told me, "Watch out for wild elephants -- they'll trample your tent without even knowing you're there!"
One month at Kanha camp and it was time to leave. I headed north, toward the sacred city of Varanasi and the Nepalese border. I soon came to a series of rock-cut caves that opened up out of the jungle like a sudden mountain in the forest. It surprised me a bit -- out in the middle of nowhere.
Ajanta and Ellora caves were constructed by Jains and Buddhists over a period of centuries, only to be abandoned and lost to the memory of civilization. They were later re-discovered in 1943 by a British hunting party tracking tigers.
Today, the caves are a local tourist attraction, although the place was fairly deserted when I was there -- which made exploring the caves that much more relaxing.
The cliffs of Ajanta gave way to the flat plains of Uttar Pradesh. Nepal and the Himalayas lay on the horizon . . . my time in India was done.
This sign marks the eastern-most advance of Alexander the Great.