Jane Pridham had got to a stage in her life when she decided she needed a challenge.
‘Life gets easy and safe doesn’t it?’ she says.
‘Especially when you’re middle-aged. So I thought I’d really push myself and have an adventure.’
The result was the 52-year-old packed up her folding bike, grabbed two sets of clothes and spent six weeks travelling along the coast of India. She rode for nearly 1,000 miles.
A technician at the Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth, Jane lives in Farlington and has always loved cycling. After visiting India with friends, she started to plan her journey from Chennai to Trivandrum.
Jane, who arrived back in England last week, says planning was the hardest part. Finding somewhere to rest her head for the night, or having something to eat, wasn’t always going to be feasible.
‘I didn’t want to be sleeping in the street,’ Jane explains.
‘I kind of hoped I’d get somewhere every time, but it didn’t always happen. They were called lodges – most were dilapidated and grim.’
Using her six-week school holiday, she set off for India and found food was cheap, people were friendly and there were only a handful of monsoons to avoid.
She says: ‘All you need is your flights.
‘I spent less than a month’s wages while I was out there. Meals were only about 15p. Everyone thought I was crazy to go out and do it on my own.
‘But I had an idea that it might be quite a safe thing to go and the people were quite friendly. So I read up lots on the area to prepare.’
During her journey Jane kept a diary – of sorts. When she reached anywhere with internet access, she would write journal entries into crazyonabike.com, a site where individuals can record their experiences travelling the world.
For Jane, it was like having a friend.
To her, the best part of the adventure was the cycling and seeing hidden parts of another civilisation that many tourists would never get the chance to see.
She explains: ‘I really loved the tiny little villages. I took myself down some country routes, almost like tracks.
‘I went on Google Maps and chose all the places I wanted to go, then plugged them into my GPS so I could go completely off track.
‘ It was like they’d never seen anybody white before, let alone a woman all by herself. They were so curious.’
But some of her experiences weren’t so good. One policeman got over-friendly after giving her the impression he would help her when she had nowhere to stay. Before that she thought everyone would be ‘sweet and lovely,’ but the incident was a wake-up call.
It wasn’t until her sister, Jenny, arrived with her two daughters, Emily, 23, and Izzy, 13, to meet her after four weeks that Jane realised how much weight she had lost.
She says: ‘I weighed myself not long ago thinking I was back to my normal weight but I’m still five kilos (around 11lbs) lighter than when I left, which is mad because I stuffed myself the last two weeks I was there.
‘The first part I cycled was dry, hot and sticky, but as you get farther down the country it’s greener, lovely and not as hot. So that was fantastic and just having some company was great.’
Having ridden all the way along the coast of India, and having experienced her ups and downs, Jane would gladly do it again.
‘I would have company all the way the next time,’ she explains.
‘It’s so much more fun. The good parts would have been even better, and the bad parts you could laugh about it. I think with someone there it would make it a lot easier.
‘I would recommend anybody to go and do it with their friends. I just couldn’t get anybody to come with me!’
Being back home in England is the strangest feeling for Jane.
She says: ‘It’s quite a culture shock to be back home.
‘When I left it was 13C and I was launched into 38C. It took me a while to adjust.
‘Sometimes it was scary, but any little problems you overcome, you feel so strong and powerful.’
· To read Jane’s blog, visit http://tinyurl.com/68t82uo
Monday, July 25
Total so far: 96 miles (154 km)
Another magnificent route along empty roads - well, almost pavements as they were so narrow.
Passed lots of workers in paddies and village houses with palm-thatch roofs. Goat herders and their beautiful goats mooched about, and women with nose studs the size of one pences carried crops on their heads. It was a dream ride and dead flat too.
Stood on the busiest street corner in the world and ate the best samosas I’ve ever had.
Sunday, July 31
Total so far: 268 miles (431 km)
What a fantastic route across country. After a few miles had a tea stop - a fine cuppa.
I went for a bit of off-road biking. Fabulous, no honking from cars, and what was even nicer was there were lots of songbirds.
The scenery became greener, the atmosphere more jungle. More bananas, less scrub.
All I saw was the odd bicycle, gorgeous villages of prettily-painted thatched cottages, and lots of smiles and waves today.
Saturday, August 20
Total so far: 724 miles (1,165 km)
It doesn’t get much better than this - sitting outside my Keralan cottage (complete with thatched roof), under the coconut trees. All I can see, smell and hear is the ocean crashing on to the shore.
It’s usually a quiet fishing beach but it’s stormy and wild at the moment.
Monday, August 29
Total so far: 859 miles (1,382 km)
Had the best breakfast so far of fruit, muesli, yoghurt and honey.
Left the girls on the beach and cycled north up the coast to a fabulous fishing beach. No tourists. Got in the water fully-dressed as the Indians do.
More fantastic fish for dinner while it poured with rain. Walking back, the power went off and it lashed it down even harder.
Had to wade back through deep puddles, holding hands.