VaranasiA German couple, who are on a world bicycle tour to foster international cultural understanding, reached Varanasi on Tuesday.Imke Frodermann and Ralph Lang have covered 17,000 kilometres since August 2016 when they began their tour which also aims to raise awareness about India in the world.“We are very thankful for the hospitality and friendship (in India),” Imke Frodermann said, adding, “since they give us a deep insight into the Indian soul and spirit.”Vikas Maharaj, a Varanasi-based musician and friend of the couple, said they started their tour from the United States, where they cycled for four months in the Rocky Mountains. After travelling across North Africa and Europe, they left for India in February 2017.Over 10 months later, they reached India after riding their bicycles through Austria, Italy, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China. Maharaj said they spent three months crossing the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. After that, they cycled across the Himalayas.During their tour, they crossed almost all the major mountain ranges of the world: the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, the Atlas, the Caucasus, the Pamir, the Tien Shan and the Himalayas. In an uninhabited desert regions, they had to camp in a tent, enduring extreme temperatures of over 45 degrees centigrade of heat and cold up to minus 20 degrees, Maharaj said. They faced many dangers not only on the streets but also from wild animals. In the USA, they slept in areas infested with bears, wolves and mountain lions, Maharaj said.In the Pamir and Himalayas, they often heard wolves close by their tent. They were now happy to be in India, which they have visited many times before, Maharaj said.Imke Frodermann and Ralph Lang were earlier teachers at their hometown Biberach in Germany.In 2014, they set up a school for poor children in Rajasthan. They, along with their German pupils, provide the funds for this school.In the next phase of their journey, they will travel to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore from where they head for Australia. All together, the trip will cover 35,000 kilometres.