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November 06 - June 07 - India / Nepal

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08/06/07: Nepal

KATHMANDU 01-08/06/07: Well we've been hanging out in Kathmandu for ages now.  We went back to the travel agents on Sunday only to be told that the Chinese meeting wasn't happening until the evening so we have to return on Monday.  Spent the rest of the afternoon in our room watching Valentino Rossi win the Mugello MotoGP.  Went out for dinner and after in celebration of Rossi's victory we went to a bar with live music playing for a few beers.  Band finished so about 11pm walked back to our hotel, next door is 'Chandani Dance Bar' which plays Nepali / Hindi music until about 2am (we hear them each night), so decided to check it out 'bit a dancing' could be good.  Only it wasn't a disco - there was a stage with a pole and mirrors and no communal dance floor - you get the picture.  So we stayed for a couple of beers.  It was quite strange, the girls  wearing black bra, big knickers and a sarong (a lot more than most westerners wear on the beach) get on the stage and dance on the stage as though they were at a western disco.  Next day we go back to the travel agents - apparently the 6 day tour to Lhasa via EBC (Everest Base Camp) has been withdrawn.  But we can spend 50% more and not go to EBC - No thanks!  Book our flights direct to Chengdu, China - fly out on Saturday 9th (tomorrow). 

31/05/07: Nepal

Happy Wedding Anniversary Mummy & Daddy!!!

 

TREKKING 07-17/05/07:  Day 1:Up bright and early on Monday morning to meet up with Khim our guide, drop-off/store stuff we're leaving behind and get a taxi for 45mins to Naya Pul, the start of our trek.  We start walking at maybe 10am along a river valley then up VERY steep stairs, we reach Ulleri, our destination at about 3pm.  We're staying in Teahouses each night and this one at least, is better than we expected.  We have our own room, with en-suite including hot shower (more luxury than we sometimes had in India), all for the bargain price of 200Nrps (₤1.60).  Our guide Khim is carrying our rucksack which weighs maybe 12kgs.  We had initially felt bad about the size of our bag but while having a tea break, we saw another couple pass, their guide was carrying a bag half as big again - so guilt over.  Day 2 Walk uphill mainly through forests to Ghorepani and get there by Midday, seems we walk faster than average, supposed to get here about 2pm.  But no point continuing on as we are staying here for the night so we can be up the top of Poon Hill at dawn.  If it's clear you get a really good vista of the Annapurna mountain range and few others.  Day 3 Up and out by 4:45am then what seems a sprint up 300m to Poon Hill summit for dawn - but isn't that typical it's cloudy - we stay there maybe 1.5hrs and the cloud thins and tantalising glimpses of mountains appear and disappear.  Back down to Ghorepani  for breakfast then we set off  for Tadapani.  On the way at starts to rain really hard and for the first time in 7mths we get to test our wet weather gear - it works!!! as does Khim's low tech version (a cut plastic bag).  Get to Tadapani - no en-suite here, although there was a rumour of hot water, but that could have been a lie..  Since we left the road at Naya Pul there have been no roads or even tracks which a vehicle could traverse, only footpaths and steps.  Everything brought into these hamlets is carried by either porter or donkey's and we've passed quite a few porters along the way.  In fact today a porter passed us going downhill, in his basket on his back was an old man!  Apparently professional porters (not guides), can carry up to 90kgs.  Day 4 Leave the Poon Hill loop and start on the Sanctuary trek, destination today Chhomrong.  We start off walking down hill through forest then the forest thins and clears and we can see the lush green valleys,  best views so far, it's hot too, 30deg C.  At the bottom of the hill we cross a rope bridge (been quite a few of them) then it's up to Chhomrong and find a Teahouse with en-suite & hot water (turns out to be our last hot shower for a while).  Day 5 Today we're heading for Bamboo, which we can just about see a bit higher up and about 3 hills away, bummer is that Nepalese think that the quickest way is a straight line.  That means down to the bottom of the valley, then up again.  As we're going down really steep steps in Chhomrong school children are running up them, quite how a four year old runs up 40cm steps with such speed is a mystery.  We get to Bamboo really early so continue on to Dovan where we spend the night.  Decide that if possible we're going to try to get to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) in one day, the original plan had been to stop a Machhupuchhure Base Camp (MBC), but Khim thinks we can do it.  At the Teahouse was an Indian Couple of the 'I have so much money and need to let everyone know about it' variety, who overheard our plans and asked if we were 'Strong Climbers? Really it's not possible to do ABC in one day'   Day 6 Up early for once and start walking by 8:30 (wow) today the scenery gets more and more barren and temperature drops.  We walk across glaciers, frozen rivers etc and get to MBC by 1pm so feel we can continue (although not sure Khim's too happy).  As we're walking across yet another glacier it starts to hail and then blizzard so we just keep walking head down, one foot in front of the other and make it to ABC (Alt 4130m) by 3pm (Of course it was possible!). Day 7 Our room is 2deg C, outside everything is sparkly and covered in snow, not a cloud in the sky.  We hadn't realised the day before how beautiful ABC was, completely surrounded by snow covered mountains.  Just spent the day looking at the scenery.  Day 8 Up early to take photos of dawn breaking on the Himalaya's - one of the most beautiful sights ever.  Then head back down to Dovan.  Didn't realise on the way up how steep the walk had been, but we race back down.  One curious side affect of staying at ABC and the altitude is that as we descended our fingers swelled up.  Make it to Dovan by 2pm so continue on to Bamboo.  We've decided that now we've seen the main attraction, we've enjoyed the scenery, and peace we don't really like walking and just want to get back as quickly as possible.  Day 9 Today we are heading for Jihnu - hot springs, which will be lovely.  Our legs are aching today due to all the downhill yesterday and there's just more to come.  Get to Jinhu by 1pm.  Then take the 20mins walk downhill to the hot springs - BLISS, really hot and clear, no one else around and the roaring cold river next to us.  Spend maybe an hour lounging in our first Bath in 7mths and the legs feel much better, that is until the 45min walk back uphill - Doh! Day 10 Walk to Tolka and look at several teahouses before we find one with a double bed (none have en-suites).  It's the last Teahouse in the village and has spectacular views and the food was lovely (especially the Apple pie with chocolate sauce she made to cure our munchies!).  Day 11 Last day - yeah! And still down hill.  Katrina's knee is aching so she borrows Grahams stick and hobbles on.  Today is quite damp and foresty and the leeches are out in force.  We must have removed 5 leeches each from our boots, but no bites!  Khim was not so lucky.  As we round the last mountain (or is it hill), we can hear the road somewhere in the distance and agree that was one thing we hadn't missed (road noise).  Get to Phedi on the road and get a taxi at 2pm - still faster than the boards say, even with a hobbling Katrina.  Back in Pokhara we book into the hotel with a BATH and fridge.

POKHARA 17-21/05/07:  Spent a couple of days in Pokhara in a really nice room.  Now it's warm again (30degC) and we have mirrors so we can see how huge our calves are (Katrina says at least she has a year for them to reduce so she can wear her nice knee high brown boots when we get home again), but the muscley bottoms can stay.  Had steak the first night back, as does every carnivore upon return from trekking.  Watched MotoGP on Sunday and booked our ticket back to Kathmandu for Monday.  

KATHMANDU 21-31/05/07: We're back in KTM and have both been ill with stomach craps etc, which meant for maybe 5 days we just lounged around watching movies.  Today we did an Everest flight, one hour in a small plane flying toward Everest, we all got 2 turns to go up to the cockpit and look at the view.  But it was a bit of a let down 'cause we didn't get as close to Everest as we thought (or as depicted) and the windows misted up on the way back.  But still we have seen Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepalese), with our own eyes. 

 Certificate given to us at the end of the flight - we didn't get this close to Everest
We didn't get this close to Everest

Applied for our Chinese visa on Monday, should be picking them up Friday.  However, they maybe redundant, we've been looking into the idea of traveling overland to Chengdu (China) via Tibet and stopping at the Tibetan Everest Base Camp rather than flying (Tibet visa invalidates Chinese visa).  We did our sums and decided we could afford it, so went to book a 6night overland tour to Lhasa (Tibet), hoping to leave on Tuesday.  But apparently although we only got the prices yesterday, we can't book.  China is reviewing it's Tibet access policy and the agents are not allowed to take any more bookings until the meeting in Sunday.  So we will go back Sunday PM and if the tour is available we go overland, if not we fly to Chengdu.

    06/05/07: Nepal

Flew from Chennai airport at 6:40am to Delhi.  Waited for a couple of hours in Delhi, bought a bottle of Gevry Chambertain at the Duty free, Mmmmmm then had the most expensive beer in the last six months.  Caught the plane to Kathmandu and landed at about 3pm.  Both flights were with Indian airlines and the food was yummy - in fact when we flew to India we flew with Jet Airways another Indian carrier and their food was good too - think the European carriers could learn something from them!

KATHMANDU: The airport was not as it is portrayed in the 'Golden Child' with Eddie Murphy (saw it on TV about 3wks ago), there were no cows or chickens visible and it actually seemed quite modern.  In the guide books it says that Kathmandu is really polluted, dirty etc.  The authors have obviously never been to India - we found KTM to be clean, clear and not smelly!  Stayed a couple of days in KTM, drank our bottle of Gevry on the second night (first night we were asleep at 8pm).  Then caught our first bus to Pokhara where we intend to go trekking.  The bus journey was 6hrs but we had two 'comfort breaks' along the way and was much better than expected.

POKHARA: Beautiful.  It's next to a lake surrounded by mountains, reminds us a little of Banff in Canada.  Yesterday we did a walk from town up to the world peace pagoda which we can see from our hotel.   Hmmmm, maybe this trekking malarky is not such a good idea.  We only walked for 5hrs and not at any altitude and we're both knackered, with aching feet and hips.  But we've already organised a guide / porter and we leave on Monday for a 10-12 day trek doing the 'Annapurna Sanctuary' route plus Poon Hill - Should be cool!  
Today we watched the Shanghai GP (the reason why we're not starting our trek until tomorrow) where Rossi came second, but it was quite obvious that it was due to a lack of top end power - he still has 14 races left to win the title.  Our trek will be over just in time for us to watch the Le Mans GP when we get back - we've already decided that we're upgrading hotel when we get back to one with a bath as well as all other mod cons. 

30/04/07: Pondicherry / Chennai

PONDICHERRY 16-23/04/07: Just hanging out in Pondicherry, getting really sick of Tamil Nadu, or maybe it's just that we've had enough of India.  It seems that you have to argue, shout and get angry to get anywhere here - why can't it be easy?  The other day we bought a computer game from a proper shop (Tiger Woods golf), get back to the hotel load it up and it requires a license key code - there isn't one in the packet.  Take it back to the shop and they wont give us a refund without an hours worth or argument and us threatening to call the police.  Decide to move on to Chennai on Monday the 23rd, gives us the opportunity to spend all of Sunday in our nice air con room eating baguettes, drinking two bottles of wine whilst watching the Turkish MotoGP, where Valentino had tyre problems so only came 10th, but he's second in the championship, there's loads of time left for him to rightfully reclaim his crown!

CHENNAI 23-30/04/07:  Well Chennai is just another big, smelly, congested, polluted city.  After looking at maybe 10 hotels we decided to look at a guest house which is very un-PC in our guide book (strictly no Indians!), that should have given us a clue.  But it was charming, an old colonial house in the middle of Chennai with a warren of corridors and staircases.  We said we would take their best room and paid our 500rps.  Got upstairs with our bags when Graham suddenly had a thought, hmmmm, he attempted to lay down on the bed, which was about 50cms too short, wouldn't normally be a problem except the bed had head and foot boards.  We asked for another room.  Taken to another room where the mattress was all crunchy and crispy, it also had holes in it and loose stuffing just sitting in lumps on the top - so that room was a no go.  All other rooms had beds which were too small.  Decided that we couldn't stay here and can we have our money back please, seeing as the bag boy hadn't even put our bags down yet - As it's India the answer was obviously NO!  So after yet more arguments and threats to detach certain organs and replace them elsewhere we eventually get a refund (what is it with Tamil Nadu?).  Back to a previous hotel and take a room.  However it was sooooooo hot that Graham got up at 3am to have a cold shower, decided we couldn't stay another night.  As we only had a few days left decided to treat ourselves to a really nice AC room in a hotel that had only opened the day before.  We managed to get the room rate reduced from 2,200rps per day down to 1,400, mainly due to Graham cuddling the manager and begging!  The room and hotel staff were the best we've come across so far in India.  

Now for the Enfield tale of Woe!!!!!!!!!  As we were in Chennai we rode to the Enfield factory in the hope of talking to a director type of person about all of the problems we've had with the bike.  We prepared a list of dates, places and problems.  Managed to talk to Manager of Exports who arranged for us to take the bike to their service centre the next day where all of our problems would be addressed.  Allegedly this is the best of all service centres as they are directly related and trained by the factory.  We arrive at the service centre at 9:30 next morning.  Manager doesn't arrive 'til 10am.  At 7pm in the evening having had another frustrating day of ineptitude we leave with the bike running like a sack of shit (cut out 5 times on the 15km ride home).  Thought these guys were supposed to know what they were doing?  Useless bunch of Arseholes springs to mind.  Before leaving the service centre we speak to one of the factory reps who we'd met the day before who was at the service centre and make our displeasure known.  He phones the Exports Manager who we told we were so upset and the bike had cost us so much money, what was the point in paying to store it we might as well set fire to it outside the Enfield factory gates with as much press coverage as possible.  After all the bike was now only worth 400quid and we could afford to lose the money.  With that the Export manager promises that he will arrange for a Director to come and meet us at our hotel the next day so we leave our contact details with factory rep guy.

Next day we wait....and wait.  At 1pm Graham calls Exports Manager, he will call us back in 15mins (heard that before).  At 3pm we call him back again.  Turns out that he's not going to arrange for a director to meet us, that he hadn't called us because we didn't leave our details with the factory rep and that Graham abused the service centre staff calling the mechanic a 'Bitch' as corroborated by factory rep guy.  As you can imagine we were quite astounded particularly as we'd made an effort to be civil and had not sworn at anybody.  Graham explained that we had left our details with rep bloke, in fact the service centre manager had given us a pen and paper - so he was lying.  Also if he (the export manager) cared to ask anyone who spoke English as a first language they would tell him that 'Bitch' is a term used exclusively for females, therefore that was a lie too.  (as an aside anyone who knows Graham would know that if he was abusing someone it would definitely be preceded with a "You F*%#ing whatever').            
With that we went to the police commissioner in Chennai and asked him what the repercussions would be if we set fire to our bike outside the Enfield factory (we are really serious).  We were given two possible outcomes: Be arrested and put in prison (what right did we as tourists have to protest anyway!), alternatively the Enfield factory would likely take exception to this insult and come out and beat us - mind you if they used something 'superbly engineered' by themselves' it's likely that it would break before us!
So we had a change of heart decided that Indian prison didn't appeal - hotels were bad enough, nor did we fancy being beaten up by Enfield, even if it was with their usual efficiency.  Anyway we'd let Lalli Singh (guy we bought the bike from) know our pyrotechnic intentions and he came storming to the rescue saying quote "Your ChandraMukhi deserves a very special place in our hearts, just send it to us, Please allow us to take care of her".  So to cut a long story short, even though we strongly feel that it is not Lalli's responsibility, but Enfield's, we had to fly out of Chennai in 36hrs so ChandraMukhi got packed up on the back of a truck and sent to Delhi (at the cost of 3000rps - how come we were charged 600rps to go 50kms when we arrange stuff like this?).

20/04/07: Madurai / Kodaikanal / Mettupalayam / Salem / Pondicherry

It's been a while so lots to update, although the rush is off as we're now just killing time in Tamil Nadu until 30th April and our flight out from Chennai.

MADURAI 08-09/04/07:  Went and spoilt ourselves by checking into the Madurai Residency for the night with AC (well it is 40degrees outside).  Didn't leave the room until breakfast next morning, just watched movies and ordered room service, lovely.  Phoned Enfield to see if the bike was ready (hoping it wasn't so had another night in lovely - expensive, room).  Bike was ready.  Got to Enfield and had to wait half an hour cause the bike was on a test ride (long test ride).  Bike gets back and is really smoking, so it runs, but now it burns oil.  They've also put 2 gasgets in the head, which lowers compression and therefore reduces power - Why?  Anyway it's already 1:30 so we just pack up and go smoke and all - they try to present us with a bill for 778rps - which part of "We're not paying anything" did they not understand originally?  Leave without paying, it's warranty afterall.  Bike is running like shit, but still only another 3 weeks to go.  We ride to Kodaikanal, a hill station.  Along the way the Heavens open and it chucks it down with raid.  We stop under a tree and put on waterproofs and wrap daysack in plastic bags - Monsoon season is here!  

KODAIKANAL 09-13/04/07:  Get to Kodaikanal absolutely freezing, it's 2,200m and bathed in cloud, which means you can't see more than 5m in front.  Check into a hotel and have hot shower to get warm.  Spend the next couple of days wandering around in drizzly English like weather.  It's really quite boring, cold and no nice food.  It's rained / drizzled everyday eventually on the 12th we get a nice day and we walk around the lake and check out the views - apparently on a clear day you can see Madurai 100kms away - shame it's not clear.  Leave next day to go to Mettupalayam - we want to go on the Nilgiri railway which is a steam train up the mountains.

13-15/04/07 METTUPALAYAM:  Leave Kodai well wrapped up and waterproofed - forgetting that at 2200m it might only be 20degrees but 20kms away on the plain it's 40degrees.  Get to Mettupalayam very hot book into hotel then go to the station to buy our train tickets for tomorrow.  Train leaves at 7:10am and gets to Ooty (another hill station - 47kms away) at 12:00.  Then early dinner and walk back to our hotel in a thunder storm - Cooool!!!  
Up and at the station by 5:30am (they sell more tickets than seats so some people have to stand for more than 4hrs)  This means Katrina is NOT in a good mood - not very good at early.  She has a mini argument with the people in front of us in the queue who try and let in 3 of their friends who turn up an hour after us - queue has now doubled in size.  We get on the train and get second to last seats - good job we did get up early.  Don't actually see anything on the way up as we're sat on the hill rather than valley side of the train and people are standing in the aisle - but smells like a steam train.  
Get to Ooty at 12:00 return train is at 3pm apparently you need to queue again but not 'til 2:30pm.  Have some lunch - Ooty isn't particularly inspiring.  Return to the station at 2pm and get in the queue - there are maybe 30 people in front but over the next hour that figure almost doubles as people let in their friends and family.  We take exception to this having queued and start arguing with people in the queue for queue jumping - turns outs most of them don't even have tickets yet.  Our arguments get so vociferous that we are pulled out of the queue by station security (oops!  But tell them it's not fair, we've queued but might not get a seat whereas those people had only just turned up).  Not sure if we're going to be allowed on the train!  But they do they save us a seat on the good side but put us in the same carriage as the family who had started as 2people in the queue and grown to 16, with whom we had argued.  Train journey on the way back only takes 3.5hrs and we get to see spectacular views and end up talking to family who were quite scared of Katrina - shouting men is one thing angry women another.

15/04/07 SALEM: Heading to Pondicherry and decide to stop half way at Salem (pronounced as in the witch trials).  Rains on the way so have to stop and put on waterproofs on.  Not much to report of the town, decent cheapish hotel and dinner.  Leave next morning.

16/04/07-Onwards PONDICHERRY:  Pondicherry is quite different from any other Indian city we've stayed in.  It's clean, with no stalls on the pavements, and French looking houses and locals speaking French.  Also the Gastronomy is fantastic after almost 6mths of varying Indian dishes.  Fresh Baguettes, Steak (as in Cow)!  Salads yum.  But other than that Pondicherry is a bit of a let down.  It's really quite boring and we're just killing time here.  Would be better if there was a beach to veg on but the front is covered with big boulders maybe 10m wide.  Assume that it's since the Tsunami which hurt Pondy.
Lots of the guest houses here are owned by the Aurobino Ashram they offer good value rooms but with strings - No Alcohol, No Smoking, No Visitors in the Room, In by 22:30 else you get locked out.   Needless to say we're no staying in one of those places. But Pondi's seem to be quite up themselves we've had various arguments regarding the correct change, refund on faulty goods etc.  And we've had the "You come here to my country" spouted at us!  Makes a change.
Think we're going to stay here until Monday then we'll head to Chennai.  Spend the time like last night - we bought fresh baked baguette, GORGONZOLA, tomatoes and a couple of bottles of red wine and spent the evening in our room watching movies.  Oh and upgraded to AC - it's just soooo hot.

08/04/07: Madurai

MADURAI 02/04/07-09/04/07:  Set out from Kanniyakumari towards Madurai which is about 250kms away, but thankfully the roads are much quieter and we make good time.  However.........55km from Madurai we stop for petrol, then start the bike and nasty noise - Graham checks it out - Doh yet another valve seat has dropped out of the head - which is terminal.  We try and arrange for a jeep or truck to take us into Madurai but small town Indians just see an opportunity to make us much money as they feasibly can by charging us extortionate rates to recover us.  They start at 1000rps to go 55kms (if we were Indian probably only be 200rps).  Our reply has something to do with sex and travel.  We push the bike up the road and try flagging down passing trucks, when one stops we start negotiations then the locals all run over and tell him not to take us - BASTARDS!  After they've done this a couple of times and we've spent the best part of 1.5hrs attempting to get a lift in temperatures of about 40degrees we give in and pay them 600rps to take us to Madurai.  

Enfield look at the bike there and then - surprise, surprise it's damaged the piston but according to them it's fine - Graham explained in a none to patient way that having a big gouge in the piston was NOT acceptable.  They ordered a new piston, but that means we're stuck in Madurai for about a week whilst waiting for the part.  This is a big problem as our visa expires on 30th of April and we have an agreement with Lalli (guy we bought the bike from) to store the bike with him in Delhi - 4000kms away.  But he's a reasonable guys so he tells us of someone in Chennai that he knows, where we can store the bike.  Big relief, we only have to make it to Chennai within the next three weeks.  We book a couple of flights from Chennai to Kathmandu on the 30th of April, which was a palaver - Go to a travel agent who quotes 10,750rps each and gets stroppy when we don't immediately pay up and book.  Do some investigation of our own and find that Indian Airlines will do it for 7,490rps each but we need to book via a travel agent.  Go back to blokey tell him we want these tickets at these prices - he says "who told you Indian Airlines were cheaper?" no-one we just do our homework.  So he grudgingly agrees to book the tickets requested (obviously doesn't get as much commission from Indian Airlines as Jet Airways and Sahara who he tried to get us to go with).  We double check with him all the way the prices times etc then agree a total (15,880rps) which we go to the ATM to withdraw.  Come back with the money,  they faff about for another hour then we see on the tickets that the price has gone up by 3000 which we query and refuse to pay - he says prices aren't possible even though he agreed them and we had them confirmed by Indian Airlines.  We end up leaving without tickets - Ahhhhhh!  Next day we phone Indian Airlines who reconfirm the price of 7,490 and tell us there is an Indian Airline office in Madurai (why didn't they say that before?).  We book our tickets at the desired price in the Indian Airlines office - then stop by blokey wave tickets at him and tell him he's a lying, conning SOB and we will be complaining about him to IATA - so there!

In the meantime we've checked out the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai which is Shiva's love nest.  There are 4 Gopura's (cheese wedge shaped towers), one for Shiva, one for his wife Meenakshi (aka Pavarti) and two others.  Each night the Babba's carry the icons of Shiva and Meenakshi to Meenakshi's bed chamber, where they sing them lullaby's and remove Meenakshi's nose ring so she doesn't damage Shiva with it in the height of passion - oooeeeeerrrrr Mrs, strange people!  We went to look round the temple at about 13:00, which turned out to be particularly stupid as temple = no shoes.  13:00 in Madurai = 40degrees C.  40degrees and no shoes = burning feet!  We ended up running from one shade spot to another, much to the amusement of visiting Indians.

Also went to Enfield yesterday - they promised that the bike would be ready Midday Monday.

Not much else to do in Madurai and our hotel is in between two minarets which means that 5 times a day, starting at 5am they start wailing and trying to out do each other.  i.e. VERY NOISY! early morning wake up call on a daily basis, it's so hot here that we're not sleeping hugely well anyway (about 33degrees at night in our room with all windows open and fan full blast).

.........WOW - What Drama! Just as we finished writing this heard loud shouting of "You bleep, bleeping, Perverts" and lots of noise outside our door.  Went outside to see English couple next door out in the corridor.  Man was going ballistic and beating up and screaming at an Indian.  Apparently he caught the guy trying to look in through the bathroom slats and through the keyhole whilst his wife showered.  We had thought they'd checked out yesterday because we'd been irritated between 21:30-22:30 previous evening by two men leaning round their balcony on to ours just staring at us.  They only went when Katrina went to slap one of the men leaning round onto our balcony.  Turns out they'd been let into the English couples room to gawk at us, whilst the English couple were out - UNBELIEVABLE!  Makes you wonder how many times they've been in our room and how much 'spying' has been going on!  The English couple called the police, we decided to check out and spend our last night in Madurai in a nice room with A/C.    

02/04/07: Kanniyakumari (The Tip)

Well after a short, but headbanging ride, due to the density and ineptitude of Keralan drivers we arrive in Kanniyakumari.  Find a hotel and check the place out - if you've been to Lands End in Cornwall then you'll know the type of place and tourist tat available.  Try and find the best place to 'see both the setting sun and rising moon on the same horizon' only to find that we've got the wrong full moon - Typical!  It's the full moon on the 30th of April, not the 2nd, so still don't know what the above actually means.  Still we watch a not very spectacular sunset, then find a bar and leave the next day (Kanniyakumari, not the bar, we did make it to bed, honest!).

01/04/07: Kovalam

KOVALAM 28/03/07-02/04/07:  Kovalam is actually a lot nicer than we expected, seeing as it's a package holiday destination (Oooowwww, get us!), but maybe it's because the season has just about ended.  The area of Kovalam consists of 4 fairly small beaches, we're staying near Lighthouse Beach in a hotel 5mins walk away from the sea.  
Anyway got to Kovalam and into a hotel by about 1pm, then phoned to book the Enfield in for it's last warranty service at 9,000km at the dealer in Thiruvananthapuram (previously known as Trivandrum - why is it that when they rename towns they nearly always end up more complicated?).  Have to drop it off by 10am tomorrow.  On the way back meet a guy named Tony who also has a 500bullet and owns a house on the hill.  We go back to his to look at his fantastic house and meet his German Shepherd 'Max'.  He says he wants to go to Enfield anyway so he'll show us the way tomorrow morning.
Next morning (Thursday)  meet Tony and ride 16kms into Thiruvananthapuram only to find that there's a general strike and the Enfield workshop is closed - not happy!  However the showroom is open so we go there.  They promise bike will be done tomorrow and that they will replace our buggered rear shock absorbers under warranty (big surprise - at least 3 other dealers had said they were non-warranty items).  
Friday - up and at Enfield by 9:30am, Katrina knows the score and has brought a book to while away the waiting time - good job too.  We finally ride away from Enfield having had our service, a new chain and cush drive rubbers and our new shocks at 18:30.  All is good but why does it have to take so long?

    The weekend we just mooch about, sunbathe, go up the lighthouse.
But we're leaving tomorrow for Kanniyakumari (very southern tip), it's only 85kms away so should be an easy trip.  Apparently, once a year, during the April full moon (tomorrow), you can 'see both the setting sun and rising moon on the same horizon'.  Quite what that means I don't know, but we'll find out tomorrow.

Oh, almost forgot to mention - one thing that is REALLY annoying about Kovalam at the moment, is the noise.  It's currently some 10day festival, which means they strap speakers to trees outside each mosque/temple and blare out amplified praying / chanting all day - starting at about 5am.

 

27/03/07: Varkala 

It's really quite strange.  We don't feel the same draw to this place as to others, but even so we've been 'leaving' for the last 3 days but not quite managed it - but we ARE leaving tomorrow - destination Kovalam and the Enfield dealer for our 9,000km service.

VARKALA 21/03/03/07-28/03/07:  We spent the first couple of days attempting to get our newly revamped website uploaded Yeah!  Then all we've done since is doss about - you know the score 'Eating, drinking, smoking, munching...everything!' (said in Indian accent).  We've also ventured into town a couple of times to visit 'Bevco - the state run off-license (Only place to buy cheap alcohol other than bars etc in communist Kerala).  Discovered the phenomenon of the 'Lady queue' i.e. as the only woman at the Bevco Katrina could avoid the queue altogether and just go to the counter - this is a big bonus as the queue is generally about 30 people long (Keralan's drink a lot - or at least they queue at Bevco a lot!).  We've spent a couple of hours on the beach reading.  Oh and we prearranged to watch MotoGP at a bar with a big TV and TenSports and watched Rossi whoop arse at Jerez sitting outside (about 5pm), on a cliff top, next to the sea, drinking beer in about 33degrees, life is hard!  

 

22/03/07: Kannur / Cochin / Alleppey / Varkala 

Oh, Forgot to mention - we saw the first MotoGP - Way to go Rossi - 2nd and it was obvious that his bike wasn't as fast as some of the others!  From now on on race weekends we're going to try and find either a hotel or bar with 'Ten Sports'!!!!

KANNUR 14/03/07:  Nice easy day today - we're just going to ride to the coast from Madikeri should only be 120kms or so.  Hmmmm, Easy??? Coming out of Kodagu (coffee region with Madikeri as it's capital), we have to ride through a national park, where we see lots of birds and trees, and.....POTHOLES.  After about 4kms of riding at about 20kmph and being severely jolted we see a white Enfield with another European couple coming up the hill.  So as is the way with the Enfield posse we stop, have a chat cigarettes are handed around and we discuss the merits of riding round India. The Danish couple tell us to our dismay that there's another 10kms of this road before we reach proper tarmac.
We eventually get out of the national park into Kerala and onto proper tarmac - Hurrah!  However, first impressions of Kerala??? Overcrowded (too many people on the road), Idiots and quite rude and unhelpful - this could be good!
We make it to Kannur by about 3:30pm and look for a hotel, end up staying in a military hotel overlooking the sea - apparently it's were they put up visiting military VIP's (obviously military do not have high requirements!), but it was 220rps a night with nice balcony and very secure parking!  Went for dinner at a hotel up the road - but no Alcohol so decided to go and find a wine shop to take a bottle of Indian wine back to our room (with rent of 220rps we can afford the luxury!).  Ride around and with help eventually find the wine shop - it's like a fortress!!  You queue 'Disney land' stylee round metal fencing then get to the barred windows where you order and pay at one window and collect at the next - very salubrious (not!).. What kinda place is this?? Decide to forgo alcohol and have an early night.

COCHIN 15/03/07-18/03/07:  Heading south along the coast road today - aiming for Poonani (Graham's choice).  Traffic is horrible, national highway is not obvious and we end up doing large detours, Graham's mood deteriorates.  Stop to ask directions, get some garbled not to sure directions then the git asks for 50rps (half a days wage, or a veg curry and rice in a restaurant).  Keep riding and on our detours we see lots of hammer and sickles either on flags, mosaics in the floor or on statues (Kerala has a democratically elected communist government! - Maybe that's why they think they deserve something for nothing!).  Get to Poonani at about 3pm, but there is nothing that resembles a hotel, come to think of it we've seen very little along the way that looks like a hotel!).  Much to Grahams disappointment we carry on and actually make it to Cochin for about 5:30.  Decide to splash out on a niceish hotel and find a room for 950rps a night - you don't get much for your money in Cochin - Big clean room, hot water, tv, balcony and AC even though asked for it without.  However, Cochin is so hot the AC is a godsend - first time we've used it in India.  
Stay in Cochin Old Fort for 3 nights, it's really hot here and quite pretty and quaint.  Cochin Fort is the old trading post and has lots of dutch looking buildings and Chinese fishing nets round the bay.  There's a Taj hotel on the next island (Cochin is built on 2 islands and the mainland), so we go and check it out to see if they do french wine (belated wedding anniversary dinner).  They do, so book a table for the evening.  The head waiter also arranges for us to go on the sunset cruise with the residents and tells us he will make our anniversary special.  He does, we cruise for an hour, watch a Kathakali demonstration (local dance, which was quite boring), then to our table.  They've set it up on the top deck of their private yacht - just us.  We have a fantastic dinner (2 bottles of Gevry), complimentary anniversary cake and a serenade from a guitar playing bloke - Cool.  The next day we have a lazy one, dinner at the Brighton Cafe sitting outside drinking beer served in a tea pot.  They have an eagle that sits on a perch and just waits for titbits.  Apparently the owner found him wounded a couple of months ago, fixed him up, but the birds realised the merits of not hunting for food but just being fed, and hasn't left.  

ALLEPPEY 18/03/07-21/03/07:  Easy ride to Alleppey - where we're aiming to hire a houseboat to cruise the backwaters for a couple of days.  Check into a government run hotel (which generally means crap).  We have the best room with a huge circular wall with about 10 windows - none of which close, and about 50 mosquitos.  Graham gets to work with his leatherman and fixes all the windows so we feel secure then head out to find a boat.  Went to lots of agents, most of whom we didn't like.  Demanded to see a boat before we made a choice so were taken to the boat jetty to look at a really ropey boat.  We say goodbye to the agent and decide to wander up and down asking the boats directly.  We make the right choice and choose a beautiful boat in really good nick called 'Damodar'.  We arrange to leave tomorrow at 11am - so excited!  Next day we're up an out of our mosquito pit early and down to the boat.  We spend the next two days slowly cruising down the backwaters, watching villagers washing, shopping etc by the side of the river.  Thanks to Romi, our chef, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner is delivered beautifully prepared and delicious.  Definitely made the best choice of boat, this one has AC, TV and Stereo.  We don't use the TV but it's nice cruising along listening to music.  At one point 'Wild Horses' by the rolling stones was playing as we passed by a village - very Oliver Stone! But all things must come to and end (like our budget) and after two days we say our goodbyes and head south.

VARKALA 21/03/07:  Another short day to Varkala.  After our recent excesses we have a nice reasonably priced room (200rps pn).  We got a good price because it's end of season now - monsoon in a couple of weeks.  Room has nice clean bathroom with European toilet, clean bed, mosquito net and balcony.  Varkala seems quite chilled and no where near so many mosquitoes. 

 

14/03/07: Hampi / Jog Falls / Mangalore / Mysore / Kodagu

Again it's been a long time since we last updated the website.  This is due to the ever deteriorating quality of the PC's in internet cafes, so we've decided to change our website and make it easier for us to maintain (hopefully). 
Since the last update we spent a bit more time in Hampi, then moved on to Jog Falls, Mangalore, Mysore and then Kodagu (where we are at the moment).

HAMPI 15/02-26/02/07: Hampi was lovely, which is why we ended up staying there for three weeks (Hmmm our rate of  travel does seem to  have decreased somewhat!).  

Did all the usual stuff 'templing, swimming, eating, walking, cycling.....everything'.
We found (or were directed to) a huge lake nearby (5kms or so away) so the group of us spent quite a few hours just chilling on the rocks by the lake.  Moran set up shop on a small island / rock about 5m into the lake, it wasn't a very successful shop as it only fit 3 people and didn't actually sell anything but was funny when Moran would beckon and say 'Come look at my shop' in her best Indian accent.  In fact Moran was so attached to her 'Shop' that when we returned a few days later and found squatters already there she was distraught.  We skulked around until they got the message and left the rock, then stayed there for the next hour - cigarettes, lighters, crisps etc to keep the occupying forces going, were ferried across the water in plastic cups.  
But we did do other stuff too, we rode around the countryside a lot looking at the fantastic scenery.  There are loads of paddy fields which are really lush and green - kinda the greenest green you ever see naturally.  Then the mountains (or are they hills?) are made up of piles of huge boulders.  Legend says that they were flung down as a show of strength by the armies of Bali and Sugriva - who were the ruling monkey kings.  Must have been BIG monkeys with HUGE hands - check out the pictures, the boulders are massive.  In fact bouldering is a popular pass time.

They are all succumbing one by one!  Scott has just bought an Enfield!  Adriaan is talking about buying an Enfield, Schwartz and Mona already have an Enfield  - In fact eventually all travelers will have Enfields!

We (Adriaan, Moran, Matti, Didi, Graham and Katrina) rented bicycles in Hampi and cycled round some of the closer ruins, which was good fun.  We decided to look at the Elephants stable and lotus temple which we had to pay 250rps to get in (lot of money).  Matti decided to go back but the rest of us carried on.  By this time it was 3pm and ticket also gave us free entry to the Vitthala temple on the same day - which we obviously wouldn't make so we pleaded with the ticket man for an extension so he made the tickets valid until 11am next day. Had a picnic in the elephant stable then had to go as Moran was leaving that evening and still had to pack.
The next day was Katrina's birthday and seeing as we still had tickets for the Vitthala temple had to go templing!  Didi had gone earlier in the day (Katrina's not good at early), Moran had left so Katrina, Graham and Adriaan went to the Vitthala temple.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  In the middle of the courtyard was a really cool tree with no leaves just white flowers with yellow centres.  The flowers smelt lovely and a couple of security guards went and found Katrina 3 perfect flowers to put in her hair - sweet!.  
That evening we sat on our balcony and drank the bottle of Smirnoff (real!) given to Katrina by Moran and listened to music it was very nice.  But this does mean that Katrina's slap-up birthday meal has been deferred - No where in Hampi suitable. 

Adriaan and Matti left on the Sunday the rest of us (us, Scott, Schwartz and Mona), left on Monday.  We headed towards Jog Falls and they went to Gokarna.

JOG FALLS 26/02/07: India's highest waterfalls, best viewed soon after monsoon - not now!  We got there saw it, looked at the hotels, everything government run and crappy.  Also felt a bit Royston Vasey, didn't like the vibe so left after 20mins.  Rode towards the sea and sunset looking for a hotel before dark - ride got faster and faster as it got later and later, then, all of a sudden, out of the semi twilight, sprang a really nice hotel!  Had a comfortable, flat, not bumpy bed with a double mattress and a real double bed (usually it's two mattresses), which was total luxury after the last 3 weeks.  Left, refreshed the next morning for Mangalore.

MANGALORE 27/02/07 - 02/03/07:  Mangalore turned out to be quite a surprise and we really liked it as a genuine Indian city.  It's fairly clean for an Indian city, mainly inoffensive to the nostrils, fairly modern and not at all touristy.  We had only intended to stay one night but that turned into three.  Our hotel new and clean with hot water all day - luxury.  Didn't really do much in Mangalore except a bit of shopping (Katrina got a Salwar Kamise, we bought a cheap laptop to update the website with - Yah boo sucks to crappy computers in internet cafes!).  Tried to go to the beedie factory to watch them making the weird cigarettes but apparently it's all done at home and the factory just packs them.
Left Mangalore on the Friday as we wanted to be in Mysore for Holi and it's not celebrated in Mangalore.  Holi is a hindu festival where they throw colour at each other, either coloured powder or coloured water.  However, 24kms out of Mangalore the bike cuts out and won't start again.  We end up hiring a jeep at definitely tourist prices to take us back to Mangalore to visit yet another Enfield dealer.  We get there Katrina pays the Jeep man and also tells him what she thinks of him and his huge prices - tries out some of her newer hindi - most of it not printable then tells the guy to 'Cello' Go.
Enfield mechanics spend 20mins or so trying to get the bike to start then turn the petrol on to reserve.  Try for another 5mins and the bike starts.  "You had no petrol see - works now on reserve".  Which is complete rubbish there's petrol and it had still taken ages for them to start it.  We leave with Graham cursing something about muppets and monkeys.  By this time it's 5pm, back to the same hotel.  Get ready to leave again the next morning.  

MYSORE 03/03/07 - 12/03/07:  HERE WE GO AGAIN!!!!!!!  120kms from Mysore and the bike starts making a really horrible noise.  It's been cutting out every now and then but Graham just jump starts it whilst we're still moving - but now the noise.  We stop at the side of the road, the engine is really hot and it sounds like knackered bearings.  We're in the middle of no-where 120kms from Mysore, don't want to have to fork out for another Jeep ride, it would be extortionate.  So we top the engine up with oil and get going, hoping that the bike will make it.  She does!  We check into a hotel in Mysore at about 4:30.  At 5pm we check out yet another Enfield mechanic.  It's a really small place but they tell us almost straight away that it's the bearings, they could hear us coming.  However, it's after 5pm on a Saturday.  They close at 6pm and don't open until Monday.  So we book the bike in for before 10am on Monday.  Then notice people covered in pink and blue and green - Oh no we missed Holi!  Go back to the hotel and even people in the bar downstairs are covered, but they obligingly daub a bit of green on both of us so we can feel festive too.
We stay in Mysore for a week - longer than we intended (deja vu?), but this is mainly due to the Enfield's demise and Moran.  
We took the bike back in on Monday morning and they phoned us by 1pm - very quick by Indian standards, must be bad news.  They ask us to come back to the shop. They show us the bike internals, it wasn't pretty: - The starter motor sprag bearing had destroyed itself, as had one of the main crank bearings, the primary drive chain was munching the engine case - all in all there was lots of metal floating around the engine that shouldn't have been.  There were also non genuine Enfield parts in the engine - fitted under warranty by Saini motors.  In fact the engine was a complete mess caused by the idiots at Saini motors in Margao.  They didn't put the crank bearings in correctly and the crank was out of alignment and balance and had shaken itself apart.  However, these guys in Mysore do seem to know what they are talking about and give us the most confidence yet.  We leave the bike with them and they will call us when it's ready.
In the meantime we hook up with Moran who is renting a flat in Mysore, whilst she does a 3 month yoga course.  We do a little 'eating, drinking, sightseeing, palacing, thaliing...everything' together.  Also went to the market which was really nice lots of little alley ways with shops.  Bought some perfume oil - Frangipani, the smell reminds Katrina of her birthday and watched incense sticks being made by hand.
Back to the bike - get the bike back the next evening - these can't be Indians, they work too fast!  And the bike feels really good and then we get the bill!  All was as expected except.......the non standard parts fitted by Saini motors are not covered by the warranty therefore the Mysore garage can not claim for them from Enfield and they ask us to pay for them as well as various other bits.  We refused and said that Saini motors should pay.  They agreed but did not want to be out of pocket, so we spoke to the Karnataka Enfield area manager and the Goan equivalent, wrote a letter and hopefully that will resolve itself.  End result we have over 1000rps knocked off the bill.  We also changed the rear suspension as they have no gas left and it makes the bike very bouncy due to no damping.  Apparently this does not come under the warranty.  We tested the bike by riding up Chamundi hill, one of the seven sacred hills in Southern India  to look at the Bull (Nandi), which was carved in 1659 from a single piece of black granite and has it's own priest.  Also went to the top to look at the 12th century temple, get Bindi'd, look at the demon Mahishasura statue.  Then, in true Indian style coasted the 8kms back down.  In fact we enjoyed it so much we did it twice and videoed it the second time - what fun!
Bike now seems to be running better and smoother than ever - fingers crossed it stays this way.  
Oh it was our 4th wedding anniversary on the 7th - can you believe we've been married for 4 years?  Anyway we rode around looking at all of the posh hotels in Mysore and booked a table at the Southern Star hotel and had two bottles of wine - although Mysore does not have a concept of decent wine, even the Lalitha Mahal doesn't do European wine.  Still it was our wedding anniversary so we drank the best Indian wine which is Riviera and very nice (thank you!).
On Sunday night we went to the palace in Mysore to watch the grand lighting - every Sunday between 7 and 8pm the palace is lit with 5000 light bulbs.  It was very spectacular and seems that half of Mysore turn out to hand around and have picnics on the grass, it was really nice, but must use masses of electricity, which is probably why they only light up for an hour a week!  Oh yeah and Katrina had had her bottom groped whilst Graham was taking a picture and rather that the usually English way of pretending it didn't happen, she hit the bloke and told him loudly not to touch her so all the Indians turned round to look at him.  He very rapidly skulked off into the crowd and Katrina strutted about quite proud of herself!

KODAGU 12/03/07-14/03/07: KODAGU is a state within Karnataka.  It was an independent principality until Indian independence, when it became absorbed into the rest of India - History lesson over.  More importantly it's quite a high, beautiful mountainous region which specialises in growing coffee.  The capital, Madikeri is at 1300m which makes it colder than most places we've been to recently (a mere 25degrees), in fact Katrina has dug out her fleece to wear in the mornings and evening because it's 'cold' (wimp).  Yesterday we rode around the lower regions of Kodagu just looking at the scenery, Cardamom, Vanilla, Pepper are all grown here in addition to coffee . It's coffee blossom time and lots of the coffee plants are covered in white flowers, which give off a really strong smell, a bit like Jasmine.  We decided to go door knocking to see if we could get a guided tour around a coffee plantation.  We ended up a 'Daisy Coffeegarden' run by Dinesh and his family.  They have a lovely house, which feels quite english cottagey, 3 dogs, a cat and several chickens with 12 acres of mainly coffee - They also do homestay where you can stay in the house and have 3 meals a day cooked for you by the family (See our link page for more details).  Dinesh gave us a guided tour of the plantation apparently there is only one crop of coffee per year and it's harvested between January and March.  Once the coffee cherries (yes coffee beans on the plant look like big blackcurrants and are called 'coffee cherries') have been harvested the plants are watered and produce blossom.  The more blossom the better your crop will be the following January.  The coffee growers just grow, pick and dry the coffee cherries then sell them to the curers for peeling and roasting.  He also had pepper creepers which grown up trees as well as vanilla.  Once the tour was over we had a spot of lunch cooked by Mrs Dinesh, which was yummy - who said there was no such thing as a free lunch?  
That done, we're going to Kerala today.
 

15/02/07: Palolem / Hampi

Seem to have been trapped by the black hole of Palolem where things (usually travelers), get sucked and reappear many months later looking very brown and bearded - even the women!  But we're free now - However this will be a quick one as the internet and computers here are rubbish - Hopefully update again in a few days and put in some piccies!.

PALOLEM 22/12/06-04/02/07: Well, what can I say, we got stuck, not entirely our fault - we had Enfield problems which meant that we had to return to Margao 4 or 5 times due to inept Enfield mechanics.  In fact the only reason the bike was finished and ready to go was that we gave them such a hard time about being crap then Katrina said if it was finished that night as promised we would never go back there again.  That and the fact that it's sooo lovely in Palolem we just couldn't bring ourselves to move.
Quick recap on our Palolem stay - generally speaking we got up in the morning and had a nice cup of filter coffee on our balcony (we invested in a nice Tiffin tin, some fresh coffee and a 'Tiffin tin' size water heater).  This was then generally followed by the second most arduous decision of the day 'Where to eat breakfast?'.  Once breakfast is finished, mooch slowly back to the room and think about what to do for the rest of the day.  About 4pm, having made no decisions at all we generally have a 'Coffee Slush' (Yummy, yummy) at Alessandra's and meet up with the 'Full Power Crew' and see if anybody had any plans for the evening, if not the most difficult part of the day - deciding where to have dinner.  This is all interspersed with a few mad party nights. Such as New Years Eve, full moon, Andy Leaving, Wednesday Night (night market means PARTY!) etc.
New Year's Eve was really good - we met up at about 10:30pm (need to pace ourselves) with the guys - Adrian (Crazy Dutch Guy), Henri (Finish Giant and party animal), Mattie (Finish Man of Mystery and Honey Bee drinker extraordinaire), Andy (English, slightly deaf lunatic - Hello Andy!!!!!) and some others.  Sat outside a bar on the beach until Midnight and watched all of the fireworks go off then made our way to 'Neptune's Point' where we partied 'til dawn - Whey Hey, we're not old!  When it became light the music stopped so we walked back down the beach  and watched the sun rise then went to bed at about 7:30am.
Same, Same but Different (phrase used all the time out here) for full-moon party. 
Andy's Leaving party was hosted by the Indian family in whose house he stayed and it involved lots of home cooked food such as Goan fish curry, Masala stuffed calamari, Mackerel, prawn curry etc - Definitely the tastiest food so far! Beer and excited Indians of all ages scurrying around saying 'Andy Party, Andy Party!'.
Anyway eventually we moved on from Goa to Hampi very historic and 'Shanti' (relaxed) site with old temples etc.

HAMPI 04/02/07-Onwards:  Rode to Hampi, had intended to take two days but made such good time that we just carried on and did it in one day.  Arrived in Hampi at about 6pm and checked into a hotel were mid dinner (with NO BEER!!!!!) when all of the lights went out - most strange!  Then found out that there was a 10pm curfew in Hampi and everything had to shut, as well as no alcohol at any time - the next day we moved across to the other side of the river which does not have the same constraints. 
Surprisingly quite a few of the guys turned up from Palolem (they said they would, but wasn't sure the 'Bum's' would actually manage to move from the security of Palolem).  So we've been having a cool time here - taken over a 'Street' in the rooms where we are staying.  Schwartz and Mona (Danish couple) bought Andy's Enfield in Palolem before he returned home are now here at Hampi as are Ben and Moran (Israeli siblings, who are actually really nice!), Adrian, Mattie and 'Scotty Monkey' English guy.  Now let me see, two Enfields, lots more fun loving crazy guys and a load of hired scooters equals mad bike rides at 1am in the morning - Hmmmm maybe that's not such a good idea, but fun! 
What else have we done in Hampi?  We've looked at a few temples, one of which (Hanuman monkey temple) had over 600 steps to get to the top.  When we got to the top there were quite a few pilgrims who finished praying then started an impromptu party with bongos, singing and dancing....Actually us dancing, they made each one of us get up and dance whilst everyone clapped and sung - was cool.  Then had a Chillum or two with the priest / sadhu and floated back down the 600 steps.  After all of that exertion in the name of 'templing' we had to recover with a couple of large beers! etc.  Anyway more about that another time as I have to go now (discovered that the internet works faster on the other side of the river but the boat stops running at 6pm, which is now) - so Ta Raaaaa!!!!!!!!  

30/12/06: Pune / Kolhapur / Vengurla / Calangute / Palolem

Wow can't believe how long it's been since we last updated.  Think this might be a brief one as we're in the relaxed Christmas state and can't be bothered to spend hours!

By the way MERRY CHRISTMAS and a STONKING NEW YEAR!!!!!!

AURANGABAD 14/12: Went to Ajanta caves this afternoon.  They were absolutely spectacular.  There are about 20 caves carved out of the rock and painted or sculpted by Buddhists from about 200BC to 600AD.  Those Buddhists knew a beautiful setting when they saw one too - the caves are all around a natural bend in a river running through a ravine.
However, Katrina did feel very aggrieved at the fact that the Indian national paid 10rps to get in whereas us 'rich' foreigners had to pay 250rps each (which amounts to a third of our daily budget!).  Wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that as usual we were the main tourist attraction once inside.  Anyway crowds thinned out at about 3pm when the coach loads of school children left - lessoned learnt for Ellora caves go later in the afternoon, it'll be less crowded.
Left for Pune the next morning.

PUNE 15/12:  Arrived in Pune and with some difficulty managed to book into the 'National Hotel' which had a kind of colonial charm - old rambling building with verandas all round but as usual falling into decay.  Pune is quite a vibrant city with proper air-conditioned multi-storey shopping malls, not of course that we went in any of them, no budget to impulse buy.
Wandered around and decided on a nice looking outside restaurant but it was 'Pure Veg' which also means no alcohol.  Once Graham had ascertained this fact we decided to relocate.  Ended up in a place called 'Touché the Sizzler' which claims that the father of the current owner invented the Sizzler (hot plate which causes the food to sizzle for ages once it's brought out).  After much deliberation Katrina decided to go for a rare beef steak sizzler (first beef in India - fingers crossed it's not a ropey old bit of cow!) but.........Yum, yum, yum!!! Best steak in ages, Grahams Piri Piri chicken sizzler was good too.
Walked back to our hotel, but alas no Peda shops (better for the figure anyway), so we stop and buy a bottle of water, but the lord must have been smiling down on us, as we enter the shop, unseen from the street, rows and rows of Peda!!!! It was meant to be so we couldn't not buy any could we?

KHOLAPUR 16/12:  Change of plan this morning, had intended to leave Pune and go to Maleshwarbar (hill station) but then we read that it was the most visited hill station in Maharashtra, especially on the weekend (i.e. today).  So decided instead to head south to Kholapur then on to the Maharashtran coast after.  Ride was on fairly big well kept roads (We're always appreciative of good tarmac, since Madhya Pradesh!).  Although ChandraMukhi was making nasty noises.  Got to Kholapur which is not a tourist town, at about 3pm.  Booked into a hotel then went back to an Enfield dealer we'd seen on the way in, see if they could sort her out.  We were told that she needed a new Head, Piston and Barrel and had used 1.25ltr of oil in 1000kms (not good).  They could do it, but it would take 2days and we didn't want to stay in Kholapur that long.  Decided to wait until we get to Margao in Goa where we'll be spending a couple of weeks.  So bought some oil then out to dinner. 
Found a bar - typical Indian bar, quite dingy and seedy, low lighting quite cool really AND a drunk Indian woman all on her own, probably only 25 - first Indian woman, other than a beggar that we've seen in a bar!  Then went to Hotel Gulgoti (Pure Veg) for dinner.  The place was packed and the food really good (Thali for 35rps).

VENGURLA 17-19/12:  We're heading to Vengurla today which is a beach just north of Goa , we thought it might be nice to see non-Goan coast.  Our route was quite cross country today, but only 150kms so should be OK.  We wrote the names of a couple of waypoints (towns/villages) on our route so we could ask the way when needed.  First town 'Gargoti' was allegedly 50kms from Kholapur.Roads are quite small country roads but very picturesque.  At one point we're both positive we can smell Jam (away from home too long??) then suddenly round the bend appears a factory with a queue of about 20 ox cart filled with sugar cane outside - Jam factory in the middle of nowhere!  Get to Gargoti and ask for Vengurla (blank looks), Patgoan we ask (next waypoint), get sent on our way apparently Patgoan is 38kms away.  We ride through Patgoan (fairly small village) and the beautiful countryside - this is more like it, lots of lush green palm trees and jungly stuff!  However once we get our of Patgoan there is a split in the road and no-one to ask.  So we pick one, the wrong one, half a km and we stop at the gates of a quarry, wave at the workers and turn round.  Oh well at least it wasn't a long detour.  Back on to the right road.  Carry on for another 10kms or so and the tarmac disappears, but these things happen.  Then the rough stones turn into a path across a dyke by the side of a massive and beautiful lake, so we ride over it.  Get to the other side and the path gets more overgrown, then stops.  As in nothing, not even a foot path!  Katrina looks at the map "Good news, Bad News time - Bad news, there is no lake on our route!  Good News, there's no lake at all in this area, which is very possibly an oversight of the map".  We turn around and retrace our route.  When we get back to the tarmac we see some people in a field and Katrina goes to ask them where we were.  Turns out we were on the right route, in fact only about 35kms from our final destination, but a couple of years ago there was 'New Pani' a new lake so the road is now underwater.  They tell us to go back to Patgaon, only 10kms away, not so bad.  Get to Patgoan and ask how to get to Vengurla.  The lake is soooo large that we have to go all the way back to Gargoti (yet another backtrack of 38kms) - then take another 100kms.  It's now 14:30 it's in serious doubt that we'll make Vengurla tonight.  But this is now a challenge, we have a beautiful (but slightly sick) bike, we have beautiful surroundings and Graham needs a beer.  So we hotfoot across quite wiggly roads for an hour and a half getting to a place called Amboli which had tourist hotels?????  Why were there tourist hotels in the middle of nowhere?  Leave Amboli, round the corner and the ground disappears 1000m below us, we hadn't realised how high we had climbed, we were at the top of a mountain looking down on gorgeous views, with the obligatory monkeys that seem to like that altitude.  Anyway press on and Graham actually manages to rub a small hole in the side of his luggage due to the 'Extreme lean angle Dude!' and we get to Vengurla at 17:30 just as the sun is about to set (what timing).  We check into the only hotel - 200rps a night for a big room with bathroom and bucket hot water on demand. 
Vengurla is lovely.  There's a pristine beach with a lake and fresh water river behind, which means for the majority of the day the beach is cut off from the land by the river - Cool.  Decide to spend two nights here.  Eat in the only restaurant in the village (luckily not pure veg) and meet an English bloke traveling on his own (didn't get his name, but reminded me of Boris the MP). 
Next day mooched around had a bit of a swim ate in the same restaurant, chatted to 'Babba' who was the downs son of the hotel owner and typically a sweetie.
Left on Tuesday morning - Destination GOA!

CALANGUTE 20-21/12:  Got to Calangute by midday, and prepared ourselves for the slog of getting an in-budget room Christmas week.  To our surprise first hotel we tried had room and we managed to negotiate 350rps a night - bargain.  Hung out in Calangute for two nights, eating in nice restaurants and catching up with various people we've met there over the years (read: showing off our bike!).  Left Calangute morning of 21st, but stopped to buy a bottle of oil in the high street.  Saw a yellow chopper Enfield, looked like Scotts (English bloke of previous acquaintance, who generally spends 4mths at a time out there).  Whilst we were topping up CM's oil level saw him and his wife perusing the T-Shirts.  So had a quick chat, showed off the bike and told him of our plans - 'Wow you two are hardcore, that's really adventurous', so we continued on our hardcore adventurous way down to Palolem, our holiday destination where we intend to spend Christmas and New Year.

PALOLEM 22nd onwards...........: Got to Palolem, booked into a coco-hut just for the night, somewhere to dump our stuff whilst we check out the available accommodation.  Find a nice room, made of brick, with level floors, a bed, a bathroom with hot water - all things you don't get in a hut!  Next morning we move to our new abode then hot-foot it to Enfield in Margao.  With a bit of discussion and a few phone calls to various levels of management we get authorisation for a new Head, Barrel and Piston for Chandra, all under warranty of course!  Do a bit of shopping (one beautifully bright tacky Christmas decoration, some fruit and obviously PEDAmmmmmmm).  Then go to the post office to see if our Poste Restante parcel has come with replacement water bottle - THANK YOU PETE, slap yourself on the back - 10days England to India, not bad.
Since then we've just really had a hard life of lounging in the sun, drinking beer, treading on dogshit bare foot (Hmmmmm, could have done without that one), oh and hung our Christmas decoration on the balcony of our room.  Christmas Eve was spent not eating, but partying at various venues around the beach - coooooool!  Good job there's a week to recover between Christmas and New Year!
When we got back early hours of Christmas day we almost poked our eye out on the large Star that now hung from the rafters of our balcony in the middle of our solitary decoration.  Later turned out that our cleaning / laundry lady Rika had put it there - Awww how sweet, she doesn't speak much English but is always chatty and smiley.
Christmas day was spent largely in a daze until late afternoon when we felt more with it so opened the first of two purchased bottles of wine and sat on the beach watching the sunset.  Then had dinner in a restaurant which advertised 'Roast Duck and Roast Potatoes', which we both ordered with a nice bottle of Red Wine (Thank you Parents!!!!).  However, what we hadn't bargained for was that we would get a whole duck, beautifully presented on a platter, complete with head, bill etc, EACH (do they think we're Americans?).  After a deep breath we both tucked in, it was yummy!
Since then we've done more of the same lounging, drinking, eating, etc, think we're going to be here for at least another two weeks.  Although Graham is currently limping due to stepping on a large rock and cutting his foot in 3 places when walking through the sea to watch the sunset with a group of people we met.   Next day our lovely cleaning lady Rika saw Grahams foot and came back with some powder which she pressed into Grahams wounds, whilst he attempted to not scream, shout or punch the object causing him pain.  Later that day and again the next she performed her nursely duties.  Apparently she had crushed up some Penicillin tablets, seems to be working so we've now bought some for ourselves, some for her and nice box of Peda for her to say thank you.

 

13/12/06: - Jaipur / Bhim / Udaipur / Banswara / Ujjain / Indore / Mandu / Jalgaon / Aurangabad

JAIPUR 1-2/12: Didn't do much today except a side by side Lassi test sweet vs salt - Sweet wins hands down!  Salt lassie tastes like something salty ladies might recognise (or some men!). 
Later went to collect bike - Hurrah! Turns out that good ol' ChandraMukhi dropped a valve seat, jamming the exhaust valve open, luckily for us they had one set of 500 bullet valves in stock. Enfield mechanic brought CM up the ramp, parked her on the road where she promptly fell over on to another bike (uneven ground), put a dent in her shiny tank - Doh!
Left the next day - direction Udaipur. CM seemed to be working well, decided to try out the IPod on the bike.  Locals must have wondered what was going on as we chugged along singing to 'Rage Against the Machine' at the top of our lungs.  Eventually stopped at what looked like a major town on the map called Bhim (pronounced Beeem), it had one hotel (good job we didn't stop at a minor town!). Fairly standard non-tourist area hotel i.e. expensive. Paid 400rps for a really dirty room with alleged hot water, but we didn't find it. BHIM 2/12:

BHIM 3/12: Got up a bit earlier than usual (maybe due to the fact it was not as pleasant place to be), so were on the road fairly early.  Scenery now completely different very green and lots of lakes, not like the deserty Rajasthan we're used to.  Overtook (obviously) another European on an Enfield so we stopped at the next Dhaba for chai.  He was a nice enough guy with lots of 'Massive Projects' and 'Huge Friends' everywhere.
Arrived in Udaipur at about 2:15 and located the Panorama Guest House noted in the Rough Guide.  Lovely room, very clean, own boiler and lizard in the bathroom - total luxury for 250rps a night - that leaves loadsamoney for beer!
Had a wander round, the children are more advanced here, they come up say hello then demand 10rps - none of them got any, they did receive various responses in our rapidly expanding Hindi vocabulary, as well as the 'Do you understand FO'.  During one such encounter whilst Katrina was trying to reason with them as to why we should give them money (pointless exercise - she should have learnt by now) a cow started too.  Wouldn't leave Katrina alone until she stroked it.  Every time she stopped the cow kept nudging her and licking her with it's black tongue - Didn't know cows had black tongues! G says that it's because they obviously recognise their own kind.  K replies to G 'What starts with come here and ends in Owwww?'.
Then went to a hotel with another rooftop restaurant to have a beer and look at the Lake Palace, Graham skillfully negotiated the price of a beer from an extortionate 140rps to a standard 100rps with the hotel receptionist - you can barter anything!
Had dinner that night in the hotels rooftop restaurant watched Octopussy, which seems to be shown in every hotel at 7pm nightly - Generally a good day!

UDAIPUR 4-6/12:  Next morning we had to change rooms in the hotel - apparently ours was booked so although the new room was bigger, with a swing chair we decided it wasn't as nice so they gave it to us for 200rps (50rps discount - Cool even more beer money!).
At breakfast met a Dutch couple also staying at the hotel called Willam and Pam (although Pam originally hails from Rochester so is she Dutch???).  Just mooched around Udaipur , the more time we spend here the nicer it gets.  Met up with Willam and Pam again later that evening, they came back to our room to listen to music and chill - Pam disappeared for a couple of minutes to return with a gift of a G string for Katrina (K had done some washing and her grundies were hanging up when W&P came in - embarrassing). Pam thought Katrina could give them a good home as she'd never worn them.
Next day went to see the City Palace and decided to have dinner at the Lake Palace even though it meant blowing our budget (1500rps each for dinner according to our book).  So went to book only to be told that actually the price had gone up to 3200 plus tax per person - told them to shove it up their Ar${ so didn't do that.  Oh well saved us a massive budget bust - instead had dinner at a nice hotel with loungy balconies overlooking the lake, had a bottle of wine (medicinal purposes only), and only slightly bust the budget.
Got back to the hotel - sorrows drowned and noticed that W&P's door was shut but not padlocked - they must be in, so variation on knock down ginger - G loudly pulled the bolt on their door.  They start rattling and pounding on the door - V.funny!!! Opened the door too quickly after only a minute.
Left to head towards Ajanta caves via Banswara - our departure video'd by Willam (obviously not too put out by being locked in the night before!).

BANSWARA 6/12: Road to Banswara which is cross country (i.e. not on the National Highway ), we stopped at about 1pm in a beautiful spot by the side of the road to eat our bananas and oranges that we bought earlier.  A group of women were walking up the road they all stared at us and didn't respond to our 'Nameste'.  Instead they continued up the road about 30m then just stood there watching us until we finished and got back on the bike - but they did wave as we left.
Got to the outskirts of Banswara about 3pm where we stopped to buy a bottle of water.  Graham went to a shop and asked the old lady for 'Pani' (Water) she just stared at the weird white looking alien and said.....nothing.  Another man approached and told us we could buy a bottle of water 1.5km up the road (definitely not touristville!)
Went into the town proper and stopped at the first hotel where we were quoted 900rps, to which Katrina responded 'Bahut Zyadda Hai' (too Expensive - our Hindi is improving daily!).  The manage then said in broken English 'Yeah well you're American you can afford it' so Katrina stomped off to relay the conversation to Graham who'd been guarding ChandraMukhi and all our worldly goods.  He charged in told them we weren't bloody Americans, and that was extortionate and we wouldn't stay there anyway, even though they said they were the only hotel.
Rode up the road for 0.5km (steaming a bit) to find Hotel Relax Inn - so much for the only hotel in town.  Price started at 750rps but we negotiated them down to 500rps.  Ate dinner in the hotel restaurant that night and were surprised that it became totally full - must be good food!
Checked out the next morning and mentioned to the hotel manager that the restaurant was surprisingly full - apparently word had got out that a couple of Honkies were in town and we were very good for their business.

UJJAIN 7/12: Left Banswara heading towards the NH-3 about 200km away, but down small roads.  Got to our first waypoint of Ratlam although we had to stop and ask directions at every junction as all road sign were now only in Hindi (Sanskrit).  Ratlam was full of police and road barriers - apparently some bigwig was coming to town. Stopped at the roundabout in the centre of town and asked policeman which way to Dhar (our next waypoint).  Head off out of town about 10mins later hit the Bastard road from HELL!  After about an hour on total gitishness i.e. more potholes than road (potholes at least 1m in diameter and 20cm deep everywhere), we had to stop for a break - then realised that the Shitty road had broken the luggage carrier.  So carried on another km and spotted a welder - so we stopped and got the luggage racks sorted.  Unfortunately that meant that we had to then carry on up the road that if the devil had devised a route this would have been it - about half an hour later road gets vaguely better and we hit another junction.  'Dhar' we ask and are pointed back down Shitsville Street - Noooooooooooooooo!  Then ascertain that the policeman in Ratlam had sent us completely the wrong way so had a quick rethink and replan of route and headed to Agar, which was still on the NH-3.  Got to Agar at about 6pm and it had just got dark very quickly.  But sigh of relief there must be a hotel round here somewhere - But no!  Apparently next hotel is about 65kms down the road.  Which meant we had to ride at night, something we had been avoiding at all costs.  7:30 we eventually find a hotel having ridden 360km on small wiggly nasty roads rather than the 200kms and ended up 100kms north of where we wanted to be.

INDORE 8/12: Decided the next day to take it easy CM had just reached 3000km so decided to go to  Indore 56kms south and get CM serviced by Enfield .
Got to Indore at about 1pm - 'Total Gridlock' yet another Sikh festival - how many do they have?  Checked into a pretty nasty hotel then went to find Enfield dealer, who said come back at 3pm.  Found Bar for 2hrs total Hindi menu so chose by pointing at stuff with eyes closed, much to hilarity of waiter.  Returned to Enfield dealer then sat for 4hrs watching CM be services and decoked!  By the time we left it was 7pm and dark but at least CM was clean and shiney (all part of the free service).  Decided that seeing as we'd had a crappy day before and Indore was industrial and nasty that we deserved a nice dinner so went to 'Ambrosia' restaurant in the poshest hotel in Indore.  Food was lovely, service was excellent and prices surprisingly reasonable (didn't actually bust the budget).  When we left the big imposing Sikh doorman fit for any James Bond movie offered to get us a taxi.  We said we were going to the road to get an auto (tuk-tuk) 'cause they were cheaper.  So he asked us what we paid to get there, and told one of the hotel taxis to take us back for just 5rps more than we'd paid to get there - what a decent chap!

MANDU 9/12: Another change of plan decided as we were still further north than intended we'd go to Mandu allegedly a medieval ghost town on top of a hill.  Went outside to load up CM who was no longer shiney but shitty due to at least 10 pigeons.  Man from the hotel came out with a cloth and small tub of water and set to restoring CM to the cleanliness of the night before (he earnt his tip). So left Indore 10mins later a man on a scooter comes up along side and tells us we'd lost a bottle.  Look round and the Sigg (metal) water bottle that was in Katrina's bum bag had make a break for freedom.  So we turn round and drive the wrong way back up the road looking for the bottle.  3 guys on a bike coming towards us stopped and handed back the bottle.  It had been run over by a bus so was quite dented but didn't leak - quality product!  Continued on for another hour then stopped for Chai at a small Dhaba.  Had 4 chai between us, a samosa and a packet of biscuits for Graham all for the grand price of 20rps.  The people there told us we'd overshot the Mandu turning by about 0.5kms (lucky chai stop). They drew us a map so we turned round and headed back on to a really small road.  Past little farming villages then...road deteriorated (as always) into stoney bumpy track, but only for about 2km shortly after Katrina realised that Sigg water bottle had again gone walk about - Graham went very silent!  Oh dear!
Got to Mandu about 1pm and checked into a lovely hotel right on the edge of the ravine, with garden with flowers and grass (very unusual).  Then went to explore.  Turned off the road towards what appeared to be a temple but in fact was a complex of 4 buildings in various states of disrepair.  We had the place totally to ourselves (see pictures of CM, when we load them).  It was really peaceful and beautiful although Katrina did have Lara Croft aspirations.  Then just before sunset went to buy a 'Thanda' (cold) Kingfisher from the offy and search for a suitable sunset point.  After a bit of evasive riding to shake off unwanted followers we ended up in a field right next to the ravine and hid 'til we heard the persuing bike disappear in the distance. 
What a fantastic vista - massive ravine, sun setting, Kingfisher what more could you want?  Then we notice an old man walking across the field to us (oh no, someone is coming to spoil the tranquility!)  Turns out he lives in the shack whose roof we hadn't noticed in the distance.  He spoke no English but gave us what looked like a bunch of weeds then showed us we could eat the pods - tasted like raw peas.  Bit more discussion(?) and we find out that they're actually chana (chickpeas) which grow round his shack.  The three of us then sit in companiable silence and watch one of the most glorious sunsets yet - Coool!
Back to the hotel for dinner.

JALGAON 10-13/12: Had breakfast in the Garden in Mandu - very pleasant then the hotel manager drew us a map of how to get to the National Highway without back tracking - should take about 45mins.  Rode out of Mandu past more little not quite villages all the children and adults waving and shouting 'Bye-Bye' don't think they know any other English.  Crest the top of the hill and the road turns into stony bumpiness going down so Graham turns off the engine and we coast for maybe 5kms downhill (he says it was to save the clutch, but Katrina reckons it's 'cause he's been in India too long and wanted to save on petrol!).  Anyway it made it much more peaceful.  Eventually hit the NH-3 and stop at the junction and get surrounded by the familiar crowd.  Katrina goes to buy some bananas and oranges for the day, but also gets given some fruit that looks like plums and tastes like pears.  Meanwhile a woman forces her 8yr old son to give Graham a stick - which Graham looks at perplexed.  Locals laugh at him then show him to peel and chew insides - It's sugar cane, yummy but pain spitting out the fibre after you've chewed all the sugar off it. 
Continue on rubbish roads - how come the small back roads are often better than the NH?  Then suddenly, proper tarmac, no potholes (well not many) we have crossed out of Madhya Pradesh into Maharashtra and suddenly speed along due to improved road surface.  We overtake (obviously) another Enfield and wave as we pass.  Stop at the next Dhaba for chai as does the other Enfield , ridden by an Israeli guy on his way to Goa - all enfields seem to be heading to Goa !
Continue on and get to Jalgaon our base for visiting Ajanta caves by 5pm.  Check into very nice and clean Hotel Plaza .  Dinner and bed.  Next day (Monday) had planned to go to Ajanta but hotel manager tells us it's closed - how can caves be closed???? So, not that we're suspicious or anything but Graham calls a hotel in Ajanta to confirm - Doh! Means an extra day in Jalgaon, so we do a bit of shopping then go next door to the Silver Palace and drink beer - alot of beer!  Eventually stagger back to the hotel and pass out.
Next morning we ride (slowly) to Ajanta Buddhists Caves .  There are about 29 of them hewn from the rock in a valley from about 200BC to 700AD and are covered in carvings and paintings - quite amazing and the Buddhists knew a fantastic setting when they saw one!
Back to the hotel and dinner - but then Graham got a Gulab Jamun craving.  So we walked down the high street checking out all of the food stalls that had cropped up since dark.  'Gulab Jamun?' in the end we had about 6 people telling us where to get GJ - one man offered to give us a lift to the shop on his bike but Katrina was wearing a skirt and didn't fancy going 3 up side saddle (wusss!) so walked up the road with our escorts.  Get to the shop (man with the bike already there) only to find it's closed, but one of our escorts spots the owner who obligingly opens up for us.  But he's a shop so had GJ but not ready to eat - instead lets us try various yummy things and we leave with a selection.  Shop owner is then about to close but in the meantime a queue of locals has formed to buy desert type stuff - made it worth his while opening.
Left the next morning.

AURANGABAD 13-15/12: Head to Aurangabad but chain guard broken and rattling irritatingly.  Stop at the next Dhaba which happens to be in a small town, for Chai and to zip tie chain guard until we find another welder.  Get surrounded (maybe 30people) when we are half way through chai ask how much - 20rps - 'you must be joking' should only be 2-3rps each but it's a bit late now.  Katrina starts going into one slamming what's left of her Chai on the table shouting now favorite phrase 'Bahut Zyadda Hai' but Graham decides making a scene when surrounded is not the best move so pays 14rps and hustles Katrina onto the bike.  Lesson learnt always ask the price first!
Get to Aurangabad , nice auto driver shows us to a welder and then acts as translator so we don't get ripped off (cost 40rps for Chain guard fix and strengthening of as yet unbroken but cracking luggage racks).  Graham tried to give him 10rps for his help, but he wouldn't accept it (unusual).  Then as we're driving away we see him pushing his auto - he's run out of petrol so Graham offers him some from CM.  But he only takes 0.25litre just enough to get him home - Wow someone who wasn't trying to relieve us of our worldly goods.
Back to hotel then beer and dinner.
Next morning breakfast then update the website.  We're going to Ellora caves this afternoon.  

01/12/06: - Delhi / Neemrana / Jaipur

DELHI 21-26: Hung out in Delhi for Days.....waiting.......until the Enfield seats were ready (Indian time).  Ended up leaving on Sunday at 15:30 with our newly named Enfield "ChandraMukhi" which means beauty of the moon and is kinda poetic love struck thing to say to a beautiful woman.
In the mean time we went to see the Red Fort, we as foreigners had to pay 100rps each as opposed to the indian tariff of 5rps, however we could queue jump straight to the front of the 'search' lines.  We walked through the metal detectors, obviously set them off with the knife each of us carry, had a body search where they studiously ignored the knives, then carried on.  In some ways it is good to be white!  All that to get inside the Red Fort, which was a disappointment after the exterior.  Once you get inside there are a couple of "outdoor rooms" in bland boring colours and lots of grass, lots of Indian tourists stalking Katrina trying to take sneaky pictures and lots of Graham telling them to do something about Sex and Travel.
Another day there was a Sikh festival in Parharganj which was manic free food everywhere yet the beggars still kept begging pointing to their mouths - do they think we're stupid??? But unfortunately not only were the beggars out in force but so too were the pick-pockets - byebye Oakley sunglasses, Hello extremely pissed off Graham, but apparently loads of people lost stuff, so in an uncharitable way, that made us feel better.
Went to TGI Friday's to make ourselves feel better, Katrina got food poisoning for the first time in her life and spent a night emptying her body in every possible way, then spent the next day looking pale and interesting!
Left Delhi next day - K feeling much better, and slimmer!

NEEMRANA 26/11: Well 2hrs out of Delhi , we had to stop as it was getting dark.  Hotel fine, food fine, left next morning to continue on to Jaipur.

JAIPUR 27-30/11: Woooowwww, traffic!!!!  As we're coming through Jaipur some little oik rams us sideways on with his 125 (Think it was bike envy).  Didn't do much except make Graham determined to kick him, which I think he realised 'cause when he pulled out he stayed the other side of the bicycle rickshaws and kept an eye on us!
Anyway Checked into the BEST HOTEL so far 'Hotel Pearl Palace' in Jaipur only costs 500rps a night we have a lovely huge room, massive bathroom (with a BATH!!!!) as well as a fantastic shower, beautiful rooftop restaurant and helpful staff.  Anyone going to Jaipur - STAY HERE!
Went to Jantar Mantar Observatory yesterday.  Absolutely amazing, there are lots of time keeping and astrological instruments, which are massive, all built by Raj Jai Singh II in 1700.  Had a guide who explained how they all worked.  There is a massive sundial (which you can see on google earth), which is accurate to 2 seconds. 
Then went to see Hawa Mahal which is just a glorified single room 5 storey building with screens, which the wives used to watch processions from - quite boring really, particularly straight after Jantar Mantar.
We were just going to chill out at our lovely hotel today but instead decided to ride up to Galta temple (Monkey temple).  It has three pools fed by the Ganges and is very holy.  Not only that it has about 5000 monkeys which we fed peanuts to and watched shag - female monkeys must be very frustrated! 

Monkeys - India 159.jpg (362149 bytes) 
3 seconds before Graham was feeding them peanuts

Then carried on to the top of the hill to a sun temple where we met a young priest who Bindi'd us (orange spot on forehead), tried on Graham's replacement Oakley sunglasses, made us chai and talked about girls! (Apparently priests can marry etc, Sadhu's are the celebate ones).
We're intending to leave tomorrow and head towards Udaipur (floating palaces in Octopussy - James Bond), so Graham gave ChandraMukhi (bike) a quick service - not unlike the monkeys!

........30/11 Back to Jaipur - I think Martin (T) put a Hex on us from the UK (you know what we're talking about!).  Got 60kms out of Jaipur trundling along quite happily when a traffic jam appeared in front of us (cause by horse and cart on the motorway!) started to slow and ChandraMukhi screamed and rattled and clanked and stopped - Doh!  Using his expert mechanical capabilities Graham got his toolkit out and didn't fix her.  But decided that we've probably bent a valve (Exhaust) so hired a jeep to take us and ChandraMukhi back to Jaipur and the Enfield hospital for free warranty work.  Checked back into the same hotel we had left 4hrs earlier - but I guess that this is our favorite hotel so far, so no big deal.  Hopefully bike should be all better by tomorrow afternoon, so we'll try heading for Udaipur again on 2nd assuming CM is fixed.  

22/11/06: - Shimla / Mandi / Manali / Bilaspur / Chandigarh / Sirhind / Delhi

GODDAMNIT! Spent 2.5hours yesterday updating the website only for it to crash at the end and lose all of the work - but today we have found a fast computer! (Well allegedly!!!). Anyway back to our travels

SHIMLA 10-/11: Spent two days in Shimla - generally very pleasant but chillier that previously. Lots of Indian tourists everywhere all wearing their woolly hats and matching scarves - don't think it's actually that cold, more of a fashion statement!
Think we've been a bit skanked with our hotel - got led to the hotel by a helpful man who told us of a hotel with parking for the Enfield (a lot of Shimla is pedestrianised so no parking). However although the hotel is nice it's quite expensive and allegedly they have no cheaper rooms. According to our bible (The Rough Guide) the 'helpful man' was a tout and got a commission from the hotel which means that the room was more expensive than if we'd found it ourselves - lesson for the future.
When we left had a bit of excitement. We didn't sleep well either night as our room was by the lift which played a 20sec tune repeatedly every half a minute throughout the night, which drove us nuts. We complained after the first night. Second night after two phone calls Graham actually went down to reception at 1:30am to complain in person. They ended up turning the lift off. Next day when we left we paid the 500rps per night we had been quoted and 200rps for breakfast only to be told the room was actually 660 per night. We refused to pay the extra and told them they were lucky to get anything as we paid to sleep and couldn't (i.e. paid all but 320rps). This resulted in them barracading the Enfield in and refusing to let us leave until we paid the difference. One hour later, lots of arguing and threats by us to get the police they let us leave. Kinda put a downer on Shimla - which is a shame as it is lovely.

MANDI 12/11: After our eventful morning in Shimla headed towards Manali. The roads were twisty and mountainous with the occassional troup of monkeys to avoid - but nice, until......... I think we took an unintentional short-cut 'cause the road deteriorated, no road signs so we would stop at junctions and ask the loitering people (very strange seems that road junctions are the local hangout - even if there is nothing else about!) the way to Manali. Ended up riding through what appeared to be a quarry - Graham's off-road riding experience came in very handy, was quite odd when we eventually reached tarmac again for a Jeep coming the other way to stop and ask us if the road was passable! However, we got a lot more waves and stares as if we were aliens taking the back roads! Stopped at Mandi overnight - stayed at the 'Raj Mahal' hotel which is an old colonial palace with a walled garden, sitting room and reading room. We didn't actually leave the hotel - had dinner and breakfast in the hotel then left for Manali the next morning.

MANALI 13-17/11: Can't believe India can be this cold!
As we rode along it got colder and colder - forcing us to stop at Kullu to put on extra layers (i.e. base layer, another base layer, fleece, waterproofs, gloves etc). Eventually got to Manali and found a guest house in Old Manali called 'Tiger Eye'. Absolutely beautiful, the room was large with marble floor, and a bathroom with a hot shower but the shower head was higher than the boiler so not enough pressure to work. Out the front was a communal balcony out the front with views of snow capped Mountains (yes they are mountains, not hills!), I think they are called the Himalaya 's. The only downside to the room was that it was large with marble floors and no heating so in the morning when it was 10degrees in our room we got very adept at not treading on the floor with bare feet.
Next few days we just hung out, walked, watched the locals collect wood, wash their clothes at the water pump and children play cricket with a stick and tennis ball. Oh also Graham got his bike serviced. Turns out the local guy who runs the guest house also does Enfield tours and had 11 of them garaged down the hill, where he let us park the bike. He had a mechanic come from Delhi to service all of the bikes in readiness for the next tour so got ours done too. Service cost 740rps (about 8.50) including all oils, filter and 2hours labour.
What else did we do in Manali except chill? Oh yes went to Vashist - but more of a traveler hangout but looked at the hot sulphur baths etc. The women in Vashist have a better time of it than in Manali as the clothes washing area uses water from the hot spring rather than freezing cold glacier water. Eventually left Manali when we got fed up being cold and decided to head south again towards sunnier climes.

BILASPUR 17/11: DUMP
Stayed 3kms outside of Bilaspur after initially attempting to get a hotel in the town and them taking the piss and trying to charge us 600rps for a room worth not more than 150 (no shower, no windows etc). Hotel we stayed at was the Hotel Sagar View, which was nice enough but kept expecting to see an Indian Basil Faulty.
Left the next morning weather overcast, roads very hilly / mountainous and full of trucks going uphill at full speed (i.e. 2kms p/h) - which meant that Graham's mood reflected the weather (quite shitty!). Weren't going to stay in Chandigarh again - but couldn't be arsed to go any further today.

CHANDIGARH 18/11: Cleanest city in India but quite boring.
Met a nice guy called JoJo, member of the 'Road Survivors' Enfield motor cycle club of India who we chatted to for quite a while. May meet him later in February in Nagpur for Road Survivors annual meet.
Next morning weather like Graham's mood much improved. Had breakfast in the Indian Coffee House - which was really nice, lots of locals having their sunday morning brekkie treat. Then headed for a short ride (about 70kms) to Sirhind.
We stopped at a Dhaba (road side cafe) to check we were on the right road. As usual got surrounded by people - who could speak the same amount of English as we speak Hindi - got our phrase book out (thanks Dad!) and proceeded to drink Chai and chat away (??). When we went to pay it was free. Got back on the bike and rode off with about 15 people waving goodbye.

SIRHIND 19/11: Checked into the Bourgainvillea Tourist Complex. Our first government approved hotel (ie read pretty crappy) We checked out the non a/c room available, (Graham to Katrina "there is no f-ing way I am staying in this room") It was filthy, very damp with no windows.  We asked to see an a/c room, marginally better, had windows and wasn't damp but it was 700rps per night so much haggling ensued till we got a 15% discount off it. Cool.
Then went to to Aams Kash Bagh ruins - Mogul palace and gardens was really nice and peaceful, a local boy befriended us and gave us a tour and bought us guava's. All was nice until we were spotted by a coach load of Indian tourist who surrounded us and demanded photos - we beat a hasty retreat!
Returned to the hotel which sat beside a canal (used for hydro-electric power) with a floating restaurant on it, so obviously after our flight the thing to do was to have a nice thanda (cold) beer outside floating on the water.  We sat at a table, a waiter came over we ordered beer and were told it's not possible to have alcohol.  Doh.with that we walked back to the complex and the manager sent us back to the restaurant and arranged cold beer with glasses surrounded by napkins so it wasn't obvious what we were drinking and beer bottle had to sit on the ground. Four beers with the manager later we had agreed to have dinner with him - seemed to be a decent Sikh chap (arranging beer and all). So had dinner in our upgraded VIP room with manager and his mate. More alcohol (whiskey and beer) and drunken phone calls to his wife resulted in us agreeing to have breakfast at his house the next day.
Next morning went to his house (well room with en-suite kitchen) to be greeted by his wife with big hugs. Had typical Indian breakfast of Paratha's(??) stuffed with cauliflower and radish, curd and pickle, and obviously chai - was really nice. His wife showed us how she made the Paratha's and when we went to leave she gave us a packed lunch of more paratha's and pickled all wrapped up. Then shoved 100rps into our hand which we could not accept until they told us it was a Punjabi tradition. After a few more hugs we left (Awww!)
OUR BEST EXPERIENCE SO FAR.

DELHI 21-???/11: Returned to Delhi as still waiting for our tank, seats and service. Staying at the Vivek again (better the devil you know?).  

11/11/06: - Chandigarh / Shimla

DELHI : We stayed  in Delhi for three nights, just long enough to get our Enfield up and running.  The extra large petrol tank and single seats are currently being made so we have some 'borrowed' ones.  We need to be back in Delhi in just under two weeks for our first service and to get our remaining goodies fitted.  Didn't actually see much of Delhi as we spent most of our time in Lalli Singhs workshop (check out 'Links' for Lalli's web-site.  But everyone we met in Delhi was lovely.
Anyway got our Enfield and had a 'Pooja', which is where the bike is blessed so hopefully it will ward off any bad luck or accidents.
Oh yeah - got to mention the Spice Route restaurant in the Imperial Hotel!  This is allegedly the best restaurant in India .  But......... although we dressed up as best we could they wouldn't let us in because Katrina was wearing flip-flops.  Instead we had to eat in the garden and they brought the food out to us.  But hey! it was nice to eat outside although we don't think it merits the 'Best in India' award!

CHANDIGARH 09/11: Left Delhi 6am the next morning (Thursday) to avoid rush hour (yes Mother you read right!) and headed for Chandigarh.  It's a very un-indian city as it's built on a grid-system like American towns.  The ride to Chandigarh was pretty boring and uneventful as it's just a big straight road, but as everywhere the people were really friendly and interested in us; to the degree that whilst Graham adjusted the suspension / tickover / mixture on the Enfield a crowd of about 20 people developed to watch the strange white man work on his bike! Then before leaving Chandigarh we went to the 'Rock Garden' which is supposedly the second most visited tourist attraction in India, after the Taj Mahal.  It's a maze over 24 acres of weird sculptures made out of rubbish and everyday objects, like light fittings and bracelets etc well worth a visit.

SHIMLA 10/11: We left Chandigarh the next day for Shimla - The hill station town that was the summer capital in India until 1947.  The ride was far more fun up through the mountains on wiggly roads.  But as it's so high (2159m) we left Chandigarh wearing a T-shirt, by the time we got to Shimla about 100km later we were wearing T-shirt, Shirt, Fleece, Waterproof and were still cold!  As Shimla was developed by the British there are lots of English buildings, perched on the top of a hill with monkeys wandering around - most strange.  But once again everyone is very friendly.  We're staying in Shimla for two nights to allow a days chill-out time and update our website.

This is our second attempt to update the website in Shimla.  The first time we spent two hours battling with Windows 98 and dial-up, hair was ripped out and we achieved absolutely bugger all except to crash their computer 5 times - we left paying nothing!  Now we have discovered that the Telegraph office has Broadband and Windows XP (Yippeeeee!!!!!).

06/11/06 - Delhi :  

Well we are really here!
We packed and headed off to Heathrow yesterday evening.  But the queues at Heathrow were horrendous.  We had intended to do a bit of lastminute shopping but due to all of the extra security we only had time to board the plane.
However, we would like to big up 'Jet airways'.  They were so much better than we anticipated.  The food was excellent,  (yum, yum curry!!!) and the air crew were lovely (Graham thought one of them should have been a Bollywood star!)
Then arrived in Delhi, checked into our hotel only to find our reservation was non-existent, then went to see our steed, which isn't quite ready yet (surprise, surprise! - welcome to India).  Well onwards and upwards, we've just polished off a pitcher of Kingfisher (beer obviously), and are soon to have an early night - 'cause we're knackered.

That's it for now, and boy do I miss broadband!