I have put the video’s from the “Big Trip” here.
From 1st to Last · 8 August 2008 by John Shales
Many pages have been updated or fleshed out.
Each page now has a link to the next blog entry to make it simpler to navigate from the first to last article.
The Last Post · 1 March 2008 by John Shales
February 26th 2008
A MOTORCYCLIST who died in a crash in Stone this morning has been named.
Michael ‘Mick’ Inceman from Thame, 42 was pronounced dead at the scene, after his green Kawasaki ZX 1000 motorbike collided with a green Renault Masters Van at around 8am on the Portway Road, between Haddenham and Bishopstone, near the Bugle Horn pub.
After all that way to India…
Just lost for words.
The End of the Road · 15 October 2007 by John Shales
Our last day in India was spent in a taxi, traveling from Puna to Bombay airport. An interesting ride and not only for the scenery…
On arrival in Bombay we had some time to kill so we had a couple of hours slumming it in the Leela Hotel close to the airport. Very upmarket but the prices of beer and samosa seemed OK to us.
The flight was uneventful and quite good seats for cattle class. We can recommend Jet Airways.
However the Heathrow baggage handling system is pathetic. It took nearly 2 hours to get our case so I missed the bus to Stanstead. Two of them in fact. So, I ended up at Stanstead just as my flight was taking off. Great. Bought another ticket to get me to Poitiers on the same day and called Jayne to let her know the change of airport.
The bikes were due to arrive in Felixstow on the 29th of September. They actually arrived on the morning of the 1st of October. The Carnet de Passage and bill of lading also on the 2nd so Mick started the procedures and paperwork to get them cleared.
HM Customs don’t make life easy. Continual passing of the buck makes life so frustrating, the agent did the customs clearance… for a fee of course…
Now, If you ship something to a place and pay for it, you expect that, that’s that. Oh no. Rip-off Britain strikes again and it cost us £265 just to get the things unloaded! That’s half what it cost to send them from Bombay!!
Then there was added charges like customs clearance and crate disposal(!!??). We also had to un-crate them ourselves with the aid of a borrowed hammer and crow-bar.
The Bikes did look a mess.
Tyres were a bit flat with Mick’s front being completely flat, but we had the means to inflate them. Mikes bike needed petrol as only one cylinder would fire. Other than that they fired up PDQ.
Mick set off for home at the same time as me. I crossed the channel via the tunnel. On the web, a one way ticket was £80. Seemed a bit steep and a deeper search of the website revealed a day return priced at £13 outward and £11 return. Bargain.
The ride home was uncomfortable but a stop every 90 minutes helped.
The bikes are now in their respective garages awaiting washes and a decision on their fates… restore to sell, restore to keep… who knows. Johns needs work doing to repair the bent bits as well as a gearbox overhaul. If I keep it, other stuff will get done as well.
We still have unfinished business in that we didn’t do Iran and points westward. Will we finish it? Who knows. Maybe.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed riding it… well, most of it
So that’s it.
Out Of India · 6 September 2007 by micki
Our return to Pune sees out our final days in India. Whilst we wait for various parties to make the necessary final arrangements for shipping the bikes we are stranded here as without passports (held by the shipping agent)we are unable to explore some of the sights further afield.
We are once again being well looked after by our hosts Anji, Asheesh and Tia.
To while away the hours, John has his daily appointment at the local hospital for physiotherapy, which will hopefully help his recovery after his return and it gives him the opportunity to be fussed over by a gaggle of young nurses.
In the evenings, when not being dragged around the local drinking venues, Anji provides Indian cookery lessons which will provide even more entertainment when tried at home.
Endeavoring to keep us out of trouble, we have been on a variety of smaller excursions. A trip to the zoo, which incorporates a reptile park, was a little disappointing as many of the main attractions weren’t on show and the snakes were all asleep.
Being a collector himself, Anji knows a number of people
with classic car and motorcycle collections and visits to these have shown some fabulously restored vehicles.
A few day later, the Pune Times reported that someone had stolen 3 Sandalwood trees and 12 Peacocks!
Some of the better-known Ancient caves in this part of the world are too far for us to travel, but the local Pataleshvara Temple is cut into the rock and we travel to the West side of town for a brief look in this cave.In between all this, we take manic, heart-stopping journeys to the shops where certain items provide such good value for money, they can’t be overlooked. A new suitcase is purchased to fit in Jeans, t-shirts, CDs and a raft of Indian cook books – along with the other equipment we didn’t leave on the bikes.
Our bikes were due to depart by boat on September 4th but a cancelled sailing has delayed their departure. Hopefully loaded on the next ship, next Monday, they will take around 3 weeks to reach the UK.
We however, are booked on a flight from Mumbai back to Heathrow, on Friday 7th, from where John will catch the connection to Stansted and the onward flight to Limoges.
Bombay... Bombai... sorry, Mumbai... · 31 August 2007 by John Shales
Day 50 – 38 kms (17741 kms total)
We rode the 38 kms to Kalamboli, following Colins car. Me squirming in the seat after only a couple of minutes!
On arrival at the warehouse, I tell Mick that in my current condition, there is no way I can ride the 10,000 kilometres home!
We tell the agent the change of plans. As it turns out, we would have only had 2 days to ride the length of Iran before our visas expired.
There are posters by Airtel, an Indian Mobile Comms company, in Bombay with that wording on it.
Strange that they changed the name as it was Bombay long before the Brits arrived. Probably not Indian sounding enough for the politicians? Same goes for places like Calcutta, now Kolkatta. What a nonsense.
Colin, who works for the shipping agent took us by car into the heart of Bombay. The offices are in the Fort district and Marie, the travel agent who tied it all up for us is just round the corner from the stock exchange. Just near where the bombs were set off a few years ago.
Very busy place is Bombay, but dead easy to get round when you have a local doing the driving.
After sorting this and that, we were off to the station in the company of one of the guys that works for Marie. We had to leave our passports with the shipping agent and that caused a small problem at the station as foreigners are supposed to present their passports to get a ticket. We were also supposed to pay for the tickets in US dollars or Sterling. Our “man” saw to all this and were got our tickets from the ordinary counter, in Rupees, without any problems.
Cost was about 4.50 Euro’s each for a 2nd class air conditioned seat for the 4 hour trip on the “express” train that stopped everywhere.
We arrived in Pune (Poona) about 19:00 and then had a bit of trouble getting a tuk-tuk. No one seemed to want to go that far. Bit of extra cash offered and it was OK.
Anji welcomed us to his home again.
Again, he has taken me back to the hospital where the doctor has given me a course of physiotherapy.
Some of it is ultrasound and they use a Deep-Heat type of cream with it. Damned hot round the nether regions I can tell you!
Some of the sessions are of the electric shock variety. Not really… They slap electrodes on you and pass a small current through them in “waves”. The nurse said to tell her when I couldn’t take any more and that would be enough. She stopped turning it up before I said “enough” and left me to it for 5 minutes. When she returned, she said “you OK”. “Yup” say I. “Just watching my muscle spasm with the pulses”. “Oh no!” she says. “That’s too much” and turns it down a step or three.
It was my birthday on the 25th and we had a few drinks AND a birthday cake round at Asheesh and Tia’s place.
Starter Back · 22 August 2007 by John Shales
Day 50 – 488 kms (17703 kms total)
We awake early with the intention of cracking on, but…. its raining… hard!
We wait an hour and a half until it abates a bit and then leave. Craig is there to wave us off.
It was a very long, very wet, painful and very slow at times, ride.
We reached Pen, near Bombay, saw an hotel and as darkness was about to descend, called it a day.
We phoned the people in Bombay and told them we would not make it today. Arranged to meet the shipping agent at our hotel at 07:30 in the morning.
Mick suggests that being in so much pain, maybe it would be better to ship the bikes to the UK!
We don’t want to do that!
Changed into dry cloths, fed, watered and turned in.
Starting Back · 21 August 2007 by
Though we hoped to be back on the road two days ago, but we remain trapped in Goa.
Johns starter motor, which went flaky just after we arrived here, stopped working entirely, and the replacement, sent from Germany, is apparently stuck in Bombay customs.
Having endured a weekend of waiting, we learn that today is a public holiday and the customs office is closed.
The weather has reverted to the monsoon rains that welcomed our arrival in Goa, so we are resigned to watching the rain fall in between books.
We have followed the news on Pakistan over recent weeks, and as the political situation there becomes increasingly unstable, we have decided to skip it on our return route.
When we do finally get moving, we plan to ride to Bombay and load the bikes onto a cargo ship and send them to Bandar-Abbas in Iran. As we cannot accompany the bikes, we then plan to catch a plane to Tehran and from there, a 30 hour train journey to meet the bikes in Bandar-Abbas.
But first we have to escape from here, so instead of thumb-twiddling, we find a place that can look at the broken starter motor.
Incredibly, Craig finds a guy that can fix the starter and is gone all day on the trip to the repair shop in a neighbouring State and they manage to fix it! However, we are still stuck until we can confirm the status & whereabouts of the replacement and then arrange collection or delivery.
Old Goa · 19 August 2007 by
A 15 rupees (20p) bus fare per person will transport you 16kms from our residence in Candolim via Panajim to the town of Old Goa. This used to be the Portuguese Capital of Goa, a 17th century metropolis of colonial trade, which grew even larger than Lisbon.
Its decline has left little trace of its former glory, and only its eight churches, two convents a monastery and selection of museums remain as its legacy. The Se Cathedral is the largest church in Asia.
Grand in their architecture and complex in their history, the elaborate detail of the church’s interiors are lavishly reminiscent of the town’s extravagant past, when the power of the church initiated the horrors of the Inquisition. 16000 people were arrested on charges ranging from ‘eating Rice without salt’ to ‘selling arms to infidels’. (Goans are renowned for their trade in 17th century prosthetics)
Ponda · 16 August 2007 byAbout 30 km from Panaji, Ponda sits in the middle of Goa state and besides being the home of Kingfisher beer, houses a dense population of temples in its surrounding area as well as spice plantations. A 30 minute drive brought us to the temple of Sri Manguesh, dedicated to the god Shiva, which boasts a huge octagonal sanctuary tower, and is a popular destination for many pilgrims. A few kilometers further is Sri Mahalsa temple which predates the Portuguese rule of Goa and houses Lakshmi, goddess of wealth & property. An ornate building of carved wood and marble, its courtyard holds a lamp tower around 50ft tall which hosts hundreds of tiny oil lamps during festivals.
From here we continued to the Sahakari Spice Plantation, a 130 acre site, a small part of which has been set aside for tours. For a mere 300 rupees per person (6 Euro), we were welcomed with garlands and a spicy herbal drink. The tour is interesting & informative, showing each of the spices that they produce and explaining how they are grown and cultivated. These include coffee, turmeric, cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and piri-piri.
At the end of the 45 minute tour each person receives a ladle of refreshing, cool water…down their back…. followed by a delicious buffet lunch of local dishes, (including a throat-warming shot of the local hooch, Cashew Feni).
A visit to the local animal rescue centre tells a sad tale of lost, abandoned or injured dogs. So, the “lets not harm animals” side of religion only goes so far…
Every dog they receive is sterilised to try and cut the numbers but there are so many of then wandering the streets. They are like feral dogs everywhere, lean and tan in colour. Most are very friendly… they know a soft touch when they see one.
We were shown round the rescue centre by Tanja Larsen who looks after the day to day running of the place.
The rescue centre is part of the IAR – International Animal Rescue.
As well as dogs they look after cats and even cattle. The Agra branch has a bear centre where they rescue the dancing bears of India. They have some 160 acres that they run jointly with Wildlife SOS India. So far they have rescued 242 bears. www.air.org.uk is their web address.
Marie in Bombay is still sorting boats and planes to Iran for us but nothing concrete yet, but it looks like 800USD for both bikes and we fly to Dubai and then to Bandar, meaning we don’t have to go to Tehran and then the long train journey back to Banda.
Tomorrow, 23rd August we leave for Bombay.
Out and About in Goa · 11 August 2007 by
The weather was pretty wet when the wimin arrived and for the first few days thereafter.
Though it’s not a bad hotel, on Sunday morning we checked out of Casablanca Resort and moved a kilometre south to the Santana Beach Resort, which was recommended by our man – Craig.
John’s bike was a sod to start but finally did. Further investigation suggests a fault with the starter motor, so now we have to chase Erich in Germany, who supplied it.
We wandered to the local shops in the afternoon, between showers and had a drink at a local bar that alleges to serve the best cappuccino in Goa. At last, decent coffee!!!
In the evening,we returned to Sweet Chilli’s for dinner, where more delightful food and music were as entertaining as before.
Tuesday started brightly and a visit to the local “Aguada Fort” proved a hard climb, but watching the sea crashing on the rocks below was both exhilarating and wetting!!
Wednesday again started brightly and gave a chance to experience a bus ride to Anjuna, (via Mapusa), to visit the Flea market. The 5 mile bus fare was 10 rupees (12 pence) each, but on our arrival, we learned the flea market wasn’t on out of season. They do however hold a smaller market where we wandered through the few stalls and were badgered by the stall girls into buying a few of the local wares.
On the return journey we took time to look at Mapusa market, behind the bus station where, as well as the usual array of stalls, masses of fruit & veg was for sale bring swathes of colour to an otherwise damp & dull day.
Target Reached · 6 August 2007 by
Day 76 – 566 kms (17265 kms total)
The highway 4, south from Pune, is excellent and we made such good progress by the time we reached the halfway point at Kolhapur that we decided to do the full 500+km journey to Goa in one day instead of two.
At about 2pm it started raining…
We hit a snag at Belgaum where, according to the map, the highway splits and we follow the 4A. No fork in the road and a lack of signposting forces us into the town centre where we acquire the services of a tuk-tuk driver to lead us to the road to Panaji.
From here onward the heavens opened and for the next 3.5 hours we crept through heavy rain, on an ill-maintained road dodging lorries and potholes. The rain is so heavy, even the bikes are beginning to baulk at it with Johns bike becoming a single cylinder machine at times!
The road takes us further south than we need to go before turning back north, to Pamjim just to make certain we get really wet.
We finally arrive at The Casablanca Beach Resort like a couple of drowned rats. Explaining that we already have a booking is not entirely understood, but we get rooms and dump our wet selves within.
The hotel is 150m from the beach, upon which resides the River Princess, a Russian cargo ship grounded there 8 years ago which they keep trying to re-float.
The staff are very friendly help wherever they can.
The next day kicks off with a visit to Panjim for a look-see via mini cab. We are visited by Craig, who is a good friend of Anji’s. He offers assistance with anything we need and in the evening, invites us to dinner at a restaurant called Sweet Chilli, where a band keep us entertained whilst we tuck into some excellent food. Perhaps we could get used to this!!
Bit of a Diamond is Craig:-))
Pune · 2 August 2007 by
Day 71 through 75 in Pune
After recovering from our night out, we venture out into town.
Pune is home to a huge number of kites, which can be seen circling the city skies in flocks of 30+, throughout the day.
These are joined at dusk by hordes of fruit bats. Though it’s not easy to judge exactly, these bats are not much smaller than the kites. For those of you unfamiliar with these birds, their wingspan reaches over a meter.
At the heart of the old city lies the Shaniwar Wada, a large, stone fort, from 1736, where people sit in the gardens chatting and young lads play cricket. Behind it, narrow streets are filled with ancient, crooked houses, with wooden balconies, slowly becoming hidden behind swathes of advertising boards.
From the fort, we follow the river Mutha on its way to join the Mula river, where the riverside walk is lined with stalls selling anything from food to key cutting. On the opposite bank, the walls are lined with makeshift homes, made from tarps or tin or bits of wood or material, where scruffy children play harmlessly and happily by the roadside and adults busily get on with their lives, seemingly ignorant of how little they have.
Having spent many of our days catching up on the delays incurred in Germany, China and Pakistan, we have reached Pune ahead of schedule. We choose to take advantage of this to prepare ourselves for our time off as well as the return trip.
Anji insists on taking John to see the Orthopedic surgeon at the Surya Hospital. The doc takes more xrays and tels me the right hand joint in the pelvis is compacted and prescribes more pain killers and muscle relaxants.
Next port of call is a visit to the barbers. 140Rupees for both of us and our two hosts to have haircuts plus a full shave for Mick. Mick now looks like a snooker ball!
The first treat for the bikes is removal of luggage and panniers and a trip to the ‘bike-wash’. A gang of young lads set about the bike to remove the dirt, then degrease them, then soap them up before a final rinse and blow dry.
An hours work on each bike. They look cleaner than when we left.
The other luxury we have here is use of a washing machine. Clothes that have been on the road for 10 weeks are suddenly revitalised and remind us how things ought to smell. It took 3 washes to get the stink out of the jackets!
The helmets also reek but we will just have to live with that.
Back to the bikes – being in a city brings the availability and facilities for an Oil change, where we expect the change of gear box, final drive & engine oils and filters will last us back to Europe. Though we had hoped for synthetic oil; at 780r (15euro) a litre, it’s a little too pricey.As the facilities are here and the journey home is shorter, we choose now to replace our remaining tyres. These should comfortably last the distance home, punctures permitting.
Over the last couple of days we have been investigating the possibility/costings of shipping the bikes to Bandar Abbas in Iran so that we can forgo the return trip through Pakistan and all the problems that are brewing there. We have had a quote or 2 and are mulling it over.A little shopping for some basic necessities and we are set for the last leg to Goa.
Tia cooked us a really nice and really hot Thai green curry for our last meal with them. Brill!
Our hosts in Pune, Anji, Asheesh & Tia run Venture on Wheels touring, (see Sponsors). Their hospitality, help and guidance has been second to none. Immense thanks to them for everything.
Charity · 31 July 2007 by John Shales
Anji, (our host in Pune), and his daughter Kalpana are heavily involved in a local charity that supports HIV sufferers – the Sahara Allhad Aids Hospice in Pune.
The people are generally those that have been thrown out of hospital through lack of money. They are collected by volunteers and taken to the hospice.
Various doctors and helpers are recruited to help treat the people.
They have devised their own cocktail of medicines to administer as the propriety brands have prices way beyond their reach. I’m told they can supply this treatment for around 600IRP (12 Euros), per month instead of the 6000 for branded drugs.
Had we known about this charity, we could have done some sort of sponsorship for them from the start and tapped you, our readers, and anyone else we could have thought of, for some dosh…
They have a web site here, for the hospice
If you think you can help in any way, please do.
Indore to Pune · 29 July 2007 by
Day 69 – 410 kms (16699 kms total)
We left Hotel Baywatch at 06:45 in light rain and headed back to the ring road. The dual carriageway ended quickly and within 10km, the road surface disappeared completely. It didn’t really improve for the next 200km. It took us 5 hour to complete that 200kms!
Lorries are out in abundance and our first challenge is a huge traffic jam of lorries caused by some diggers re-terracing sides of the road after landslides. We get to a hundred metres from the blockage and sit and wait a while before we decide we CAN get through the gap. The truckers helped by moving an inch or 2 to help our passage through the really tight ones..
We ride through the The Vindhya Range and Satpura Hills, which provide some lovely views, but the cloud, rain and terrible track detract from the potential appreciation.
Considering this is the main road between Mumbai and Delhi, it is poor advertisement for Indian roads. We also see some more wrecks. Trucks into trucks, trucks into cars, (messy), buses into trucks. Twelve in all today!
The end of the Satpura mountain range, offers some great views, and the subsequent Satmala hills are Arizona-like peaks, but covered in greenery.
Also here, the road quality actually becomes ridable again.
We reach Nashik and find the only decent hotel in the book. A bit pricey, but less basic than of late.
We get a phone call from Anji in Pune. We arrange to call him when we get to the outskirts of Pune, tomorrow.
Day 70 – 210 kms (16909 kms total)
After a comfortable night, we get directions out of town, but find the road closed. A kindly local in a jeep, leads us down the opposite side of the road, which soon becomes a dual carriageway with a large concrete central reservation. We stick close behind him to avoid the wrath of oncoming buses and cars, until we get a chance to cross back to our side of the road.
Highway 50 runs from Nashik down to Pune, through the hills, where both the sun and palm trees make a re-appearance. It’s a welcome, well-surfaced road and the accompanying views make it a pleasant morning ride.
Traffic in Pune is hectic, but as we have contacted Anji, we are met at the main gates to the Army camp by his son, Asheesh and he leads us into town on his Enfield 500… with no baffles in his exhaust!
We are taken out for an evening’s entertainment at Toons, a local drinking establishment by Asheesh and his Dad Anji, where a large screen allows us to witness the appalling display of the English cricket team in the Second Test match against India :-((
We drink beer, lots of beer! As a result, everything I ate or drank bounced back up again. Feeling VERY delicate.
The next day was a very quiet affair as we both feel very “drained”. Ate nothing and drank water and slept.
Agra to Indore · 26 July 2007 by
Day 67 – 209 kms (15881 kms total)
We leave Agra in the rain and head south. The main road out is only 100m from our hotel, but its condition for the first 3km is atrocious. Some of the holes have been partly filled by house bricks, making a rocky ride, and where no bricks have been employed, huge puddles cover most of the road and everyone; bikes, buses, lorries, mopeds, taxis, rickshaws, tuk-tuks…is trying to skirt them. The road is bound on both sides by shops and buildings so there is very little room to manoeuvre.
30 minutes later we reach the newly built highway which runs to Gwalior. At least some of it is newly built!
As a dual carriageway it could be good, if herds of cattle didn’t roam it, goats were not shepherded along it, and because of the concrete central reservation, preventing people driving across it, we are commonly faced with oncoming traffic.
From Gwalior we turn south west and the road loses its dual carriageway.
As the rain eases off a green landscape unfolds, littered with rivers, dotted with palm trees, and of course numerous villages along it where our speed drops to almost nil, to dodge the bikes, buses, lorries, mopeds, taxis, rickshaws, tuk-tuks whose anarchy fills each and every village and town.
Coupled with abysmal roads in most villages, they evoke a sigh of despair as each one approaches. We learn the rule, the horn is king. Horns are used to mean a variety of things, but generally as a ‘Watch out I’m coming past’. Tailgate’s all display the words ‘Horn Please”, which saves them using their mirrors. This is lucky as most mirrors that exist, at least on motorcycles, have been upgraded to the vanity-version, where they allow the driver to look at himself or his pillion, much more interesting than the traffic behind you!
Our first night on highway 3 is spent in Shivpuri, where we choose to overnight in the ‘Delhi Hotel’, with its own restaurant!!
As the only customers in the tired restaurant, it’s a pretty grim affair. The food is okay, Aloo Mutter & Chak Masala, with rice and bread. The coffee was awful, though it has been poor throughout India so far.
Day 68 – 400 kms (16281 kms total)
Another early start at 6:25. We are driving along National Highway No 3. Not much of a highway. In the last couple of days we have seen the aftermath of 7 or 8 crashes between trucks or just trucks on their own. Amazing that anyone survives some of them.
We hear tell that the Muslim bus drivers sit on the wheel-arch and steer from there with one foot on the throttle and brake.They say that God is driving. Well, that’s OK then, we’ll be as safe as houses. The word that springs to mind is – idiots.
From Shivpuri to Indore, the road surface varies from excellent to ‘sub-Kazakhi’. Again everyone is fighting for the same space between potholes, and the battle is usually won by the loudest horn. As 90% of traffic is trucks, size also contributes where we are concerned.
The sun breaks through for a while and herds of buffalo make for water to cool themselves. This usually involves crossing the road in front of us.
At Indore, we are enticed into the smart looking ‘Hotel Baywatch’ which has both a restaurant and a ‘‘discotheque’‘.
However, the 500r rooms are as basic as possible: squat toilet, no shower, no hot water, no a/c (only double bed rooms have a/c), no TV, no soap, no loo-roll.
Having not brought our flares or medallions, we skip the evening’s discotheque for another early night.