Monday 4th Nov
I have been telling everyone that I am on holiday from today. This is because I will be out of reach…no mobile or phone…at a sleep /brain research lab at UEA in Norwich until Thursday morning. I actually leave for Heathrow Thursday afternoon.Seemed a good idea at the time to help in this research. Sleep and brain activity and its connectivity to dementia. Having had a mother who was physically well and fit get dementia is a bit worrying so I was quite motivated to help. However the 2 days and 3 nights at the lab were quite an endurance test. I was deprived of sleep for the middle night and did not sleep at all for 2 days and a night. During the period I had to do the same 6 tests every 4 hours and a balancing test. I did the tests 10 times in all. Constant form filling too asking how I was feeling and very very boring , repetitive cold food.I was told I had done very well!!I went on my motorbike as parking was not available for cars! It was raining when I came out but I was in the fresh air at last and did not mind what the weather was doing.
Thursday 7th Nov
Once back home I got my phone back from my daughter and set about catching up on life before leaving by car for an hotel near Heathrow. I was slightly desperate to do some exercise as part of this trip involves CYCLING! A motorcyclist who cycles!! I have to do max of 35 miles in one day. I achieved that distance once, last Thursday, by riding to Sandringham and back and around a bit. Think I will be okay…Arrive at carpark, shuttle to airport and then back out by another shuttle to a Premier Inn hotel. Does the job….
Friday 8th Nov.
Nice relaxed few hours before the flight which allows me time to take a walk round the wonderful environs of Hounslow . I look at a bit of polluted river and admire all the rubbish in the undergrowth. We brits are not super clean and are not setting a very good example to others. Flight via Dubai is taking me to Cochin in Kerala, southern India.
Saturday 9th Nov
Amazingly, I get upgraded to business class on the second flight. How lucky am I? Glass of fizz, great big seat to lie flat in. Only trouble is it is only a 3 hour flight and get woken for breakfast after 1.5 hours. So did not get that much sleep before arriving at 8am Indian time in Cochin. Meet Exodus man at airport and 9 more people who are part of the group. 4 more are joining later, having already arrived. Bus to hotel on Willingdon island in Cochin . The hotel smells distinctly musty. Myself and the other single lady are shown our rooms first. I get a big room with view of very nice swimming pool but decide it’s time to try and sleep. After that a swim where I meet more of our group. All are couples except Lynne and I. We then get acquainted with our cycles and test ride them up and down the road. I have brought out a gel seat and a phone holder which I put on it. Phone holder so that I can take photos on the move. That is the plan…Excellent evening meal..buffet… Kerala famous for its sweet spices like cardamom and nutmeg etc. Also cocoa and coconuts. It is humid and rains in the evening.
Julie watching a lady iron with a heavy non electric iron heated with charcoal inside it.
Sunday 10th Nov
My large bed is distinctly damp. Could have slept better! Photos will come but here is the writing….Up for breakfast at 7am. Getting to know the group. 3 couples who all know each other…the Essex gang. Then one couple from Dorset and one from Cornwall and one from Kent. Lynne, aged 70 and me. Lynne is the weak link on cycling, not that fit, and not that brave; admits she is worried and not good even at heights on a river bridge.The men are heaving on the ropes with rocks attached to pull, the net out of the water.The fisherman !Local boats on the river at Fort Cochin. The rubbish…..Today is a getting to know bikes, sightseeing Cochin and for the guide to check us all out. We wander around on the bikes after an excellent breakfast. Visit various tourist spots by bike, mostly churches and one palace; fishermen by the sea.
Fishermen with their contraption for lifting the net out of the sea. Notice the dangling rocks.
The boss fisherman.Eat excellent vegetarian meal at guide’s own home by default as restaurant planned for had another group. Family rallied round and all generations were there helping and even gave us a song or two.Cycled back before it rained and had a quick swim in the rain. Out for evening meal after watching some ethnic “dancing”. The latter was not that great and I dozed but the meal was excellent. Eating too much!!
Doormat making . Made from Coir..coconut husk , we watched a family spinning and twisting the fibres from the husk to then weave into matting.
Monday 11th Nov
We are making early starts in order to avoid the afternoon/evening rain. Off we go at about 8am. I have been given a different bike but believe it has not made much difference to the handlebar height (which I had complained were too low). Its okay…Off we go heading south down the coast. This is our longest day…32 miles. It seems cooler than yesterday but only because we are going fast enough to make our own breeze. We have sections where the pace is good and then others where the guide goes more slowly…too slow really as I could go quicker. The other single lady is the slow one and we have to keep her in touch. I am happy with my fitness though by the end of the day my bum was suffering a bit. All because handlebars too low….Its tropical, humid, and green. Traffic lessens and it is very pleasant. The road goes between the sea and a piece of fresh water. We head across to the inland side and end up in an hotel on the lakeside. Taking a bit of a walk with two others (Julie and Alistair), we find huge piles of emptied clam shells of all sizes down to tiny; signs of fruit bats (would love to see one ), some strange big birds with a big long tail and brown wings…..a Coucal….and much greenery with flowers. Up little creeks were lots of long thin black boats.We keep having big lunches. Too much food! Trying hard not too eat too much. I only got out of breath once so the exercise is minimal.
Tuesday 12th Nov
Hotel was best so far. Tonight is a homestay! Off we go. It’s hot and very humid but we wriggle along tiny roads and it is pleasant. Not going fast at all. Houses at every moment. Reminds me of Java with no real countryside without a house. When we hit a village it is busy but less traffic on the little roads. Plenty of scooters and motorbikes. We stop at a couple of tourist shops and some buy saris! We set off early to beat the rain which seems to come from mid afternoon onwards. Arrive at our homestay. We are split into 2 groups. My room is very basic. A single hard bed! A bit cell like. There is wifi but it is not working. However we have fields to one side and a large river to the other. In the fields they are harvesting rice…semi mechanised. A Caterpillar combine..ie a little combine on tracks…is doing the harvesting.
Lots of them are busy. They then come to the side of the field and then empty the rice onto sheeting on the field. Gangs of men are then employed to put the rice into hessian sacks in a very old unmechanised way. Then the sacks are manually loaded onto lorries. Still much manual labour in the rice harvest. Two harvests a year…The tracked combines arriving via boat!
We relax and then get taken on a short boat ride to the other homestay. Get out and start walking back along the river edge with a guide who explains about the types of trees and birds we are seeing . Then it starts to rain. This is not in the plan which was to have had an open boat ride in one of the thin black boats plying the river. There are big boats too that are big enough to stay on. Instead we find shelter under an ancient roof of an old post office. We 16 squeeze in as the heavens open . The roof leaks in parts! We stand there for at least an hour. The owners of our homestay own the boat we went on so we wonder why they cannot come and collect us. Very eventually they do. By then it is almost dark inspite of the rain having stopped.Home to eat after a demo in paratha cooking. After the meal we have a short session on winding saris round ourselves and the men in the short sarongs. Not something I was mad keen on.
Fishermen and rubbish.
Wednesday 15th Nov
Can’t load photos because wifi too bad. Will when I can.We pedal off and do a bit of a circle admiring the countryside which is mainly paddy fields. End up at a river where there is a hive of activity with tourists and boat loading . There is no doubt there are quite a lot of tourists all in little groups being guided round Kerala. We are not the only ones. Our group of 14 are now going to board 3 boats with our bicycles and booze. Alcoholic drink has had to be bought as it cannot be provided by the boat staff. Kerala is a so called dry state. I board one boat with 3 others. We have very spacious rooms and ensuite bathrooms on these strange kind of raffia clad boats. Big space at the front to eat and lounge around and watch life go by. Plenty of boat life and birds. Some lovely kingfishers and various heron types plus a white headed kite called a Bahrainy Kite. I am with one couple and Lynne the other single lady. We chat and follow progress on google maps. We have no internet or much mobile network.In the evening all 3 boats moor up together and we all eat on our boat. Discover that the Essex gang have been drinking all afternoon. We have been very british and waited… We all have a late night…
Seemingly dredging..boats full to sinking with soil.
This is a Black Drongo.
Thursday 14th Nov
Alastair and I are mystified that the boats seem to be doing a circle but are told that we are heading southwards down a narrow creek this morning before we get off. This makes better sense as we are heading to Varkala tonight. Up early for breakfast on the move as we do about one hour of motoring enjoying watching local indian families start their day by the river by brushing their teeth over the river and doing some clothes washing in the brown looking water. Very relaxed.We are on our bicycles by 8am and heading south by the sea. We do one stretch before catching a boat across a river estuary. It is a small wooden boat but all 16 cycles and us squeeze in. Some don life jackets as there is a good chance that if we all shifted one way it would tip over. But we make a successful crossing and head off for an ice cream before continuing onwards. Lynne is slow behind the rest of us but she keeps plugging on. She cannot get to grips with the gears!! We do about 24 miles today before being loaded onto a mini bus and being taken first to a lunch stop and then onwards to our hotel. Some of us feel we should have been given the option of cycling this bit. We feel it could have been done. No sign of rain this afternoon. I think we have shifted south out of that weather..Anyway, here we are in a Deshadan hotel near the beach. Cliff down to the beach which has some good rollers coming in and a strong sideways current. I swim in the sea and the rest of them do the pool. Essex gang a little subdued today after their boozy afternoon and evening. They do like being at the front when cycling and do not like being parted especially the 3 ladies. It’s a bit tedious of them. The rest of us a working on it!!
Friday 15th Nov
Last day of riding and it is a little explore round here. It is not quite as humid but definitely hot. Today we have some hills. Norfolk style hills…not too severe but it sorts us out a bit…the fit from the not so but all do fine. .me too! Lynne not with us as she has now gone off to do a massage course. She would not have managed the hills. She was the oldest so now I am the second oldest..just.The locals look at us with some amusement I feel…crazy Europeans cycling in this heat. The Essex gang is slightly dislodged from their front spot. Julie, Alastair and I mingle amongst them!! They have a few weaker members on the hills!! We admire a fort… we climb all the way to the top of a lighthouse to see the view and rather amazingly we find an elephant at work. He or she lifts a pile of palm branches and carries it down the road. Lots of photos…Back to hotel completely saturated with sweat. It is 35c. It’s down time now for me as I now turn my thoughts to motorbiking and the next part of my trip. I do little all afternoon as I slowly cool down. Buffet supper where we say our goodbyes to most of them. Julie, Alastair and I remain.
Nice working elephant.
Saturday 16th Nov
No nice buffet breakfast for the three of us as it is not laid on. We get an omelette and strange French bread. We three catch a taxi to the airport a good hour away. They are staying in an hotel next to the airport and fly out in the night time and I catch a flight with Indigo to Delhi at 1pm. Arrive in Delhi 3 hours later in the polluted skies that still persist. I am met by Vintage rides who I will be with for next two weeks. Have supper in the hotel in the company of a mass of germans off on a coach tour. Two more in my group are here but not known to me. This is where single is tricky as with someone I/we would have ate out but not alone. I have to be around at 5pm tomorrow for a briefing.
Sunday 17th Nov
Later breakfast and then walk to Khan market. It’s not too hot so thought it was worth the effort. 4 miles. I wandered off route a bit but saw the back streets of Delhi ! At first I was quite impressed by the lack of rubbish but soon that was no longer true as I hit the back streets and a filthy dyke where people were living hand to mouth on the pavements. Not too many white people had wandered through there I rather suspect from the looks I got.
Cows in Delhi.
Filth in a Delhi creek.I had a couple of quite smart men ahead of me so was not worried. Got to the market area which was a load of vaguely tourist shops. Had a smoothie and worked out the next move. Humayun’s tomb was not far away but had enough walking. How much for a tuktuk? Since I had wifi in the cafe I looked up the price of a uber ride. This gave me a line…tuktuk driver asked for about twice that so got him right down and off we went to the tomb. Endless mausoleums, and thought I had seen it before I finally realized I was now at THE tomb. Built in 1570. Lovely gardens around it.
A pig in the filthy creek.
Sorry, mausoleum on the slant was my mistake. Julunam’s tomb.Choose another tuktuk driver, bid him down to uber level and off we go. Had to help him find the hotel with my google map on the phone.Met the rest of the group at 5pm. We are 9 french people and 2 brits. Bit of a surprise to me. I knew the company originated in France but believed there would be more Brits. No one knows each other . There are 3 couples and 5 single people. Bob is the Brit. Three ladies and me. One other lady will ride her own bike and 2 will be pillion. We go off with our guide to eat somewhere and walk miles!! Good meal though.
Monday 18th Nov
Up at 6ish to have breakfast at 6.30am and off by 7am. We are driving in vehicles out of Delhi to pick up the bikes from somewhere west of here. Takes about 2 hours. At last we get acquainted with the bikes…Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc.Not long and underway. Deepak the guide has immediate problems with his bike…it has light failure ie no indicators. Bit serious as he is leading the way so mechanic in van behind does some quick fixing. It takes a few stops to get it working for a while. The village we stop in is all agog about us and they stare at us as we watch a lady wash her water buffalo with some water. She is all dressed up and has her scarf over her face so we cannot see it and I rather think she ca not see much either!! Is she Muslim? She looks as though she is dressed hindu style and the colourful scarf is hardly Muslim style but why the covering up?Finally we get going smoothly. We take some lovely little roads. Broken tarmac best describes the road. One minute great, next patchy or dirt and then in the villages we get sharp sleeping policemen, dirt roads, water and potholes. Finally get countryside which now looks very dry after the tropical south of Kerala. Some fertile and well filled and some just spiky bush country. To my surprise we see great tall camels pulling carts along the road. They look very haughty and proud. Not too be hurried , they plod slowly along. Other animals we saw pulling carts were donkeys and ponies.The group is going well. No one holding anyone up. Really quite together. Road conditions are interesting at times in true indian manner..ie much horn honking, nasty overtaking, and busy at times in the towns. Cows still wander, as do dogs and people walk or cycle across dual carriageway as they did before. Its pleasantly warm and not too hot. I did think it would be hotter and hope I have enough warm clothes.We arrive at a town called Mandawa with some ancient old Hevali buildings.
Painted with ornate designs and with inner courtyards they remind me of Moroccan buildings and indeed there was an Arab influence when they were built about 200/300 years ago. We stay in one which has been converted to an hotel. I have my own room as no other single females. The single males double up. The town in the evening is the usual traffic chaos as I go and find some money. Find a money changer but no ATM. We eat on the roof top terrace.
Tuesday 19th Nov
We have to be at breakfast by 6.30am again as long day ahead. However, woken at 5.30am by a call to prayer.. Muslim. I really did not expect that in India. Decided to have a morning shower and it was a cold one.Off we all go at 7am. Its quite cold and I do not really have enough clothes….17c. We have to do 16p iles to day to Pushkar. We are using side roads which are very much more interesting for motorbiking than any main road. We are put through are paces today . We have very bumpy dirt roads with spiky stones, we have sand, we have a salt lake, tarmac, hundreds of sharp sleeping policemen to bump over and even one creek to cross. It is all great biking. The poor bikes do a great job even in the sand. I fall off at one point and have to have the bike picked up off my leg as I was stuck. ! No damage as just sand. Later the other female rider went over and so did Bob the english guy. Survived whizzing around on the salt lake. Saw camels pulling carts very haughtily.
Saw mules and donkeys too, all hauling something. We went on a piece of dual carriage way and had Van’s coming towards in the slow lane, bikes doing the same and a dead cow…big one ..in the fast lane. You overtake, undertake and get out of the way of those heading towards you . At the same time cows wander at will.
The land of the wandering cow.Cows are everywhere. Goodness knows what they eat…rubbish for sure….They are pretty skinny on the whole. Luckily they move slowly but surely. They do seem to take note of our horns and stand still while you pass but they could be in the middle of the road by then. The countryside looks a bit like Africa, spikey bushes and dry and sandy. Plenty of birds around and always people. We have a picnic today by a sacred pool. Water buffalo did not treat it very sacredly and went for a good old wade.I felt pretty sandy and dusty by the time we reached Pushkar.
We admire the sacred lake there and the buildings across the way. Then we motorbike through the old town, via narrow streets of stalls and across a wasteland that had obviously been a market today. Camels pull tourists in ornate carts across the wasteland back to their hotels I suppose. Our hotel for the night is Pushkar Resort. Needed a shower and had to resign myself to a cold one until it eventually got hot thank goodness.Photos will come but tomorrow I think. Wifi very limiting .!
Wednesday 20th Nov
We seem to have come so far already…as I write this I feel I have been going for ages. Might be because I have developed a cold. Thought I had a sore throat because of the dust but no, tonight it has manifest its self and being me it is in my eyes. They are not happy. Hope I sleep well.Today was a 140 mile day with a great deal off road on all sorts of cart type tracks. Gravel, a bit of sand and bumpy. Bumpy on these side roads , bumpy on the tarmac. Cows everywhere, but they behave on the whole as long as you spot what they are doing. Water buffalo are less predictble. I had 4 of them running through a village in front of me. I wanted to get passed them! Dogs abound as well.I got a puncture just before lunch .
Felt it coming but made the lunch stop before it went flat. Then Dempak got one just as he left after lunch so it was coats off again while we waited for that to be done…not long. More dusty dirt after lunch . We are now all scarfed up to our eyes. Visors down and for me specs on as contact lenses do not like it. We are still a very homogenous group. Younger men bit quicker on the dirt but we are all doing well…including me!! The bikes really take a battering especially when you do not notice a sleeping policeman and virtually take off.We are told to bunch up as we enter Jodhpur. We went well, everyone honking their horns and being pretty aggressive as we made our way through narrow streets in the centre of town without losing Dempak in the lead. Tuktuks, people, cows, dogs, cycles etc all fighting their way along the streets as well.In the evening out to look at the nearby step well in the gathering dark. Very impressive ancient well …down 200ft…via a series of steps.
At the moment low but in monsoon season it comes up a lot. Hence the various steps. Lovely houses in this Hevali style. Tourists have obviously contributed to their preservation. Our hotel is another one with its lovely courtyard. On we walk to find some ATMs across the otherside of the market area . It was a scene of chaos but normal for india. Big clock tower in the middle. On to a restaurant on the rooftop of a beautiful building. It is now warmer and fine for eating out except that we could barely see the menu or our food. Dempak has not quite got the 12 at a table working well. Took ages collecting our individual sums of money. I was suffering with my cold which really has got going . Sucking aconite tablets as fast as I am allowed.Wonderful view from the roof of the city and the fort up on the hill top. Honking horns gradually subsided as everyone went home and fireworks on the horizons…not sure why.Back to hotel to sleep but slept badly.
Thursday 21st Nov
Off to see the step well which we saw in the gathering dark last night. Took our day time pictures. Then off up the hill on the bikes to visit the Mehrangarh fort. Very imposing old fort up on the hills above Jodhpur. Fairly hot and steep hill to walk up which normally I would have no problem with but realise I really am under the weather and lacking in energy. Went slowly and dragged myself around with Deepak the guide for Bob and myself as the Frenchies had a french guide. Huge and interesting.
Then off we go heading southwest I think. No real dirt today as we work a.ong the indian roads. Had to jam on the brakes for a cow on the dual carriageway and managed to slide the bike on the edge of a nasty muddy hole and fell off. No damage to me or bike but we lost the group as Arnoud ,who stopped to help , and I , did not know which fork in the road to take. No one noticed for quite a while that we were missing. Eventually Deepak came back.Long lunch in cafe. I am getting a bit curried out… we end the day in a small village where we stay in the Ghanerao Royal castle hotel. It has seen better days but is still amazing. 17 bedrooms and endless nooks and crannies. Needs some TLC but it is on the tourist trail so I guess will upgrade slowly. 2 courtyards , swimming pool, fountains and style. The family still live here.
Our hotel for the night..fading grandeur.
Friday 22nd Nov
It was an extraordinary place, full of all kinds of tiny rooms and roof spaces. Monkeys on the outer walls, cows in a space out the back. The owners live here somewhere. They should see to the exterior and not least the overflowing tank of water on the roof as listening and watching the water come down the front of the building was not a great sight, especially as we all lacked water pressure to give any kind of good shower.Off at our usual early hour. The road seems to be a highway for herds of animals. We see camels, goats, sheep and cows in large herds being herded down the road to their pastures. About a dozen camels together and not far behind the sheep with some goats.
After that a big herd of cows. Traffic stops temporarily as it searches a way through and then on it all goes again. We then climb into a band of hills. Pretty, nice winding road. We see Langur monkeys not used to tourists which is nice.
We see a farmer with his 2 cows ploughing a field with a single furrow wooden plough.
2 more cows are plodding a circle attached to a contraption bringing up water for irritating.
It’s very ingenious and works well. Ladies are there too waiting for enough water to come their way to do some clothes washing. The weather temp is lovely for us and on we go to lunch at a cafe. The road surface needs watching all the time so you cannot look around as you bike along as much as you might want.Soon we start arriving in Udaipur via a back road. We stop for a photo opportunity by the lake before we reach the centre. The suspicion that I was getting another puncture was true. Deepak took one look, said hurry up to us all, he rode my bike with its slow puncture and I rode his to the hotel about a mile away. The wheel lasted and can be fixed in due course. Our hotel Sarovar is right on a lake in the middle of town. My bedroom hangs over the lake. Glassy smooth but filthy colour and lacking in any life it is just something that gives a backdrop to the houses and town all around. Little walking bridges connect each side. Looks very venice like but only a few tourist boats ply the waters. We shall tomorrow.! No doubt temples abound…two across the water from my room…and we can see the palace complex.
Our hotel is across the water from the palace. I took this photo of a photo as it gave a good view.
Tomorrow is a mainly free day. I will see the top 3 attractions…one is the water…I had a reflexology massage. Never had one before and seemed good. We had all been encouraged to buy the services of the hotel massage team. I managed to punctuate mine with bouts of tickly cough.The night brought more coughing fits but cold abating thank goodness.
Saturday 23rd Nov
A day off ,so up later and ready for group visit to Jagdish temple. Took a while getting up the street because french Audrey wanted to material shop. So I took the opportunity to get two belts that I needed…one for my motorcycle jeans (having boiled the one I brought in my kettle having forgotten I packed it there…it shrank) and the other for my pink jeans. She still was not done so then went silver jewellery shopping. Found a bracelet that I liked and bought it.Jagdish temple done…nice carvings in the sandstone etc…we went to the palace complex. We all wandered about in several ways. In the end I did do the museum which is part of the main palace. We all split up till the next agenda item at 4.45pm. I bought more silver stuff and then went back to hotel.Out for a boat trip which I found boring as it repeated a great deal of what I know and have seen all day. Others did feel the same…then a dance show across from the hotel. That was great. Local Rajhistan dancing plus a local puppeteer who I found very funny .
Donkeys on the streets of Udaipur.
Sunday 24th Nov
Early start…breakfast at 6.30am and off at 7am. The cows are masters of the street this early. But human activity is taking over. The dogs too are heading to whatever is their home . It’s coolish as we head off into the countryside. Pretty nice riding and nice scenery. The little villages are very basic. Open sewers run down every street. Piles of rocks and bricks seem to litter these villages…I assume there is always a project on the go. Marie gets a puncture so we all get a chai stop.
Back in 2002 this was always served in a tin mug or cup, now it is a tiny cardboard one. On we go, still very pleasant scenery as we head up to Chittorgarh fort.
Women clothes washing near the fort. How can the clothes get clean in that green water?
Do we want to go inside? Decision is no so instead Deepak takes through tiny passageways on our bikes till we reach a spot where we take a few photos which are not allowed he says. Back down the narrow pathways and on we go. It is a very dusty day as we tackle a few dirt roads and the usual appalling tarmac with potholes galore.We have ended up in the Justa Lake Palace hotel…a restored palace…in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a lake.
Like most things in this country its a bit of faded grandeur. Lovely looking room, fantastic view with an enchanting enclosed balcony hanging over the lake. But the windows are dirty, the water is brown, the many lights don’t seem to all work, the tiled bath like a mini swimming pool has no plug and the hot water took 20 mins but did eventually make it. So with a travel plug I had a bit of a bath and a bit of a shower. The swimming pool which seemed inviting on paper was a nice bright green colour so not exactly for splashing around in but could have swum with my head well out. Pigeons abound on the building and seem to be having a bun fight near my room. It is again a beautiful calm evening, getting a bit nippy though.
Monday 25th Nov
Good breakfast, more leisurely start which, since we are in the middle of a lake, is a short boat ride to the bikes where we find 2 ostriches. What they are doing here who knows but they seemed quite tame.
Straight off we go on to a rocky shortcut and thence to a dual carriageway for a short while. First traffic on the dual carriageway are cows followed by some tractors. Then we get the odd vehicle. We soon bob off again onto some little roads and rocky tracks. We have only a short distance to cover today (77 miles) but that takes a while ! These little villages are incredibly basic. Filthy open drains on each side, filthy looking houses and the men do not look very clean. The women can, but some of these poor hardworking women struggle to keep their saris clean. Cows and buffalo wander every village shitting all over the place. Rubbish in heaps, scabby little pigs, and long suffering dogs. Very basic mending of ancient machines in very basic workshops… The road with its filthy wet muddy puddles and potholes and sleeping policemen. However a few fancy new tractors decorated with streamers, garlands and plastic flowers by the proud owners who can now barely see out.
Its barren rocky countryside in parts, rolling hills and then the odd fields which seem to be for rice even in this dry region. Water must be piped in. We did cross a large reservoir… The flat rocks are cleared from the land and made into walls round the fields.
Bob has electrical problems today so a few pauses for that. Lunchtime was quite amazing. We reached some water falls via a super potholed road. Deepak and 2 of the guys then cross a rocky stretch of water while we pile into the long suffering back up van, squeezing round our bags and go via van over the water and rocks. Then picnic is got into a bag and down steps we go to sit near a temple looking at the falls. That all sounds rather idyllic but it was rather different. Monkeys were all around the temple, the flagstone were somewhat dirty but we had to take our shoes off. Having expected that we might be sitting on rocks by the river at the bottom of the falls , we were instead about to picnic inside a cage while the monkeys were outside the cage! So we stood inside eating while the monkeys got desperately keen on us and jumped on the roof and climbed the sides and looked at us!! Skinny monkey hands came through the wire trying to get food. So , many photos and laughs later and with food back in the bag or eaten, we came out of our cage and went down to the river.
We walked back across the rocks to our bikes after lunch and videoed the boys getting their boots and legs wet in the water as they crossed back. They did not fall but a good wobble or two.
We are in Bundi in an hotel called the Hadoti palace. Its modern and not palace at all but above the town is an enormous old fort. Could have gone up there but decided on a swim instead. Best pool so far on the motor bike bit. Water was fresh but okay. Bundi is a chaotic busy normal kind of town with industry but did see a few tourists as we made our way through the very narrow streets to the hotel. Everything for sale.
Tuesday 26th Nov
Off we go and it’s a road under construction that hits us straight away. Brain engaged the moment we leave the hotel gates. After a while we stop by a reservoir . Deepak bought something which I now realise was a packet of biscuits. Within moments of stopping , he is feeding biscuits to some turtles/ terrapins in the reservoir. Then the next moment hundreds of monkeys…Hanuman/Langur….appeared. They like biscuits too…. Not as nasty as the ones of yesterday, more polite but nevertheless you had to be careful. It was amusing..
Sitting on my bike
Onwards for an early arrival at our Jungle Resort hotel. Lunch was organised and then after lunch it was all aboard for a safari round Ranthambore wildlife park, looking for a Tiger! We went off in two open jeep like vehicles. It was a long drive to the entrance on the dusty roads. Our driver drove as fast as he could over the bumps. We arrived wind blown and dusty. The other vehicle broke down..axle broke. So we waited for nearly an hour for them while another vehicle was sent out. We could have gone in but for indian paperwork. We hashed to bring our passports which then compared with a list from the hotel; but the list contained only 3 correct names. The other names were in the other vehicle so we had to wait! Ridiculous bureaucracy.
In the end after much driving around we saw some big deer…Spotted and Samur and another Blue something. Some birds though the guide seemed rather against stopping to look at them.
So back to the hotel via the long dusty route in the gathering dark. Mopeds with no lights etc, lurching along getting cold. Luckily made it.
Hotel owner then laid on an outside meal at strange tables round a fire. We ate a meal not really seeing what it was!
Wednesday 27th Nov
Tractors galore towing trailers level full of sand and heading en masse up the road. Dead animals on or beside the road. Pigs getting caught up in Bob’s bike but he stays on and going. Dust and more dust. Lovely colour saris on the women and scruffy men. Toot, toot, toot. India by road!! Chai stop. We make good time and as we head for Jaipur. We had to stay as a bunch again so we could make an impact on the traffic. Fight our way through and amazingly do not quite lose each other….not sure why not nor why no one came off or hit something. Staying in the MadhuBan hotel , just 1 mile away from the old city.
We go in the back up van, once we had changed , to a restaurant the other side of the old city. After lunch a quick photo of a palace in the lake and then back to be dropped off in the pink city from whence we all separated and did our own thing. I peered at the outside of the City palace and wind palace. It looked a real shambles on the outside of the city palace. The streets are full and crowded with traders and tourists and locals . I bargain for my purchases getting to half price each time but not quite sure that I am not still paying a bit too much. Head back in an electric little skinny tuktuk thing.
Everyone splitting up for supper tonight which is a little tricky as that leaves me and Bob to be together. He absolutely does not want any indian food!! Even more tricky. So I go with the flow and we find an Italian restaurant on a roof top. Bob only eats half his pizza, they do not do wine and my pasta is not the best. Indian food would have been better …Bob watches a rat running around….
Thursday 28th Nov
Off to the Amber palace which is just outside Jaipur. It looks enormous and ethereal in the early morning light. Already full of tourists and plenty of hawkers. It is enormous. Deepak gives us just over an hour so in we go, some with an audio guide. There is a sumptuous suite with glass inlay on ceiling and walls that the king used to receive emissaries in but apart from that it is a mass of courtyards, little rooms, narrow passageways and narrow steps. We get funnelled back out past the hawkers again.
Today is again a mix of off road, small roads etc. It is pretty countryside when you get a moment to look. Much time is spent with ones eyes on the road surface. On a bend in the road in the hills there are langur monkeys, other monkeys, wild pigs and large deer! All very tame! Somehow they have realised that it is useful to get food from humans. We do not have any but Deepak had his garland of marigolds from the hotel on the front of his bike. The monkeys soon had that and we fed one of the deer with a flower!
The hotel, Dadhikar Fort hotel , was a restored fort near Alwar. Overlooking a lake, it had a lovely situation. Our last night..That is it, bike ride over. The bikes are taken away on a truck back to Delhi with the mechanic. The Royal Enfields are so suited to the roads. The potholes we did not avoid, the very nasty sleeping policeman that we sometimes did not spot, the battering they took on the off road sections; all taken in their stride. They had electrical problems now and then but not the frames of the bikes.
Friday 29th Nov
We now split into different groups. Some are off to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The rest of us are taken to Delhi in the back up van. I rather not look at how the driver was driving. So head down and look elsewhere!!
A worrying load that we had to pass in the van.
Some of us have lunch together and then relax. Alex and I finally set off for the airport at 5pm to catch a 9pm flight. I had made a complete mistake packing which manifest itself at security. I had failed to move my cycling shoes from the bottom of my rucksack…hand luggage. It wasn’t the shoes but all the tools and metal things including a knife that I had packed inside them.! I really did not want to loose these things. So I was told to go to the airline and get a staff member to come back to security with me. I then realised that if I checked the whole rucksack in then I could keep everything. So decanting my book and tablet , money and jewelry into my helmet bag, the airline person took my rucksack backwards to check it in. I was saved from a very silly mistake and luckily had had time to sort it.
Nice seat at an exit on the plane meant I slept better than normal.