What was I thinking? What on earth possessed me to spend more than 5k to go on ‘holiday’ to India?
I did keep a journal, but I’ll not repeat it all. It’ll take too long. I’ll give you the start and then a few more instalments of what it was like – with a bunch of photos which I think are pretty cool. Expect it over 3 or 5 posts.
The Tour – it’s an official organised company tour. If you’ve ever seen the Top Gear Vietnam Special – well these are the guys that actually ran that tour.
It’s for experienced riders. Have no doubt about it – this is one of the most challenging rides you can do. For a biker, this is probably the ultimate in bike tours on the planet. I kid you not.
The Bikes – Royal Enfields 500 Bullets. Shite. Although – I can’t think of any other bike I would have done it on.
My Gang – My pals Russ and Huggy joined me. (Russ is a good rider at speed, but slow manoeuvres…., well, he is 9 feet tall so that doesn’t help. I was worried about him) Huggy, he is cautious (slow). Very cautious. No off-road experience at all. Only sleepy village riding. Me – well, fast riding, motocross, stunt school, pretty much all round super-hero.… I’ve a stable of various bikes – I know how to ride.
The other Gang – Good bunch of people. Three Aussies who were ‘proper Aussies’. They were cool and good experienced riders. Some old Kiwi’s entering the final stages of their lives, a Techie guy from the States who was on his own and a Husband and Wife from Idaho who are both Doctors. We made a mental note to not be far away from them. We also had a Husband and Wife who were riding on the same bike. Hats off to them. It was tough fighting with the bikes and terrain. To have your nagging wife on the back also takes real guts. In total, there were 17 riders.
Accommodation – this was all part of the package, some tents, home-stays and guest-houses (read that as ‘shite’) Rooms were for 2 persons and any singles had to pay a $500 extra fee. We split the $500 and took turns in having the single room
Terrain – some normal roads, but most is gravel, stone, mud, river crossings, landslides.. basically everything you are not used to.
Food – crap.
The Support – All our luggage was carried in a 4×4 van which followed. Another couple of pick-up trucks carried bike spares, water, tools etc. In the Support Team were a couple of Mechanics, a Doctor and some other guys who I’ve no idea what they did. One guy rode a bike at the back of the group – and behind him was the ‘Sweeper’ truck. He would make sure the last man (usually Huggy) was not left behind.
To this day, I still do not remember agreeing to this trip. I’ve looked over old e-mails and messages with Russ and I can’t see anything where I agreed to it. I can only assume it was a drunken night where Russ said “instead of paying you the $500 share of last night’s bar-bill, I’ll pay your deposit for the India trip”. That is the only scenario I can think of.
This deposit was paid last year. There was a lot of prep-work that went into this trip. We had to buy all new ‘bike gear’, obtain visas and permits, insurances and flights.. not to mention rearrange our work schedules so we are all off at the same time.
Roll on 9 months, a few trips back to the US and UK to get our new bike stuff and we were set.
A night in Dubai to synchronize watches. Checked in at the airport at 2am only to be told that Russ’s visa was no good – as it was in his old passport (he got a new passport a few weeks ago). Now, every other Country in the world will accept a visa which is in an expired passport. It’s normal. For example, a Thai has a 10 year UK visa – but the passport is only valid for 5 years. You can still use the visa in an old passport).
Anyway, this was India. They were having none of it.
Russ was going nowhere – except the Indian embassy later that day to get an emergency visa. I did offer Russ to try and use my passport – and I stay behind but that would require him shaving his head and cutting his legs off at the knee.
Huggy and I proceeded to India – and Russ to find a hotel by the embassy. If the visa takes any longer than 3 or 4 days – will the extra expense (visa and flights) be worth it? Will we see Russ again?
Coming into land… well.. I can’t say I was impressed by New Delhi. If this was New Delhi, what was the old one like? Madness. Total chaos. What had I done?
Straight to Claridges Hotel. That doesn’t sound too bad now does it? It’s Claridges after all!
Now, I could list everything that pained me. I could moan about all the little niggles and issues I have with all the things in my daily life that make angry and grumpy.. but what’s the point? All I am going to say is – from my 5 star hotel window – this was my view.
We met the team who were on the trip. The tour guide was not much of a guide if I am honest. He just started talking about random things. It was then I interrupted him and suggested we all introduce ourselves so we all know who each other is. That’s basic meeting people protocol right?
The next morning was a 5 hour coach ride to a place where we’d meet our Royal Enfield’s. Driving through Delhi, I came to realise how well off I am. And not just me – I am talking about anyone who doesn’t live in Delhi. My god. What a place. Words do not describe this place. Well, there are some words, but I am trying to cut down on the swearing.
At lunchtime – we arrived at a carpark where our bikes were waiting. Each had a sticker on the tank. That was to be our ride for the next 12 days. Except Russ’s bike. That was to be ridden by one of the support team until he arrived.
My bike didn’t seem too bad. This is the best it will ever look.
Speaking of Russ – he was still in Dubai – going back and forth from immigration to the embassy, trying to sort out his visa. He was told he would receive it the following day, so optimistically booked his flight for the next night. As soon as he touched down in Delhi, we had a car waiting to drive him to us. By that time – we would be 10 hours away.
After changing into our bike gear in the carpark. We saddled up and got on the bikes. It was then we were given a form to sign and told the following.
• Rules of the road are – bikes don’t matter. Get out the way of any truck/car.
• Expect a car on your side of the road on a blind bend.
• There is no cellular network where we are going, so if you crash – you’ll probably die.
• Emergency services are more or less non-existent up in the mountains – so if you crash, you’ll probably die.
• There are roads which have rivers flowing across them – so if you fall off in them – you’ll probably die
• Be careful what you eat – you’ll probably die.
• The mountain roads are single lane – if a lorry is coming, hug the cliff wall rather than going off the cliff – as you may die.
• Beware of falling rocks. If they hit you – you will die.
• Expect Cows in the roads. Try and avoid them.
• You’ll be at high altitude. We have a doctor who will monitor your oxygen levels. It’s hard to breath up there – you may die.
There was a pattern developing here. This was not in the sales brochure. I was getting a little worried.
That was it…. We were told to ride as a group for the next 4 hours and meet up at the hotel for the night.
Then.. having no time to get used to the bike – we set off into the city which was heaving with useless fucking bastards in car who can’t drive for shit.
It was then I realised – I may die.