Friday, December 31, 2010

Just me again guys, nerding it up on the blog.   Another loooooong day.  You see, my Muslim friend who has been following me all over the sub continent cranked up AGAIN at 4.00am, with some demented Christmas Carol.  OK, maybe it's not the same guy, but they have to be related.  He seems compelled to make sure everyone is awake at 4.00pm.  He goes on for a few minutes and eventually I can get back to sleep for a while.  But only for a while.  He logs back on at 5.00am and does an encore performance.  Maybe he could be persuaded to get a gig in Les Miserables or something, in another continent!  Oh, and in Darjeeling, he tag teams with a clock tower, which chimes in at - you guessed it - 6.00am.  Maybe I'm just a grumpy old man.  Maybe.........

Went ot the Darjeeling Zoo today.  Bit of a let down. The Mountaineering Institute is contained within it and it's reasonably interesting.  They seem to have claimed Tensing Norge as their own.  I'm sure he was actually Nepali, not Indian, but I could be mistaken.  Sort of like all the New Zealanders we claim who make it big in Hollywood?

The hotel seems to be gearing up for a big night, but I am thinking I might try to avoid this due to a proposed early (read - also cold) start in the morning.  Bhutan tomorrow, if we can convince the Indian authorities to let us leave.  Actually there are still 6 of our number who will have to visit the Indian Embassy in the Bhutan capital of Thimpu, because they STILL haven't sorted out their visas for getting back out of Bhutan and back into India for the last time (to get the flight home).  Hmmmmmm.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. You probably recognise the quote and how very apt.  It has taken a few days to get back to anywhere with enough semblance of order to provide (reliable) internet.  If you could call Darjeeling in any way orderly that is.  It is pasted to the side of several vertical drops of many thousands of feet, and a few arms and legs too I think.

Since the last time I popped my head up, we left Matt Can Do in a 5 k log jam of trucks and buses which took about two hours to negotiate.  Yep, count the seconds.  Count the lung damage.  This was followed by a 50 k up hill and 50 k down hill which took the rest of the day.  Bent doesn't seem to describe the road adequately.  There is even a town on it called 11 bends Kitana.  Just for amusement, our intrepid leader Mike Ferris was tootling along in front of me on said 5,000 foot mole hill, uphill in a straight line when he decided to lie down for a little rest.  He was mightly enraged with himself because he hasn't crashed for 7 years.  Explanation: black ice.  During the traverse we had 5 guys crash 7 times.  Scary doesn't even come close.  No major injuries. People always say to be careful of black ice.  I'd like them to explain how that actually works, becuase so far no one has a strategy to deal with it, no matter how "careful" they are.

Two days ago one of our number nailed a little girl on a pushie who decided to cross the "highway" without looking.  The ensuing melee was not pretty.  Same day we saw a local motorbike rider nail a pedestrian.  Are we beginning to see a pattern here?  Today one of ours slipped off on an off camber wet downhill bend, once again unharmed.  One crashed crossing the rail lines from the "Toy Train" which still inhabits these environs.  It was cool and damp and very very oily.  It was almost inevitable.

The ascent of the mountain to Darjeeling was the best ride yet, helped in no short measure by tha fact that I think I am finally well again.  No headache, earache, toothache, temperatures, aches and pains and after 11 days, no more blood in my snot!  The main road up was suffering from the usual landslides so we has to seek and alternate route.  Yeah, I know, I had visions of 150 k of boulders, but it was better than the main route to the extent that Mike Ferris will be bringing his future clients that way.  And almost NO traffic.

Some sanity has returned however upon arriving at the beautiful Elgin Hotel in Darjeeling.  Everything seems to work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is a really old colonial building owned by the son of some big international hotel group.  It is painted, varnished, waxed, polished and scrubbed within an inch of its life.  It has award winning gardens ans a multitude of dogs belonging to the owner, including two Samoyeds and a Sydney Silky.  The staff have received training and it is not, repeat NOT falling down.  It is in stark contrast to the rest of Darjeeling.

If I can just stay well, happy days.

Oh, and the bike hasn't broken down since day three!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hey guys,
a bit more of a sane day today.  Took a trip in an aircraft along the line of the Himalayas.  Makes you feel small.  The captain even calls you up to the cockpit to get a wider view.  The airport was a riot though.  It was just the domestic terminal.  To get in was the walk through scanner and the wand check.  To get to the "departure lounge" involved a pat down search.  To get out of the terminal to the shuttle bus was yet another pat down search.  I suppose it keeps people employed though.
Most of our number have been struck with varying degrees of the squirts.  Some have been laid up for the day.  I should count my self lucky to only be still struggling with the man flu.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Do not attempt to adjust your TV.  Your are about to enter a world of sights and sounds the likes of which you have never seen  before.  You are about to enter - the Twilight Zone.

For those of you old enough to remember the Twilight Zone series, feel free to correct my wording, but I hope I have conveyed the feeling. 

I have to keep harking back to the roads and traffic, which occupies a lot of my attention.  One minute you are bopping along a gorge road, grooving with the twisty bits and getting off on the scenery and next, you are caught in a knot of Tata trucks and buses, speed 1/2 kph, belching masses of diesel fumes, all trying to get past each other at some problem.  Sometimes its a landslide, or the road has gone missing, or a series of potholes big enough to lose the HMAS Melbourne in, or even another Tata broken down on a blind bend with the people underneath it pulling out the differential.  The also have an interesting way of signfiying a breadown.  They rip off a branch of a tree and adorn the side of the trucks with bits of the branch.  They then lay down rocks around the truck. Hmmm.

Saw the remnants of a recent crash too.  A truck with a full load of sand headbutted a Tata bus.  They had bounced back off each other by at leat 4 to 5 meteres.  Must have been a hell of a hit.

It seems that half their traffic problems arise from the huge disparity in speed.  They have no concept of footpaths, so everyone uses the road.  If they didn't push on hard and instead waited patiently in line, the maximum progress made would be that speed set by a heavily laden bicycle (HEAVILY).  And that's never gonna work.  Example:  after leaving Delhi, we hit about 15 k's of dual carriageway (yep, you heard right).  So I'm bopping along at about 95, when I come over a rise and find an ox cart making its way up the right hand lane.  Yeahhhhh...  A k or so later and two trucks come the wrong side of the median strip towards me (yes, on my side).  At least they had the decency to be line astern.

Anyway, we all arrived safely at the hotel in Matt Can Do.  Mind you, some of us got just a little bit lost. This is a crazy, crazy place.  I think Mike Myers used the term :"intensity in ten cities".  I was amused by the immaculately turned out Policeman with the white hat and mask standing in the middle of a knotted intersection, really just making up the numbers, because no one was paying him much attention.   It is a huge place, no high rise, just about a maximum of 7 stories of bricks piled randomly on top of one another.   Think Hiroshima the day the Enola Gay delivered a 20 kiloton care package from their American friends.

No break downs for my bike for two days straight.  Woohoo!

We are off for a flight over Everest tomorrow.  Looking forward to that.  My goal is to be over the man flu by tomorrow.  Here's hoping.

Same as before.  I'm too tired to check the spelling and grammar.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Captain's Log, star date 24.12.2010.
There's no intelligent life down here.

If it sounds like I have not yet escaped the mental asylum that is India, fear not, for I have arrived in Nepal, where the inmates are not in fact criminally insane.

Where to start?  Firstly for those who have in fact tried to log on and find what I have been doing, I apologise for not having made an entry sooner.  The fact is, that everything in this part of the world is so dodgy, that it is either missing, stolen, broken or temporarily closed.  The places I have been have not allowed me to log on before now.

How to describe India?  Well, it has often been said that India is just India.  It is an extreme assault on the senses. Nothing and let me repeat, NOTHING will prepare you for India.  The mental asylum I referred to above relates mainly to the traffic.  Imagine everything you have seen and multiply it by 1,000.  On a motorbike you know the whereabouts of every ox, goat, dog, duck, cat, sheep, pedestrian and every other mechanical contrivance they see fit to put on the raod here.  The horn use is constant and it is very intimidating.  The Tata trucks make room for no-one.  You get off the road or be truned into a hood ornament.  The overall pervading feeling is controlled by a constant thick pall of woodsmoke and diesel fumes.  I have also had man flu since I arrived which hasn't helped my attitude.  Combine that with the fact that the first three days which were so arduous, that I haven't had a chance to get better.  Those three days by unfortunate circumstance ended with a number of hours of night riding.  NOT recommended.

The whole of India I saw looked like Baghdad the day after George came to visit.  There is absolutely no preventative maintenace in the Indian psyche.  What started out as a five star hotel for example, is now a litany of disasters.  Plumbing, wiring, doors, paint - all falling ot bits.  The hovels in Nepal however seem to be held together quite well, not like the bailing wire, chewing gum and gaffer tape that holds India together.  They even seem to have had a coat of paint within the last 20 years. Oh and if you like dust, they have it here in spades.

The count so far has been three sliding off on wet corners, one lost (but luckily found yesterday after a night spent native), one fell off a bridge (twisted knee and two days in the support vehicle).  For my part, 3 break downs per day on average.  The mechanics are pretty good though.  One clutch problem, one spark plug failure, one coil failure and many times where the dear old Enfield just felt like a lie down for five minutes or so before agreeing to once again proceed.

The windy roads are nuts however.  Never seen anything like them.

We are currently in Pokhara.  Its a bit of a jumping off point for trekkers looking for rafting and the usual stupidity.  I went for a paraglide today and looked the Himalayas right in the face.  Awesome.

I apologise for the spelling but I won't be checking it as I am too shagged.  Have a great Christmas one and all.  I promise to write again soo as soon as I get to somewhere with power and communications.

Beam me up Scotty.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Its me again!

Hi All,

Derek rang this evening and asked me to tell you that he promises he will find a computer tomorrow on his first rest day and do an update himself.
Yesterday he had more bike problems,and apparently they have lost 1 rider ( as in they don`t know where he has gone)!! Two had crashes this morning on the wet roads but are okay and Derek said his bike was riding very well today. The last couple of days have been really difficult and they have had to ride in the darkness which they usually don`t do but today so far has been excellent. His cold is getting better, about 50% he said.
Well, hopefully you will hear from him tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Under way

Hi Everyone,

this is Robyn, not Derek. Derek wanted me to let you all know that he is just entering Nepal, at the border crossing right now. He will do an update himself when he can find somewhere with Internet access. Apparently they are a little hard to come by. Anyway he is sick with a cold and apparently has had some bike problems on the first day of riding, his broke down 3 times!! Made for a very long day yesterday, so far today the bike has been good.

More from him ( not me) later. ( we hope)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More prep

Hey troops,
just when I thought I was over being tortured by the Indian Bureaucracy, they got me again.  This is truly precious and a great one for conspiracy theorists.  A while back I got some US dollars loaded on to a card at the Loganholme Commonwealth Bank.  They couldn't get Nepalese or Bhutanese cash.  No sweat.  But they could only get a minimum of $250.00 worth of Indian cash.  I only wanted a hundred or so, but they said to try their main bank in Brisvegas if I was in there at any time because that was where the cash is kept.  I happened to be in Brisvegas last week so I went to the bank and stood in the queue of one for 15 minutes.  Looking around, I could have actually been in Mumbai.  Anyway, Hedrivesfastcars served me.  I couldn't get a lot of English out of him but he decided that because I wasn't Indian, that he couldn't give me Indian cash.  The conversation was long and tedious.  He went to his supervisor, who was sufficiently far away that I couldn't read the name tage, but let's say it was Peanutbutterjars.  Confirmation that I couldn't get Indian cash because I wasn't Indian.  Next consult, let's call him Doubledeckerbus.  Same story.  What can you do?????  I left disappointed but thinking to myself, "Self, what is wrong with this picture?"  I returned to the Loganholme Commonwealth Bank and spoke with a nice lady who immediately ordered me $250.00 worth of Indian cash.  When it arrived several days later, I was half expecting something to spring up out of the envelope with a card saying :"GOTCHA!!!"  No.  It had $9,600.00 Indian Rupees in it.  Sort of an anticlimax really.  Stay tuned.  PS> More of the crew going on this trip had to make pilgramages to Sydney and Canberra to get their visas right.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Hi troops,

just to keep everyone up to date, it is 29 days out from the departure date of 18/12/10.  Why a trip to India, Nepal and Bhutan?  Fair question.  Mid-life crisis.  Probably not.  Maybe,  and with all due respect to Douglas Adams, I'm looking for an answer to life, the universe and everything that isn't 42.  It is a 25 day trip through steamy flat lands and seriously high snowy mountainous passes. Open up Shining Shangri La Tour and you will see where I'm going.  It includes a PDF file with the itinerary.

It has been quite a trip so far just in the preparation.  Dealing with the Indian visa office and the Indian High Commission in Canberra.  They were all very cordial but extremely "party line".  I had to get used to the fact that I was dealing with a country of 1.1 billion.  The visa office also deals with a substantial number outside their country too.  They were sort of like the Vogons from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.  I had to keep myself in check when I saw a sign on the wall of the visa office which said that aggressive behaviour would not be tolerated and offenders would be set on fire and cast adrift on the Ganges, or refused service.  I can't remember which now.  The elusive multi entry visa has finally been obtained.  Some of the other 20 participants on the trip are still butting heads with the bureaucracy to gain their multi entry visa.  One husband and wife got different visas when they had applied together.  Same surname, same address, same itinerary.  They had to drive to Sydney, a round trip of 500k and spend two nights in Sydney to get the correct visa.  Tiring.