I expect you wont read this till after you have done all the Christmassy things, feeling fat and stuffed like the Turkey and surrounded by wrapping paper
amidst your presents. I hope you had lots of wine, beer, etc too.
I am writing this on Xmas eve in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India and am lucky enough to be staying with a lovely Indian family who are making me very
welcome and standing in for my "family" for Xmas. I have been able to see some of your Xmas emails and hope that this will let you know how much I appreciate them and am thinking of you, even if I haven't
given a personal reply yet.
As the boys in the workshop here are busy polishing my bike and oiling the chain I shall start on this months report.
I left you last month in Northern India after my part and I hope you
have been able to enjoy the song we all sang at it.
After the ball was over, so to speak, I returned to Rishikesh and said goodbye to Frank when he left to fly home, and then prepared to move on. Leaving Anne, Steve
and Trupti at their flat felt like starting the trip all over again as I had become comfortable and spread out after 3 weeks in the area.
Moving south on a back road to bypass Delhi I spent the first night at a holy
city where Brahma was supposed to have invented humans. His fairly non descript temple was in the largest manmade "tank" in India. I stayed in the pilgrim quarters and moved on to arrive in a desert town of
Bikener and found the hostel of a camel trekking outfit. The wifey showed me the selection of huts in the garden and rooms in the house but I wanted to be cheap and camp in the garden which she agreed to after her
husband and I discussed the price. However she said it would be cold and that I could stay in the hut for the same cheaper price, instead. Her reasoning seemed to be that I reminded her of her grandmother. "How old
is she?" I asked. "84"came the reply.. Oh well, perhaps my back does ache a bit and I need the comfort!
I decided to risk the 2 day camel trip after all, as they said there was a cart to
ride in if I got sick but it transpired that a camel has a back and forward motion, not a round and round one, like an elephant, and, apart from screaming leg muscles, the ride was fine. Made more delightful by the
company of a couple of Basques from Bilbao way so we chatted in Spanish and practised yoga in the setting sun on the sanddunes when the days ride was over.
The guide and camel crew sang some wonderful traditional
songs using cooking utensils for percussion, around the camp fire but, not being yet skilled with my MP3, I pressed the wrong button in the dark and missed it all!!
Rajastan desert is not like that of Morocco, there
are many little villages and low scrub but that makes it more interesting and the bright colours of the womens saris stand out against the brown of the earth.
At the end of the trip we visited a temple where the rats
live, being souls of future gods. I thought that , being so well looked after, with daily milk and goodies provided, they would be sleak and shiny and clean but they were a real scabby looking lot and the whole place
stank of rat shit, even worse than my cupboards after a rat attack. In fact I felt quite proud of my campo rats, in comparison.
I liked the desert town of Bikener and was lucky enough to talk to a man who wrote folk
stories so sat with him for a couple of hours notating two. His english was a bit difficult to understand but I think I have the gist of them.
Bikener has some old Havelis ( elegant merchant houses ) and jain temples
and really good Thali resturants where you can eat as much as you like for 25R... about 50 cents in Euro.
I decided to go to Jaipur, the red city, and met a canadian girl(Emily) on an Enfield travelling with a South
american guy, similarly mounted. They had bought them in Rishikesh and were doing an Indian tour too.
I went sightseeing with them but was a it disappointed with the city( too many touts) and missed the Amber fort as
I went to the wrong place. I only stayed a day and then went on down to Pushkar meeting Simon from Bristol on his BM on the road. Pushkar is another holy place set on a lake and is much quieter and lovely, although also
a tourist centre. I enjoyed some good walks around the lake and up the hill and actually got my MP3 to work to record some music on a fiddle type instrument a guy was playing on the
temple steps. There are many
roof top restaurants in Pushkar and it is a very relaxing place, some people were staying there for Xmas.
However, on I wet to Jodhpur (yes the place the horse breeches are named after)and was stunned by the wonderful
fort which has a very good sound information tour (headphones) and stunning views of the city which, like Chefchaouen in Morocco, is painted blue. The BBC were doing some filming there so there were some actors in
Moghul costumes to add historic atmosphere, and I was over 3 hours looking at the wonderful architecture. I spent the afternoon recovering in company of Simon and some other travellers who were staying at a posher
And now for the hard bit.
Before I started this trip I realised that, with anything I do , I am my own worst enemy. Whatever happens to you it is your reaction that counts, how you cope with it and how
positive you can be if things go wrong.
I knew that the hardest thing for me on this trip was keeping myself emotionally high. Once you go down then nothing seems worth bothering with and at home I have just taken to
my bed and hidden under the covers until I've come back up again, but on this trip that is impossible.
During the last 8 months nothing much really has gone wrong, the bike has been great and , on the whole people
have been amazing. I had a low point in Bulgaria where they weren't so friendly, and I had another low point in Pakistan with the earthquake, feeling useless. But now something different happened.
The guest house I
was staying in was small and basic with a closed courtyard ad a friendly couple running it, with students staying there. I relaxed my guard and, as I had to climb up 3 flights of steps didn't unload my bike properly. I
left my bag on the back. Locled with my safety wire but, as I had taken a couple of things out, it wasn't as tight as usual. This was mistake number one. Mistake 2 was leaving the tank bag on too.
On the morning I
came down to leave I discovered that The tank bag had been opened and emptied and also the big bag had been wiggled out and almost emptied. some things had been left inside but most of my gear had gone. I was
gobsmacked and, being shocked, immediately blamed myself and, mistake number 3, did not call the police and make a fuss.
Looking back I just cannot believe that I just upped and left without screaming and shouting and
getting the police involved.
I feel sick a week later I still haven't got over it as these things were not only essential but personal as they had been given to me by my friends.
The black neck roll from Judy,
Potugal. The Barbour mitts from Kees in Holland. The quilted inner to my red wet weayther jaket from Heiner and Petra in Germany. The face cream and waterproofing that Anne had brought for my birthday.
overtrouses which were 100% waterproof and so light and comfy and my lovely, lovely little leather jacket which I've had for 15 years and has been through many deserts with me. Boo Hoo, sob sob. I cannot believe how
stupid I am. I feel like I did when I gave Pole (my dog) away. I want them back!! And I am crying...
But, for some reason I immediately thought, they are just possesions and I mustn't regret them but I do. On this
trip they are essential. My spare inner tubes and chain oiler can be replaced but not these things.
Everyday I miss something else. I was competely set up for this trip and now I feel very vunerable and down. I cant
even claim on insurance cos I didn't report it. Crazy or what!!!
So, the invincible Linda is not.
Well, I went down to Uidapur, where they made Octopussy 34 years ago. I watched it, amazed at how daring all those
techno things James Bond had seemed then which you can acheive with just a mobile phone now. His exploits were so tame compared with todays films. But it was a laugh.
I found a yoga class and threw myself into
stretching and breathing and saying "om" instead of Shit!!. I went to another Hill town, Mt Abu and walked with a group for a couple of days. Mainly Aussies now. It's the Ozzie season as it is their summer
hols. Also the Israelis are out in force.
The last night in Mt Abu I met Carl, from Stoke on Trent , who had ought a nice Indian guitar for 25 quid and so sat round the fire (its chilly up there at night) and
played some Oz songs.
Through a WIMA contact I had been put in contact with a Royal Enfield Club in Ahmedabad and had been invited to stay with a member there, Amol.
He came to meet me on the main road down
and he and his family have been looking after me. I will get the inner tubes here, the bike has been lovingly cleaned by the workshop boys and I have adjusted the chain and we tried to fix my scott oiler which has been
malfunctioning for a long time.
Yesterday I did a talk at a local school and the kids ( grade 5/6, about 12 years old) were amazing and really got into playing the lagerphone and dancing the Brown jug polka. I met an
Indian guy who had cycled round the world for 17 years meeting world leaders to spread the message for peace. The most amazing thing about his story to me was the fact that he was engaged before he left (in Indain
tradition) and his fiance waited 17 years for him to come home!!! They now have 7 year old twins.
Today I have been to part of an Indian wedding and maybe tomorrow, Christmas, I will go to see the Lion park with Amol
and his friends. Life is still good.
Heiner is on holiday till the end of January so I wont be able to send him the piccies for the web site till then. However, I hope you enjoyed this report, despite my moaning.
Lots of love to you all and have a whisky for me on Hogmany.