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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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Report NewYear

Hello everyone,

Time is passing rapidly and so much is happening that I feel I must write this mid month report so it all won’t be too much to digest later.

Christmas day for me was quite a day of extremes and not like any other. Firstly I went out for a ride with Amol, Jay and Rocky(from the 60kph Club) who were all on their trusty Enfields. We went to a bird sanctuary about 50kms away and had a wander around the lake, trying to see any birds that hadn't been scared off by the holiday crowds. Then the boys rode a few more kms with me to put me on another road south before they went home for their Christmas day dinner. I had been invited down to another town where Abhijit (one of Jay's friends) was to meet me. At about 4 I called on the outskitrs of Rajkot to tell him I had arrived and he asked me to wait 1/2 hour and he would meet me and guide me in. No probs, I ordered tea from the road stand and settled down to read my book.

By the first half hour a large crowd had gathered and by 1 hour an even larger one, completely obscuring me and the bike. I called Abhijit again and he said he was on his way. By the next 1/2 hour there were about 500 people and the stall holder had called the police who came with sticks to beat everyone off and moved me and the bike to a private area where no one was supposed to enter. So all the crowds were straining against the fence! Finally Abijit arrived and escorted me to this huge stately building. As he had said that, owing to his holiday visitors I, would be staying in a booked hotel, my heart sank at the thought of the price of such a grand establishment but it turned out to be a public school for princes, Rajkamur College, established 130 years ago by the Brits, and I was given an amazing luxury apartment and evening meal and ended up doing several talks to the kids on Boxing day, including teaching Brown jug polka and "Tar Here" (Lochlan Tigers, for the Oz readers)


In Rajkot I found a cheap suede jacket to replace my beloved leather one, as it was by now too hot to continue in my red waterproof. A pale fawn colour it wasn't ideal but the only one I could find. After being knocked over by a passing truck I continued to find the sea at Velaver, a stinking port. My first sight of the ocean since Turkey. Without a swim, I continued to find a small village near the lion park where I had been kindly invited to stay while my hosts (Mr Vyas and family) arranged a trip for me.

After a dose of village life which included being wrapped in a saree, chewing Indian pan (mix of betel nut and spices) and seeing a 3 year old tabla playing protege, I finally got to the game park and saw some Aiatic lions. They differ from the African ones in several ways. The main one is that the Asiatic lion has a belly flap that the African doesn’t. The male also has less of a mane, so you can always see his ears and he is involved in kills but does not live all the time with his mate. African males leave the kills to the women which is probably why they hang around with them more- so they can be there when lunch is available.

I had some more contacts(Chetan and Nikesh) to see at another town, Junagagh, and here there is a pilgrim walk of 10,000 steps to temple at the top of a hill. Of course I had to do it so left at 7am the next morning and made the summit by 10am. I was the only European on the walk and it was great fun as there was a real party atmosphere as I and several hundred Indians puffed our way up past amazing Jain temples. All we got at the top was a blessing and a piece of coconut!

My hosts were having a bit of a party that night and so, after more sightseeing, I came back to a feast of Indian delicacies, after having done an interview for local TV.

The State of Gugarat, in which I had been travelling since leaving Rajastan, is a dry one so I was beginning to wonder how I would manage for New years eve. Although I had a small bottle of whisky with me left over from my birthday party, I really wanted to have a celebration with some  other Europeans , if possible.

Fortunately nearby, the little island of Diu, joined to the mainland by bridge, is under a different government, and booze is allowed. Like Goa it is an ex Portugese colony and many people go there on high days and holidays to partake of the evil drink. So, I got on the bike and made a beeline for it!!

On the way to Nagao beach, a favourite with the tourists, I remet an Israeli couple on a Bullet and stopping at a hotel to talk to them also remet a Swiss/Austrian couple last seen in Islamabad. They told me that there was a community of Overlanders camped on the beach so the night was spent at this beautiful spot watching the sun go down, then sitting round a campfire, guess what, drinking and singing Auld lang Syne with an International crowd at midnight. New years day I felt the effects and got sunburnt collapsed on the beach. Even yoga didn't restore my equilibrium that day.

During the course of my stay I met an Australian woman rider, Rose, who has been teaching music and English in Delhi for the past 2 years. She kindly let me have a ride of her 350 bullet which was rather like the BM ie, a lot more comfy on the bum than the Suzy.

Loath to leave this lovely tranquil spot, which, with its Iberian architecture, made me feel very much at home, I finally set off up the coast back towards my new friends in Ahmedabad. During the 2 day ride I had my first punture in 33,000kms and it was in the front wheel, the one I didn't have a spare inner tube for!

Luckily the tyre went down during a tea stop and the locals were only too happy to help me mend it. There was a tyre mender right there with a vulcaniser! Is this guardian angel still working or what!

Back with Amols parents (Amol was on a club ride down south) I was taken around by Rocky on his Bullet to see a remarkable textile museum (Ahmedabad was considered the Manchester of India) and Ghandi's Ashram. There they have his staff, sandals and spinning wheel. Rocky kindly presented me with a gift of the book of his life and sayings. Amols Mum, gave me one of her lovely Indian outfits so my bags are filling up again.

Hugging them all goodbye I headed down the highway in the direction of Mumbai but soon turned off this polluted ,busy route to take far more pleasant roads inland and a few kilometres short of my nights destination stopped by a pretty river for a drink and was immediately approached by a man on a Honda who asked the usual questions and then offered to show me a camp site by the river. It was the Gugerat equivalent of Campamento Jarandilla in Castellar, ie a Forestry run outdoor educational camp in beautiful and peaceful surroundings. Even more fortunately the school kids were all taking exams so weren't there! I had the place to myself, plus a cook and night watchman. Bliss.

I was able to do yoga with the waterbirds by the river in the morning before heading on towards the Ellora caves which I finally reached a day and a half later.

These incredible caves have huge carvings from the Buddhist, Hiindu and Jain periods and it took a whole day to see them all. There is an annual music and dance festival there, but not at this time.

Finally I arrived in Pune to meet Hari, another Bullet owner and HUB contact who had been expecting me for several weeks. He works in one of Punes IT companies which is housed in a modern pyramid shaped building and has all sorts of employee friendly goodies, like a canteen and swimming pool. Cassava crowd kindly note that there are many call centres situated here.

I went out to a meeting one of the Bullet Clubs one night, the Road Shakers, and was pleasantly surprised to remeet Rose who had come here for a job interview, having blown up her bike on route. Of course there is no problem getting an Enfield completely rebuilt here.

The boys here are being very kind and helping me get all the little jobs done on my bike and tent. (the poles keep breaking) and I have located a 21" inner tube, but so far no waterproofs. As it wont rain for several months yet there are none available so I wont worry until futher south. My suede jacket has already turned a murky brown with diesel fumes but is adequate and I look like a local.

I am being fed with wonderful Indian food which means I am putting on weight again but still less than normal and I have been interviewed by local newspapers but haven't seen the reports yet. I hope to do some more school talks but need a bit of a rest to catch up on all these reports.

The Indian motorcycle community is extensive. Of course thousands have the Hero Honda and Baja bikes which are all under 250 cc but the Bullet is the King of bikes and there are many different Bullet clubs all over India so I have no shortage of contacts. I am, however, very much looking forward to meeting Nicky, in Bombay, an Indian lady who has her own Bullet and who I contacted through WIMA.

As usual, many, many thanks to all those who have helped me and made me feel so much better after last months disaster, that is both on the road and by email. Heiner is still on holiday so the photos wont be up yet but keep an eye on the site from the end of this month.


Lots of love to you all.



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