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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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Report India Jan-II 2006

Hi folks,

Here I am in Kerala which is a bit like Mississippi as it has backwaters and lots of mossies. Also a great cafe art and music scene in Fort Cochin which seems to be one of the main tourist places. I'll let you know how I arrived here from Goa.

It was quite a wrench to leave my new friends in Margoa at the Jan Ugahi Centre but I made the move gradually by only riding a few miles down to one of the southern beaches to meet Alfred, another Overlander, at whose place I had stayed in Vienna last June. He had left Austria on his Tenere at the end of August and, only having received a 3 month visa for India, had parked his bike up in Rajastan and come by train to laze on the Goa beaches. Good move, as the train is less stressful than riding if you just want to be in one place for a while.

After two days of comparing experiences while walking on the beach, I started inland to go to Hampi.

On crossing the Goa border I was unfortunate in being stopped by a policeman   who wanted to subsidise his pay packet. He demanded to see my documents, which I duly produced, but he asked me where my Emissions certificate was. I said I didn't know I was supposed to have one and he said it was very important in India and I would have to pay 500R fine. If I was to pay him 200R he would let me go and not confiscate my bike. Finally, to get away I paid him 100R. I thought afterwards I could have shown him my TUF certificate , but I can´t find it anyway.

The bike boys tell me that they do have to have a certificate for their bikes here but the joke is that within 1/2 hour of me being on any Indian road my face is black. On this trip I had just given Larry a wash and brush up and he was looking so good that even Bo Peep would have been impressed but 50ks down the road he looked like the black sheep of the family. So much for all the vehicles having emission tests!!

Hampi is an archaeologists delight as it is an area strewn with the ruins of the 13th century city of Vijayanagar and is very scenically set amongst a rocky landscape. Best way to visit all the sites is to go around by bicycle: so I discovered after a day footslogging in the sun.  The next day I combined a short walk to the monkey temple ( a mere 400 steps) with a couple of river crossings, one in a coracle, and then lazed by the river during the hot afternoon.

After all that historic culture it was time to catch up with some more of the 60kph members in Bangalore and Sanjeev kindly rode out of town to guide me in and set me up in his comfy flat.

I had arranged to do a talk for the Geographical Institute and for one of the International schools and both these sessions were most enjoyable, I was even presented with a bouquet, which I had to leave with my hosts.

While I was in Bangalore Sri Sri Ravi Shanka (not the sitar player but a guru) was holding a huge meeting for his Art of Living cult, which is world wide. I managed to get to see some of the events but the enormous crowds put me off staying too long. Anywhere there is a festival in India there is danger of being crushed and I went off to a small gathering of the 60kph club instead.

For the last few weeks the bikes steering had felt a bit odd. I had first noticed it when I fell off doing a U turn in the centre of Pune. Sanjeev had a short ride and said it was far too heavy so I went to a bike mechanic and, getting the front wheel off the ground, it was obvious that it was too tight. Luckily it was just a matter of slackening it off, otherwise the bearings feel ok. It is much better now and it is just as well I had it adjusted as the hairpin bends on the road up to Ooty ( a hill station) were extremely tricky.

At 2200m it is blessedly cool there and I was able to walk around the lake and then have a days guided walk with a member of the Toda tribe who was most informative about the customs and local fauna and flora. The Nilgiri hills, in which Ooty is set are magical and home to several different tribes for which there is a Tribal research centre and museum. Plenty of food for Anthropological study there. The Toda tribe are thought to have roman origins while another mob may have originated in Africa.

While in Ooty a took a short ride on the train that comes up from the plains. It was a relaxing experience, winding through the hills with the strong fragrance of the Eucalyptus trees wafting in with the cool breeze. Quite reminded me of home .(Both Spain and Oz)

Bracing myself for re-entry into the hot world of the lower ground I started down toward the coast. On fueling up in Ooty I saw a group of Brits on Enfields. They told me they were on a sponsored ride but, in the brief encounter, I didn't quite understand. Later I saw another group and stopped to find out more. It appears there are 100 of them doing a ride for WWF. All on new Enfields they are going to donate them to WWF when they have finished their ride. They were all in a bit of a hurry and it was hard to get them to stop and talk. It was a woman pillion, Viv, who stopped to chat, the boys were busy marshalling each other.

I finally made it to Fort Cochin, dodging the Kerala Killer buses that I had been warned about and now am watching the fisherman dipping their Chinese style nets into the sea. 200 times a day, they lower and raise them, they tell me, sometimes only getting 2 or 3 fish in the net. It is better in the monsoon, they say. During this season they rely on donations from the tourists taking photos (yes, I did)

During the next couple of weeks I have to make up my mind if I am shipping to Malaysia or going up on the train to Delhi and riding into Nepal and flying to Bangkok. The ship is far cheaper but I would really like to go to Nepal, if the roads aren't closed due to politics. I will keep you all informed.

Thanks to all the people who have helped me on this part of the trip. As usual I have made some more Faraway Friends. I will send the photos later, as usual, when I find a friendly technician. Alfred helped with the last ones.


Love Linda


PS. Great to see that Gaurav has won 2 awards with his film, so you may get to see it on TV yet!

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