The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
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We hit the road around 9:00 am for an easy and pleasant ride to Belur. Since Ooty, we have enjoyed cooler temperatures and beautifully clear skies, and today was no exception.
The ride today took us through gold and green farmland and everywhere we went, people were harvesting in the fields. We skirted several pretty lakes and crossed many rivers, all under azure skies. It really felt like fall today. The first half of the ride was more four-lane goodness, and even when we turned onto the two-lane road, the pavement was still good and it was lightly trafficked.
We made it to Belur by 1:30 pm and checked into the nicest hotel we've stayed in in India. The Hotel Mayura Velapura is a government run hotel that Re found on TripAdvisor. The building is new, the room was huge, spotless, had a very comfy bed, flat screen TV, and a lovely bathroom, all for 16 bucks. Belur's main attraction is the Channakeshava Temple.
It is a massive Hoysala temple from the 1100s and is beautifully carved.
Some of the stonework here is among the best we've ever seen, and it doesn't hurt that the subject matter for part of the temple were some scenes from the Kama Sutra.
Re and I have really enjoyed the style of the Hoysala temples, and this is the best we've seen so far.
After wandering the temple for a couple of hours, our grumbling tummies told us it was time for a late, late lunch. We found an excellent thali place near the temple, where Re made a new best friend in the form of a three or four year old Indian girl named Devadara. Back at the room, we decided it would be best to have a room reservation for Christmas in Hampi. After calling several hotels, Re made a reservation at our second choice. Later that evening we were a little peckish, so we had a light dinner at the hotel's restaurant and called it a night.
Today's ride looked to be our longest so far in India, so we left by 8:00 am. At first the ride was easy, except for my GPS, which insisted three times that we turn onto nonexistent roads. We finally made it to the NH 13 and the road went from okay to virtually unrideable. As we exited one small town, the formerly two-lane road turned into barely more than a single lane of “asphalt.” The surface of the road appeared as if a giant took handfuls of asphalt and threw them at the ground. In one teeth-jarring hour, we were only able to cover twelve miles. Fortunately, the road got better, but traffic also got much heavier.
The road wound through more fields full of cotton, sunflowers, corn, and millet, and through many small villages, each with its own set of speedbumps. Though the ride was very dusty, we did see many colorful birds and herds of cows, sheep, and water buffaloes. Due to the nonexistent roads that we couldn't turn down, today's ride was more than 240 miles, and we finally made it to Hampi at around 5:30 pm. While we were passing through Hospet, a town seven miles before Hampi, I spotted a “sofa and seat maker,” and sure enough, there were motorcycle seats on display. I stopped long enough to mark it in the GPS before we continued on our way. We found our guesthouse and the rooms are good, but a little small for all our crap. While parking the bikes, I picked up the rear of Re's by the rack (that was repaired in Cochin) and found that it was broken again. Sigh. After an excellent dinner at the rooftop restaurant at the guesthouse, we collapsed into bed.
240 miles in 9.5 hours. Whether it was a result of the rough road or hitting the ground again, Re's rack is gonna need some more welding.
After yesterday's marathon ride, neither Re nor I was in a hurry to get out of bed. The combination of bad roads, speedbumps, and collapsed seat foam is hard on our butts and backs, and we ain't as young as we used to be. Sometime around 10:00 we made our way back upstairs for a big breakfast. Suitably fortified, we headed out on foot to see the local sights along the river.
Hampi is a Unesco World Heritage Site, full of the remains of the former capital city of an historical regional royal empire. By the 16th century Hampi was a thriving metropolis of about half a million people. By the mid-1500s, however, the city was razed by a confederacy of rival sultanates. The boulder-strewn landscape is dotted with ruins for miles around.
We first walked up Hemakuta Hill, which is dotted with the remains of old temples and offers an expansive view of the Virupaksha Temple and the nearby Tungabhadra River. After surveying the sights, we made our way down through the small modern bazaar and to the monolithic Nandi statue. As you may recall, Nandi is Shiva's buddy, and statues of him are frequently seen on temple grounds. This Nandi was huge.
After I got my picture taken sitting on Nandi's knee, we strolled around back to discover that this Nandi was (at least partially) anatomically correct.
Jutting out the backside of Nandi was an enormous set of testicles, and I tried to convince Re that rubbing them would bring her good luck and no more crashes. I don't think she believed me, but she gave them a vigorous rub anyway. It can't hurt! After walking back around to the front, I noticed that Nandi seemed to be smiling just a little bit more.
Balls rubbed, we walked up over the hill to the remains of the Achyutaraya Temple and then made our way through the ruins of the Sule bazaar.
After admiring the remains of the carvings and massive size of the ruins, we walked north to the river where we followed the path to lunch.
We had a delicious thali at a restaurant overlooking the river. Since we were both still a little tired from our marathon ride yesterday, we went back to the room to “relax” and plan our onward travel. Later that evening we walked out to look for an ATM but found none in town. We then toured the Virupaksha Temple, the working temple in town. It is one of Hampi's oldest remaining structures, having survived the destruction of the city nearly 500 years ago. We arrived around pooja time and joined the busloads of students who were there to worship.
Since the sun was setting, we quickly made our way back up Hemakuta Hill to the sunset view point. After catching up on email at an internet cafe, we got some dinner and then worked on ride reports until bedtime.
Since it was Christmas day in a rather un-Christmas-y place, we decided to shower to the accompaniment of Christmas carols on the iPod. We walked back along the river to the same restaurant where we had lunch yesterday for a breakfast of fruit, muesli, curd, and honey and a cup of coffee. It wasn't my mom's Christmas coffee cake, but it was still pretty good. While we sat, we watched the kingfishers dive into the river for a holiday breakfast of their own and saw monkeys warming themselves in the sun.
After walking back to the guesthouse, we fired up the bikes and rode the eight miles into the nearby town of Hospet and hit the ATM for some much-needed cash. We then resumed our tour of Hampi's ruins with some of the outlying temples.
Our first stop was the Queen's Bath, which was surprisingly elaborately decorated on the inside.
We then rode the short distance to the Royal Center, where we wandered through another set of massive ruins and posed for 30 or 40 more photos.
We got back on the bikes and rode to the Lotus Mahal, which was surrounded by a 25 foot high stone wall punctuated with massive guard towers.
Next to the Lotus Mahal were the gigantic elephant stables that once housed the royal elephants.
After a quick stop at the Underground Temple, we rode to the Vitalla Temple. Even though we were bordering on being “templed out,” this temple was worth the visit.
Located in the courtyard was a massive, stone chariot that used to be mobile despite the fact that the axles and wheels are made out of stone as well. In some places, the carving on the temples was remarkably intact and crisp.
Especially impressive were the sets of slender pillars that were carved out of a single piece of stone. Some of the pillars in the temple are musical and will generate a tone if tapped.
We finished temple touring by around 4:00 pm and decided to head back into Hospet to hit the liquor store (and find out about Re's Christmas present). On our earlier visit to Hospet Re spotted a liquor store next to the motorcycle upholsterer. (One drawback to temple towns in India is that they are almost always vegetarian and “dry.”) While I spoke to the seat upholsterer, Re went next door for some whiskey. The upholsterer said that if we come back tomorrow morning at 10:30, he could redo our seats while we wait. When I asked the price, he said 350 rupees each (7 USD). I opened my mouth to haggle on the price, but when I realized how little it actually was, I quickly shut my mouth.
When we got back to the guesthouse we decided to work on our First Need XL water purifier, since it was getting difficult to pump. We purchased some purified water and used it to backflush the canister. While trying to reassemble the unit, I dropped the canister on the floor from chest height. Crap. The instructions say that if the canister is struck hard, that you need to test it with dye to make sure it still works. The unit comes with a bottle of blue food coloring that we used for the test, but very unfortunately found that our canister was indeed ruined. Fortunately, we are carrying a backup filter, which we installed. Unfortunately, the canisters are only rated for 150 gallons, and that ain't gonna last us very long. After a delicious Christmas dinner of falafel, hummus, and pita, I called my parents on Skype to wish them a Merry Christmas. The we enjoyed a nightcap of Diet Coke and Indian whiskey and called it a night.
46 miles over some amount of time. Re's bike is definitely running better and getting better mileage with the leaner pilot jet. Tomorrow I will need to clean mine and install it.
After another easy morning, we left for Hospet around 10:00 am and arrived at the upholsterer shortly before 10:30. After removing our seats, the upholsterer and I attempted to discuss what we wanted from our new seats. He eventually called for another man from a nearby business who spoke some more English. With his aid, we settled on the seats being approximately two inches thicker and new, black seat covers.
With the design agreed upon, I removed Re's rack and started to look for a welder. When the upholsterer saw the rack, he asked if we needed welding and took us around the corner to a machine shop. He showed the rack to a rather startled looking employee, who said they could weld it for 80 rupees (1.60 USD). I left the rack at the shop and walked back to the upholstery shop.
While Re wandered off to do some shopping, I sat and watched the upholsterer work. He retrieved two pieces of foam from his collection that appeared to be used rear seats from a TVS bike. He motioned for me to test the foam, and it felt very dense. He then glued the foam directly to our stock seats, on top of the existing seat covers.
He shaped the foam with a saw blade and foam files made out of metal cups with nail holes punched in them. After the foam was glued and shaped, he cut out and sewed new covers. Once they were stitched, he installed them over the new foam/old seat combo. This left us with two, very tall, sort of Frankenstein-y seats. In the meantime, the machine shop employee delivered Re's re-welded rack and only charged us 70 rupees for the work. Hopefully, this welding job lasts longer than the previous one. I was pleased to see that they laid some reinforcing beads on the underside of the rack as well. With the help of the upholsterer, I quickly installed the rack and the new seats, and Re and I hopped on to try them out. They are certainly taller, but felt firmer and much more comfortable. We paid the man and headed back to Hampi.
We both found the riding position to be more comfortable and speedbumps to be much less jarring. We were stopped at a police checkpoint on the short ride back to Hampi. This is the first time we've been stopped in our nearly six weeks of riding in India. The officer skeptically asked us if we had “all our papers in order,” and we did. We handed over our Oregon DLs, international driving permits, passports, and insurance documents. The officer looked surprised, and after a cursory glance, gave us our documents back and tried to send us on our way. By this time, several other officers had crowded around and asked us the usual questions about our trip and the bikes, much to the chagrin of the original officer. After five minutes or so, he chased off the other officers and whistled us on our way.
Back at the guesthouse, we cleaned the melted rubber band out of my original pilot jet and wheeled my bike to a vacant lot, where we installed it. Bikes set for tomorrow, we worked on ride reports until dinner. After another delicious dinner at our guesthouse's rooftop restaurant, I posted ride reports at the local internet cafe. Later, we had a late night dessert of cake and whiskey and called it a night.
After a hearty breakfast (since we may not have lunch today) we loaded the bikes and hit the road before 9:00. Our plan for today was to ride to Raichur, which is about halfway to our actual destination of Hyderabad. Raichur is not listed in the guidebook, and a check of Wikitravel last night didn't reveal much information.
Just outside of Hampi, the GPS instructed us to turn down a narrow, country road, and cryptically said “Road to Ferry.” The road eventually dead-ended short of the river at a series of metal bars sticking up from the road. I could see motorbike tracks running in the sand between the metal bars and decided to see where they led. Sure enough, about 500 feet further, the sand road turned into a narrow cement ramp that twisted down to the water's edge. The river here was only about 500 yards wide, and we could see a small boat on the other shore loading passengers and bikes on board. It shortly arrived on our side of the river, and the fare collector asked us if we wished to cross. We said yes, and he informed us that it would be 100 rupees (two bucks) each. I was pretty sure that this was the foreigner price, but I really have wanted our bikes to ride on a small boat some time on this trip, so we agreed. The boat itself was maybe 22 feet long, 5 feet wide, and we had to back our bikes onto the boat.
Two of the crew helped each of us get our bikes safely on board, where we sat on our new seats for the short journey across. A couple minutes later, we were riding the bikes back up a steep concrete ramp to the road. I was happy to be able to cross off one more experience from the list, and Re was happy to have made it safely (thank you, Nandi!).
The ride to Raichur was uneventful and wound through rural countryside for the entire way. The seats were very much better over the occasionally rough pavement and frequent speedbumps. If the ride to Hampi felt like fall, today's ride felt like spring. The weather was still cool, but everywhere, farmers were planting new crops of rice. New rice is a remarkably vivid green, and to me, seems to be the color of fresh. The other good news of the day was that my bike is running the best it has since we left the US. The newly installed jet has made for crisp throttle response and much better fuel mileage. When Re and I were running different jets, she was getting approximately 15 percent better fuel economy than I was, but now I am matching her mileage.
We made it to Raichur by about 1:00 pm and were underwhelmed to say the least. It was a dusty, sprawling town, with the remains of a fort up on a hill. Since we were making good time and Raichur looked like a bust, we decided to press on to Hyderabad, a further 120 miles up the road. We reached the outskirts of Hyderabad around 5:00 pm, and I immediately steered us onto the wrong road. Instead of staying on the Nh 7 into the center of town, I somehow managed to get us onto an elevated highway with few exits and nowhere to turn around. The GPS quickly recalculated our route, and I was glad to see the detour would only add about 4 miles. After 6 miles or so on the elevated road, we exited into the parking lot that is Hyderabad's surface streets during rush hour. We spent about 45 minutes riding the last 4 miles to the hotel and were relieved to finally get off the bikes around 6:00 pm. This has been another marathon day, and both Re and I are mentally fried and physically sore from the trip.
We checked into a big, lovely room and went out walking in search of dinner. We are not staying in the tourist ghetto and one big drawback is a lack of recommended restaurants in the area. About half a mile along the road from the hotel, I spied a young man walking toward us with a McDonald's cup. Re and I have both been jonesing for a beef hamburger (which we will probably never find in India) and were suddenly on the lookout for the golden arches. Sure enough, a few hundred yards up the road, we saw the McDonald's. Of course they have no beef, so I settled for a McSpicy Chicken and Re tried the Chicken Maharaja Mac (think spicy, pink chicken Big Mac). They both tasted good, and in our tired state, we didn't have the interest in looking any further. We went back to the hotel and collapsed into bed.
240 miles in nearly 9 hours. New seats are a huge improvement and my bike is running much better and using less fuel.
After yesterday's hard ride we slept late and finally made our way down to breakfast around 9:00 am. After a delicious Indian buffet breakfast, we dropped our sore buns onto our new seats and eventually found our way to the Salar Jung Museum. Hyderabad is a city of over six million people and apparently they all decided to go for a ride at the same time we did, because this was one of the most fraught three-mile rides we've taken. Once at the museum, we queued up for tickets and discovered that many schools had brought their students to the museum for the day. Though the line wasn't terribly long, each person seemed to be buying somewhere between 60 and 80 tickets for the students and staff. A couple of people tried to cut in line in front of us, but we've been in India long enough now to know that yelling at queue jumpers is the way to handle the situation. We finally got our tickets and went around to the front of the museum to find hundreds of students lined up waiting to go through security and get into the museum. Bummer. The security guards motioned us to the head of the line, and it was our turn to queue jump.
Once we were inside the museum, it was bedlam. We attempted to view some of the exhibits in the first couple of rooms but could not get anywhere near to anything due to the crush of humanity, so instead we went to get coffee and wait for the crowds to die down. Twenty or so minutes later, the crowd had subsided somewhat, and we were able to restart our tour. The museum contains over 35,000 exhibits from all over the world that were collected by a local ruler in the early 1900s. The displays were generally divided into Indian artifacts, Western artifacts, and Eastern artifacts. The galleries we enjoyed the most were those that contained objects and artwork from China and Japan. We've discussed the possibility of visiting China several times, but visiting this museum in central India made up our minds for us- we will go there someday. Several hours later, we reached our USRDA of culture and battled our way back to the hotel.
Originally we had intended to go from the museum to the Chowmahalla Palace but felt too overwhelmed and tired to do so today. On out tour of India so far, we have enjoyed the smaller towns more than the big cities, and Hyderabad may be just too big for us. Back at the hotel, we had a late afternoon snack, and Re worked on blog posts until dinnertime. On our walk to dinner last night, we spotted the restaurant for tonight. After several days in temple towns, we were finally in a place where we could get meat. Kabab Corner had some delicious looking whole chickens in the rotisserie cabinet out front, and for around 6 USD, we got a whole chicken, an order of biryani rice, two naan, and two sodas. After stuffing ourselves silly on delicious food, we headed back towards the hotel and stopped for...more food. We are powerless to resist Bombay sweets, so Re picked a few of the especially good looking ones from the case, and we snacked on them on our walk back to the hotel. While I opted for some post-prandial relaxation, Re was feeling energetic, and after washing out several days of laundry, she decided to wash our Ortlieb bags as well.
After another slow morning of breakfast and working on ride reports, we walked out into the daylight and to lunch. After lunch, our plan was to ride the five miles to Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi Tombs on the eastern side of town, but neither of us really felt like fighting the traffic to see more old things. I think we are getting dangerously close to archeological overload. So we retreated to the relative calm and quiet of our room once again, to work on ride reports/blog posts and plan our further journey northward.
Around 4:00 pm we walked approximately 1.5 miles to a recommended internet cafe, only to find that we needed some sort of an account to use their service. Sigh. So we walked 1.5 miles back to our hotel area and found a tiny, grubby hole in the wall internet cafe with bad monitors and sticky keys. However, the connection was fast and only cost 20 cents an hour. We posted ride reports, blog posts, and some pictures to the Smugmug account before researching the tiger parks north of Jabalpur. Bandhavgarh National Park was going to be our next stop, but in searching for accommodations we found out that everything was booked well through the new year. Well, now what? Discouraged, we headed for dinner and talked about the possibilities over mutton kebabs and chicken biryani. Goat, it's not beef, but at least it's not more chicken! We didn't come to any decision at dinner and decided to sleep on it.
But we didn't. Instead, we spent the morning looking at the India and Nepal guidebooks and mapping out the next month or so. One drawback to having no itinerary is that occasionally, we have to pull one out of our asses. Over the past several days, we've begun looking at and discussing traveling to Nepal and Thailand and find ourselves looking more forward to that than to seeing more of India. We decided to skip the tiger parks in India and instead make time to see Royal Chitwan Park in Nepal. The new plan was to head north to Nagpur and then to Khajuraho to see the temples there. Afterwards, we may stop in Varanasi on our way to Sarnath. Sarnath is one of the four important cities for Buddhist pilgrims, and since the other three are all nearby, we decided to try to visit them all. The other three cities are Bodhgaya and Kushinagar in India and Lumbini in Nepal.
By the time we figured this out it was too late to leave for Nagpur today because it is over three hundred miles away. Instead we had a lunch of street food and then went back to the crappy but fast internet cafe, where we posted the rest of our photos to Smugmug and looked up accommodations for the next several days. I also spent some time on HUBB researching air freight from Kathmandu to Bangkok, Oriental city. (I'll take 80s music for two hundred, Alex) In anticipation of a couple of long rides over the next two days, we packed all our gear tonight and put a couple changes of underwear in our daypacks.
We were out of bed by 6:00 am and on the road by 7:30. Even with a new tube, my front tire is still losing 4-5 psi every day. In anticipation of no lunch stop, we had a big breakfast before leaving. It was not raining when we left, but the sky looked threatening. Tropical storm Thane made landfall yesterday near Pondy and may be heading our way. One advantage to being on the road so early was that traffic was very light. We made it out of the city quickly and onto good, four-lane highway for the first 120 miles. We set our throttles at 45 mph and made good time until the road turned bad. The rest of the trip alternated between good, four-lane and really bad two-lane road.
About 70 miles south of Nagpur, we got stopped at a railroad crossing, and in the 15 minutes we waited, it started raining. When I was planning this trip, one of my goals was for all of our gear to be waterproof. But when we did the final packing in Portland, we found that the Pelicans and Ortliebs didn't hold all of our gear, so we pressed our old daypacks into service. These packs ride between our knees in the step through and are unfortunately, not waterproof. Before we left the US, we discussed buying small drybags to use instead, but we liked the convenience of the daypacks. My solution was a couple of “custom” raincovers from the Hefty bag company. While waiting for the train, we bagged up our daypacks and wondered if we would ever make it to Nagpur. Finally, the crossing gates were lifted and we rode the final 70 miles in the rain.
We made it to Nagpur by around 5:30 pm but could not find Central Avenue. I am finding that my OpenStreetMap maps of India are incomplete for some non-tourist cities. While the map of Nagpur displays many roads, they are all just named, “road.” We knew Central Ave should be near the train station, so we found the train station and then rode around. After about 30 minutes of not finding the hotel area, Re finally called, and with the help of the hotel and some passersby, we made it to the area. We pulled up in front of the hotel Re had called, only to find that they had no motorbike parking there, but we could park at the “Hotel Grand,” located a couple blocks away. We rode to the Hotel Grand and found nothing grand about it. It was down a dark and dingy street in an area where, if there were motorcycle chop shops in Nagpur, this is where they would be. We declined to park at the Hotel Grand and rode back around to Central Ave to look for better prospects. A local tout spotted us perusing the Lonely Planet and directed us to a nearby hotel where they allowed us to park our bikes in their front hallway. The evening was cool enough that we didn't need AC, but we decided to get it anyway to help dry our still damp gear overnight. Bikes secured, we went around the corner for a very excellent thali dinner and then to the local wine shop for a bottle of celebratory whiskey with which to toast the new year. After today's long ride and facing another one tomorrow, we decided around 9:30 pm that it was midnight somewhere, toasted the new year, and went to bed.
340 miles in 9.5 hours. Today was a day full of death. We saw a couple of dead cows, several dead dogs and goats, and three what must have been fatal accidents. In the six months since we began, we have covered 13,800 miles and 18 US states, nipped into 1 Canadian province, rode through 7 African countries, and 6 Indian states. All on 100cc bikes!
When we were planning this northward trip in Hyderabad, we optimistically scheduled two days for the ride to Khajuraho. But since the distance remaining to Khajuraho was at least as far as yesterday's marathon ride, it would require excellent roads today. We rolled the bikes out of the front hallway just before 7:30 am and into the rainy street in front of the hotel. A rainy day wasn't going to help our cause either. We also left without breakfast today because nothing was open anywhere near the hotel. The traffic leaving the city was very light and allowed us to reach the 4-lane highway quickly.
The first 50 miles or so of the ride found our speedometer needles pointing at the 45 mph mark, and then the highway abruptly ended. We now found ourselves on the absolutely worst road I have ever ridden on. And it was still raining. While we zigged and zagged our way down the road trying to avoid the craters that we could, we had plenty of time to enjoy the teak trees and cool, fall air. We made our way through a twisty, mountainous stretch and soon found ourselves at the end of an Indian-Mexican standoff. Ahead of us on the one and a half lane road was a string of lorries that we, like all good Indian motorbike riders, rode past. After passing between forty and fifty stationary lorries, we came to the source of the problem. Fanned out across the road and deep, muddy shoulders, were three northbound lorries trying to fit through a single-lane wide gated checkpoint. They were facing three southbound trucks arrayed in the same manner, also trying to get through the single-lane wide gate. Three guards with four foot long batons were trying to un**** the situation. The problem was, apparently, no one could back up because they were blocked by the trucks behind them. After assessing this circlejerk for a few seconds, we took to the muddy shoulder and squeezed our way past. I was glad we had our new, more aggressively treaded rear tires installed, as we “powered” our way through the six-inch deep sticky mud. My biggest fear riding through was losing traction and having to put my feet down in deep, deep mud. There's mud, and then there is Indian mud. Besides cricket, the national pastime in India seems to be relieving yourself in public. In the city, and the small towns, in the country, you cannot ride or walk more than five miles without seeing at least one man or boy peeing. Before coming to India, I had never actually seen anybody poop. Since I've been here, I have seen at least ten people pooping, usually on the side of the road. So it is my presumption that the mud here is at least fifty percent pee and/or poop. Needless to say, I really didn't want to put my boots in it.
Clear of the bottleneck, we lurched and bounced our way back down the other side of the hill at no more than 20 mph. And it was still raining. After another twenty miles or so, I spotted a government-run roadside hotel and restaurant and decided it was time for a warm drink. We pulled in and ordered coffee, toast, and fried eggs for brunch. While we waited for our food, we consulted the map and guidebook and decided that our new goal for today was Jabalpur, which is approximately halfway to Khajuraho. The service was not speedy, but the food was good, and forty-five minutes later, we rejoined the “road.” After bouncing along for another ten miles or so, the road suddenly got better and the rain stopped! The rest of the way to Jabalpur, the road alternated between four-lane, buttery goodness, and two lane road that appeared to have been cluster bombed. All the riding in the rain and mud had left our bikes very muddy. At one refueling stop, I wished Re a Happy New Year and asked her how we were going to celebrate. After discussing various options, Re suggested we to something really dirty. Always one for a good time, I asked what she had in mind, and she said, “Wash the bikes.” Awww.
We made it to Jabalpur by around 3:30 pm and were happy to have survived the last five miles into the city. The roads here are chaotic, and Re and I thought that several times people were actively trying to kill us. Even though Jabalpur's streets were not identified in my GPS this time either, we were less lost and found our hotel rather quickly. We decided to skip washing the bikes today and celebrate the New Year indoors in a more festive manner in one of the other ways we discussed. Later that evening, we again took our lives into our hands and walked four blocks through Jabalpur traffic to dinner.
185 miles in 8 hours. What do you call potholes that span the width of the road and are 8”-12” deep?
For some reason, the alarm I set in my iPhone for 5:30 this morning did not go off. The return of iOS's previous New Year's alarm problems? Fortunately, Re woke up on her own at about 6:30 am, and sounded an alarm of her own. We rushed around and made it on the road by 7:45 am, showered, but again, without breakfast. The morning was very overcast, but at least it wasn't raining, and again, leaving early allowed us to beat the morning traffic. The six mile or so ride back to the Nh 7 was easy and uneventful, but then we found the Nh 7. The GPS said we'd be on the Nh 7 for about 3.5 miles, and what a 3.5 miles it was. The pavement here was almost unrecognizable, as it was more pothole than asphalt. Some of the potholes were at least a foot deep, and we found ourselves shifting between first and second gears as we climbed in and out of the craters. It took us more than twenty minutes to cover that 3.5 miles.
We eventually turned left onto the Nh12a and were greeted by a strip of bitumen approximately 1.5 lanes wide that was crumbling at the edges. Khajuraho was looking less and less likely with every mile. The edges of the road were gently potholed, but there was a blissfully smooth line right down the middle. For the first thirty miles or so, we were able to keep our speed between 35 and 40 mph and only had to slow occasionally for broken pavement. Then there was a stretch where the pavement was mostly broken, but the potholes were a gentle 1”-3” deep.
After riding through some beautiful farmland, we found ourselves at the foot of a hilly area, where the road once again, became smooth, and 5 mph was doable. The downside was that it had begun to mist and get foggy. The temperature today wasn't warm to begin with, and the mist and fog made it downright chilly. After several miles, we made it to the top of the hill, where the road turned to shit again. Due to the precipitation, the up to 1 foot deep fissures that ran across the road were now also muddy. From then on it took us several hours of slipping and sliding in the mud and dodging and weaving as many of the bomb holes as we could.
The damp was soaking through our gloves, and cold air was sneaking past our jackets. Eventually, both Re and I began to shiver. While I stopped to fill up my jerrycan with petrol, Re unpacked one of the Ortliebs to find our fleece pullovers. With our fleeces on, we felt better, but it was still a damn cold ride.
The GPS was counting down our time on the Nh12a, and I found myself praying that the Nh75 would be a much, much better road. I should know better by now. The roads in India are like a continuing series of boots to the groin. They tease you with the promise of something better, and then, WHAM! Turning onto the Nh75, we were met with a steep hill so thoroughly coated in mud that I still have no idea whether there was asphalt beneath. As we bounced and jolted our way up the hill into some small town, I felt my steering go funny. The unmistakable feel of a flat front tire. Really, now? I spotted a relatively dry patch of ground in front of somebody's house and pulled into their front yard. I looked down, and sure enough, my front tire was completely flat. This was the brand new, India-made tube that we had installed in Ooty, about a thousand miles ago. While I pulled out the tarp, Re got out the tools, and we got to work.
As we started working, a crowd appeared. We eventually had at least twenty-five spectators ranging in age from six to sixty. The front wheel was completely encrusted in mud, but we dismounted it and removed the tube. While we were removing the tube, the problem became obvious. Once I unscrewed the nuts from the valve stem, the valve stem immediately cocked at a 45 degree angle. The tube (and tire) had rotated on the rim and had ripped the valve stem halfway out of the tube. Well there's your problem. We reinstalled the good, used tube we removed in Ooty, and with the help of a friendly local, we reinstalled the front wheel on the bike. After answering some pantomimed questions about the bikes and our gear and taking a few photos of our new best friends, we said Happy New Year and headed north again.
The rest of the way to Khajuraho, the road alternated between pretty good and “oh my god, can you still call it a road if more than 75 percent of it is potholes or dirt?” The other highlight of the day was that both Re and then I were hit by buses. While riding down one stretch of bumpy road, Re felt a looming presence behind her and then her bike suddenly lurched forward. She turned to find a gigantic, yellow bus that had just rear-ended her. She and the bike suffered no damage, and Re kept the bike on two wheels (thanks again, Nandi!). My incident occurred less than fifteen minutes later, when an oncoming bus unexpectedly moved into my lane, and I found myself sandwiched between the bus and a crowd of pedestrians. My mirror scraped half the length of the bus, and just as I cleared the end of the bus, it brushed my handlebar and gave me a big wobble. Again, no damage to me or the bike. But that pair of underpants is gonna need some extra scrubbing.
At nearly 5:30 pm, we turned off the main road for the final six miles to Khajuraho, and found ourselves on a four-lane, divided, well paved road. Where has this road been for the last two hundred miles?!? approximately three miles outside of town, we got stopped at another train crossing. As the sun sank lower in the sky, we waited, and waited while the train pulled across the intersection, disgorged a man and a chair, and then slowly returned from whence it came. We stopped at a hotel on the near side of town and found it to our liking. After unpacking the bikes and warming up a bit, we went out for a rather disappointing dinner, doubly disappointing since it was our only meal of the day.
210 miles in 10.5 hours. 20 mph average- a new low for this trip.
Because of the beating we took yesterday, we decided to take it easy today. After a late, lazy morning in bed and some room service chai, we eventually got cleaned up and walked out to greet the day. Our guesthouse was located a little outside the central part of town so we walked the third of a mile to breakfast. Since it was after 10:00 am we initially had the restaurant to ourselves but were soon joined by a father and son from New Jersey. India so far, has been remarkably devoid of Americans, as this was only the second pair of Americans we've spoken with since arriving seven weeks ago. We spent the better part of an hour chatting over breakfast, exchanging travel tales and tips. Hunger sated, we walked back to the guesthouse and spent an hour or two working on ride reports.
Sometime after 1:00 pm we went in search of lunch but didn't find anything that struck our fancy. What we did find was way too many touts who wouldn't take no for an answer. The touts here are the especially irritating kind who don't just come out and say what they want. Every conversation begins with, “Hello. Where you come from? I have a friend who lives there. How are you enjoying Khajuraho? Have you seen x, y, and z? And oh, by the way, would you like to come into my shop? No? How about an ayurvedic massage? No? Do you need a taxi?” and on, and on, and on. We also ran into one particular racket that the Lonely Planet did warn us about. This is the “teacher,” who happens to be at lunch and invites you back to “his” school to meet the students. After you meet the students and you've been charmed, then comes the request for a big donation “to help the children.” The scam of it is, that the “teacher” isn't a teacher. Instead, he is just a scammer who splits whatever you donate 50/50 with the school. On our walk to the old village we ran into such a “teacher” and enjoyed listening to his pitch for a while. As soon as he said he was a teacher, Re and I just smiled at each other. We declined his offer to visit the school and left him standing on the corner.
After shaking him off, we walked to see some of the temples in the eastern group. Khajuraho's claim to fame is its three groups of World Heritage-listed temples that were built between AD 950 and 1050 by the Chandela dynasty.
What makes the temples here special, besides the excellent craftsmanship, is the subject matter of much of the temple decoration.
In and amongst the gods and goddesses are a whole lot of sculptures of nearly naked or naked women and erotic scenes purported to be from the Kama Sutra. Of the eastern group, we saw the Vimana and the Javari Temples, which while beautifully sculpted, lacked the promised gymnastics in stone that I came to see. The form of the temples and style of decoration is again, completely different from anything we've seen elsewhere in India.
Some areas of the temples are covered in complex geometric patterns, while others are flat expanses of stone engraved with scroll work. And boobs.
We then walked south to an area of Jain temples. Jainism is another old religion that arose in India about the same time as Buddhism. The main tenets of Jainism seem to be asceticism and nonviolence, and these temples reflected that restraint.
Having had our daily dose of culture (and boobs of the stone variety) we headed back to the guesthouse.
After yesterday's ride, our bikes were covered in mud, and earlier we spied a hose with which to wash them. While I started moving the bikes around, Re went to the room to run a bucket of hot water and get a rag. The manager of the hotel saw me moving the bikes and asked if I wanted them washed. Oh really? I asked how much that might cost. He replied, “fifty rupees per bike.” Hmmm, so for 2 USD, neither of us has to get muddy, wet, or cold. Sold! While the most junior hotel employee got to work on the bikes, Re and I sat in the sun, and she worked on some blog posts and pointed at spots he missed.
All too soon, the sun started to set and we headed back inside, leaving our mostly mud-free bikes to air dry. We asked at the hotel for a restaurant recommendation, and they pointed us to a small restaurant further away from town. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleased to see almost all the tables filled with locals. We had a delicious and inexpensive thali dinner and some excellent chai. After a quick stop at the liquor store, we went back to the room to do laundry and have nightcap.
Early to bed and early to rise and up the road for breakfast again. After breakfast we made our way to the western group of temples, which are the crowning jewels of Khajuraho.
Here we toured the Varaha Temple, dedicated to the boar incarnation of Vishnu.
We also saw the Lakshmana Temple, where we discovered that even a thousand years ago, good things came in threes (and sometimes, fours). In addition to the erotic carvings, the temple is also covered with battalions of soldiers. Apparently the Chandelas were lovers and fighters. We next visited the Kandariya-Mahadev Temple, which at ninety feet long, is the largest in town.
The temple is covered with 872 statues, most of which are nearly three feet tall.
Several of these statues depict what you and three of your good friends can do if one of you is standing on your head.
After a quick stop at the Mahadeva Temple, we viewed the Devi Jagadamba and the Chitragupta Temples, which were similarly decorated. The humorous highlight of the day came as we admired a carving of a woman and two of her male friends, when an Indian woman walked up, pointed at the image we were viewing, and said what sounded like, “horse.” Re and I kind of skeptically looked at each other and then smiled and nodded as she repeated it again. After she walked off, Re and I giggled and tried to figure out whether she said, “horse” or “whores.”
Our final stops were at the Vishvanath Temple and adjacent Nandi shrine. The Vishvanath Temple was another amazing work of stone carving, again completely covered in intricate sculptures.
After once again walking around in amazement, Re decided to seek Nandi's further help by repeating her ball-polishing method of worship.
Completely templed out, we went to lunch. After a very late lunch of momos and vegetable tempura, we walked back to the guesthouse to finish up the most recent round of ride reports and blog posts. Since we loved our dinner last night, we decided to repeat it tonight. Later we went to an internet cafe to post the results of our earlier work and upload all the pictures we just took to Smugmug.
0 miles. But lots of boobs. (Hopefully the smattering of non-prurient images and archaeological commentary will save me from the wrath of the mods. )
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