Jules Davenport - Riding an Indian Royal Enfield Bullet Overland to the UK
How to do it, or how not to do it..
without a Carnet de Passage..
In April 2005 I started out overland from India, through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, on through eastern Europe and eventually home to the UK on a trusty 6 month old Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo.
Iâ€™d spent 6 amazing months touring India, and I set out on the journey home with my friend Philippe on his 500. As Horizons Unlimited- and everyone else will correctly tell you- itâ€™s not possible to get Carnets for Indian motorcycles so we had to just wing it and hope the guys on the borders were as corrupt as legend and reputation suggested. Luckily for us, they were.
Below are some (admittedly rather dry!) notes on the practicalities of the trip for any other intrepid overlanders looking for a similarly awesome journey. The countries were as amazing, the scenery as stunning and the people as fantastic as the many blogs and books testify. And contrary to myth and legend, the 1950s Indian motorcycle technology was mechanically magnificent- to date her 26,000kms on the clock is all without complaint, whilst looking like she just rolled off the production line.
Best of luck!
Wagah. Day 1 I went there alone, convinced the Indian side I only had r300, and went across after handing it all over no problem. The Pak passport check guy was amused to see me but told me I was wasting my time before sending me on to Pak Customs a further 500m down the road. Immigration was fine but Customs werenâ€™t having any of it, apart from whispered words of possibilities from the infamous Weasel1. Unfortunately the $10 I said I had wasnâ€™t enough for him, the big boss told me to leave, and eventually one of his mini-Weasels took my passport and walked back to the border with it. After cancelling my exit stamp from India it was back to square one.
Day 2 I figured I might as well try again, nothing to lose, try more money this time. The Indian side waved me through and wished me luck, having taken no baksheesh. The Pak border passport check Ranger turned me round there and then, no discussion. He said thereâ€™d been a meeting between his team and the Customs chief Weasel and without a Carnet no vehicle was to pass him. Back to India to deflect their Immigration calls for baksheesh for cancelling my exit a second time.
A couple of weeks later I came back with my Swiss friend Philippe, to see if it was just me the Brit who wasnâ€™t welcome. He didnâ€™t get past Indian Customs- they sent him back saying they wouldnâ€™t bother sending him through without a Carnet cos they knew the Paks wouldnâ€™t let him in. So we took the bikes back to Mrs Bhandariâ€™s in Amritsar, raced (as it were) back to the border by rickshaw, and crossed on foot. A British guy, Charlie Wood, got a Temporary Import License for his bike from the powers that be in Islamabad, so we went straight there.
Essentially what was needed was a letter from Mr M B Tahir (chiefWeasel of Customs Procedures) at the Central Board Of Revenue. We went via a guy called Irfan in the Ministry of Commerce but as welcoming as he was, overall he only really served to confuse the issue. In the end we took a direct written request (endorsed by letters from our embassies, I was lucky to not pay for mine) direct to the CBR building. Tahir turned out to be the single decent guy we dealt with in the whole process when he produced the letter we needed in 24hrs, after weâ€™d been chasing shadows for 8 frustrating days. Plus we needed new Pakistani visas for our re-entry with the bikes ($60 for UK citizen- whatever they say, you donâ€™t need a letter of Introduction from your embassy, just got to the Visa Office and argue hard).
So back to Wagah, we now had the evidence we needed to circumvent Weasel1 factor and show the Indian side that we were welcome in Pakistan. In the end the crossing was still painful as the Pak side all saw their hopes of baksheesh evaporate so reverted to stalling tactics in hope of us paying in desperation. Finally we paid Weasel23 PKR2000 ($35) to accompany the two of us to Lahore and sort out the train loading of the bikes.
Total time: 10 days
Total cost (one bike): $17.50 + $60
So we made it, with major thanks to Charlie for his advice, patience and for being ballsy enough to try in the first place!
Quetta. The train we were on with the bikes terminated in Quetta so we went through Customs procedures with Mr Iftaha of the Car Section before starting on the 700kms through the Baluchistan desert to the border at Taftan. Unfortunately the courier company that was delivering the customs papers from the Wagah mob went totally AWOL, so we ended up spending a week waiting in the city. Very tedious.
Day 8 the papers arrived, we paid Iftaha a previously unmentioned â€˜escortâ€™ fee of about $90 for a non-existent fellow to accompany us through the badlands of western Pakistan. Overall this seemed like a fair price for two bikes and having the freedom to do the journey on our own.
MorjavÃ©. Exiting the Pak side at Taftan went smoothly and we came out into the practically deserted MorjavÃ© (Iranian) compound. Philippe had in fact ridden through a few minutes before me and straight out onto the open road but turned round to look for me. A carnet-wanting Customs crew sent us to the main Customs house to sort ourselves out though we could probably have just ridden out at this stage if weâ€™d wanted (Philippe did)(I didnâ€™t on grounds of George W revving the B52s in the background so thought Iâ€™d go the official route).
What was needed was an excise assurance which could be provided by any regular Iranian insurance company. The customs house Weasels wanted $300 for the two, in the end (5 days and 3 cardiac arrests later) we bought it direct ourselves from Dana Insurance in Zahidan for IRR4000 ($0.45) though this did involved doing the 85kms journey to the town twice to get it stamped both ends. It gave us one month to get to Bazargan.
Total time: 5 days
Total cost (one bike): $0.45 + $40 plus affects of ageing 4 years.
Bazargan. No problems. The papers had arrived from MorjavÃ©, whole Immigration and exit process took 15mins.
Dogubayazit. Paid a loiterer $20 to shepherd me through the Greencard buying process (the paper itself only cost $6) and after buying a visa for $20 I was through within the hour. It just felt too easy..
Total time: 0.001 days
Total cost (one bike): $20 + $20
Bulgaria. Customs didnâ€™t like my Government of Haryana bike registration document (â€˜we no recognise countryâ€™) but gave up when shown a Lonely Planet map of Indian states. Bought a Bulgaria-only 3month greencard for $14.
Romania. These guys couldnâ€™t have cared less, or was it the rain. Didnâ€™t bother with a greencard figuring Iâ€™d wave my Cyrillic Bulgarian one at anyone interested.
Hungary to UK. As above. No problems at any stage.
Total time: 0.1 days
Total cost (one bike): $14 +
1. Do get a Pak Import License from the CBR in advance, should be possible by post.
2. Do get Pak and Iranian visas before leaving home/India.
3. Do make sure the Pak Wagah guys send the documents by TCS or a reputably courier company.
4. Donâ€™t be tricked into thinking any of the officials you meet are in any way competent or incorrupt.
5. Donâ€™t worry that they will search you for money, they wonâ€™t. The only search we underwent was a half assed Indian customs one on the bikes. No idea what they thought theyâ€™d find.
6. Do try to do the ride through Baluchistan from Quetta to Taftan. The train only goes on the 1st and 15th of each month.
7. Do ride straight out of the Iranian MorjavÃ© compound if given the chance.
8. Do get in touch with AliReza Abbasi at the Foreigners Ministry in Zahedan if you have any problems/questions. Great guy.
9. And finally.. donâ€™t lose hope at borders. It all works out in the end.
1. Laminate the Indian Registration, Purchase docs, get plastic see-through folders for everything else.
2. Carry extra petrol, oil, airfilters, spark plugs, silicone gel, easy access toolkit.
3. I changed my 350â€™s drive sprocket from 16 to 17 teeth, making higher speed cruising more comfortable.
4. Get gas rear shocks and change the front tyre to one with decent treads.
5. Learn how to adjust tappets.
6. Make sure you can get your wheels off with the spanners you have!
7. Get factory-made chrome parts in India- aftermarket versions are v low quality.
8. Donâ€™t smash your tappet cover by overtightening..
1. Border Weasels are there to help you.
2. Border Weasels will get bored before you do.
3. Border Weasels care about anything other than cash.
4. Iran is a scary place. I found it the stand-out of the trip (and petrol is $0.08 a litre).
5. Youâ€™ll get punctures.
Registering a 2004 Royal Enfield Machismo in the UK
I rode the bike off the ferry, wasnâ€™t stopped by anyone and ended up posting a C84 form from the web to the Customs and Excise in Dover who required payment of Â£172 on a declared value of Â£700: 6% import duty plus VAT of 17.5%. Pre-reg insurance is about Â£30/month (my luck had to run out sometime).
Next: MSVA. Go to the VOSA.gov.uk website. A couple of minor changes are needed but itâ€™s no way as bad as the guys at Winstonian Squire (the official importers) would have you believe. Jamie at the Mitcham centre was really useful on the phone and so I had no probs on the day:
1. Change the tyres for E-marked ones (c. Â£120)
2. I changed the headlamp (Â£26) but donâ€™t think I needed to. The guy at the test wasnâ€™t worried about the E-mark, so long as the lightline when shone on a board went roughly diagonally down left to right.
3. Get mph on the speedo. I bought a new one for Â£40, would have been much cheaper to buy in India.
4. Make a stamp of any sort on the silencer. Did mine with some metal hammer stamps and any text will do- it doesnâ€™t have to include the BS code.
5. Take the sidestand off because it doesnâ€™t kill the engine if you ride off with it left down.
6. I put a split length of fuel-pipe around the front edge of the mudguard to round it off. Donâ€™t think it would have been a prob though.
The A350 engine sailed the emissions test. Itâ€™s allowed to pump out a max of 4.5somethings of CO but on testing produced only 0.9. Noise limits are 99decibels and the long silencer left it at 73. No problem.
Finally: Go to the local DVLA office and pay a further Â£38 for a registration fee and Â£30 for a yearsâ€™ road tax. They issue you with a numberplate based on the year it was registered in India which costs a further Â£25 to get made up.
Itâ€™s all good. After her spiritual homecoming, the bikeâ€™s international touring days are probably over- but thereâ€™s no better bike about town than a farting, deafening, charmingly eccentric Enfield Bullet!