March 12, 2001 GMT
Mud and dung bed in Jaisalmer

We left Agra disappointed in not seeing the Taj Mahal but Aus$40 per person is over the top for us budget travellers. We vow to make a complaint to the Indian Government Tourist Office and, if we get motivated, one to a large newspaper. The road to Jaipur varies in condition from smooth to bumpy but the chaotic traffic tests our nerves to the extreme. When three vehicles head toward us in two lanes, Carol's frantic waving gets the necessary results as a path is carved through the bemused truck drivers. The road is littered with crashed vehicles, dead camels, cattle and dogs. Pigs appear to be a little quicker than the rest!!

Staying at the Jaipur Inn, we were offered a dorm bed with free buffet dinner for 100 rupees per person. The buffet is 100 rupees so we actually get our bed for free. Sightseeing at the Amber Fort/Palace we strike bike trouble. A noise from the bevel drive that began in Namibia, Africa (40,000 kms ago) manifests itself as a failed crown wheel bearing and seal. We try to source the parts from the U.K., Aust., Germany and India and settle on the U.K. as they are the cheapest. Our host at the Jaipur Inn was very helpful and directed us to his car mechanic who had the necessary equipment to assist in the repairs.The problem had us waiting for a while so we caught the bus to Delhi to arrange our 15 day visa extension in India. Despite what the Lonely Planet says this can only be done in MAJOR CITIES ie. Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta for sure!!

'Guzzi' Mike and Rosie joined us here after they ditched their Enfield in Delhi. Plan 'B' had them flying Rosie's Honda Dominator out to Bombay from Germany to spread the massive load the Moto Guzzi was carring. We had some great nights at the Inn with numerous wedding parades converging on the area. Lights, fireworks, marching bands and dancing was all part of the scene. We spent 12 days in Jaipur due mainly to the breakdown.

Our next stop was Pushkar. Just a short ride of 140 kms but we saw the stark desert sands of Rajasthan becoming more prevalant. Pushkar, a holy place for Brahma's of the Hindu religion, reminded us of Kathmandu with its numerous souvenir stalls, restaurants and street/footpath vendors, all vying for our hard earned rupees or dollars. There were a couple of buffet restaurants that provided a great, cheap food. Hygene standards in India have improved a lot and no stomach problems were experienced in all our time in India. On the advice of many travellers we purchased a bike cover in South Africa to remove the temptation of prying eyes and fingers over the bike. Although we chained and pad-locked this on somehow the nosey ones would undress the bike and play with the switches and knobs. The tripmeter would be reset, the light switch would be on and the cover would be twisted and pulled out of shape. Frustrating!!! We voiced our displeasure to the hotel management but Indians do not see it as a problem.

We head to 'Octapussy City' or Udaipur next, passing dozens of marble wholesalers. The air is white with marble dust as the traffic thins and the road twists gently through the hills. Our lodgeings here at Lal Ghat on the lake were old, but the atmosphere was superb. The Lake Palace Hotel lit up at night with a few fire works thrown in for Valentine's Day made for a special time at this old city. We saw the 'movie' and can see where Bollywood gets a lot of its ideas. Were those old 007 movies really that bad?

Sad farewells to Mike and Rosie here, as we must head in different directions. We rode to Jodpur and they headed slowly to Bombay to collect Rosie's bike. We have shared a lot of fun and difficult times. Hope they can reach Australia one day for a visit.

Jodpur, the 'Blue City', didn't look very blue when we arrived. We encountered the normal street garbage being devoured by 'holy' cows, pollution from the burbling Tuk Tuks and the overpowering smell of urine at numerous spots enroute to our Hotel/Guest House. We read an editorial in an Indian newspaper complimenting the organizers of the Kumbh Mela on the efficiency and cleanliness at this huge holy gathering on the River Ganges. "Indians must now apply these same ideas and efforts to the cities of this polluted nation." We wait with bated breath. Investigating Meherangarh Fort and Museum we saw the splendour of the blue city. Hundreds of pastel blue buildings made the climbing effort worthwhile. The Fort and Palace were in good condition and maintenance efforts were still being done.

Because of the time lost due to our mechanical problems our stay in India was not as long as we would have liked. We sped on to Jaisalmer, the 'Golden City' and on the advice of a fellow traveller we stayed inside the Fort, sleeping on a hand made mud and dung bed....with a mattress of course. We took a lot of photos. If an Indian was within earshot, and they saw the camera, the call would be, 'rupees! rupees!', assuming we were taking the photo of them (which we were not). If we wished to take a close up of an individual we would ask first, if they demanded money no photo would be taken. We did take a photo of a 'holy' cow devouring a large sheet of plastic, watched by many Hindu's. No effort was made by them to stop this poor beast from clogging its intestine. Many bloated animals shuffle around the cities of India with stomachs clogged with kilos of plastic.

Leaving for Bikaner the next day we wobbled to a stop with a flat tyre on the outskirts of Jaisalmer. Replacing the tube we were on the road in 40 minutes cursing the boot repairers sitting on the edge of the road. It was a boot tack that had punctured the tyre. 100 kms further on we had another flat. This time the patch had come addrift. This occured two more times and we reached Bikaner around 8 pm, totally exhausted and confused as to why this was happening. We camped on the lawns of the Desert Winds Hotel and our host/owner was most pleasant and helpful. We joined a Kiwi couple in his Ambassador (Morris Oxford) for a visit to Karni Mata Temple, commonly known in the west as the Rat Temple. Carol overcame her fear of these rodents for a short time as they scrambled over our feet. Fortunately we were allowed to keep our socks on. The front of the Temple was ornately carved marble which most people fail to see, being preoccupied with the close encounter they are about to have with the rats. We enjoyed the round trip in the comfort of four wheels as the winds had blown up a sand storm on the road out. The next day we toured Junagarh Fortress/Palace, impressive to say the least and with an excellent guide thrown in for the entry price we can thoroughly recommend this tourist attraction. In the afternoon we walked the bazaars and mixed with the locals, speaking for some time with some young school children and an english teacher.

To complete our loop of Rajasthan we headed back to Jaipur. This was a day we could have done without. The repaired punctures were causing problems. The first flat saw us swerving uncontrollably when the tyre bead parted from the rim. The very last 'swerve' saw us hit the deck but we were all but stopped. We patched the tube again but by this time we began to realize that the problem was the European glue was not compatable with the Asian tubes. We experienced the problem two more times. The last flat, we were rescued by a Vespa riding Indian who took me back to his village and the repair job was done for the princley some of 10 rupees by a 'professional' puncture man. This patch held for the remaining time in India. Our tyre would need to be replaced as soon as we reached Thailand, as nothing was available in India in the size we required. In Jaipur we did a little more sightseeing and washed the bike ready for the flight from Delhi to Bangkok.

Connaught Place, New Delhi is one of the cleanest areas we have seen in India. Air pollution is a problem but no where near as bad as we expected. Our departure from Delhi and the transportation of the bike to Bangkok went reasonably well. We left on a Friday with the bike on the same plane (Aeroflot), arriving into the steamy weather of South East Asia around 3.30 pm. Poor timing on my part saw the bike locked up until Monday so we met up with our Irish/U.K. travelling companion, Connor once more and did a little sightseeing in Bangkok. The tedious task of extracting the bike from the cargo company and Customs saw a bill produced that was around half the air freight costs. Carol argued loudly with the Thai lad helping us as I re-assembled the bike. After he had made a few calls on his mobile phone the price was dropped to less than half. If any travellers need information on our procedures/costs etc. in transporting the bike from Delhi to Bangkok please contact us by e-mail.

Thailand here we come!!!!!

Posted by Carol Duval at March 12, 2001 03:15 AM GMT

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