May 19, 2006 GMT
India 2

Back to Chandrighar on 6th May where we were due to arrange the air freight of the bike and us to Bangkok, Thailand.
We had intended to spend 3/4 days in Simla as R and R but it was not what we wanted at all. Also we suffered from the altitude, although the Lonely planets says that it is 8000 feet, it seemed much higher.The ride down from Shimla was lovely and amusing to see the moped drivers free-wheeling down the hill- or cyclists hanging on to the back of a lorry. The amount of lorries was unbelievable- all belching out smoke which we were inhaling !

Colin managed to drive straight to the hotel in Chandrighar and they were pleased to see us back and delighted when we said we wanted the R and R with them in peace and quiet.
Chandrighar is a modern city, laid out in a grid pattern. When you get to know the different Sections it does make sense- but that takes a while. The hotel cost 50 GBP per night and other goods are cheap. Labour is cheap- a gardener for a MONTH is 6.25 GBP and a live in maid is 18.75 GBP.

It is the hottest heatwave here for 5 years and the temperature in the afternoon is knocking on 50 degrees- too hot even to swim.

Through the Travel Agent in the hotel (8th may )and having sat in his office for 2 hours morning and 2 hours afternoon , we managed to arrange a Shipper in Delhi to arrange the airfreight of the bike to Bangkok. We have to go the Agents office when we arrive in Delhi and us and the bike will fly out on the same aircraft on 13th. The travel agent also arranged a hotel for us to stay in Delhi- sadly right in the centre- but there you go!
It will take 2/3 days for the paper work for the bike to be processed- so we are on a fairly tight schedule. At 5pm we still had no definite confirmation on anything- Indian beurocracy to the fore.
The visa for Thailand can be obtained on arrival.

We were milling around wasting time while the confirmations came through and the Travel guy phoned us and asked if we would mind being interviewed by the press. He filtered who we were to see and ended up being interviewed, and photographs taken, for the 'Times of India 'and the' Hindustani Times.' One interview was done whilst we were having dinner(which had to be held back whilst the photos were taken).They were both published the next day and we had the papers delivered to our room.

9th May and we left for Delhi at 7am- initially starting of at 27 degrees. There had been a huge thunder and lightening storm during the night and it had caused trees to blow over and electric lines were blown down. The roads were full of debris. A ride of 170 miles to Delhi and the ride was not too bad- but the heat gradually got hotter and hotter and by the time we got to Delhi at---- noon ( worst time going ) it was up to 50 degrees.
The thermostat on the bike was registering 8 bars which is 2 bars over normal- Colin had never seen it so high ( not even through the deserts we have done ).

We had intended to hail a rickshaw and then follow it from the outskirts of Delhi--- but, just like London- you can never find one when you want one !

We were stop, start, the traffic lights were really longwinded with a wait of 4 minutes at a time, we had to stop to ask for directions to the hotel and were directed wrongly, as it turned out. The traffic is manic with rickshaw drivers weaving in and out of the buses, cars and lorries. By this time we were well hot and I had got to the stage of easing my helmet up when we stopped.

Suddenly we both felt really ill at the same time. Colin said to me " i don't know what to do now - or where to go" (very unusual for him, as he is very decisive ) and at the same time I said" you have got to pull over to the shade as I can't carry on". He managed to get off on to a small side road , in the shade . Luckily he stopped by a telegraph pole that I had to hang on too when i got off. Head was swimming, unable to focus, unable to stand up, shaking from head to toe, nothing in your mind at all-- very scarey.

We staggered to the kerb and sat down, peeling off helmets and jackets and leaving them strewn over the pavement. Managed to get the top box open and get the extra 3 litres of water out (this was not enough.) We drank and drank and poured the water over our heads and down our backs. Remember that we also had used the Camelbacks with 2 litres of water each and that was nearly gone during the drive to Delhi.

Eventually we began to feel marginally better and a rickshaw driver pulled up with the Indian family he was carrying. They realised what was happening and got another rickshaw driver to take us to the hotel with Colin following. I went in the rickshaw with all the kit and that allowed Colin to drive without his jacket. I had my hand waving out the top of the rickshaw as i was worried that Colin would end up following the wrong one - all we needed at that stage.

It was about a 1/2 hour drive away and I was so worried for colin- he stuck right behind us- a marvel in that traffic. Later he said he had his hand on the
horn all the time and glared at every other driver.

We arrived outside the hotel, Colin managed to get the bike on the side stand alone ( not the centre stand) and literally staggered into the hotel foyer. I walked into the coffee shop and said" I want bottled water right now" ( the Indians are not the quickest to react ) and sat Colin in a chair. He was unable to pour the water himself (with the shakes )and it was then that the waiters realised what was happening and were very kind and helpful.

We slowly recovered after a tepid shower, salts and loads of drinks - but continued to feel very weak for days. It was at that stage that we said " what are we doing here? the locals are dying in this heatwave and we have been warned how quickly things can get really rough and life threatening ". All we wanted was-----out.
At breakfast next day we decided that we would skip Thailand as there was the same heatwave there and fly, with the bike, direct to Brisbane. That decision was made when Colin said to me " where would you really like to be now " and the reply was " with Colin and Judy , safe and sound, in a cocoon with no responsibilities for a while". ( These are the friends that the whole trip was about- we wanted to ride to see them in Australia.) We still think that the decision was the correct one.

So onto the Shipping agent who was not concerned re the alteration in destination. We went there in an Airconditoned car and back by rickshaw. Colin had to disconnect the battery and lower the screen and the Packers arrived at 1pm to load the bike into a van. They nearly had heart failure when they saw the size of the bike but there were plenty of volunteers to push it around to the front of the hotel where the level of the back of the van was the same as the garden. It was pushed in over the flower beds by sheer man power. All of this in 50 degrees.

We packed up the boots, helmets and clothing for insertion into the same crate ( more of that later ).We took the panniers as luggage.

In the meantime I had had to go to a HSBC Bank as the shippers wanted cash for the payment-( 1179GBP). Naturally,I was unable to get that amount out from the ATM and had to get it on credit card, as the Bank had no facilities to check the balance in the current account . The hotel offered to send a Security man with me but I went by car and he waited.

I also enquired about the cancellation of the air tickets to Bangkok. The previous hotel travel agents were happy to cancel these for us but were unable to do a Bank transfer with the money. It was sent out as cash the next day, by car. We lost about 170GBP on that- what with paying for the taxes that could not be reimbursed, the Agent's fee and the price of the car. However, we both thought ourselves lucky that we had anything in return, at all.

Colin went off 11th, with the Agent, to the airport and to Customs. ( 1 1/2 hours away ) The Agent advised that I should not go.They had alot of paper work to sign and the Customs guy was less than helpful. You sat in front of his desk for 5 hours and he did nothing-chatted, drank coffee and then disaapeared for lunch or took 45 minutes to change the refill in his pen.There was no Aircon, no one wearing a uniform or name badge and all milling around with files in their hands and doing nothing ( or so it appeared)

Rajeesh ( the Agent ) made numerous phone calls and finally tracked down the Customs guy and managed to get him in the car to see the bike in the Godown. Colin saw the bike crated and bubble wrapped. Then back to the Customs office where he started to look at the Carnet. he did not believe that the bike had been driven to India (" that is impossible" )and had come through pakistan -"it would never have been allowed through the border to India". They sorted that out and then it was " you have altered the chassis numbers on the bike", "this is the wrong Carnet'- you name it all the accusations were thrown. At one stage the Customs guy literally flung all tha paperwork on the floor and walked off in a huff. Colin said he literally did not seem to know what he should be doing. Rajeesh kept on pointing to the places he wanted a signature.

Colin finally returned to the hotel at 7pm , having got a rickshaw back and had monkeys inside with him. The driver had said at a traffic light stop " hold on to all your possessions and take off your glasses, or they will be stolen by the monkeys" With that 4 scampered in, sat beside Colin and demanded nuts ( which the driver gave him ).He saw people with leprosy and extreme poverty in this area.
It turned out the Rajeesh had returned home at midnight and had had one chapatti all day. You most certainly could not do the Shipping without an Agent- and whatever they cost it is worth it. Loads of bribes changed hands, we know.

I sat at the travel desk all day arranging flights for us to go to Brisbane. We will now go on a seperate flight to the bike and will leave delhi on 12 may. ( tomorrow ). Since 9/11 the airlines will not allow you to take a single ticket anywhere and you have to take a return flight to your Departure point- or an Onward ticket. We even phoned the British embassy to see if we could get Oneway as we were UK citizens. So we have booked the Onward flight to UK- at least that can be altered , if necessary ,but the flight is paid for. It was all confirmed 6pm and i was ecxtatic.

Next day ( 12th) back to the Customs to collect the bike paperwork, which had been carefully filed in a red polythene bag overnight !. We sat and sat and the Customs guy never turned up. Rajeesh did alot of phonecalls again and, finally, at 1pm the due Official arrived at his desk. Rajeesh piled the papers in front of him, told him where to sign, we got Colin's passport back and all the docuements and legged it quickly. I had said to Colin 'do you want me to do a dying swan act'- to try and hurry things up. 'No' came the reply"you may end up in a Delhi hospital'.

In the meantime we were told that the clothing was not to go in the same crate as the bike, as it was not on the Carnet. So we had to arrange a seperate Airfreight for that- at more cost.

Onto the plane that night and so onto Brisbane. We are very sad to have missed Thailand as it was the one place we were really looking forward too- but health and safety come first. We can always return at a later date. The whole episode in Delhi really frightened us and 'knocked your confidence'- I'm not sure that confidence is the right word - but it knocks the stuffing out of you and you begin to doubt your ability to cope.all we wanted was a safe haven and no decisions for a while.

We are now recovering and will get the bike back and travel around Oz at our leisure and decide what we are to do then. Alot will depend on finances, of course.

In retrospect I think it was a culmination in Delhi- definitely the heat, I think we were both more tired than we thought ( it's not until you stop that you realise just how tired you are- even though we had had 25 days off. ), we have both lost weight- Colin 11 Kilos,( which is alot ) me 5 Kilos,I think we picked up a tummy bug in pakistan that was rumbling around- not dire- but night sweats and loose stools.
If I had realised that our diet was to be so meagre ( no meat, chicken or fish due to lack of fridges, extensive Bird flu in each country and too far away from the sea to trust fish) I would have gone more into taking vitamin supplements and finally taken more water wherever you are and have the Rehydration powders on my person- and not in the front pannier. You are just too weak to start opening panniers-- you lives and learns--- and that was one very big learning curve.-- more to follow from 'Down under.'.... Total miles: 7917

Posted by Dee Masters at May 19, 2006 03:28 AM GMT
 


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