The Road to Bundi

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February 6th 2016
Published: February 12th 2016
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I woke up early along with Dylan and Oli. They were heading off to east towards a town called Bundi and I had decided to head that way too. Dylan, whom I had rode with the day earlier, had offered to give me I ride on the back of his Royal Enfield bullet and I happily accepted. This would be a great way to see some of India and one most people did not get to experience. He also mentioned that he would give me some more bike lessons so that I could ride on my own eventually. I love traveling by bike and I explored a lot by scooter in south-east Asia some years back, so this seemed like the next logical step. The boys had mobiles with Indian sim cards and these had proved to be indispensable in terms of navigation. I wasn't even traveling with a phone, so I wouldn't be much help in that regard. I guess I just do things the old school way, just give me a paper map and I'll figure it out. We loaded up the gear and headed out of the narrow streets of old Udaipur. Almost instantly, we became separated with Oli and had to wait quite a while until he joined up. We were all wearing warm clothing as it was really cold that early in the morning. As we hit the highway, I realized maybe having a helmet would have been a good idea. Here's hoping Dylan wouldn't crash, or that no one else would crash into us. Or that no cow, or camel, or elephant did so either. I had some music on as I enjoyed the dry Rajasthani scenery. The environment was becoming more and more arid and desert like. We were initially on our way to Chittorgarh, which had an old fort and that we were going to be passing through anyway so it made sense to at least stop and see it. We rode about 100km towards there and Dylan was darting past trucks. We passed many highway stops and stopped to stretch our legs intermittently. I was enjoying this way much better than taking a bus.

We arrived in Chittorgarh around noon, drove through some chaotic traffic and made our way up the road into the elevated fort. The grounds seemed massive and checked out some of the temples. I climbed a top one of the towers for a better view. On my way up people stopped to take selfies with me, of course! Monkeys were abound and I grabbed some shots of them. Our first order of business was to get some food in us. We found a place nearby and had some thali. As we were finishing and headed out towards the bikes, I witnessed something I never would have expected. One of the monkeys grabbed a puppy and climbed up a tree as it was yelping helplessly. Some people began climbing the tree and, with long sticks, tried to bat the monkey so he would let go of the dog. I didn't think that would be such a good idea because I don't think dogs can land on their feet like cats can. Finally, about ten feet from the ground, the monkey released the dog and it fell straight down. Some of the people continued to chase the monkey. I wondered about the dog and when I climbed to the other side of the fence, I didn't see him so I figured it had run off, hopefully without injury. We got back onto the bikes and then drove the circumference of the fort. We then descended and then continued on towards Bundi. We had a few hours on the road until we reached it. On the way, we saw incredibly decorated trucks blasting Hindi music and then after filling up on some petrol, saw what looked like a holy sadhu walking along the highway with a small entourage. He was stark naked as he did so! In Hinduism, a Sadhu (also known as a baba) is a holy man (or sometimes woman) who is dedicated to achieving liberation. This is done through meditation and a variety of other practices that can vary quite extensively from one sadhu to another. Many sadhu's will give up material possessions and wander the land, living and sleeping wherever they can. They have an affinity for smoking charras and are respected by much of Indian society for their perceived holiness.

The day was hot and little flies were smacking into us as we rode. A few hours in and we stopped on the side of the highway at a little chai stand. The people stared at us incredubly. No one could speak much english, but everyone just stared as we enjoyed our chai. Staring is not taboo here in India as anyone who has been to India will attest to. I jumped back on the bike with Dylan, but we might have only covered about one km when I noticed we were losing acceleration. Dylan began cursing and wondering what the hell was going on. Oli had been ahead of us and continued going. We pulled over and took a look. None of us were mechanics and I, unfortunately, don't have a big interest in bike mechanics or mechanics in generally. I'm content enough learning about basic bicycle mechanics (as I had to do for my trip to Boston), and I suppose that this is the reason I never even considered riding a motorbike through countries I travel in. In any case the bike seemed fucked, and didn't even want to start. Dylan had had issues with his fuse and try tweaking that, but it didn't solve the issue. We were finally able to push start it and then I ran alongside the bike and jumped on. We couldn't gain any acceleration and the bike soon cut out. Some Indians walking along the highway went to see us and then pointed to a direction ahead. They seemed to be trying to say that we might find help there. I push started Dylan and then jumped on Oli's bike and we were soon in a small village called Dabi. It seemed to be a mining village, with sandstone being the main resource. People randomly pointed us in different directions and then we found some small mechanic shop and walked the bike up to it. Unfortunately the Royal Enfield is not a bike that the average mechanic knows because the average person in India drives much smaller and inexpensive models of motorbike. This guy didn't seem to know what he was doing, but it sounded as though he was trying to see if it was a spark plug issue. There was only one person in the village who spoke passable English so he was translating everything. He was a young guy who owned a mobile phone shop right next to the mechanic. A crowd soon gathered and at one point it seemed like there was at least fifty people surrounding us and all talking and trying to give some advice. Gotta love India. Dylan seemed to be getting annoyed by this, but I reminded him to just roll with the punches. This wasn't the first time Dylan and Oli were having mechanical issues on their trip. About three hours passed and the mechanic and friends were trying all sorts of things. I sat in the young guy's shop and he showed me a funny video of some famous Bollywood actors singing about Rajasthan.

It seeemed apparent that they wouldn't be able to fix it so we had to figure out other options. We settled on hiring a truck to load the bike onto and then take us to the closest town. We wanted them to take us directly to Bundi, but they told us that Kota would be better as it was a bigger town and was closer. We would have a better chance of finding a decent mechanic there. It was about 50km away and it took seven of us to lift the heavy bike up and onto the back of the truck. I then jumped into the back with Dylan so we could make sure the bike wouldn't fall over since it wasn't secured to anything. The two drivers spoke no english and we had no idea what they were telling us. Oli drove his bike and followed us. Darkness had descended some time ago and the stars were clear overhead. The road was extremely bumpy and Dylan and myself laughed about how we had got to this point. We both noticed there was sparks coming from behind us but figured maybe one of the drivers was smoking and the embers were flying back. Some time passed and then Oli began honking his horn and yelling out. Dylan, who was closest to the back, looked over and yelled out that the back of the truck was on fire. I pounded on the cab and the driver pulled over. Once it was stopped we jumped off the back and used water to put out the flames. I noticed the back end was made pretty much out of wood, and couldn't really understand what had caught fire. Dylan was saying that maybe they had just recently welded a piece of metal and some embers had caused the fire? We couldn't know for sure. One thing after the other it seemed! Once the fire was out, we hesitantly got back into the back of this death trap and then continued towards Kota. We approached the city and went into this industrial area with plenty of smoke stacks. This was the worst road that I had ever experienced, it was completely torn up! We were being sent flying all over the place and desperately hanging on the bike so that it wouldn't fall over. I watched Oli try to navigate through all the sand and potholes. The pollution we were breathing in became so heavy and I tried to cover my mouth and nose with my shirt. It felt like ages but we finally made it into the town and then figured that since all the mechanics would be closed right now, we'd find a hotel for the night and just park the bike next to it. People assembled and we managed to eventually find a hotel and then get the bike of the truck. One person who had been "helping" us asked for some rupees as compensation. The indian way it seemed (sigh). Everyone was exhausted and we went into the room and dropped our stuff off. I was starved so we went next door to a restaurant and ate a pretty tasty thali. As we sat around the table we all wondered and laughed about now sitting in a proper restaurant and eating a good meal after all that. Everyone passed out very quickly soon after. I endured a cold shower and then did the same.

The next day we woke up early. Dylan had contacted the guy that they had rented the bikes from and he was going to be sending a mechanic to us to inspect the bike. We ate breakfast in the room and then brought all our stuff down to the lobby. The mechanic, surprisingly, was on time. Indian time is often a few hours later! He messed around with it for a bit, but then stated that he needed to take the bike to nearby shop. Maybe it was more serious than we thought. In any case Dylan went with him and Oli and myself stayed in the hotel lobby. I updated some of my photos and wrote some of this blog in the meantime. The hours passed, and still we waited for some news. Dylan returned and we ended up getting some food. We all then went back to the nearby shop to get an update. On the walk there I passed a cow who suddenly turned and charged me! I jumped out of the way but almost got run over by a scooter. We figured out that it would take the mechanic another few hours for the bike to be repaired. It was long, but eventually we heard the familiar sound of the Enfield approach and the bike seemed to be running once again. We loaded up and were back on the road soon after. Dusk had already arrived and everyone was eager to get out of city before the darkness and chaos ensued.

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13th February 2016

Great shot Danny

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