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June 2009 Club News

Girls | Heritage | Economy | Frankland | Carnegie | Himalayas | Calendar

Riding Royal Enfields in the Himalayas cont'd from April

Chris with intriguing weedNext morning we headed out early to avoid 300 army trucks coming out of the main barracks depositing soldiers all over the area. We heard they were leaving at 9 am, but we were mistaken and we were caught up in the middle of it. Army helicopters overhead, tanks, patrols, guns everywhere. At one stage one of the bikes stopped, our mechanic came along kicked it over and there was a huge backfire. Soldiers appeared from nowhere looking for the enemy!

We eventually made it out of this beautiful old city heading though western Kashmir and the Pir Panjal Range of mountains, these were very spectacular and with plenty of vegetation. But there were a lot of trucks to negotiate, half of them military some pulling artillery equipment.

We also rode through the impressive Jawahar Lal 2.5km long tunnel, this had no lighting inside - pitch black - and Enfield headlights aren’t the best, luckily traffic was going slowly. When we came out the other side the scenery along the river valleys and hills were again spectacular.

There were more army check-points and bottlenecks of trucks, together with very potholed roads - although mostly bitumen. At one stage during the day we seemed to be heading down hill for around 150kms before going back up again, and we reckon we negotiated well over 4000 sharp bends.

We’d also seen more trucks that had gone off the side of the road - some of them the same day. One still had the driver in it hanging upside down. Another had gone over a bridge and an army crane, with another truck holding it down, was pulling it out. Another three-vehicle crash going down a steep hill was a reminder to be careful.

By the time we got to Jammu that night we had ridden 300km and it had taken us a solid 12 hours! We also lost part of our crew riding through the city (in the dark) but we all eventually made it to the hotel where we had a great night - one of the guys is a magician and put on a great show.

Next morning we were heading back to Chandighar, again very close to the Pakistani border and the military presence was huge, but as we rode further east there were less and less army trucks and troops on the road. There were definitely not many Westerners around this area though, and we caused some interest.

Mr Singh on left and Welsh sing(h)er on rightWe were now out of the mountains and back on the Indian Plains in the Punjab. We were also back in the heat and humidity. The population had changed again and it was predominantly Sikhs, these are the guys with long beards and turbans. They looked a lot like relatives of mine and were very friendly and frequently waving at us. (Ripper Celtic T-shirt Bob - maybe they were wanting one of them - web ed)

The first part of the day was on a main road and very busy, but later on we were on quieter ones and the riding was very pleasant. We eventually ended back in Chandighar, the same hotel where we stayed when we were heading north. This time there was an Indian wedding - I think it went on for five days. Chris and I and another couple thought we would have a look around the door - they invited us in and took pictures of us posing with the wedding party!

I was standing there trying to hide a bottle of whisky behind my back, as they were all teetotal. They asked us to stay, but we declined feeling a bit underdressed in shorts and T-shirts. We were now back on track with where we should be with the ‘dis’organised tour and the following day headed back to Delhi.

By now we were well used to the Indian way of driving/riding in traffic and it was a breeze, weaving in and out everywhere and blasting the horn. Actually I think we were getting worse than the Indians. There was quite a bit of traffic going into Delhi and we had trouble with 2 bikes breaking down, with the back-up vehicle nowhere to be seen as it had a puncture. Most Indian vehicles seemed to have bald tyres. Although I must say the bike tyres were good.

We eventually handed back our bikes and headed by coach to our hotel. We then had a brilliant meal at a restaurant around the corner - congratulating ourselves on completing the ride with no accidents or other major incidents.

Next morning (early) we checked out and hopped into our luxury tourist coach that was to take us 260kms south to the one-time Moghul capital of Agra. Before checking into the hotel we went a further 40kms south to Fatehpur Sikri for a sightseeing tour of this huge of old majestic fort which is World Heritage listed and has a fascinating history.Iit was the original Moghul capital until a shortage of water made them move their headquarters to the Agra Fort.

After dinner that night we had a look at a shop where they were making marble tables etc, all their work was beautifully inlaid (using the same technique as the work on the Taj Mahal). They showed us a table that had taken 2 workers 9 years to complete - they hadn’t sold it yet!

Tourists at the TajNext day we were back on the coach for our (long) last day in India. First we were off to the Taj Mahal. This place is absolutely beautiful, better than what you see in photos or films, in fabulous condition with an amazing history - it took 22,000 workers 22 years to build.

Not far is the Agra Fort which began life over 900 years ago. It’s huge, took us ages to walk around what we could as 80% of it is in control by the army and not accessible to visitors. Again the place was stunning.
By lunchtime we were back on the bus and heading for Dehli and the airport.

As we arrived on the outskirts of Delhi the bus had a puncture, so we pulled over and a wheel was changed.Iit was an inside one and took a while. When we got going again it was dark, and there was a huge traffic jam travelling though South Delhi. We were wondering if we were going to get to the airport on time. What we didn’t know was that 6 bombs had gone off in the city, 28 people were dead and over 100 injured. We were most probably better off not knowing.

We eventually were though passport control and security on our way to Singapore to change planes for Perth with Singapore Airlines - which were great by the way, must be one of the few airlines left where drinks are complimentary.

What a brilliant experience it had been, sometimes the riding was hard, but there was always more than enough to compensate, whether it was the scenery, the locals or the great crowd of people that we shared the tour with. You can look at pictures, or read about it, but unless you actually go to India and the Himalayas its impossible to fully realise what it’s like.

If you can do it, go for it, get on that bike and ride - it’s an experience of a lifetime.

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