Category Archives: Uncategorized

B side days 5 & 6: This Charming Man

Back packers, thrill seekers and honeymooning couples flock to Manali in their thousands every year to soak up the hippy vibe, go trekking, paragliding, rafting, skiing, or enjoy the 4 and 5 star romantic hotels. Not being a back packer, thrill seeker or honeymooner I originally wanted to give the town a wide berth and avoid the crowds, but in my revised trip, it is the place I pick up my hire bike and guide for the next few weeks. 
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B Side – days 1 & 2: Golden Lights

My first couple of days in India have been spent as a pedestrian tourist in Amritsar. I have been here before, but it was 13 years ago – a ridiculous amount of time between visits for a country that both me and Eejay love (it won’t be 13 years before I’m back again, it might not even be 13 months). Amritsar has its own feeling – not like the rest of the country – it is the capital of the Punjab region and the world capital of Sikhism, the language and religion is different to most of the country. 
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Side B: I Left the North, Again

  

It’s Saturday 30th May and I’m  currently sat in Birmingham airport waiting to catch a flight to India… Let the adventure begin. Again. 

Let’s call the UK to Turkey leg of this trip Side A and the Indian leg Side B. Sometimes Side B throws up a few surprises and can astound fans and critics. 

I’ve been home for two and a half weeks and, to be honest, it’s not been great. I’ve been grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Whenever anyone has asked ‘are you ok?’ Or ‘what’s wrong?’ My reply has been something like ‘I should be in Tehran right now’ or ‘I should be close to the Pakistan border by now’. I’ve spent two weeks generally moping about (I’m sure Eejay and India will be glad to see the back of me for a few weeks). 

My bike is still at the garage. Looks like the damage might not be as bad as first thought – unbelievably, the forks might be ok, the wheel also looks ok. I might get away with just needing brake discs, fork clamps, bar mounts, wheel spindle and some plastics. The garage are trying to source as many parts second hand as possible and hopefully it will all be fixed when I return at the end of the month. I will worry about the bill when I get home. 

On the positive side I’ve been emailing and messaging people in India and I’ve lined up what I hope will be an amazing 3 weeks or so riding in the Himalayas. 

I plan to spend a couple of days in Amritsar (Golden  Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and the elaborate border closing ceremony between India and Pakistan)  and then move onto Dharamsala (home of the Dalai Lama – although he’s currently on holiday in Australia, the nerve of the man) for another couple before moving on to Manali to pick up a bike and a guide. 

The route we will take has changed a lot this last week and will no doubt continue to change. Landslides have apparently blocked key roads in the Spiti Valley. And winter is unseasonably long in the region (despite the pre Monsoon heatwave that is covering other parts of India) meaning that some of the mountain passes that should be open aren’t, yet.  At present there are options for a 17, 20 or 21 day trip.

I am determined to ride the Khardungla Pass as this was the whole point of the trip. They claim (others dispute it) that it is the highest motorable road in the world.  On the way there will be lots of mountain passes and lots of Buddist Ghompas (shrines / temples). 

If the weather and the roads improve I hope we will be able to ride into Tibet. One of the reasons for having a guide (apart from making my partner and my mum a bit more relaxed about the trip) is to make the paperwork in these remote areas easier – they frown on solo riders going up Khardungla and into Tibet. 
I have promised my daughter I will bring her back a snow leopard as I will be riding through areas where they live – although I’m not sure I will be able to get it through customs… 

Interlude

So, I’m back in Blighty, and the dream of an overland adventure to India has been shattered, loaded onto a palette and flown home.

The bike is now with Adventure Bike Warehouse in Salford and they are going to see what they can do with it – a combination of fixing what is there, buying second hand parts and if all else fails buying new from BMW.

I am generally ok (I’m writing this two weeks after the accident), but I think I cracked a rib in the accident (not the first time and won’t be the last) and that will take time to heal (4 – 6 weeks if past experience is anything to go by).

I have still got a month or so off work and I’m determined to do something with it – not 100% sure what yet. I want to spend some time with the family, see friends and I have some unfinished business involving the Himalayas.

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Days 22 & 23: Stinging bureaucracy 

I know I’m obsessed, but Morrissey must surely have spent two days sat in a customs office in a cargo airport to write the lyrics of Maladjusted:

With a soul full of loathing 
For stinging bureaucracy 
Making it anything 
Other than easy

    When the Cargo man said on Saturday ‘no problem,’ what he mean to say was ‘no idea!’
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    Day 21: The Last Night of the Fair

    Today was a day off from dealing with motorbike accident stuff, and a time to do some sightseeing in Ankara. 

    I spent last night in a hotel arranged for me by BMW. It’s cheap, but it also miles away from the centre of Ankara. Helpfully, non of the staff speak any English. So even asking where to catch a bus, what number to look for, even understanding the names for where I want to go to ends up in the now usually way of turning to the Google Translate App. Still, I managed to get the right bus about 1km from the hotel. And even though I missed my stop, the conductor and driver arranged for me to jump on another bus to go back to where I should have got off!
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    Day 19: There’s more to life than books you know

    I won’t lie, today was boring.

    All the action was over by 08:00. I had to get up too early for breakfast, load the bike on to a truck, drive to the station and load the bike on to a train. It was all a bit of a faff, with U.S. Being told to go all over the place before finally finding the cargo carriage. 

       
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    Day 18: Laughing Ani

    I’m writing this a few days after the event, so bear with me… It was the morning after the night before and I woke up in agony… (I’ll get told off at work, but I’ve been eating Ibuprophen like Smarties ever since).

    For a start, my sleep had been disturbed by first a phone call from a health insurance assistance company – they could only really help if I needed emergency assistance, even repatriation, sorry they can’t do anything for my bike… And secondly by Mehmet my friend in Istanbul, he’s been a great source of info and help, but why he thought it was a good idea to send messages at 3am is beyond me… But anyway, we came up with a plan in the middle of the night (get the bike to Ankara for BMW to look at it) and he started balls rolling. By the time I woke up, he’d already sorted some things out. 
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    Day 20: I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour…

    …go on, sing along if you know the words… But heaven knows I’m miserable now.

    Well, what a throughly shitty set of days. 

    • Wednesday, booked for speeding and had a crash
    • Thursday, the most stupid outcome of a general election imaginable – come on, 5 years of a tiny Tory majority, with their right wing pulling the strings… an unnecessary Euro referendum, further dismantling of the NHS and they have even come out and said they want to bring back fox hunting.., give me strength!
    • Friday, spent all day sat on my own in a sleeper car that was 6 foot by 6 foot on what felt like the world’s slowest train. Then Eejay told me that one of our cats had been killed in a car accident.
    • Today, Saturday, my garage confirmed my worst fears…



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