The Maiden Voyage

I spent Christmas Eve at the Pakistan Embassy and Christmas day alone but happy in my guesthouse back in Delhi.  I had something for dinner that didn’t have curry in it…that was as close to home as I was going to feel.  I had just gotten back from a great adventure.  Here is a peek of what I have been up to in the last 5 weeks:

Click on mp to be open it in Google Maps.
Click on mp to be open it in Google Maps.

I found Bala, my motorcycle

We completed our maiden voyage, 1250 miles (2000 kilometers) in about three and a half weeks through the Himalayan foothills

For hundreds of miles I drove on roads like this:

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And this:

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It was amazing

I spent Diwali, one of the biggest Hindu holidays, with my friends at their family’s home in Delhi.  I almost blew my finger off with a firecracker

In my journal I came across a message written in handwriting other than my own that said “Check out Bedřich Smetana” So I did.  Turns out he was an 18th century Czech composer.  I instantly fell in love with his music.  That journal has been with me in 3 continents and 10 countries.  I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote that.

With the help of my mechanic(al engineer) Rahul, I put a new head cylinder and piston in Bala.  It was the beginning of my lessons in motorcycle mechanics

Looking across a valley from the foothills of the mountains I watched this sunset:

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Three hours later this was the new view from the same place:

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I learned to ride a motorcycle with the brake on the opposite side from what I’m used to AND with the gears in reverse order AND on the opposite side they normally are, I did this at the same time as I had to get used to driving on the left side of the road…And I did ALL of this while driving in crazy New Delhi traffic.  I survived

I learned the proper way to make Indian chai tea

Carmen, getting a lesson in making chapati
Carmen, getting a lesson in making chapati

I acquired a travel partner, Carmen, who joined me and Bala for 500 miles, I will be lucky to find more like her along the way.  Never complained, lots of smiles, top-notch navigator, and with a healthy appetite for life, rice and dahl

I was invited to a traditional wedding in a tiny mountain village of a few hundred people.  The bride and groom sat decked-out in colorful traditional clothes in two throne-like chairs without cracking a smile while everyone in the village took their picture standing behind them.  Carmen and I were treated as the guests of honor and took almost as many pictures with the locals as the bride and groom

Bala got two flat tires within an hour

Flat tire #2 in less than an hour
Flat tire #2 in less than an hour

I created a fundraising campaign for charities, people who contribute get a postcard from me from somewhere in my travels.  PLEASE consider donating or at least share the link on your Facebook page.  It only takes one minute.  Here is the link: http://www.crowdrise.com/thescenicroutetospain

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I met a couple Pradeep and Rubina, who started a Christian school in a small village on top of a mountain overlooking snowcapped Himalayan peaks and a beautiful lake.  They became dear friends and spent several days showering me and Carmen with hospitality

Two days and 200 kilometers after leaving Pradeep I met his cousin who happens to be a mechanic and helped me fix a problem with Bala

One week and 500 kilometers after meeting Pradeep’s cousin, I stayed with his mother at her home near the Pakistan border.  I discovered where Pradeep learned to be so kind and hospitable

One day and 1oo kilometers after meeting Pradeep’s mom, I had breakfast with his sister Jyoti, a nurse at a Christian hospital

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I saw a bunch of Indian military guys with ridiculous mustaches and outfits parade around in an absurd spectacle cheered on by thousands of flag waving people at the Pakistan border…the same thing was going on the other side of the border.  This happens EVERY SINGLE DAY

I drove across the sacred Ganges river in Rishikesh

I spent a few days climbing in the Himalayas…only made it up to about 4,300 meters (14,100 feet)…just a taste of what I’ll see in Nepal

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I watched for days women as young as 16 and as old as 70, walking into the forest at 9am every morning.  8 hours later they would return with HUGE bundles of foliage that they would carry for 2 miles (3.5 k) to their village.  The foliage was to feed the cows.  One day we brought them some water and cookies.  I picked up one of their bundles to see how much it weighed…at least 75 pounds (35 kilos)!  On the other hand, the men of the villages seem to spend a lot of time chewing tobacco and basking in the sun

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In the last weeks on the road I dodged cows, chickens, dogs, goats, pigs, horses, monkeys (LOTS of monkeys), squirrels, sheep, donkeys, cats, and thousands of potholes the size of craters.

I met a couple at the Pakistan border who are driving a Ford Escort from Australia to London

I met a couple who showed up at the Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan and spent 3 weeks conducting music workshops for the refugees

I spent 4 days helping to build furniture for a school at Nirvan Commun in a tiny village of about 50 families on top of a mountain.  This was the view we woke up to:

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I found myself in a mechanics workshop 5 times in 3.5 weeks on the road

I met a guy named Dinesh on the side of the road.  He invited me to his village of 400 people in the mountains to have breakfast with his family

I discovered that Indian mechanics can amaze you with their knowledge and efficiency…then, several minutes later, the same mechanic can amazing you again…with baffling displays of negligence smothered in a heavy dose of confidence and assurance.

At Pradeep’s school, we took a group of 60 school children, divided them into 4 groups and taught them how to sing row Row Row Your Boat in “round” style

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I learned to hate driving on the “highways” and vowed to only take small roads whenever feasible

I swallowed so much exhaust that my breath would probably fail an emissions test

I spent a week hanging out in Dharamsala, a peaceful town in the Himalayan foothills and the home of the Dalai Lama.  It is full of Tibetan refugees.  It was like taking a vacation from India

I visited The Golden Temple, basically like Mecca for Sikhs.  A holy site and pilgrimage destination for Sikhs all over India and the world.

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I will ring in the new year while gliding through the Indian night with Bala on a 46 hour train ride to the far South of India where I will be making my way to Sri Lanka and the next sea of adventures.

This is all just half of the stories…CLICK HERE to see more pictures from the last weeks along with the comments I left with them setting the scene.  To read more about the plan to drive Bala all the way from India to Spain, click here: Delhi to Barcelona, the Scenic Route

Happy New Years to everyone!

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5 thoughts on “The Maiden Voyage”

  1. Great write-up. Bumped into your blog recently. Own a bullet too. Not been riding it for a few years. Getting a lot of inspiration reading your blog. If you are planning to visit southern part of India, definitely get in touch. Will love to join you for a ride 🙂 🙂

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