Author Archives: Jordan

Ancient Cities, Holy Rivers, Buddhas Birthplace, and Nepal

This morning I woke up in Central Asia.  Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to be exact.  Maybe right now you are saying to yourself “Bishkek?  Kyrgyzstan?  Where the hell is that?  Whats going on there?”  I promise I will answer some of those questions in my next post.  But for now maybe you would like to know what I’ve been up to the last 8 weeks:

We traveled 800 kilometers on train and 2000 kilometers (1,250 miles) on Bala through Northern India and Nepal.  Number of mechanics visited: six.  Here is our route:

Click on map to be brought to GoogleMaps for a better view

Click on map to be brought to GoogleMaps for a better view.  Red line was by train, the rest is by temperamental vintage motorcycle.

I spent weeks living and breathing nothing but motorcycle motorcycle motorcycle while finishing up the engine rebuild on Bala in New Delhi

We did a swan dive into everything that makes India extravagantly mystic, surreal, overbearing, sacred, grimy, and unceasingly captivating in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world.  It was one of my favorite places I visited in India.

Sadus lounging on the banks of the Ganges

Sadus lounging on the banks of the Ganges

On our train journey from Delhi to Gaya we lost Bala (she was supposed to be on our train).   For 24 scary hours we had no idea where she was.  After some funny interactions with the railway stationmaster we found her….800 kilometers away.

We took the wrong way from Varanasi across the Nepal border to Kathmandu. We spent three exhausting days sucking dust into our lungs and bumping along atrocious cratered dirt roads like these:

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After months of eating dodgy food in India we decided to do poop tests at a local hospital to see what kind of little animals we were harboring in our stomachs.  One of us walked with a clean bill of health, the other with a virtual zoo of animals….numerous bacterias, giardia, AND amoebas.  Guess who…

Border crossing experience 1:  India to Nepal, Southern border.  A cacophony of chaos.  A blizzard of dust, rumbling trucks, horse-drawn carriages, and disorder.

Border crossing experience 2: Nepal to India, Western Border.  We had to wake up the sleeping Nepalese immigration officers.  There was not a single person, car, or motorcycle crossing the border.  A man literally had to come “unlock the gate to India” for us so we could pass through.

Opening the gates to India for us to pass through

Opening the gates to India for us to pass through

We witnessed true devotion to faith…hundreds of people bathing in and drinking the water of the sacred Ganges river… where the level of coliform (human and animal feces) is TWO THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED TIMES!!! the level which is considered safe by the World Health Organization.  Now that’s devotion.  Thankfully the newly elected prime minister of India is launching a major cleanup mission for the river.

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We traveled to the future.  The day we arrived in Nepal was their New Year eve.  Goodbye 2014, hello 2071.   Despite being the year 2071, we found that Nepal still does not have stable electricity (The entire country, including the capital of Kathmandu only has power about 60% of the time.)

Loading Bala onto a boat to cross the Ganges

Loading Bala onto a boat to cross the Ganges

We crossed the Ganges 4 times on Bala in four different places, once we were rowed across on a boat.

We spent 8 days hiking up the Langtang Valley in the Himalayas near the border of Tibet.

In Kathmandu I applied for my third India visa in 8 months.

We passed through a very inconspicuous dusty city in Bihar, the poorest state in India, called Motihari.  We were shocked to discover that it is the birthplace of author George Orwell.

At the Iranian embassy in New Delhi we had a nice chat with Freddie Mercury’s cousin.

I climbed this 5,000 meter peak (16,400 feet):

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I was alone on the summit, with a big blue sky close enough to touch and surrounded by icy peaks that rose even higher (The one right behind me is over 7,000 meters [23,000 feet].   This was the view from the top:

Nepal himalayas langtang bardia bhaktapur

Nepal himalayas langtang bardia bhaktapur

I made friends with Yaks.

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And Elephants.

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We watched a procession of men carry a body to the banks of the Ganges, place it on a pyre of wood and set it ablaze.  As the sun set into the river we watched the fire burn and the smoke rise for two and a half hours until all that was left was a small pile of hot coals.

The day that we drove into Kathmandu I was scandalized by how the women dressed.  I found adjectives like “Slutty, promiscuous, and scanty” popping into my head.  Until I realized that they were just dressed like any normal woman you would see on the street in America or Europe!  That’s what seven months in ultra-conservative India can do to you.

Memorable menu items from the last months:  Dhal bhat (Nepalese set meal of rice, veg, and a watery lentil broth), momos (Nepalese dumplings), lots of trailmix and porridge, tons of mangoes (just came into season), and the best samosas we ever tried (found at the tiniest little shack on the side of the road in Bihar)

We took a horrendous 10 hour bus ride packed like sardines into the bus with at least 15 additional people on top of the bus…on roads like these:

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We ate dodgy fish at a restaurant on the shores of the lake in Pokhara and I suffered the consequences for days after.

We hiked to an ancient glacier high in the Himalayas.

In in a dusty town in Northern India called Bodhgaya, we mingled with Buddhists pilgrims, soaking in the nirvanic vibes that fall like leaves from the branches of the Bodhi tree where, 2500 years ago Buddha found enlightenment.

This tree is thought to be a direct decendant of the actual Bodhi tree that Buddha was sitting under when he achieved enlightenment.

This tree is thought to be a direct decendant of the actual Bodhi tree that Buddha was sitting under when he achieved enlightenment.

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Three weeks and 1000 kilometers (625 miles) later in Nepal, we visited the site where Buddha was born.  It was enclosed in this not no nirvanic building:

 

We camped for a few days just outside of Bardia National Park.  We saw a couple rhinos and a tiger (I missed it, Magdalena caught a quick glimpse).  It was far away but close enough to be exciting just to know it was

Magdalena, happy to have found some tiger vomit

Magdalena, happy to have found some tiger vomit

near.   For all that we didn’t see of the tiger itself, we DID see some other gifts he left behind…some tracks and some hairball vomit

The day that we cruised back into Delhi, the World Health Organization released a list of the 20 most polluted cities in the world…guess what was number one.

 

We said goodbye to the team at garage team at Vintage Rides, who were instrumental in making this whole trip a reality.  Right down to the last minute.

Back in Delhi we spent a very hectic week and a half preparing for our final departure from India.  MechanicalVaranasi india gaya bodhgaya ganges ganga work, organizing spare parts for the journey west, catching up with old friends, and getting Bala boxed up for the trip to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

We said goodbye to India (with a tear in the eye) and boarded a plane to Kyrgyzstan.  It’ll be all overland from there.  14,000 kilometers (8700 miles) to go.  Bala is in good shape.  We are excited for new places, faces, and roads.  The journey west begins.

CLICK HERE for more pictures and stories

Thanks for reading.  Please consider donating some money to my fundraiser (I’ll even send you or someone you know a postcard from somewhere along the way!).  Click here for more info: http://www.crowdrise.com/thescenicroutetospain

 

 

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From South to North, Spices, Beaches, Tigers and Trains

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I woke up this morning  in Delhi…again.  In the last week I have contacted 8 customs brokers in Kyrgystan, visited 4 foreign embassies in person and called several more, met with two shipping companies, completely disassembled Bala (rebuilding the entire engine), and visited more motorcycle parts stores than I can count…the Logistics & Planning Phase  of  THE PLAN  has kicked into high gear, a westward departure anxiously looms on the horizon.  But what have I been up to between Sri Lanka and New Delhi?

I acquired a passenger…and so “I” has become “we”.  One who has proven to be a true intrepid traveler, and who was ready to sign on for the big trip, Central Asia to Central Europe.  You have met her before… Magdalena

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Click on map to see it in GoogleMaps

We traveled by moto from Madurai to Arambol almost 1,250 miles (2000k)  This was our route:

We visited 5 mechanics in two weeks time (luckily no major problems)

We drove through spice plantations that never seemed to end.  Beautiful mountain roads draped on each side by rows and rows of cardamom, black pepper, coffee, cinnamon and other fragrant plants and trees.

We passed through little towns and cities that never see westerners.  While suiting up to get back on Bala after stopping for a cup of chai and a samosa we would sometimes be surrounded by 30 pairs of curious eyes.

We visited 1000 year old Hindu temples with carved sexual scenes from the Kama Sutra and wondered how the Hindu culture today has come to be so conservative.

I loved the food up north, then discovered South India food and fell in love all over again.  Dosas, uttapam, parrota, coconut chutney, and “meals” served on banana leaves.

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We bought fresh red snapper from a fish market in Goa and made Mexican style ceviche in the bathroom of our guesthouse.

In the state of Karnataka, West Coast of India, we spent several days in a hut with mud floors and no electricity on a beach that could only be reached by hiking through a jungle.

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We spent more than a week driving through the Western Ghats, the second largest mountain range in India.  And we survived

We spent a few nights in a small mountain town where 4 miles (7k) away….just two weeks earlier, a man eating tiger that had killed 4 people was shot.

We visited the cashew capital of India, ate lots of cashews and bought some of the local liquor, made from…yep, cashew fruit.

We drank too much rum and suffered the next day.

We took a 41 hour train ride (With Bala as our baggage) from Goa to Delhi.

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We visited a sacred temple of the Jain religion.  The Jains do believe in a strict code of not causing unnecessary harm to any animal.  They don’t use leather, are strict vegans, and they don’t even eat potatoes, carrots, or other roots because harvesting them it may harm insects that live in the earth.

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We stumbled upon a cattle market in a small town where DEFINITELY no other westerns have stopped before.  We stole the spotlight from the cows for the 15 minutes or so that we walked around the market.   We got some strange looks from a lot of people, but also a few big smiles from guys like this

In Arambol, Goa we met a dear old friend of mine, Safira, who is a recurring character in my cast of travel partners (she was with me for two weeks in the days of Coco back in Brazil and I spent Halloween with her in Amsterdam couple years ago).

Sometimes in a single day we would pass through lush high mountain climate zones with COLD weather covered in greenery and tea plantations, then into dry and rocky mountains, then flat and hot acacia covered desert “à la” Africa, only to end up back in the mountains putting on our sweaters.

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We celebrated Holi, the festival of colors.  Anyone who walks outside on that day will end up looking like they got pooped on by a rainbow.  We did.

We saw the second largest waterfall in India, Jog Falls, whose torrents, once attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, have recently been stifled by the building of a big dam upriver L

We tried relentlessly to spot a GIANT flying squirrel (the image I had created in my mind of what this super-animal might look like was fantastical), native to the mountain area we were in, but we failed L

We did see crocodile though…big ones.

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We walked 8 miles (15k) along some railroad tracks to reach some waterfall…to get back we took the advice of the station master in a tiny rural station and jumped onto a moving cargo train.  We ended up chatting with the brakeman at the rear of the train and then jumped off it when it reached the town where Bala was waiting for us.

We spent some days in Panjim the capital of Goa which, until just 60 years ago, was a Portuguese colony.  It was amazing how European it seemed in its architecture, food, and cultural differences.  We celebrated Carnival, drank beer in the streets, and ate beef in public.

What’s next?  Nepal for some weeks, a stopover in Varanasi, then return to Delhi where the journey West will begin.  Unfortunately we could not get access to Pakistan (in February a Spanish cyclist and his armed military escort of 12 people were ambushed by Taliban, 6 of his escort were killed…so the government clamped down on people crossing the country with private transport).  So unfortunately the only other way to do this (aside from paying $6000 in permits to go through Tibet) is to airfreight Bala to Kyrgyzstan and to begin from there.

PLEASE don’t forget about my fundraising mission.  If you like readings about this journey, and seeing the pictures, please consider donating to one of the charities I am supporting.  Here is a link to the fundraiser (Donate in a friend’s name and I’ll send them a postcard from some faraway place!) CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE OR TO DONATE

To see many more photos and read some more commentary from the last 6 weeks CLICK HERE.

The People of the Kathputli Slum, Delhi…A Photo Album

Greetings from Goa.  As I write this the sun is setting into the Arabian Sea just beyond a beautiful white sand beach.  Life is good.  A little vacation from the full-on adventures of life on the road.  (Just completed 1,500k (1000 miles) )  I will post stories and photos from those adventures soon.  But in the meantime I thought I would post some pictures from the time I spent while working in the Kathputli Slum in Delhi.

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Many foreigners would come to visit the free schools and other projects that the NGO I worked for runs in the slums.  Local residents of the slums are not shy and would Kathputli-slum-new-delhi-india-artist-slumoften ask to have their picture taken so they could see it on the digital viewfinder of the camera afterwards.  I thought that they might appreciate actually having a printed copy of the photos so after a couple people asked me to take their photos I later printed them out, found them in the slum days later, and delivered the pictures to them.  It wasn’t long before word got out and I became the unofficial family photographer of the slum.  I couldn’t walk through the slum without being swamped by people, young and old, who wanted their picture taken.  Within a few weeks I had printed and handed out nearly two hundred photos.

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This is a collection of some of my favorites. (CLICK HERE TO BE BROUGHT TO THE SLIDESHOW)

The organization I worked for is called PETE (Providing Education to Everyone) India.  To learn more about them and how you can help with their projects you can visit their website http://www.peteindia.webs.com/ or email Shiva, the director at pete@socialworker.net

 

From North to South, Sri Lanka, Madurai, and beyond

This morning I woke up in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, and I finally went to pick up my new Indian visa.  Since being in Sri Lanka, I have visited the Indian Consulate and Visa Center 12, yes TWELVE times.   Why did I need a new visa?  Because I lost my passport which had my old one in it.   A seasoned traveler once said “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”  But I am not complaining…

…In the last 5 weeks I have been on 6 islands in two countries and have swam in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Laccadive Sea.

I celebrated New Years while on a 46 hour train ride from Northern India to Southern India.  We passed fields of cotton, rice, and sugarcane, banana plantations, kids playing cricket in dusty dirt fields and nuclear power plants.

On the first day of 2014, I watched the sun rise as I drove Bala towards the Island of Rameshwaran in Southern India

I tried to make friends with the cows in the old Danish fort in Jaffna, Nothern Sri Lanka.  I did not succeed.

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Magdalena next to the Lake in Kandy, Central Sri Lanka

Magdalena next to the Lake in Kandy, Central Sri Lanka

Seven months ago I spent some days exploring the Tibetan region of China by motorcycle with a Swiss girl named Magdalena.  We reconnected in Sri Lanka to resume our mutual desire to conquer the world, two wheels at a time.

We rented a scooter we named Joggeli (Swiss-German for ‘Little Idiot’…pronounced Yogalee) in the Hill country of Sri Lanka (Bala, who is waiting for me back in India, doesn’t know this and I would like to keep it this way so Sssshhhh!!!).  We drove him 500k (315 miles), often on horrendous (= adventurous) roads past beautiful hills and mountains, endless plantations of tea, and lots of smiling Sri Lankans.

With Sweet Lime on the island of Karainagar

With Sweet Lime on the island of Karainagar

We rented a scooter we named Sweet Lime and drove her 200k (125 miles) through the Northern region of Sri Lanka past coconut palms, deserted coastline, wild peacocks, hindu temples, and…. lots of smiling Sri Lankans

I spent 4 days in a fishing village almost devoid of foreigners where I stumbled across a Hindu wedding ceremony at a temple that sat right next to the sea

Temple next to the sea in Trincomalee, Eastern Sri Lanka

Temple next to the sea in Trincomalee, Eastern Sri Lanka

I celebrated my birthday in a small town in the Sri Lankan Hill Country with some rare treats (rare at least on the Indian Subcontinent)…A bottle of red wine, some Swiss cheese (imported by Magdalena), some Spanish olives, bread, and in lieu of Italian Salami which evaded us…a can of mackerel.  And of course candles and cake.

I searched for the casino that my great-uncle owned in Colombo, back in the 1970’s  I found a vacant lot

I drove Bala across the Indian Ocean.

Bala on a one kilometer long bridge across the Indian Ocean to the island of Ramashwaran

Bala on a one kilometer long bridge across the Indian Ocean to the island of Ramashwaran

I drove through the Indian Ocean on a bus.  Don’t believe me…check it out:

I crossed the Andaman Sea on Sweet Lime 3 times by bridge and once by boat.

Abandoned house, island of Karainager, Northern Sri Lanka

Abandoned house, island of Karainager, Northern Sri Lanka

For the first time in my travels I explored part of a country that is recovering from a recent war.  Four years ago Northern Sri Lanka was a war zone…sadly it is still quite evident.  Military presence is everywhere, certain areas are still off-limits and while driving through the islands I saw countless (literally about one in four) houses that were either abandoned, bombed out, or both.

I ate LOTS of mangos

Completely captivated and hypnotized by the sounds of chanting, the sights of bare chested Hindu pilgrims sprawled out in prayer on the floor, and by the smells of burning incense, I wandered barefoot through the 400 year old Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai

With Kingsly in Madurai

With Kingsly in Madurai

I made my first new friend in the South of India, Kingsly, who helped me with all sorts of things and was nice enough to give Bala a safe home while I went off to Sri Lanka

I paid a whopping $25 entrance fee to get into the “The Worlds End” national park in central Sri Lanka.  The main attraction is a cliff that drops over 1000 meters straight down and offers views all the way to the ocean 100 kilometers away.  This was my view looking straight down towards the 1000 meter drop:

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This was my view looking west towards the Indian Ocean:

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While lost in the Hill Country in Sri Lanka I stumbled across a tea plantation and got a full tour of how the tea is processed.

I was surprised by how developed Sri Lanka is, where I went to my first real supermarket in months, where the streets are clean, and where people actually follow the traffic laws.  I missed India, where life, at its most raw and gritty, is thrown in your face with a “like it or not” attitude.  Lucky for me I seem to like it.  🙂

I missed Bala

Tomorrow I get on a plane and return to Incredible India, to Madurai, and to Bala.  There we will begin the next big leg of our journey, from South to North.

To see more pictures and stories from this leg of the trip you can CLICK HERE

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!

The Scenic Route to Making the World a Better Place

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!! PLEASE READ (…And great last minute Christmas gift idea!)

For those of you who don’t already know, I am in India, have bought a vintage motorcycle, and am driving it 10,000 miles to Spain …but that’s not the meaning of this post, please read on.

If you like the idea of my crazy transcontinental moto adventure and want to show your support, here is how you can do it.  You can help me reach my goal to raise money for charities.  Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a Christmas or birthday gift and I’ll send you (or them) a postcard from the other side of the world!  You can give me a personal message that I will write on a postcard and will send to them…imagine their surprise to get a postcard from you from Turkmenistan or Sri Lanka, or some other country I pass through!

Here is a link to my fundraiser: (www.crowdrise.com/thescenicroutetospain).

So, PLEASE consider donating.  If you can’t donate or want to help even more SHARE THIS ON YOUR FACEBOOK WALL, post it on your blog, email it to friends and businesses!  Here again is the link to the fundraising site: www.crowdrise.com/thescenicroutetospain

If you want to know more details about the moto trip check out this page on my blog: www.thescenicroutethroughlife.com/delhi-to-barcelona-the-scenic-route/

Merry Christmas to everyone from the Indian Subcontinent!

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Meet Bala, my Bullet.

Meet Bala.

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She is a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet.  This is an important introduction because if you read my posts you will be hearing a lot about me and Bala over the next 8 months or so.  Finding each other is the beginning of an adventure that will take us both across India and all the way to Spain, through 20 countries.  (For more details about the travel plan CLICK HERE) For roughly ten to twelve thousand miles (16,000-19,000 kilometers) she will be my travel companion, my trusty steed, my Rocinante.  She was born in India in the 70’s (Never ask a lady her exact age) but the engine that powers her is of an engineering design that has basically not changed since the 1950’s.  No fancy technology, no fuel injection, just one big hog of a cylinder surrounded by cast iron.

Is a motorcycle that was engineered over 60 years ago a practical choice to drive from India to Spain…over mountains, through rivers, across deserts?  No.  Not at all.  Will she break down?  Yep.  Do I know heaps about mechanics?  Nope.  Will it be hard? For sure.  Is it even possible?  I’m about to find out.

Her name, Bala, is an old Hindi/Sanskrit name that means “powerful”. Coincidentally it also means “bullet” in Spanish.  So she carries in her name something of her origin as well as of the place she will eventually call home.   She’s going through a punk phase now but before we leave India she will get a complete makeover and paint-job.

When you begin a long and challenging adventure with someone, you learn to love that person, to depend on them for company, for support and for encouragement.  You also sometimes want to kick them in the arse and leave them on the side of the road.  And so it goes with Bala and I.  She’s a firecracker.  She’s a rock.  She’s an incorrigible teenager, a sassy old lady, and an attention seeker. She is loud and demanding, determined and loyal, obstinate and argumentative. She is Marilyn Monroe AND James Dean. But most importantly she is adventurous and she is up for the challenge.

How did we meet?  Luck.  I was at the end of my patience in Delhi searching for a worthy motorcycle and honest mechanic when I finally found both in the form of a bunch of Frenchmen (and women) who had gotten lost on the way to their local Patisserie and found themselves in India operating a motorcycle tour company called Vintage Rides.  They were more excited about my crazy plans than they were about trying to sell me a bike.  True enthusiasts.  They went the extra distance and spent weeks with me helping me plan my route, giving me mechanics lessons, and helping to modify Bala to be ready for such an endeavor.  I don’t know how to thank them for all the help that they gave me but this modest shout-out is a start.

With the crew at Vintage Rides in New Delhi Royal Enfield Bullet tours New Delhi India

The crew at Vintage Rides came out to wish me and Bala good luck on our maiden voyage

And so, the adventure begins…or perhaps I should say continues.

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