Delhi to Barcelona, The Scenic Route

The idea came to me while I was bumping along on a muddy unpaved road during a 12 hour bus ride through the Tibetan region of China.  Enormous snow-capped mountains held my eyes captive from beyond the windows of the bus, the kind of mountains that inspire daring ideas.  At the time, I had been traveling for almost 3 years.  I still loved life on the road but was beginning to feel a bit jaded.  Trying to shake the shame that this brought me, I began to think of a way to break the spell, up the ante of adventure but also do something meaningful.  That was the day I came up with The Plan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Plan:

Drive a 35 year old Royal Enfield motorcycle 6,000k through India and Nepal, then drive it to Spain 15,000k (9000 miles) and raise $25,000 for charities in the process.

The Bike:

Meet Bala.  She is a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet.  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 notOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA changed since the 1950’s.  No fancy technology, no fuel injection, just one big hog of a cylinder surrounded by cast iron. 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.

Is a motorcycle that was engineered over 60 years ago, with a top speed of about 65kph (45mph) 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.

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.

The Route:

MAP2

Unfortunately I had to give up the idea of reaching “The Stans” by passing through Pakistan and China.  Pakistan is not so keen on letting Indian registered vehicles across the border these days, and China will only let you pass if you pay $1500 to a guide that will accompany you 24 hours a day for the 6 days t take to reach the Kyrgyz border.  So unfortunately I had to cheat a bit and Bala and I flew from Delhi to Bishkek Kyrgyzstan and will head overland from there. Iran is also a wildcard…hopefully I get the visa.  If not we cross the Caspian Sea by ferry from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan.

The Driver:

I’m a 34 year old citizen of the world who has been on the road for several years in search of Life’s diamonds and pearls.  CLICK HERE to read more.

The Goal:

If you think this is a cool idea and if you want to see me succeed, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show your support by helping me to reach my goal of raising money for some important causes.  If you donate more than US$50 I will send you (or anyone you want) a postcard with your personal message on it from somewhere along the way.  Donate in your friend’s name as a gift!…imagine their surprise to get a postcard from you that was mailed from Azerbaijan or Nepal!  CLICK HERE to learn more how you can donate

FAQS:

HOW CAN I FOLLOW YOUR PROGRESS, TO READ STORIES AND SEE PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP?

Very easy.  To the right side of the screen towards the top you will see an option for “EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION”. Enter your email address there, click “Sign Me Up” and then check your email, you will have an email you must open to confirm your subscription.

HOW LONG WILL THE TRIP TAKE?

I can only guess.  But I plan to be heading out of India in April or May of 2014 and imagine I will take about 3 months to reach Barcelona.  In the meantime I am busy dodging cows on some road in India somewhere.

HOW MANY COUNTRIES WILL YOU PASS THROUGH?

Depends on a few things but let’s say 15 to 20.

HOW MANY MILES/KILOMETERS WILL YOU TRAVEL?

Again, it’s just a guess and the variation depends on visas and routes but I would say that in total (including all the road in India and Nepal) it will be between ten and twelve thousand miles (16,000-19,000 kilometers)

ARE YOU DOING THIS ALONE?

Essentially yes… but there will surely be people joining along the way.  Bala can take one passenger so I will pick people up that I meet who want to join us for parts of the trip.  There are also a few other riders who are interested in joining but nothing is certain.

WAS IT EASY TO FIND AND BUY A DECENT MOTORCYCLE IN INDIA AND TO REGISTER IT IN YOUR NAME?

The short answer is: Not at all.  But I will soon post a very detailed description of the process along with advice so that others who want to do the same thing can benefit from the millions of hours I spent searching web forums, dodgy motorcycle markets, and bureaucratic offices of India for answers. (so subscribe to the blog if you want to get that post)

WHY NOT DO IT ON SOME MODERN MORE EFFICIENT MOTORCYCLE?

I will not tell Bala that you asked that question.   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.  Will it be hard? For sure.  But will it be more of an adventure?  YES!!!

DO YOU HAVE ANY REAL MECHANICAL EXPERIENCE?

Nope.  I grew up around motorcycles so have some general knowledge but I will be learning a lot over the next months.  As Bala is a “vintage” bike I am going to be doing a complete engine rebuild with the help of the guys at Vintage Rides in Delhi so that when I leave India Bala will be in tip-top shape.

WHAT KIND OF GEAR ARE YOU TAKING BESIDES CLOTHES?  (Asked by Guri Singh)

I will have to take lots of spares as well as tools to fix most issues. Out of India it will be hard to find some parts so I will be carrying with me extra clutch plates, cables, tubes, filters, gaskets, a bike pump….and a flask of whiskey for when none of other things can save me. Once leaving India I will also be traveling with a tent and sleeping bag as I plan to spend more than a few nights camping.

IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED ABOUT THE TRIP FEEL FREE TO LEAVE THEM IN A COMMENT AND I WILL ADD THEM HERE ALONG WITH THE ANSWERS.

UPDATE:  Mission Accomplished!  After 5 months on the road, 12,000 kilometers, and 20 countries, I arrived in Barcelona!  It wasn’t long before I was planning my next adventure, which I have already begun. You can read more about that here.

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34 thoughts on “Delhi to Barcelona, The Scenic Route”

  1. This sounds awesome! Believe it or not, i was thinking about doing somewhat the same only then from India to Den Haag – Netherlands my hometown! Enfields are such great motorcycles! Enjoy your trip and i will be looking forward to the updates in your blog!

    1. Yes I did, about two months ago. The entire trip from India to Barcelona took 5 months! I will soon try and update the blog with photos and stories from the second half of the trip 🙂

    2. Yes actually I did, about 2 months ago. The entire trip form India took 5 months. I will try and update the blog soon with more stories. Its just that towards the end we were so behind schedule and racing to arrive in Europe before winter that I had no time to edit photos and blog. But I will try and get back into it soon. Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. I would love to see that logistics post on motorcycle and registration in your name. I had an amazing time motorcycling around mostly Northern India, but I really wish I had the option to cross some borders…

    1. Yes someday I will indeed do a post explaining all the logistics so that others who want to do the same can have some help. If you follow the blog then you will get a notification when I post it…might be a while but eventually I will get to it. Thanks for reading

  3. This is fantastic! I’ve read only a few posts so far and I’ve really enjoyed them, especially the parts about the kindness of strangers. Looking forward to reading everything else!

  4. i wish i had a life like yours..no strings..just flow like the wind and no responsibilities and no tension………….you are damn lucky my friend….

  5. What was the Iran/Turmenistan border like? I couldn’t get visa to cross the other way so went round the Caspian and down to Kiva. Pat

    1. I also couldnt go through Iran being an American it was impossible to get the visa. We took the Ferry from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan…quite an experience in itself! Happy trails

  6. this trip seems like a dream come true for every rider at heart.. i really wish to follow these footsteps of yours and hope one day will reach. bro do post the logistics regarding this trip.

    1. Hey! Thank for the well wishes. I will indeed someday make a post that is more focused on the logistal “how to” part of the trip. Keep dreaming.

  7. Hey I love what you are doing. It’s just mindblowing to read some of your stories. It gives me immense pleasure to read the stuff you do. I’m not much of a traveller but when I read what you have achieved so far it really made me question what am I doing with my life stressing over trivial subjects. I respect your decision to do this supermegawesome travelling! When I read what you have done and where you have been around the world and compared it with my NORMAL life it made me Sad and I envied you so hard. You are just super awesome man. The thing you are doing is why we were given this awesome life. I hope you complete your trips with countless adventures and I hope Bala doesn’t leave your side. I’m from Delhi and I hope you reach Spain safely. I’d love to donate but I’m just a student and I don’t earn anything sorry for that. But I just wanted to tell you whatever you are doing is just MAKING ME SUPER EXCITING JUST TO KNOW THAT SOMEONE OUT THERE IS DOING SOMETHING THIS AMAZING. Wow just wow. HAVE A GOOD JOURNEY. Take care. I’d love to meet you sometime. Maybe when I grow up i I end up travelling a lot too. YOU ARE MY ALEX SUPERTRAMP MAN. Respect. 😀 YOU DA MANNNN

    1. Hey Ashish! Many thanks for the kind words 🙂

      Don’y be sad my friend, I might have some stories to tell, but your mind carries all the same richness as mine. And in that you can find all the pleasure and adventure you need in life if you learn how.

      I will post again soon…stay tuned!

  8. U know what your a cool guy n awsome guy..i wish we could ride together someday… im so inspired…… God Bless You Brother

    1. Thanks man! If you ever pass through Spain we can certainly ride together. I am not done traveling yet either so maybe one day I will roll through your part of the world! Take care

    1. On this trip…we probably moved on average 5 times a week…so sometimes we would stay in a place for a couple night. The exception was in the large capital cities, sometimes we would be 3-4 days or even more than a week fixing things on the bike and/or arranging visas for the next countries. It was not a vacation that is for sure! It was an adventure. 😉

    1. Yes, visas can be difficult. I dont know for an Indian, I was on an American passport. The most difficult part for Visas is Central Asia, (Tajikistan, uzbekistan, turkminstan, etc.). Visas are expensive and complicated to get. We waited 10 days in the capital of Tajikistan waiting to get visas for the next two countries. It all just takes lots of planning, sitting in front of a computer researching. LOTS of time! But that is the nature of a good adventure 😉

      Can I ask, how did you find my blog?

    1. Hey! As a matter of fact I am planning to do that next summer! I want to buy an old Ural in Finland and then drive it around up there and back to Barcelona. Hey, how did you find my blog?

  9. Hello,

    I’m planning to do the same kind of trip from India to France. I have some question to ask you…
    How did you get the registration of the bike in your name ?
    How did you get the “carnet de passage” for the bike ?
    Did you have the driver’s licence before or did you get it somewhere in Asia ?

    Thank you !

    Mathieu

    1. Hey Mathieu,

      All good questions…

      Getting the bike in your name in India is complicateed. I was working in Delhi so was on a work visa, this allowed me to get Indian residence so it was possible. The other option is just to buy the bike and then get fake papers made in your name.

      We didnt have to get a Carnet because none of the countries we passed through required one. We could not go through Pakistan, we flew with the bike from Delhi to Kyrzystan. We avoided Iran by taking the ferry across the caspian sea from Turkminstan to Azerbaijan…if you do it this way you dont need a Carnet.

      I had a motorcycle license but actually I crossed about 15 borders before ever being asked to see it. The first time someone asked for my drivers license was in Bosnia.

      The whole trip was actually pretty complicated to plan, visas in central asia are no joke. But it was absolutely worth the effort. truly amazing. I hope you can make it possible!

      Hey, can I ask, how did you find my blog?

      Good luck 🙂

      Jordan

  10. Thank you so much for your quick answer !
    Why you didn’t get the “carnet de passage” ? Did you choose it or was it very difficult to get it ?
    Actually, I’m planning to start the trip next January !
    Hope everything will be ok !

    A friend of mine sent me your blog but i don’t know where she found it. I think from Facebook page called ” Nomads something”.

    Tkanks again !

    Mathieu

    1. Hey Jordan !

      That’s me again ! 🙂
      Could you explain me how is it to fly with your bike from India to Kyrgyztan ? What is the process ?
      Because, Tibet is closed till April and we would like to start the trip before.

      I give you our website : http://www.indiaonbullet.fr

      Thank you very much

      Mathieu

      1. Yea, the process was surprisingly simple, when you pass the responsibility on to the people how know how to do it. Of course its not cheap, but in the end was only slightly more expensive than going through China with the cost of visas, permits, and guides. Contact Rahul (who manages the garage) at vintage rides http://www.vintagerides.com/.

        Tell him Jordan sent you, he will help sort you out with transport. In general the guys at Vintage can be a great resource to you.

        Checked out your website, GREAT VIDEO! Makes me want to do it all over again. You are in for quite an adventure my friend. 🙂

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