The last report was from Pune (pronounced Poona) where I was staying with Hari. I made a mistake, the guys there are called the Road Shakers, not Highway
Shakers so I hope they will forgive me. However, I went for a ride with Roy, from another Bullett group, the next weekend and we saw some spectacular scenery aound a large dam which reminded me of Spain ie, the ground
is now parched with lack of rain and the green trees are dotted about on this brown backgound and the level of the water is dropping in the dams.
After a pleasant time finding a local waterfall and downing
a few Kingfishers beers, Roy had to ride back to Pune the next day for work but I spent a night camped with some paragliders who offered to take me in tandem . Of course I was keen to go and was there on the spot,
overlooking a great river gorge, the next morning but, unfortunately, the wind was not favourable so I missed out.
Returning to Pune, I offered my respects to Gandhis grave, said goodbye to Hari and co and was off to
meet Gaurav ( a 60kph club member and friend of Nickys) who was to guide me into Bombay. Nicky's folks entertained me til she came home from work and it was great to meet another keen motorcycle lady who is still
battling enormous financial and cultural pressures to be able to own and ride her 500 Bullett. She is probably the only Indian woman to have ridden her own bike up to the icy regions of Ladakh and she is very keen to
become a WIMA member.
On the weekend she, Gaurav and some other members of the 60kph Bullet club led me out to a favourite camping spot. The ride entailed crossing a sandy beach to get on a ferry, which didn't have a
shore ramp, and was totally impossible for me to negotiate. As I was wondering how I was to get on the ferry sailed away with all the other bikes on it but, 20 minutes later the boys came back on the return trip to
rescue me, pushing the bike on board and making it look easy! (It's nice to be an old woman at times)
We had a few beers watching the sun go down over the sea and I did a bit of story telling - the legend of
Stanton Drew- (from Anne Gale's local area near Bristol) Rocky from Ahmedabad was there so it was great to have contact with my Gujarat family!
While I was in Bombay I visited one of the organisations that WIMA
sponsors, Saathi, which helps homeless adolescent girls who come into the city looking for work. I was able to talk to group about my trip and see some of the craft work that the girls make.
It was with a sigh of
relief that I left Bombay. It is an interesting city and everyone was most hospitable, but, like London, it stretches for miles and is therefore a constant traffic jam to get anywhere. It is better to get the train or
taxi to get around and , of course, the pace is very busy. It is interesting to note the things that are offered for you to buy while you are in the traffic jam. Dashboard Indian flags, dusters and even the smell of
incense which can we wafted through your window from the burning coals the vendor carries.
I rode down the highway toward Goa and was pleasantly surprised as the traffic was manageable and the road passes through
paddy fields and lush scenery. I stayed a couple of nights by the beach at Murud where there is a fort just offshore built by a Muslim King in the 15th century. He is supposed to have sacrificed his son to the gods,
placing his body in the foundations, to ensure that the fort would be impregnable. Well, it was (small comfort for his son) but now no-one lives there and it is just for tourists to visit by small sailing dhows.
Entering into the ex Portugese state of Goa I was stopped at the border and asked to produce my driving licence, for the first time in 35,000kms!
That night I found an overlander beach where there were many of the
huge German buses. The setting is spectacular, white sand, sparkling sea and waving palms but I was only there to camp for the night and see if there was anyone I knew. (yes, some Germans met in Diu)
Next day I was
looking out for my morning cup of tea, normally easy to obtain from one of the numerous roadside chai stalls, but Goa is seriously lacking in these as there are bars instead. I didn't find a cup of tea until I was in
Margoa, my destination, and by that time was hungry for an idly. This strangely named snack is rice cakes with a spicy sauce and a coconut sauce. Yumbo!
Now I am staying here for a while working with another WIMA
sponsored street project by the name of Jan Ugahi (Hindi for "Peoples realisation) I can't do as much as I would like to due to the language barrier but I'm raising awareness among the foreigners where I can and
have done some songs and dance with the kids. Just going out wth the social workers has enabled me to see much more of the real Indian way of life here and understand the problems faced, especially in this very tourist
I will write a separate report on this when I have finished, for any interested parties.
Now I want to mention that Gaurav, my guide into Bombay on his 350 Bullett, has made an absolutely amazing film which
has been accepted for the Bombay Film Festival and hopefully, will be accepted for the other International ones for which he has he has entered it.
Riding Solo to the Roof of the World produced by Gaurav Jani
As you may know Bombay is famous for its film industry and Gaurav
had been involved in this for several years before deciding to satisfy his yearning to see more of India and its people travelling by motorcycle. He tried to interest others in sponsoring him and a small film crew to
document his travels but, with no commercial help forthcoming, finally decided to do it alone.
He chose to go north and rode his 350cc motorcycle all the way from Mumbai to one of the remotest places in the World, the
Changthang Plateau, in Ladakh, bordering China.
Situated at an average altitude of 15,000 feet, Changthang covers almost 30,000 square kilometers of Ladakh A land devoid of roads and with temperatures which dip to
minus 40 degree Celsius in winter.
Gaurav made contact with the nomadic tribes there and the film is not only a tribute to his riding and photographic skills but to his ability to interact on a personal level with
these very remote people. He also managed to get permission to film in places where National Geographic was denied. The difficulties he faced filming himself while battling with icy road conditions and altitude sickness
have to be seen to be believed.
This film makes "The Long way Round" look easy!
If any of you have contacts in the film or TV world that can help Gaurav with his marketing of this film please contact
him for the full synopsis at:
Just before I finish, a few comments on Goa.
This small Indian State, which was governed by Portugal until 1961, has, as its main attraction the most amazing
white sandy beaches, coconut palms and warm sea with offshore breezes. The kind of place where you can laze for days with a book and a beer. It has been popular with both Indians and foreigners fo many years and I can
imagine that 30 years ago it would have been a paradise. It is still a great place to be if you like a beach holiday and the people are very kind and friendly. However as tourism has grown more buildings are going up
along the shoreline( some very much resembling Spanish villas) more souvenir shops and more touts on the beach selling saris, jewellery and fruit and even earcleaning!!
There are an abundance of fat white Russian,
German and British tourists, amongst others and it is a bit unsettling to note the difference between their affluent life style on beach side tourist resorts while, just a few metres inshore the locals and migrant
workers from neighbouring states live in humpies and shacks. As in Thailand there is a peodophile presence here too and alcoholism is a problem.
I am staying in an old Portugese house in a room rented to me by a
family who, in the Portugese era had quite a grand lifestyle but now, in their present circumstances and in their 70's, find it hard to upkeep such a large house. There are many such families around and it is fairly
easy to find personal places to stay as well as the many hotels and boarding houses.
I will be here for another few days with the project and then head off to Hampi, a hill station inland.
Once again my thanks to
everyone who has helped me on this part of the journey and I will be sending more pictures to Heiner soon.
Hope you are all sticking to your New Year resolutions!!