LOG ENTRY 36
Summing up the remaining days in Delhi, changing our whole itinerary and divert into a new country, visit Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar and even emptied the beer fridge at the embassy twice.
Happy to report it that all the beer from the luxurious suit has been consumed. For the past month we had troubles finding beer. We bought some in Iran but that turned out to be alcohol free, it was a challenge we couldn't overcome in Pakistan and the few places we found Kingfisher so far in India was either overpriced or warm. Again, I had some good Goa beers but having a full fridge of proper European beers was a temptation we couldn't resist.
As much as we enjoyed the luxury treatment I don't intend to bore you with it for many LOG ENTRIES therefore I put the whole time we spent at the embassy in one LOG ENTRY.
Hungarian Institute of Culture in Delhi and the lovely staff there
In the morning the maid turned up with our freshly washed clothes. Everything was folded to the same size, ironed and stacked up by color. We needed all this as we were invited to the Hungarian
institute of Culture in Delhi for an interview. The institute is not far from the embassy compound and it is one of the prime property in Delhi. Two elderly Hungarian lady lives there, one who married to an Indian guy and another who spent most of her life in India. They had helpers as well and the two middle aged Indian gentleman actually spoke Hungarian. After the compulsory tea and an hour waiting the reporter was nowhere to be seen so we decided to run over to the Thai embassy to apply for our tourist visa. Luckily we had our driver and Mr Pusztahazi, the head of the finances from the embassy who was the most helpful person we met so far. Eventually we got really close to him and spent every night in his compartment with his wife, wine and great food. It took some time until we could submit our visa applications, thank you Thai bureaucratic system. On the way back from the embassy Mr. Pusztahazi was talking a lot about Nepal. How pretty it is, not as we did not know this, and how easy is it to get in there and how much more worthy to get there than to the eastern side of India. Nevertheless, he put the bug into our ears and since the reporter did not turn up even after we got back our way headed to a long night sightseeing with our new embassy friend and his driver.
Qutub Minar, the second tallest minaret in India
That bug worked pretty well in our ears. As we woke up the next day, getting ready to pick up our Thai visas, Dad and me looked at each others, smiled and almost in the same time said, would you like to take a little detour? Hell yeah was the answer from both sides. First I was thinking how to convince Dad with Nepal, he planned this trip, every city, every country everything basically was his child. He tried to synchronize the trip with Sulkowsky and Bartha's trip -the first couple who rode around the world- that the last thing I wanted is to kidnap his brain/dream child. Also, his most anticipated country was India since the beginning and I feel that he is deeply disappointed. He read tons of novels written by great Hungarian expediters who came here in the 19th century to hunt for tigers in the jungle, clearly a different thing what we are doing now. Luckily I didn't have to convince him, he had the same idea and the same bug. To be honest, any biker would trade the warm and humid and most of all crazy India conditions to a cool, hilly and exotic mountain ride in Nepal. We did the trade too. After picking up the Thai visas we headed to the Nepalese embassy to apply for a single entry permit and then do some sightseeing again.
The Iron Pillar of Delhi
The processing time for the Nepalese visa is two to three days so we have some more time to recharge our batteries. We visited Qutub Minar, a Muslim mosque complex which was built by the first Sultan of Delhi in the 12th century and it has the non corroding Iron Pillar of Delhi in it. The pillar did look corroded thought from the very close view but just a tiny bit, taking into account its age and location I understand why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tomorrow is Thursday and we got the news that the Taj Mahal will be closed on Friday so our plan has to be changed again. We planned to go towards Agra -I know, detour again- before heading North to Nepal but the Friday closure would set us in Delhi for the whole weekend so we decided to go Thursday instead and make it a day trip. After a very early start we made it to Agra fairly quickly, beating most of the heat and only had some minor navigation issue in the end. A regular tourist who take a guided tour to this majestic building don't realize how tricky to find it since they are going with a tour bus. Whether we were unlucky but we approached Taj Mahal from the slums surrounding it and it took some time to get to her gates.
Taj Mahal without flash as we really seen it
Before even paying the 20 dollars entry fee we have been approached by at least 10 self made tour guide offering us their services from as low as 10 dollars up to 150. They claimed that without a tour guide we wont be able to take pictures and in general we won't be allowed to go in. When we bought the ticket this fact just got supported by the ticket seller so we picked a friendly guy for 10 dollars who was actually doing a great tour around the not so big complex. I am sure everyone seen Taj Mahal on pictures and many of you visited it already. It is similar to the Sydney Opera House in my opinion, you expect something super big, grandiose and shiny bright white building and in reality they are not. Don't get me wrong, both building is marvelous but they are the clear example that expectations sometimes bigger than reality.
Me and the Taj Mahal, I really regret that I didn't smile
Unlike the way to Agra the way back to Delhi was horrible. Very high traffic, rain on and off and the police kept stopping us to turn off our headlights even thought it was way passed sunset. We arrived back to the embassy in the late double digits, probably after 10 pm. Luckily the embassy's open air fire extinguisher tank -swimming pool- was still lighten up so as the maids filled our beer fridge up we decided to plan the following days by the pool with the best possible adviser, cold beer.
In the next LOG ENTRY we are continuing our trip with the detour to Nepal.
LOG ENTRY 35
Back in Delhi again after a smooth but challenging ride and enjoying the unlimited beers, food, maids and driver in the Hungarian embassy.
Daily commute in Delhi
Second day riding in India and I am already used to the craziness. I can't say I love it but it is definitely and experience, almost like playing the old, first version of GTA, it is all about slaloming and avoiding the incoming, ongoing, jumping in, appearing and all sorts of traffic caused by cars, buses, rickshaws, elephants, laying cows, snakes, pedestrians and so much more. It is really hard to explain, you really have to see it for yourself but again, it's fun.
Loaded truck, again, outskirts of Delhi
After a long riding w finally arrived to Delhi. Well, it is big, it is very big. The amount of people and all sorts of vehicle makes it look like a bee's nest. That time India also had a new economic development plan and as a part of it they started to build and equip five thousand intersection with tunnel or overpass. This really turned Delhi into a huge, steamy and sweaty construction site, making our job to get from A to B with the wide panniers even harder. Surprisingly it only took about an hour and a half to find the Hungarian embassy without any map, just with the address and constant asking for directions.
One thing in India and generally in Asia is that when you are asking for directions and the person doesn't know which is the right way -90% of the cases- they will just point forward, since you wouldn't ask about something from the direction you just came from. This kind of works well on straight roads but when it comes to roundabouts and big intersections the whole game turns into a big guessing, in that case, Indian style.
A tiny fraction of our suit
It was late afternoon when we crossed the over sized embassy's compound and greeted by the consul who instantly lead us into our room. When I say room I don't really mean a real room, more like three suit opened together with an industrial size fridge designated as a bar fridge, filled with beers, snacks and all sorts of goodies, mainly from Hungary. Yes, you guessed right, we are in the presidential suit, a room big enough to accommodate a smaller school's seek and hide competition and it is all ours. The last guest here was the Hungarian PM before us. I can imagine him playing with his echo in this large room. Before we even got to the shower a maid turned up with fresh and clean clothes and apologetically asked for ours to take it to the laundry. Two things I realized quickly, first that I should have work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that our tax money is really "well" spent here, other side of the world. To be fair again, I can not complain, just enjoy the bar and the 50 meter pool, which isn't really a pool but an open air fire extinguisher tank, which is a requirement for every embassy, according to the consul. The dinner we ate was cooked by an Indian chef and it was a great Hungarian meal with red wine. We even got a designated driver who took us around Delhi at night, slaloming in the sea of people. One common thing he warned us and we did hear that from others too that if a poor people spot that you are foreigner or driving an expensive car, they will intentionally fall ahead of you to get some cash out for compensation. Good to know, also, good to know that as foreigners, the best way t do in case of an accident is to go, never stop just go. At least this is the advice everyone gives us. Enjoying the luxury we spent the night sleeping like babies. We have a long day tomorrow, interview with a newspaper, organizing the Thai visa and finish the remaining beer from the fridge. To see how we succeeded with the beer and where we ended up going afterwards please come back for LOG ENTRY 36.
LOG ENTRY 34
After two weeks of soullessness, as we, riders call the stage when no bike rolling under us, we received the bikes with the Carnet and completed our first section from the border to Delhi.
On the road again, even though it is the afternoon the weather is crazily hot and humid
Mornings are great in India. I am by far not a morning person, especially not an early bird as Dad but it is worth to wake up early in India. The weather is so much nicer and the early morning sunshine somewhat makes everything look much nicer. Today again we woke up early although not for the orange colors of the rising sun but to finally get the tickets to Amritsar. The twenty minutes spent on buying two tickets was a positive record and we had the whole day to spare. We decided to stay put, hang around the guest house, have some meal and more than some drinks on the roof top, basically charge our batteries for the following days. Our plan is to collect the bikes and then return to Delhi. We only have a single entry visa for 30 days so we have to figure out the extension of that too.
After spending the whole day relaxing, eating and drinking we headed to the train station. To be honest I really wanted this to happen finally. The past weeks were terrible. I know I shouldn't complain but spending weeks without riding and touring around India without the bike on trains aren't something we planned. The train departed an hour later than it was scheduled and the air condition was set so low that I could hardly sleep but since it was taking us back to our bikes I have nothing to complain about. I don't speak Hindi apart from a few words but I could easily figure out that middle of the night one guy in our cabin started to make out with whoever on the phone. It was pretty funny, especially that others were aware of it too. The train arrived finally to Amritsar two hours late which was great as life just started up in the city, we got rickshaw right away to the border. With lots of hope and anticipation we arrived to the border where our bikes were locked down for the past two weeks. We got there 8 in the morning so still an hour wait. Finally at 9 am the border office opened and we started a very lengthy procedure to get the bikes back. It was after 3 pm when we finally rode off and headed to Delhi.
More animals on the road than cars sometimes
Riding away from the border and in generally just being on the bike was the greatest feeling I felt for a long time, with everything sorted, only the distance ahead of us to worry about. Well, except traffic, driving in India is chaotic, Pakistan was bad already but India is challenging. We got stopped twice by the police that we had our headlights on at night, he asked us to turn it off as it disturbs the incoming traffic. Elephants and cows wandering randomly on the road are also common. It is demanding, takes lots of energy and attention but somehow also fun riding in India. To be honest, where else in the world you drive between elephant hordes on the highway. Due to the conditions we couldn't go as further south as we planned. Initially we wanted to get to Delhi but that plan slipped away with the late start already. Surprisingly we found a very decent and cheap hotel on the side of the road. We did actually plan to sleep in one of those free truck stops but for a few hundred rupees we decided to stay in a nice room with shower. The next day we headed towards Delhi, to read how we ended up in a presidential suit and changed the whole trip's itinerary please come back and read LOG ENTRY 35.
LOG ENTRY 33
Things are again taking a good turn. Dad finally arrived back to Delhi, I found a great place to stay, had a fairly issue free day alone and enjoying the last motorcycle free day.
Dad is on the way back to Delhi, at least hopefully. Air France called Mom two more times, asking about the compressed chain sprays, telling her that diversion is inevitable if Dad has them on board. In the main time I had a long chat with the consul about his experiences in Delhi, he told me about how his colleague died in a hit and run accident not long ago, when the bus driver hit the embassy's car then jump off and ran away. That time in Delhi bus drivers were employed on the daily basis. There was a huge queue every morning front of the bus terminal, people who would like to work as a bus driver for the day. The lucky ones got the bus with a log book and they get paid after the number of rounds they complete in a shift. This means buses are not stopping at the bus stop, barely even slow down, so people have to jump up and down from a slightly overcrowded buses. No wonder that accidents are happening on a daily basis.
Very cool walking street near Delhi station
After the not so delightful talk I headed to the train station to buy tickets for the next day to Amritsar and book a room somewhere around there too. On the way to the station I decided to have a stroll around India gate again and headed to a bank after to withdraw some cash. Well, ATM's and me aren't the best buddies so far in South Asia. I had a few incidents in Pakistan and some already here in India. Whether it is a result of our foreign cards, my inexperience to pick the right machine or just a plain luck, I don't know. This time it happened again. I entered the pin code, the amount and press enter, card came out, a text message with the successful transaction buzzing my phone but no money. Hmm, let's try this again, same happened, no money but the text message. I walked into the branch, got into a twenty minutes of explanation just for someone to come out and check the machine. The bank employee insisted that we should try it again, same thing happened, text message arrived, slip from the machine as well but no money. It took about one hour for them to pay the cash out from all the three transactions and I was good to go. At the train station I was not this lucky. Because of the bomb attack a day earlier, they were very edgy at the ticket counter and refused to sell me to tickets to Amritsar, saying that both of the persons and their passport has to be present at the time of the ticket purchase. Bad luck, not the end of the world thought. Next to the train station there is a nice walking street with lots of guesthouses. I did actually liked the area a lot. Guest houses and restaurants one after another, fairly clean and not as crowded as a normal street. Somehow I really liked the vibe there so ended up getting a roof top room with street view and even a small bar, all I have to do now is to pick up Dad from the airport. The way to the airport is not the easiest one. No high speed trains or any adequate transportation so I had to deal with either taxis or rickshaws. I did choose the later one as they guy was actually pretty friendly, took me there within an hour. Dad also finally arrived after two hours and three beers later. It was really good to see his smiling face, the carnet and all the little presents he brought back from Hungary. We were only little over a month on the road but that time I was not so used to being away from my loved ones for a long time. In the next LOG ENTRY finally we receive the bikes back and we start our journey on road in India.
View from our rooftop room
LOG ENTRY 32
Finally I arrived back to Delhi, passed through Bhopal, experiencing some of the effects left from the chemical disaster and the train ahead of mine got bombed as well.
As the evening approached I had my dinner and started to get comfortable for the night. Little I knew here about our diversion. At first I did not notice that we are diverted, my second time on this crazy long line and in India you never really know why things happening anyway. All I noticed is the locals on the train started to get frustrated and uneasy and they were telling me that something wrong with the train ahead of us and the railway tracks are closed so we have to make a detour. Sometimes, middle of the night we rolled into a train station and stopped. Normally when the train stops for a longer time I just grab my backpack and wander of to the platform, check out the kiosk, buy some refresher or just have a cigarette. I had the same plan this time as well, only until I stepped off the carriage and faced the most terrible sight I had in India so far.
Train stations and beggars are like twin sisters in India. Apart from Goa, every station I passed through or been to had a large amount of beggars. Some even lived under the platforms and whenever a train roll into the station they jump up from underneath the platform, board the train, take off their shirt and start to clean the floor front of yo in a hope of a few rupees. However, this station had no jumping beggars, neither fast walking ones, all I could see is crawling, disfigured and mutated poor souls shadowing the station. It took me a few minute to realize that we are way off course and we just stopped in the infamous city of Bhopal. The Bhopal chemical plant disaster happened in 1984 with over 4000 deaths and an estimated 500 thousand injuries when the pesticide factory leaked various toxic gases on the sleeping city. Death toll since then varies in different estimations but even the modest government estimations suggest over 4000 severely and permanently disabled people.
After about two hours the train finally left Bhopal but the memories of the place will stay with me forever. The remaining part of the journey was rather uneventful and the train rolled into Delhi with a severe late. From the station I headed right to the embassy to get a shower and some good food. They told me there that the train ahead of mine was bombed around Jaunpur, hence our detour and my Mom already called them as she was not sure which train I was on. I have to stop here for a second and say a few good words about the embassy employees here in Delhi. Until India and even after I never had any good experience with the Hungarian embassies around the world except here in Delhi. Any time we needed something, let it be free food, advise, a hot shower or just a little garden of sanctuary from the craziness, they were always open for us and always helped to the fullest. Later on we stayed in the compound as well but that is an other, later story.
So yeah, they also called Mom for me, she was really happy to hear my voice. She told me that the train bombing was all over the news as lots of people died and it happened on the same route as my train and in addition, I did not tell her which train I will go back to Delhi as I couldn't find an internet cafe in Goa. At least now she is half relaxed. She is still worrying about Dad. Apparently he bought four bottles of high pressured chain spray and asked the Air France check in whether it is permitted on the flight. They said yes so Dad brought two on-board in his carry on luggage and two in the hold. However, as the aircraft was about to taxi out at Charles de Gaulle airport, security stuff came on board, confiscated two bottles, frightening the passengers around Dad and later on called Mom, as she booked the ticket, that whether Dad has more on him because it is unsafe to carry the pressurized bottles. What a non sense, especially that he asked about it before hand. To read the remaining part of the day, how Dad got back and how we went to collect our bikes the next day, please come back tomorrow for LOG ENTRY 33.
LOG ENTRY 31
Making my way back to Delhi to meet up Dad. No luck with the weather as the last day and the night before turned into a monsoon and my train got delayed for ten hours and stranded on the railway tracks as well.
The gods did not bless me with sunshine on my last day in Goa. After I have been invited to the party by those Indian guys yesterday I decided to go and see how the desi tunes make an Indian girl's body move. The storm had different ideas whatsoever. As soon as I got ready the monsoon arrived and didn't stop raining even for a second. I waited and waited for the guys to turn up but they didn't so I ended up having a few drinks in my room, getting my thoughts together and also my luggage when I heard knocks on my door. The guys finally turned up, very apologetically telling me that the clubs are closed due to the rain and they just came all the way here to say sorry about canceling the plan. How nice.
So yeah, last morning, gods aren't giving me a ray of sunshine so no more swimming, just a big English breakfast for one last time. Since I paid an extra day forward I tried to get the money back. I know its not common to get it back but who knows. Surprisingly the receptionist offered me a free taxi ride as she was not allowed to give the money back for the extra day I paid. Actually this was an even better deal as the taxi would have cost more than the extra one day at my bungalow.
Another not so beach weather today
I arrived to the train station over three hours before the departure of my train which was enough time to find an internet cafe and tell Mom that I am leaving today and not tomorrow morning as it was initially planned. Unfortunately I couldn't find her online so just sent her an email. Why am I telling this? As it seems an unnecessary and somehow tiny detail, events from the next day will make it sound important.
At the train station I met a couple whom turned out to be Hungarians. It was such a good feeling talking to someone from home apart from Dad. They were travelling back to Delhi as well, ending their three months of backpacking trip in India. Tamas and Eszter was a freshly wed couple, what a great way to spend your honeymoon. They bought the cheapest possible ticket which put them in the end of the train, unlike my fancy private air conditioned cabin. To be honest, the price difference was not that great, although at first I decided to stay with them in the back. It was great fun hanging out with them, play portable monopoly and enjoy the empty car for the first three hours until the first stop when it got so crowded that the ticket inspector told me to go back to my cabin. For the rest of the trip I kept coming back and check on them. They sleeping berth filled up with three people so sleeping or even laying down was impossible, all this in three elevated bunks which resulted someones leg hanging right front of your face at any given time. About 10 hours into the trip the train got diverted and we stopped for over two hours. To find out what happened which almost caused Mom to have a heart attack and delayed my train over 10 hours come back and read LOG ENTRY 32
LOG ENTRY 30
I received the great news that Dad is back in a few days with the carnet de passage and we can continue our trip soon so I made a quick run slash sightseeing to Vasco da Gamma and for train ticket and received an offer for a night out in the red light district from a group of student.
I love Goa for the fact that every morning I can buy a big English breakfast with Heinz baked beans for the price of a single cheeseburger in McDonalds. Not as I am from the rainy island close to mainland Europe, which would explain my obsession for uncooked bacon, but it does feel good to have a calorie intake more than 200 in the morning. Filled up with calories for only 100 rupees and I was on my way to Vasco da Gamma with the public bus. This wasn't the same bus as I got "used" to in Punjab or in Pakistan but a proper air conditioned bus with soft seats. I couldn't believe it and also the ticket was really cheap.
Kabamba air conditioned buses
I have seen part of Vasco when I arrived from Delhi so my plan was to cover the unseen areas. Before that, I had to get in touch with Mom about Dad's progress with the carnet so I quickly located an internet cafe. It turned out that Dad will be on his way back within two days with the carnet so my sightseeing trip turned into a "buying ticket" trip of course after I explained to Mom for over an hour that I am fine and my life is not in any danger just because the monsoon took my roof off. I ensured her that my daily alcohol level is sufficiently high to survive any type of tropical disease as well and I did promptly say no for the diamond smugglers offer.
Viceroy's Arch near Panjim
Without realizing the time I spent talking to Mom I ran deeply into the afternoon which cut my sightseeing short and the internet bill long. Surprisingly the train station was fairly empty so buying the ticket back to Delhi for the next day was not as challenging as I expected. After all this I can say that my day is going really well, Dad will be back within 3 days so we can finally continue our motorcycle trip instead of globetrotting with trains and buses and finally the rain has stopped long enough to cross the road without getting my underwear wet. After wandering around the Vasco market I made my way back to the bus station and in no time the lovely air conditioned bus was carrying my happy butt back to Calangute. Even thought I got off the bus much earlier, nothing could ruin my mood, even the rain, which did not spare Calangute as nicely as it did Vasco. Just right after I got sufficiently wet a car pulled over with a group of student from Mumbai who I had a few drinks with at the party two days ago and they gave me a lift back and a few sips of whiskey as well. To find out whether I accepted their offer for the night out in the red light district of Goa, read LOG ENTRY 31 soon.