is well in Manali. Driving towards Leh/Ladakh tomorrow/Thur. Hope
to get there by Saturday. Am giving Indian woman a lift (friend
of Delhi internet acquaintance... before you think any smutty stuff,
she ain't my style. Style you ask? Since when did you ever have
style Mr. Bright?). Am regretting giving offer. She has some bloke
(brother/boyfriend/cousin??? who knows?) in tow, who is now riding
part way too. Such a wet drip. Tell me if it is normal for somebody
to eat off your plate, especially when you haven't offered it? Hope
to make it to Leh, so I can lose her (and him... luckily he only
has the holiday to go part way). Then again, if they annoy me any
more, we can each go our separate ways before that.
the bike (2003 Enfield 500cc) is going well. Had to run in a new
piston and rings. Rode 300 km in a straight line (great trunk road)
from Delhi to Chandighr. Hot and straight and smooth, all at 50
km/h! Up here in the hills it's cooler, which is great. Drivers
are still as insane as ever. The name of the bike is Gertrude
(or should it be Gertrud? or Gerty, as in Dirty Gerty from number
6th July is His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, Spiritual Leader
of Tibet's Birthday. All the Very Best to you Sir.
sorry about yet another groupie mail. Arrived in Leh a couple of
days ago and apart from a minor dose of food poisoning (ideal from
me shrinking my fat a*se, hey Tini... what was that bet? 2 pound
a pound?) on the night I arrived, all is cool with me and Gerty.
Forgot to mention Norman in the last mail. He's here too and enjoying
my last tribulations with the Indian bird and her, as it turns out
boyfriend (allegedly a Major in the Army... Anyone fancy invading
India??? If all the soldiers are like him, there won't be much resistance...),
well I've dumped both of them. And feel a great deal better for
day 2 of the Manali-Leh trip the two of them even have a domestic,
because moron-man/mouse thinks I'm going to run off with his bird...
Great... remember, I'd never met them before. They're friends of
an (now to be ex-) acquaintance... why should I deal with this BS
from some complete strangers? Anyway, part one is accomplished.
He is dumped.
bike was in mid air
after a hard day's ride (woof woof, sorry, had to say it), she also
develops a 'migraine' and the next day (the final push to Leh) ends
up in a jeep. Good riddance. The bike behaves much better without
the deadweight on the back and with the luggage somewhere above
the back axle, rather than flopping around 3 feet behind it. The
views again were absolutely and totally stunning.
manage to get round a huge traffic jam caused by a truck falling
over on the single-track road. Took the luggage off the bike and
just squeezed the bike round the edge of the truck. The bike wheels
were just about touching the gravel on the edge of the 100-foot
drop. The rest of the bike was in mid air. No I wasn't riding it!
(Although I could have been, had I wanted to; it's just that I didn't,
so there). About 8 people were holding onto the truck with one hand
and onto the bike with the other as we wheeled it round the obstruction.
The rest of the traffic had to wait for an army crane to winch the
obstacle clear. That took them a further 3 hours.
bike ran fine all the way (Brighty's touching big wooden desk).
Paul, remember last year's stunts? It went up and over the 5300
meter Tanglang La in 2nd and 3rd gear! Without said offending extra
is full. Of tourists. Of Israelis. Of Enfield Bullets (I estimate
there must be about 100 of them in town)... have rechecked out the
usual haunts. Assuming my man comes through with the Inner-Line-Permit
(which you need 'cos you're so close to the Chinese/Tibet border),
I'm off over the Tanglang La (allegedly the highest motorable road...
5600 meters) to the Nubra Valley tomorrow. After a couple of days
the jolly continues to Pangong Tso, a rather stunning Lake that
Paul and I got half-way to, before one of our bikes expired. I'll
have a chai with the boys at the checkpoint for you Paul ;)
met some Indian chaps on Bullets from the 60kph.com group. Check
their site http://www.60kph.com Great people.
got back from the mechanic. The bloke had the gall to tell me to
wash my bike before he would work on it! This from a grease monkey
who is black from grime and dirt. He works in a black greasy workshop,
there is dirt everywhere and when it's not raining he is messing
about in the dirt outside... So there you go. The bike wasn't even
broken down. Just required a quick tune up. Touchwood, with a seeing
to every 500km, Gertrude runs ok.
the past 7 days, Normo and me travelled to Pangong Lake and the
Nubra Valley. Before setting off to these 2 wonderful locations,
I hadn't been sure if retracing my footsteps (or rather tyre tracks)
was such a good idea. (You recall I was up here last year.) Well,
I have to say having seen the wonderful (because Bekkkkkham uses
'amazing', I this is now a verboten adjective in my vocabulary)
Pangong Lake; I'm hooked on Ladakh. The only thing I found slightly
disconcerting was the daddy donkey and the mummy donkey that decided
it was appropriate to partake in jiggy jiggy on the edge of the
lake while I was deep in contemplation. The noise was as shocking
as heard one night in early 1990 at Aston University, Vauxhall Court,
Flat 17. I don't recall... was that you Dave (in the room to the
left of me), or you Ben (in the room to the right of me)?
ride there was with an Indian chap making a documentary on a local
tribe of nomads (an oxymoron?). I ended up being filmed too. So
look forward to the new movie: 'Bright of the Himalayas'.Various clips can be viewed via the India Overview Page.
Out soon in a Bollywood Palace near you.
with the big seashell horn that called the novices to prayer
back from the Nubra Valley yesterday. Coming back over the Khardung
La Pass (the highest motorable road - at 5600 m: that's what the
sign said), it rained, then it snowed, then it snowed even more.
Great fun, couldn't see pooh; mud and icy water everywhere. But
made it, with Gerty not missing a beat. The Nubra Valley itself
was very mellow, with sand dune, camels, monasteries and snowy peaks
all in the same view... the monks at Diskit Monastery were all v
friendly and funky. Especially the monk with the big seashell horn
that called the novices to prayer at 6.30am every morning. They
then had to sing prayers in order to be let into the monastery.
mention should go to the BRO. The Border Roads Organisation. These
are the people who build and maintain the roads up here. Seriously,
well done boys (and girls). They do an excellent job. IMHO they
do a much better than the nutters working between Jtn 13 and 10
on the M25.
enough droning on. Off towards Kargil tomorrow. Then into the Zanskar
Valley for a few days before transiting Srinagar, Jammu and Patankot
to Dharamsala and an audience with the Dalai Lama, although I believe
he'll be in Costa Rica (Migs, pass him my regards if YOU get to
see him) in August.
try to stay in the north as long as possible. Hope to do a Buddhist
thing in Dharamsala, visit Gangotrie etc. Will prob swing by Rajastan
Bright Gushes Fourth: The Juice
you were last enlightened from Leh in Ladakh, in the far north of
India. Since then Gerty, Norm et moi have viajed to Kargil, the
Zanskar Valley, Srinagar, nearly to Jammu, Daramsala/Mcleod Ganj,
twice over the Jalori La pass, back again to Manali and then down
the great Trunk Road back to Delhi.
ran and ran and ran, through snowstorms over 5600 m passes, through
35 degree + heat across the plains. Without problems. Not bad for
an Enfield. 4500 km in a month without a hiccup. When the website
is finally up you'll be able to see a running, non broken down Enfield,
next to a BMW F650 on the side of the road being worked on by it's
owner, Vijay Parmar of Shimla, HP. Oh how I tittered to myself at
the bike off in Karol Bagh, the bike area of Delhi, yesterday and
got my deposit back, no worries. Will take a bus back to Daramsala,
the home of the Dalai Lama to take do a 10-day Vipassana meditation
retreat. Will I be able to shut up for 10 hours a day, for 10 days?
Probably, but with great difficulty. What about farting? Maybe silently...
road from Leh to Kargil was very pleasant. I had some sort of expectation
that it would be long boring and straight. Not at all. Kargil in
the state of Jammu and Kashmir, however must rate as one of, if
not the, armpit of the planet. And such pleasant (not) people. Next
time the Pakistanis shell the place, maybe they can be a little
more accurate. If the Kashmiris started again from scratch, they
might make a better effort second time round.
Zanskar Valley was very pretty, but should be renamed 'One Pen Valley'
in line with the hoards of nasty Kashmiri kids sprinting to the
road, the minute they see you or hear the pitch of the BuddhaBuddha
Enfield exhaust and waving their index fingers demanding a pen.
I tried to refrain, but once or twice I succumbed to the temptation
of gesturing at them with a finger, but the one next to the index
finger (not the thumb...)
deserves not to be visited. 3 reasons:
The road there from Jammu. Indian drivers are certifiably the worst
in the world: Much worse than anything Peru, Brazil, USA or Kenya
has to offer. But the Jammu to Srinagar road tops it. I gave up
counting the time I'm coming down a hill round a corner and imagine
my surprise to have 2 big buses or trucks next to each other coming
towards me. There's a cliff up one side and a hundreds of feet drop
on the other. Stopping doesn't help. One bus/truck will still run
into you, as the road ain't too wide.
The people: a combination of the worst of Egyptians, Ethiopians
There are soldiers with guns everywhere. Sandbags, gun emplacements
even outside my hotel. While driving about 50km south of Srinagar,
there's a traffic jam. I ask a couple of blokes in a bus what's
happened. The reply: "There has been an encounter." I
tried to correct his English with the clarification of "encounter"
meaning "accident"!. "What, you mean a collision?
2 trucks have collided?" He doesn't concur. He says the army
have just shot dead a militant, next to the road. Fine, I said and
legged it for the next 150km without stopping and avoiding eye contact
with anybody on the side of the road.
bike was green and black. When I gave it back in Delhi it was green,
black and orange across the front. While driving up to Daramsala
there were a truck and a minibus ahead of me. As I pull out to overtake
the minibus, this bus decides he is overtaking the truck. I end
up in the dirt on the wrong side of the road. No problem really,
except there are two big baskets of oranges that somebody is selling
to passing motorists. Or rather "was selling". I'm sure
it was quite spectacular for a spectator to see the oranges flying
everywhere. A bit James Bondesque I believe. I was concentrating
on not falling off... Afraid I didn't stop to admire my handiwork
Daramsala, the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile a chap talks
to me over dinner. Can I teach him English? After hearing his story,
I agree. He's a refugee in his early 20s, escaped from Tibet in
2000 by walking for 40 something days over the mountains to Nepal.
A former monk who has give up his monkdom because be "likes
smoking, beer and women". Seems like good enough reasons to
me to give up the cloth.
the honour of seeing His Holiness, the Dalai Lama as he walked into
a Monastery to give a talk. As his entourage arrived, everyone was
struggling to catch a glimpse of him. I first recognised his distinct
laugh. The talk itself was in Tibetan, with translations into English
and Mandarin. I'd have to say, to me and not being disrespectful,
his Tibetan sounded very similar to the alleged Spanish spoken by
Julio Geordio the footballer in the Harry Enfield and Chums sketch,
except that there were no "Why ey mannn" nor "I headed
it into the top corner" comments.
Jalori La pass, although only at 3200 meters was very steep up and
down. On the way down the Gerty's handing change somewhat. The brakes
got so hot they failed. I was driving with a French chap on a Yamaha
TTR600 and with Vijay, on his Beemer. Hopefully I can get his video
of steam rising 6 feet into the air as I poured water on the outside
of the Gerty's brake drums.
much to report here. Dropped out of the meditation lark after less
than 24 hours. Clearly my soul is beyond saving. My a*se hut too
much sitting in the lotus position.
south on the train. Read lots of books. In Goa there were storms
all week. I won the Mr Wet T-shirt competition after riding a scooter
in the rain for 2 hours.
to Hampi and enjoyed the banana and chocolate lassis at the Mango
Tree restaurant. The rubble was ok too, including some really rude
frescos, which considering the Hindus are so prudish about showing
flesh shocked my sensibilities a little.
now in Mysore, which is giving me a sore somewhere on my anatomy
(sorry, poor pun). Will make a quick visit to Kerala and take a
the biking. It's great for many reasons including that you can choose
which locals you talk to, rather than having every nerd, freak,
beggar, wierdo rickshaw wallah, hotel tout etc talking at you. C'est