The Indian Immigration and Customs were pleasant and very easy to deal with. Once through customs we headed to the Moreh police station where we camped for the night. This is the first time I have pitched the tent since Australia and the first time it has rained in months. Only light rain but ironic.
Ryan and I walked into town for our first taste of Indian food.
Last night the police had a few drinks and a sing song with a guitar until 11:30. I didn’t mind at all as I was cosy in my tent. It was a lot cleaner in there than any of the hotels would have been.
I awoke at 4:30 with half a dozen roosters greeting the morning with cock a doodle do.
It was then off into the hills to Imphal.
In this area there is unrest with militants fighting the Indian army. One motorcyclist last month was held in Moreh for three days due to the fighting and was eventually escorted by the army to Imphal.
On the way through we had to go through a couple of army check points. The first one was very stringent. They wanted our passport and carnet and then searched the bike. They went through every pannier and every item even to the point of opening up my first aid kit. The people doing the searching were very pleasant and cracked jokes making light of the situation. They then radioed ahead and we were let through the second check point. I stopped near the top of the hill after the second checkpoint to take some photos of the view.
I also had a flavour of the Indian driving, horns beeping to try and move you out the way when there is nowhere to go, trying to overtake on blind corners. I’m sure I will see worse as the trip progresses through this continent.
Ryan and I decided to stay in Imphal to see the Heli festival of colour. Tonight, we went uptown 3 km and found a street with make shift fluorescent lights attached to bamboo frames that stretched about 30 metres. They had a band that played the same tune over and over but it was really catchy. At night the locals dance hand in hand and form a chain. At the start of the evening there were only a few people. Ryan and I were spotted and we were enticed into the chain. It was good fun but a bit tiring.
By the end of the night there were hundreds of people dancing or watching.
This morning I went over the bike to make sure that all the bolts were secure, cleaned and adjusted the chain, checked all fluids and Winston was ship shape and ready to go.
After that we went into town where we met a couple of locals who showed us were all the festival activities were. We put talcum powder on each other’s faces and went to a local temple where we all got squirted with pink water. It was good fun and everyone was enjoying themselves.
Ryan and I both got to have a go. Ryan got disorientated and ended up going backwards towards the children who thought this was hilarious, we all laughed. My turn was next and somehow, I managed to break the pot to a big cheer from the crowd. We were made guests of honour and had to speak to the crowd with I microphone telling them all about ourselves. The crowd were welcoming and receptive to our talk. Afterwards the kids came up to get our autographs, it was strange to think that we were somehow worthy of this, never the less it was nice to see their faces smile when we gave them our signature.
At the hotel they were having a food festival outside on the lawn. A stage was set up with an Indian band playing western music. As we were staying at the hotel entry was free. So, we went.
The food and music were good. After the stomach was fulfilled, it was back to the room for a shower to scrub the pink dye from my body and clothes.
It was a really enjoyable day.
Day 187 Saturday 7th March 2015
Ryan and I went our separate ways today as I need to make my way towards Darjeeling. It was good to have the company of a fellow motorcyclist over the last two weeks. Ryan has spent the last 7 years travelling and has some good tales to tell. He started his motorcycle trip in Australia the same month I was there. He has a website http://trueworldtravels.com
I headed off from Imphal hotel at 8am and headed towards Darjeeling which is 950km North West. The roads were twisting and they climbed through the hills. Traffic was much lighter than I expected and the majority of the surface of the road was smooth. I arrived at a town called Dimou. On the road there were burn marks and broken windscreen glass in numerous places, It looked as if they were remnants of burnt-out cars. When I arrived at the police check point the officer said that the road ahead was closed until tomorrow morning. He told me that there had been riots because a young Muslim man had been accused of raping a local woman. He was locked up in gaol when 50,000 local people stormed the jail, killed him and hung him up for all to see. There were protests up the road ahead and the angry mob today had beaten to death a man passing through that road. They were protesting that the police did not protect the Muslim man accused of rape. I asked where the crowd was and he said 120km away. I asked if I could camp at a police station. He said there was one in Dokmoka and I could stay there, it was 100km away.
I went through the check point and headed towards Dokmoka. The only things on the road were cows, goats and a few pot holes.
When I arrived at the police station the officers showed me where I could pitch my tent. Within 5 minutes I was surrounded by 30 or 40 people watching and taking pictures of me at work.
I returned the favour and took some photos of the crowd.
The chief of police came over and saw me sitting in the dark typing on my laptop and invited me into his office. I wrote this sitting opposite him at his desk.
Day 188 Sunday 8th March 2015
This morning I had a large crowd watching me pack my tent and gear. The guys kindly made me coffee and breakfast and sat me at a table where they watched, and took more photos with me. They were all very genuine people and I felt humbled.
I left the police station and headed for Darjeeling which is 665km away. I wouldn’t get there today but I would spend the day chomping through the kilometres.
The roads in India have been in pretty good condition. Today I was riding a large part of the day on dual carriageways. My first minute on one of them I thought I was going the wrong way until I saw the arrows pointing the direction I was going. Why I thought I was going the wrong way was because a couple of trucks, some cars and bicycles were coming towards me. There are no rules in India you just have to watch for everything. Cows stand in the middle of the road and cars swerve around them. Goats just lye all over the road. I did see one goat had been flattened.
Some of the carriageways had road works so you were sent onto the other carriageway in what would be head on traffic. All that being said the traffic was much lighter than I expected for India. No doubt this will change as I head toward the larger cities.
The day was running out and I try never to ride in the dark so at 4:30pm I started to look for a place to stay. I couldn’t find any hotels on the GPS or Booking. Com so asked a policeman at one of the checkpoints where the nearest police station was, he pointed me in the direction of Gossaigaon. I found the police station and asked if I could stay. They were showing no interest and were just messing me about so I left; besides they had no grass.
I rode past a hotel that looked as if it were about to collapse so I carried on until I saw a church with a fence, gates and a big flat grassy area. I pulled up and asked if I could pitch my tent there for the night. The guy said he would get the preacher who was the boss. The preacher came out and introduced himself as Gautam, he runs the Martin Luther Cathedral Church. He said it was ok to pitch my tent and stay the night. Later he invited me in to his home to have dinner with him and his family. I met his wife and cute little 5-year-old daughter.
Thank you, Gautam and family, for your hospitality.
I packed the tent up and had a few visitors watch. One of the ladies gave me a scarf as a token of friendship. Gautum invited me to his house for breakfast. After breakfast they came over to the bike to see me off and Gautums wife also gave me a scarf.
I headed for Dajeeling and passed through lots of fertile land. About 70 km from Dajeeling you start seeing the tea plantations. I stopped to take a picture of the ladies picking the leaves, they then took a photo of me and then a group of them came over to see me.
While out looking for dinner I decided to get a pot of Darjeeling black tea. It was delicious.
The alarm went off at 3:00am. The sunrise over Kanchenjunga Mountain is supposed to be a mesmerising event. I considered this and thought it is really cold; riding mountain roads in the dark alongside sleepy Indian drivers would be madness. I convinced myself that a sleep in and then wake up refreshed for the ride to tiger mountain would be the most sensible thing to do, so that’s what I did. The view from Tiger Mountain was pretty good.
I had a cruisy day today as the last three days have been none stop riding. I headed from the cold of Darjeeling downhill twisting my way through many tea plantations. The tea bushes look like they are manicured hedges and should be in and English country garden. Most of the hills are covered with tea bushes.
I ended the day in Siliguri. The hotels are more expensive compared to other Asian countries I’ve been to. The petrol is also more expensive at NZ$1.50 (US$1.10) per litre. Most of the Asian countries are under NZ$1 per litre.
I decided I would head into town and for 20 Rupees (NZ$0.50) took a rickshaw the 3km.It was a hive of activity with vehicle horns tooting constantly and chaos all around. I walked around the food stalls and I had a young boy who was carrying a baby no more than a year and a half old on his shoulder approach me for food. They were filthy. I took them to a food stall and asked them what they wanted. I ordered the food, paid for it and made sure the little fella got plenty. The baby was so smiley and had such white teeth. I felt so sorry for them and thought how blessed we are in the west.
It was time to head back to the hotel so I got another rickshaw. This guy spoke no English and ended up getting lost. We went through some markets which were interesting. Besides having all the usual foods, they had goat’s heads with the scalp peeled open.
I don’t know the reason for this. In the west we have ticket scalpers in India they have goat scalpers!
Day 191 Wednesday 11th March 2015
I had a late start today as my stomach was feeling bad and my body was fighting an Indian invasion. The plan was to head to Nepal via the border at Panitanki which was only a 30km ride. Well, the ride ended up being 60km because I missed the border. I expected the border to be really obvious but there was a small sign pointing to Immigration.
I’m not surprised I missed it as my body was failing. I had no energy my stomach was churning and all my joints ached and my head was somewhere else, not at the scalpers in case you were wondering.
Indian Immigration and customs were a breeze. I had a bit more difficulty in Immigration in Nepal.