All posts for the month September, 2015

We spent four nights in total in Chandigarh staying at the ZO Rooms Akashdeep in Sector 22B (1999 INR per night). We had initially anticipated only one night to allow us to get an oil change and rear brake pad change (and a wash) for the ANIMAL. But my medical appointment blew things out to three nights, as I had to go back to see the Surgeon on Monday.

We had tossed up where to apply for our Myanmar Visas, as some people are getting them in Nepal and others in India. Our friends, Claire and Emiel who are also with us at the moment, were planning on Dehli and we all want to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal… although Vince ideally wanted to avoid the chaos of a big city it was looking like thats where we would head for. In the meantime our Dutch/Tassie friends, Aad (Art) and his son Mike (whom we met briefly in Pakistan on the road, and whom we recently discovered will be on the group to Myanmar ……we need a guide so have joined a group via Burma Senses), are already in Dehli trying to get Visas…..and are having a lot of problems with the Embassy. It smacked so much of our troubles with the Indian Embassy in Tehran that we decided to hold off going to Dehli and see how they got on first…so spent another night in Chandigarh. The alternative was to get our Visas in Kathmandu…..but the recent problems has seen the closure of borders between India and Nepal and a resulting fuel shortage….so that was not really an option any longer and affected our plans to visit Nepal. This may be a blessing in disguise as if we did leave India we would need to get another Indian Visa to transit through to get to Myanmar………memories of Tehran haunt us over and over in so many ways!

Whilst in Chandigarh we basically rested from my surgery, although we did go to the local mall (very flash) to get a few things…….including trying to source a replacement Olympus TG-4 for me……without success. Vince even emailed Olympus to try to source one in either Chandigarh or Dehli (both big cities) but got not reply…..which is very disappointing as I really like their products….so I have had to buy the Nikon AW130 instead……….so lets see how the brand change for 2upadventures performs!

Vince and Emiel found and excellent local brewery/restaurant (Malt and Co) that was having a “soft opening” so we all went along to support it… much so we all ended up having dinner there a couple of times and Vince and I even frequented it for lunch and breakfast!

It is very hot here and there is a dichotomy of wealth evident……complete squaller through to modern chic………the haves and the have not’s are very evident here alongside one another…….it really is quite incredible to see. There are far more beggars here and children will perform in the street at traffic lights to get money instead of being at school. Many people, including street urchin children will follow you asking for money… really is very sad to see the poverty. I wish there was more we could do to help….I’m not sure what the answer is ….these things are never simple.

Ok…I have now had three “tours” of International Hospitals (Scotland, Iran and now India) …..that’s enough! On top of everything else, about a month or so ago (whilst in Pakistan) I discovered a lump in my left breast.

From Shimla, a few days ago, I made an appointment to see a specialist (Dr Atul Joshi) in Chandigarh at Fortis Private Hospital. He is a renowned Breast Cancer surgeon in India and because of my family history, and the fact I am travelling, he was so kind and thoughtful and managed to speed up things for me. In fact everything was done in just one day on Saturday 26th Sept…..Consultation and examination(500INR) Bilateral Mammogram & Bilateral Ultrasound (2000 INR) Reporting and Results, Surgery to fully excise the Lesion (12500 INR) and send off to histology (1600INR)….now we wait!

Vince dropped me off at the hospital around 12.30pm, as he had to take the ANIMAL for some pre booked servicing at 1.00pm… Claire, our Aussie 4×4 friend, kindly offered to come with me for moral support. She was a big help and I was thankful of the company. She is the only Western Woman I have seen and chatted to in months. I was in the OT prep area and looking suitably glamorous in a very fetching hospital gown and hair net when Vince finally arrived (things took longer than expected at the bike shop but he came as soon as he could)…. interestingly he had to also give signed content for my operation (this also happened in Iran)…..minutes after he arrived I was quickly whisked away into the OR and the operation took about an hour.

During surgery I was able to be awake and the Surgeon told me it doesn’t look sinister……so we are very hopeful it is benign. He was quite chatty…as he has been to Australia (Sydney) recently ….he thinks I am very brave….and asked me if people were more hospitable in Pakistan or India (rivalry is evident between the two) ….I answered that that was a difficult question …but as he was the one holding the knife…I guessed it would have to be “India”…..he laughed and thought my sense of humour under such adverse conditions was impressive….so much so that he told Vince about it back in the recovery room…..we all laughed again. We were both shown the removed lesion and a round of photos was in order ……including on the Surgeon’s phone. I was discharged around 7.45pm with some tablets for pain if needed…..all the staff were very professional and kind. Getting back on the bike was a bit difficult with stitches but I eventually managed and in about half an hour we were at our hotel…. ZO Rooms Akashdeep Sector 22B (1999 INR per night). Staff helped Vince carry our luggage up as I could not really lift much with only one hand….although I did manage to carry the tank bag.

I went back to see the Surgeon again for follow up and to check my wound on Monday 28th and we should get the results in 5 – 7 days online…he will also be in contact via email with me when the results come through. So we extended our stay in Chandigarh for three nights instead of just one….and we will get the results on the road….probably in New Deli or Agra. On my Monday visit, the media and administration section asked me if they could do an article on our experience at the hospital, and after being assured my medical privacy would be intact we agreed, as it may help other foreigners who need medical attention on the road.

They say things come in threes … hopefully this is it…….although the care and treatment I have received each time has been nothing short of exceptional…..I really don’t want to have to visit any more hospitals!!!!


We spent 22nd -25th Sept in Shimla at the Cedar Grand Hotel…..both for a bit of R&R after 6 months of travelling on the road…..often in very poor accommodation conditions…and moving on each day…….sometimes doing very, very long days on the bike, as well as time for me to recuperate from my ongoing tummy problems which have been getting progressively worse. I finally gave up letting “nature take its course” and went to see a local chemist and the antibiotics he gave me along with the medication Claire and Emiel shared with me (they too are having problems) seems to have done the trick. Vince is the only one with a cast iron stomach!

We spent the days exploring the village on foot and one day (23rd) Claire and I went and had our hair and nails done (my feet were beginning to resemble Shrek)……at an exorbitant cost of only 850 INR (A$17.50).

Whilst I was taking a photo of one of the many monkeys around Shimla (there is a Monkey Temple here), Vince thought it was funny to come up behind me and grab me…..scared me senseless and made me scream. This provided much amusement to ta local policeman who commended “Very Funny” with a sweeping grin…..Claire and Emiel also laughed. But Karma is alive and well in India…..and just a few minutes later, a monkey sitting on a railing lashed out aggressively at Vince and tried to grab him…..luckily it missed….although they all look healthy enough we did not want to have direct contact with any animals as a precaution against rabies etc. The actual Monkey Temple is called Jakhu/Jakhoo Temple and is dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman. It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, 2.5 km /1.3 miles east from the Ridge in Shimla. It has a height of 2,455 m (8,000 feet) above sea level. It is the highest peak in Shimla and offers a panoramic view of the Shivalik Ranges and the town of Sanjauli. Every year the festival of Dushera is held there. Visitors can access the temple by either a steep climb on foot, on horseback or by taxi.

We are all quite fascinated by the mist that rolls in here on a regular basis…..our hotel has a terrific view over the town and mountain….but sometimes it is shrouded in nothing but white. We have had a couple of rainy days….but that allowed us to just relax in the hotel watching movies or reading books. We have been able to get some much needed washing done….always a challenge on the road as well.

We are on the look out for another point and shoot camera as my trusty workhorse ,,,,,Olympus TG-3….. has finally reached the unreliability point…….our research tells us it has now been superseded by the TG-4 and I would be happy to get that (if we can find it in India). Looking local, they are trying to convince me that the Nikon Coolpix AW130 is the way to go…..but although its mostly comparable (and cheaper), I have checked the specs and I like the faster shutter speed (1/2000 instead of 1/1600) on the Olympus (critical for my back of bike style of photos) as well as the wider stop (f2.0 instead of f2.8). Vince also says the new Olympus has Night Live Composite….our TG-3 is crap a night shots….but this improvement takes several shots and extracts the light to build up a brighter picture… he is pretty excited about that….he has seen this technology before and it’s impressive. So I think I will give the Nikon a miss and try to source another Olympus.

We will head to Chandigarh on Saturday 26th as we have the bike booked in for an oil change and possible rear brake pad replacement (we have the BMW parts with us that we bought in Austria) so plan to spend the night there….on the road again!

Having not got to bed until after midnight, and being woken up at 2.30am getting eaten alive by something in our bed (?bedbugs or fleas) with tiny bites all over my legs and arms…..the two Phenergan I had let me sleep in. Vince and I woke up at 12.25pm! I quickly dressed and went down to explain to our travelling companions, Claire and Emiel, who had been up and about for a while and already had breakfast. They said they planned to give us until 1.00pm and would then have come to check we were still alive!

It only took a few minutes for us to pack the bike and be on the road again. We paid the owner his 1200 INR for the room (with no shower/towels) and the 220 INR for dinner last night, he tried to encourage us to stay but our minds were made up from the moment we arrived last night. The loose plan now was to travel to Shimla itself, try to find a cafe with wifi, to have breakfast…..I was starving…..and check out alternative accommodation.

It was pouring with rain and the roads back up the hill were treacherous, the broken surface just mud slide in areas…..Vince had to use all his concentration to keep us upright…..but he got us to the top without incident. We made our way into Shimla dodging the local traffic, animals (mostly cows who have free rein here in India) and people. We were both soaked to the skin as we had sent our wet weather gear home from Austria. Shimla is a strange and colourful place that is set into the hillside… have to take two lifts to get up to the various streets, and one street in particular, Mall Road, where the eating places are. So the vehicles had to be parked at the bottom and we walked a short distance uphill to the lift station where we parted with our 10INR each for one way tickets up.

We found a nice cafe… but no wifi. We had a bit of a wait for a table as the cafe was very popular…..always a good sign….and had a lovely “Lunch”. Reluctantly we left the warmth of the cafe to return to pouring rain outdoors and made our way back down the lifts to the vehicles. With no way to search for accommodation, Vince and I were not keen to keep wandering the wet, narrow, busy roads in the rain so we decided to backtrack along the road we had just come to the Cedar Grand Hotel and Spa… which we had spotted on the way in. Although expensive (5250INR per night), it provided sanctuary on this otherwise miserable day and allowed us to get a good hot shower which was desperately needed. Claire and I had a massage at the day spa (3800INR for both of us) and it was just what the doctor ordered after the hellish place last night…..we felt somewhat human again. Whilst us girls had a much needed pamper the boys had showers and went to the bar….where we met them later. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and an early night was in order for us all……it was like being in another world!

355km. 12 hours (inc stops. Approx 10 hours riding time).

The plan today was to ride from Amritsar to Chandigarh, pop into the Triumph dealership there and arrange an oil change for the bike, and then continue on to Shimla and the Hotel Chadwick View, where we have booked seven nights accommodation.

Google Maps suggested that it would take 4.5 hours to cover the 240km from Amritsar to Chandigarh, and an additional 3.5 hours to cover the 115km from Chandigarh to Shimla. As it was we were on the road for about 12 hours and it was a long, long day.

Claire and Emiel are travelling up to Shimla as well, so we all had breakfast at 08:00am at Mrs Bhandari’s Guest House, and were on the road about 09:00am. After negotiating the crazy traffic in Amritsar we picked up NH1 and started to make good progress towards Chandigarh. This national highway was three lanes wide (six in total) and we cruised along behind the Landcruiser, sitting on 100kmh, getting a little damp in the morning rain.

About midday we had a short break for a drink, and then it was back on the bike for the run down to Ludhiana where our GPS told us to leave the highway for Route 95. The traffic in Ludhaina started to get a bit manic, roadworks had ripped up the road, and my GPS chose this moment to have a fit – first repeating over and over the name of the road we needed to take, and then refusing to update the visual map. I pulled over so I could reboot the GPS, and after a quick chat with Emiel we pushed on, trading the relative calmness of the NH1 for a bit of bump and grind as we worked our way through the traffic and out onto the dual carriageway Route 95.

Chandigarh is a big city and it took us some time to make our way through it – one major road had a series of roundabouts on it and it quickly became obvious that the locals here either don’t know or don’t care about how to handle them, but we managed to steer through them unscathed and located the Triumph dealership I was looking for shortly afterwards.

Krishna Automobiles in Chandigarh is an umbrella company for BMW automobiles and Triumph motorcycles, and we parked in the BMW car park – with our motorcycle and the big Landcruiser immediately attracting attention from the staff in the showroom. Karen and I have become accustomed to the professionalism and courtesy extended by the various BMW dealerships we’ve visited during our travels, and Krishna Automobiles were no exception.

All four of us were looking pretty worn and ragged when we waltzed into the showroom, but we were quickly reclining on their comfy sofas, having a coffee and some biscuits as I explained my requirements to the Vice President – After Sales. We took a walk to the lower floor to see the Triumph mechanics as they assembled new Thunderbirds and 800XC’s straight out of the box and talked oils for a while, before heading upstairs again.

The four of us wandered across the road to the ‘Big Bazaar’ – a large, multi-storey shopping mall equivalent to what you would find in Joondalup – but even better as on the ground floor we passed a clothing store with a few Royal are fields in the window, a Harley Davidson showroom, and a beer hall selling 25 different kinds of beer. The Triumph showroom was just across the courtyard – Karen and I will have a look inside when we come back here next week.

We went upstairs to the food court and had our first KFC Zinger Burgers ™ in ages. The shopping mall was very busy, KFC even more so – full of young Indians eager for a taste of western culture.

We sauntered back to our vehicles, mounted up and headed off in the drizzle, passing a shanty town of tarpaulins and raggedly-dressed children just a short distance away from the ritzy shopping mall – a stark contrast if ever we’ve seen one.

It wasn’t long before we started up the Himalayan Highway – Route 22 towards Shimla. It was late in the afternoon when we left Chandigarh, and as soon as we started to climb up the foothills the going got much slower with the road shrinking to two lanes (total), and a lot of slow trucks ahead of us. The driving became quite frenetic along here in a dog-eat-dog style – if you weren’t prepared to risk your life and overtake the vehicle in front then you’d get eaten up by all the cars and buses and trucks coming from behind as they had no qualms about overtaking around blind bends and into oncoming traffic.

The wet and mud-slicked road surface didn’t help improve my disposition, and it was a battle of nerves to keep on pushing on, and the distance markers to Shimla ticked down painfully slowly. In Solan we pulled over to try and call the Hotel Chadwick View to tell them we were on our way – as the hotel had requested this – and to briefly chat with Emiel and Claire and see how they were going. It was almost dark at this stage and we still had about 46km to go – it was evident we were going to arrive quite late into Shimla.

The traffic lightened up a bit after Solan, but it just takes one erratic truck to ruin your day and I was constantly on tenterhooks, at times unable to see the edge of the road on my left through my rain-smeared visor, and being dazzled by the lights of oncoming vehicles. For most of the time I rode with my visor up, ingesting clouds of thick diesel smoke belched out by passing trucks.

Our hotel was a few km north of Shimla, and the road into it was broken and pot-holed. Emiel drove down the steep, twisting track first and I followed cautiously behind, tired from the long day and unable to fully sight the curve of the hairpin bends in the darkness as the lights of the bike just shone straight ahead. The track became even more broken up and it became a bit of a night-time off-road adventure ride in places.

I was relieved, and the others were as well I think, to finally arrive at the Hotel Chadwick View, but it wasn’t long before elation turned to gloom when we inspected our rooms and found out that the ‘deluxe rooms’ we’d reserved online lack basic things like showers. We managed to get upgraded to rooms that featured western toilets as the first rooms just had squat toilets, but even then the rooms were very primitive.

The hotel manager arrived in his zippy little car and he whizzed me back almost all the way back to Shimla so I could get some beer and water for the four of us as we all needed a drink, whilst his wife prepared some basic food for us. The drive back up the hill verged on the terrifying – Colin McCrae and his WRC driving buddies have nothing on an Indian in a hurry.

Emiel was asleep when I returned, struck down with the gut-rot he’d been battling with all day, so Claire came upstairs where Karen and I were, and we drank beer and chatted whilst we waited for dinner to be served and which arrived at 11:30pm.

We chatted a bit more after dinner and then it was time for bed, but not for sleep as first Karen got the heebie-jeebies from a big spider in our bedroom, so we shifted to another bed in another cubicle in our odd apartment, and there she got attacked by bed bugs or something, so it was after 02:30am before we finally settled down to sleep.

It had been a very long day, but I was pleased that we’d managed to get some things organised in Chandigarh for the bike. I would have preferred to have reached Shimla in daylight to have enjoyed the scenic view on the way and to have had a safer ride – this road features in the TV series “Ice Road Truckers – World’s Deadliest Roads – India” – and having ridden it in the wet and the dark I’m happy to tick the box and not do it again.

Tomorrow we’re going to relocate to another hotel – the Chadwick View isn’t turning out to be the relaxing locale we had anticipated, and none of us would survive a week here.

Up just after daybreak, Karen and I had a leisurely swim in the pool at Mrs Bhandari’s Guesthouse, and then it was time for breakfast with Claire & Emiel, all before 09:00am when our air conditioned van booked to take us on a sightseeing tour of Amritsar arrived.

We first stopped at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama… was very interesting although a bit confusing at times. We saw exhibitions including the Golden Temple and the acquisition of the original Koh-I-Noor (1814). Fascinating to make the connections, even with Iran.

Next we were driven to Jallianwala Bagh memorial park – dedicated to the memory of the locals massacred by British troops in 1919. The massacre of hundreds of unarmed, defenceless Indians by British Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer on 13th April 1919 at Jallinwala Bagh was a sad day. Under the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Dyer deployed his riflemen near the entrance without warning or order to disperse, they opened fire for 20minutes. 1650 rounds of ammunition was fired and 379 officially killed with 1200 wounded in a crowd of around 20,000. The park is very popular with locals, and it was a somber experience walking through it – seeing first a plaque denoting where the troops fired from, and a couple of hundred metres away a brick wall pock-marked with bullet holes. Nearby was ‘Martyrs Well’ – in an effort to avoid the gunfire many people jumped into this deep well, and after the carnage 120 bodies were retrieved from the well – all people who had drowned.

From here we travelled a short distance to the Silver Temple, Shri Durgiana Tirath – a copy of Amritsar’s Golden Temple. Placed strategically in the middle of the city, pilgrims flock to this temple not only from India but also from abroad. Over the years, it has become an epicenter of Hindu renaissance and rejuvenation. The complex is popularly known as “the Durgiana” and derives its name from the Goddess Durga. This connection with Goddess Durga has a socio cultural references as she is normally invoked for protection and health while the soldiers go to war. The sacred city of the Amritsar which was founded by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Dass ji has come to assume a special significance in Hindu cosmology because of various mythical and historical connections. Amritsar is particularly nearer and dearer to Hindus as it is believed that the Lov-Kush along with their mother Mata Sita spent their early childhood in the ashram of Bhagwan Maharishi Balmiki ji in the land of Amritsar.

Not finished with temples, we then visited a Hindu Temple that was so outlandish that I would struggle to describe it, (Mandriva Mata Lal Devi). Perhaps if you imagined a cross between Adventure World and a temple you may come close – but even that isn’t close enough. We climbed up stairs through the multi-level temple arcade, climbing through narrow gaps that simulated the internals of an animal (I think ….) and then through the gaping mouth of a larger-than-life lion. For those of you familiar with sideshow alley at the Perth Royal Show, it was like a trip through the Ghost Train, with something new and exciting around every corner.

Lunch was enjoyed at a nice restaurant – my rogan josh was spicy and brought up a sweat, and it’s good we checked our change as that was quite short, and in the afternoon we went looking at the “Bazzar”….which turned out to be more of a shop to shop affair by our driver who may or may not have got a kickback. In any case we did end up finding a cool and tropical “Kurta” for Karen….inspired by Claire. Back at our guest house we had a swim and a few alcoholic drinks which haven’t had for the last 3 months….a relaxing finish to the afternoon.

Tomorrow we will move on again – this time to Shimla, for what should be a rest for a week or so. We’re all looking forwards to that !!!

Amritsar Rest Day


Up at 07:30am, just in time to wish Martin safe travels before he headed off to Shimla, and after a pleasant breakfast of porridge and toast we went back to bed til midday as we were both bushed from our day yesterday, and the accumulated effect of travelling consistently over the past six months, moving on to a new location almost every day.

We met Claire and Emiel under the cool shade of the outdoor dining area, and sat around for the afternoon chatting and working on our computers. We’ve arranged to take a tour tomorrow around Amritsar so that will be cool.

Late in the afternoon we heard a ruckus outside, and the guesthouse staff opened the side gate to see what was happening. A parade was coming up the side street – led by a military band and then followed by a ute with massive speakers blaring out music, and then a crowd of people dancing in the street, followed by a horse drawn cart carrying the statue of a deity being worshipped. We were all taken into the group and had a dance with the people, much to their delight.

A short while before sunset we all caught a tuk-tuk out to the Golden Temple (Bhai Mati Das) Amritsar’s number 1 attraction. After donning headscarfs or bandanas, leaving our shoes at the counter, and washing our hands and feet we entered the temple complex and had a great time walking around the pool that surrounds the Temple. Soothing music was playing over the loudspeakers, and the place felt very serene and mellow.

Claire and Emiel had previously visited the Golden Temple yesterday along with Martin in the middle of the afternoon and had commented that it was very hot and very bright with the white marble reflecting the sunlight quite harshly, and the music was more frenetic during their visit, so they thoroughly enjoyed seeing the temple this evening.

After a slow wander around the temple we caught a tuk-tuk to the nearby Brother’s Restaurant, after reading good reviews in Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. Our vegetarian meals didn’t disappoint, and for 1,000 INR (approx AU$20 total for four people, including drinks) it was great value.

Our tuk-tuk ride home stopped by at a bottle shop so that Karen could treat herself to a bottle of scotch, and for now we’re all relaxing in the cool garden.

Tomorrow we’ll go sightsee in Amritsar – including the site of the 1919 massacre that led to the downfall of the Raj. The following day we’re off to Shimla for some well-earned R&R

100km approx.

We left Gujranwala about 10:30am after a round of selfies taken with assorted hotel staff – the guys at the Marian Hotel were very kind and interested in our travels, and we have enjoyed our stay here but our Pak visas are about to expire and hence it’s time to move on.

The ride down the N5 towards Lahore was surprisingly hassle-free (by Pakistan standards) and it wasn’t too long before we were crossing the river just north of Lahore. Or at least trying to cross the river – as about five lanes of traffic were trying to squeeze down to two lanes before entering the bridge. The traffic was moving really slow – so slow I was paddling the bike and fearful that a bus or rickshaw was going to run my feet over.

Karen snapped some great photos of the manic congestion and also the camels resting on the river bank, and then we were across the river and onto the almost-empty Lahore Ring Road. It wasn’t long before we were pulled over by the Ring Road Police and asked to show our permit as bikes aren’t allowed on the road – but the policeman was very accommodating and in the absence of any permit allowed us to continue, with instructions to say in the bus lane.

The ring road quickly skirted Lahore and dropped us onto the final approach to the Wagah border crossing, another section of rural road cum highway that culminated in three passport security checks all within a couple of hundred metres, before finally we arrived at the Pakistan immigration building.

A uniformed customs officer methodically copied our carnet details into his massive logbook, and then we completed our passport formalities before finally receiving our stamped carnet, all the while watching the torrential rain bucketing down outside as it had started pouring just after we walked into the building.

Karen’s jacket was soaked through as she’d left it on the bike, and so wet inside and out she climbed back onto the bike for the short ride to the India border checkpoints. We rode across the dividing line between Pakistan and India, stopping at the first checkpoint in the pouring rain. We had a form filled out for the bike entry and instructed to go to the Customs House around the corner and down the road a bit.

Karen got frisked – almost intimately – behind a screen whilst I had to unload all the crap from my pockets before we could enter the building, and then we waited for the slow immigration process to be completed. I filled out some more paperwork – labelled ‘Form X’ – for the bike carnet, and we then settled down on the metal seats in the customs waiting area for what seemed like an eternity.

Eventually we were called up and taken out to the bike, and asked to move it to an inspection location where six or so men poured over the chassis number and engine number. They wanted us to unpack all of our gear onto the wet tarmac, but Karen refused so we unloaded our panniers and bags and trundled them into the customs hall so they could be opened up and inspected.

Inspections completed I reloaded the bike, and we waited again for our carnet to be returned to us. The only redeeming aspect of the afternoon was ‘Dozer’ – the three-year old Golden Labrador narcotics dog that was more interested in chasing plastic bottles across the floor and posing for photos with travellers than sniffing around for drugs.

I had a bit of a debate with a customs officer over the spare tyres we were carrying as they weren’t list on the carnet manifest, and I wasn’t sure if they would try and hit us up for import duties, but eventually common-sense prevailed and they stamped our carnet, allowing us to leave.

A bit more paper-shuffling, one more passport check and then we were free and on the road towards Amritsar – 30km away.

We’d booked into Mrs Bhandari’s Guest House – an icon amongst travellers, and when we rolled in about 5:30pm we saw Emiel & Claire’s Landcruiser as expected – and to our surprise we also saw Martin’s motorbike parked up as well. Claire and Emiel had met Martin yesterday at the Pakistan Immigration Building when they crossed the border yesterday.

The five of us enjoyed a pleasant dinner and a few refreshing Kingfisher’s – my first real beer in about three months, and a rewarding treat at the end of a long day. Today marks six months exactly since Karen and I left Perth on that wet March morning to fly out to the UK and start our ride back to Perth. Arriving in India today – especially after the hassles we have had along the way in arranging our Indian visas – is especially poignant as we’re pretty much half-way back to Perth.


Yesterday was a big ride day, and so the plan with Karen was to have two nights at the Marian Hotel in Gujranwala, and today was our planned rest day.

We were awake about 6:30am – that’s the routine we’ve got into the past few days, so we woke Martin up (he was bushed and could have slept into 11:00am he said, but he needed to get to the border), and had breakfast together before farewelling him.

My day was spent catching up on blogs, whilst Karen persevered with uploading her photos and creating the photo albums for the blog – it’s a big chore for her every day. In the afternoon we had the TV on and watched ‘Despicable Me 2’ with one eye on the TV screen, one eye on our Macs and iPad.

Karen had her boots returned after the sole of one had been repaired – her boot was falling apart last night when we arrived at the hotel, so it desperately required some attention.

Dinner was the Marian’s signature dish once again – their sizzling ‘twin steak’ with pepper sauce & mushroom sauce …. Mmmmmm !!!

Tomorrow we’re off to India – about 90-100km away from here. Bring it on !!!

Bikes packed before breakfast, which was served at 07:00am. Pakistani breakfasts for Martin and myself – spicy omelettes and paratha, porridge for Karen which suited her well as her stomach is still a bit upset.

We left Balakot about 08:00am, and quickly picked up the climb into the hills. The objective of the day was to get to Gujranwala – about 380km away – and based on our previous experience along these roads I was expecting a long day on the bike and that’s what transpired.( 400km. 10 hours.)

In many villages here in Pakistan they have installed traffic calming devices – either ‘sleeping policemen’ – speed bumps that slow you down, or rows of metal teeth that have the same intent. Many of the speed bumps are quite high and we’ve scraped our bash plate across a lot of them, grateful that we’d replaced the stock bash plate with the longer ‘enduro’ plate in Perth before we left on this trip.

A couple of days ago I almost sent Karen flying off the bike when I hit a speed bump that was hiding in the shade of an overhanging tree – the road was broken up, pot-holed and wet, hence the surface was all black and the speed bump was perfectly camouflaged, and I didn’t see the speed bump so there was no warning at all. When the bike hit the bump Karen was catapulted into a standing position and was fearful she was going to get thrown off the bike.

Today’s drama occurred at one of the many rows (actually they installed in two or three rows) of the low metal teeth – as usual I slowed down and looked for a line that would take us over just one row of teeth (the rows offset and a single-track vehicle a la motorcycle can run over one or two teeth, depending upon the line taken) – and just as we went over the metal plate we received a massive jolt – as if we’d ran into a brick wall. Karen as snapped backwards against the spare tyres strapped to the top-box. I was certain we’d have damaged with both tyres and or wheels as the force was huge, but the bike continued on and all indicators showed that the integrity of the tyres was still intact.

Initially I thought that perhaps one the metal plates had flipped up and caught the tyre, but when we stopped in Abbottabad for coffee I checked the bike, and two of the three mountings that attach the rear mudguard to the swing arm had cracked and the mudguard could now pivot up and down so I’m more inclined to think that the mudguard had swung down and caught the metal plate, a bit like the arrestor hook on an aircraft. Either way I’ve now removed the mudguard.

From Abbottabad I led Martin out towards Murree – ‘Shiela’ his GPS personality wanted to take him to Islamabad via the main road, but Martin loves the twisty, scenic roads, and the road north Murree is delightful to ride.

We stopped around midday at the Amore Hotel, halfway between Abbottabad and Murree – initially to see if Karen wanted to stop for the day, and when she said she was feeling better and up for the long ride to Gujranwala, to have a coffee in their almost western cafe.

Back on the bikes we passed the monkey place where you can buy food to feed the monkeys – not that Karen did this but she still got off this bike to take a few photos, and a short while later I saw two falcons sitting on their perches next to their trainer, but we didn’t stop here.

Once we’d passed Murree the traffic going down towards Islamabad was much worse – the ride to Murree had encountered very little traffic on the twisty roads, but the other side was busy and it was difficult to overtake as the straights are so short. We did see two cars that had a head-on accident, but the police were there so we didn’t stop.

As soon as we dropped down to the plateau the temperature and humidity started to increase, and also the manic Pakistani driving. We took the bypass road to avoid Islamabad, but once we’d picked up the Islamabad Highway heading south to the N5 it was like the Wacky Races.

I’d calculated in my head that we should arrive in Gujranwala about 6pm, and we hit that nail on the head. The traffic was quite chaotic and we lost Martin shortly after negotiating a messy traffic snarl. I slowed down and crawled up the road in first gear but still I couldn’t see him in the mirrors so I pulled off the road to wait.

Very quickly we had a small crowd of onlookers around us, and then we had two Highway Patrol police cars pull over and park, lights flashing. This only attracted more onlookers, and within seconds we were in the middle of a crowd six people deep, with people spilling onto the busy roadway.

The police were extremely friendly and courteous, offering every assistance. As I described our trip to one of the policemen and described how wonderful Pakistan was and how friendly the people were, he translated my words for the benefit of the crowd. It was getting dark and the crowd was so big I was concerned that someone would get run over, and there was no way I could see if Martin was coming, so I accepted an earlier offer from the police to be escorted to the hotel – the Marian, where Karen and I had stayed previously on our way up to the north. I had previously hoped we could turn around and go back and look for Martin but there were no breaks in the dividing wall that ran down the centre of the highway, and in the darkness it would have been difficult to spot him.

Red and blue lights flashing, we followed the Highway Patrol car to our hotel, with the second car behind us. It took about ten minutes to get to the hotel and it was completely dark when we arrived, and we were grateful for the escort. Karen explained that we had lost a riding companion, but without a phone number the police could do little to assist.

Karen checked with the hotel reception but they said they had no rooms available, which was a dilemma as there was no where else to stay and Lahore was another 60km down the road. As we discussed options in the car park outside the hotel entrance – including putting the tent up on the hotel lawn – a man asked us if we were staying at the hotel, and Karen said no rooms were available. The man then went inside and spoke with the staff there, and a room magically became free. Through sheer good luck we had been approached by the General Manager of the hotel, and he’d cancelled another booking to accommodate us!

We checked into our penthouse-sized room – perhaps the best in the hotel, and shortly afterwards the phone rang – Martin had tracked down us down to the hotel and was downstairs at Reception! His bike had gone onto reserve but had then stalled and wouldn’t restart. He had then pushed his bike to a petrol station to get some more fuel, and the bike started straight away.

We were all exhausted, but after showering and a change of clothes we all enjoyed the twin steaks in the restaurant and a good chat about our day. Martin remarked that he hadn’t quite believed me when I had said that it would be a long ride but had since come to appreciate just how slow it can be on the roads over here.

Tomorrow Martin will cross into India at the Wagah border crossing, whilst Karen and I relax for another day at the Marian. We’ve enjoyed Martin’s company a lot, but he needs to push onto Nepal to get his visa for Myanmar – perhaps we’ll see him in South East Asia somewhere on his way to Australia 🙂