Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bullets and batteries

Kashmir is on the border with Pakistan and has been undergoing continued troubles with insurgents blowing up things, usually people and the like in a protest for reasons I've forgotten. The TV in the hotel at breakfast broadcasts news across the screen under the newsreader that this morning man was shot and killed at the front of a hotel used by tourists in Srinagar. More here. Guess where I'm heading?

I've been reassured by all around me, this this is still OK  and after having survived Baluchistan without a Taliban incident a few weeks before, decide to Kashmir and the city of Srinagar in true adventurer spirit.

Srinagar traffic is as mental as the other mad cities in India. The rules of which I'm still trying to work out. I've become so used to the madness of it all, I shrug off the sight of half a cow on the road north. I did wonder where the other half was but this is India and it's best not to worry about sch things. No one else does.

Lake Dal houseboat
My room for the night is a boat, a house boat on lake Dal. The tourist people direct me to a landing where I meet the oarsman of a Shikara. Its turning dark and I'm feeling a bit stressed by the sheer numbers button pressing enthusiasts gathering around my bike. Some bloke I assume is the boat owner leads me to a parking spot nearby where my bike will be watched all night by guards. He disappears and I'm left with another guy to directs me to a Shikara with my baggage.

Floating shops
The noise and chaos of the crowd disappear into the distance as I'm rowed across a small lake, we turn up a narrow opening and I'm presented with floating street city. Here there are shops, barbers, beauty parlours, lawyers, you name it, on both sides. We slowly meander through the gentle quiet traffic of other Shikara's going about their business. After 10 minutes we land at a landing adjoining several houseboats. Beautiful surroundings, beautiful boat and peace and quiet. Its rather cold now so a wood burning heater is a most welcome sight in my room. Long gone is the stress and noise of the street and I'm happy with these new surroundings.

The next day I'm going to head out on a gentle tour of the area by boat, or more correctly a Shikara as they're called. This turns out to be one of the most relaxing journeys possible. Gently meandering through the various parts of this lake, divided by small islands, vegetation  wildlife, trees, house boats is a great way to relax whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery around. This turns out to be a great place so I decide to stay another night or two. Although the is a Muslim area and alcohol is not allowed in public, you can still purchase beer and spirits in several small shops in town. I sneak some beer into my bag for the afternoon.

Shikara's for hire
Now thoroughly relaxed and ready to continue my journey, I'm going to head south to Delhi, then Agra and the Taj Mahal before heading further East and Nepal.

On the way south, whilst stopping to take photographs, my bike refuses to start, the battery dies. In same fashion as Jeroens died in Pakistan  mine does the same. Luckily Im on a hill and manage to bump start the bike to continue but its a long way back to Chandigarh and I will need to stop the engine at some point to put in some more fuel.

sick battery
There is something about driving a sick bike that although it runs OK  you know things are not right. The thought consumes you and all energies are aimed at getting it fixed, nothing else matters and the thought of being stuck on a dirty Kashmir highway isn't attractive. Another 50 km further on, the battery does something to the charging system, the bike computer goes mad and after many weird and wonderful flashing light on the dash, the bike stutters to a stop. Fuck!
All the things I worried about are coming true. Where on earth will I find a new battery here? As it turns out, right across the road about 100 metres away! There is a small battery shop by the road, mostly to support local agriculture but they have a small battery that may help. That'll do me!

Its not the right type and size, cant start the engine either but I can get a push by several volunteers  I should be able to reach a town or hotel for the night. The over priced wet cell battery is fitted, I'm given a push and I'm back on the road.

I'm a bit more relieved now and can feel safety of a hotel is possible not too far away in Hoshurpur. This keeps me happy for a bit and gives me more confidence in the bike, On the road I see a rare sign in in India, "McDonald's". I don't really eat at this place but the thought of real coffee and maybe some food I'm more familiar with forces me to make a quick stop. I pop in and get a quick feed leaving the bike running. Meanwhile, the wet cell battery decides to piss acid all down the internals of the bike, over the rear swinging arm and leave a puddle of sizzling acid on the ground. The bike is still running, and leaving my half eaten Chilly veggie burger" I jump on and head for a hotel before something else goes wrong.

All the good hotels in Hoshurpur are full and I end up in one which is needs a good wash, or a fire. Next day I'm off to Chandigarh again, this time for a new battery that works. The guys at the Ducati shop are trying to find one for me and provide several options when I arrive. They also feed me tea, being the nice guys they are. None of the batteries available are good enough so I'm off to Delhi, a city of 21 Million people. There has to be the right part here.

I have some friends in Delhi who offer to help. Manish and Prachi book me into a good hotel, bring beers over and take me out for tea. Next day we'll go battery hunting. Sure enough we get the part we're looking for on the other side of town at a bike workshop full of surprises. It doesn't look much from outside, in fact it looks fairly crap but hidden behind the steel doors and badly painted logo's  lies a haven of Triumph motorbikes. As these are as rare as hens teeth here I'm amazed that this guy has a few for sale, all brand new, various models. He even has a 1903 single cylinder Triumph which he is restoring.

New battery getting fitted
Now with the bike back to normal Im planning to continue south to Agra and the famous Taj Mahal before turning towards Nepal and my final part of this journey before Thailand.

How to test your brakes

1 comment:

  1. Looks good Kashmir :D