Friday, November 9, 2012

Incredible India. Incredible brakes, Plaster and Vodafone

Rickshaw riding
So finally managed to get to the Wagah border and into India. This time its just David and myself, heading across to Amritsar  Jeroen arrives next day and we meet at the golden temple a few rounds of drinks and we're game enough to try out the cycle rickshaws ... ah bloody tourists!

David heads south to Goa on his BMW rickshaw, Jeroen heads to the KTM garage for the beginning of a new workshop adventure including the need for rickshaws now, and I head north.

Taragoh Palace
I'm going to Dharamsala in the Himalayas and since my GPS has now totally died, have to navigate the old way. This means I get it wrong and spend two hours driving in the dark on twisty potholed roads. Not my favourite way to arrive, stressed and tired. However the stress disappears as soon as the nice turban wearing barman greets me, handing me a Kingfisher and a glass. I'm lucky enough to stay in a old palace now run as a hotel. The rooms resemble an old english style I last saw in the Lake district in England. All a bit posh really.

I have breakfast in a huge hall completely on my own, like royalty, sat at a long table whilst trying to work out how this place can possibly make a profit if there are no other guests. Turns out, it's not in season so my presence is rather unusual for this time of year.

Road to Manali
I'm heading for Manali through some beautiful valleys and incredible scenery. One thing is bothering me though. Vodafone advertisements are everywhere. On houses and garage doors mostly. I believe they have paid many people to paint their logo everywhere on any vertical surface that can be used for advertising space. I've also noticed that cement manufacturers seem important too. Don't know why I would need to know so much about availability of one type of cement or another but it seems the thing here. Cement and Vodafone.

The road to Manali is good and bad, there are occasional corners with bumps, bumps and bumps. I feel I'm hurting the bike but it seems to be OK. One thing is starting to bother me though, the chain is making some weird clicking noises. I'm trying to work out how this is happening as all seems good. I oil the chain well and it disappears for a bit.Yet the annoying click returns.  After much oil on hands, it turns out to be a weak link, it's worn and needs replaced. No problem I reckon as I have links, new chain and even spare sprockets with me. All I need is the chain split tool to do it with. A 5 minute job normally? This is a tool used to break the link and compress a new one. $30 from ebay. All bike shops would have one.

Workshop Manali
In Manali, no one has ever seen such a thing and I try to tell the mechanic, as he ignores me and reaches for his pliers "No way your going to take any links out with pliers" as he continues to look, confused that he cant find the link used on on the local Royal Enfield bikes. "These bikes can't use sprink links mate, they aren't strong enough" I explain for the third time.

So, I'm told by another Manila motorbike guy, "yes, KTM on road to Mandi has all the tools for you". Great, I'll head there, get it sorted and continue up to Kashmir as intended tomorrow.
I'm heading to Mandi but the chain link is now badly worn and making me worry that it could break at any moment. No big deal if I have a spare but I'm worrying that the chain may snap at any moment and totally destroy the engine as it spins outwards at high speed slicing through the crankcasings.

 I manage to reach the town where the small KTM dealer is. The boss tells the guys to make a start after I explain but they are tightening up the chain! "No no no. I don't need it tightened, I need a tool for this" They eventually get what I'm saying and waggle their head to indicate that "KTM workshop in Mandi has all the tools you need". I thank the guys anyway and head another 50kms towards Mandi where the sanctuary of a bike workshop with all the tools and technology awaits.
After 3 hours, going around in circles with no one knowing where KTM is, I head for a hotel on the outskirts of town and on the way pass the KTM shop, now closed for the night. Bugger!

Next day I'm in the new branded orange KTM workshop, promptly asking for the $30 chain tool. Blank faces from 4 of the guys there. They have no idea what I'm talking about so we all rummage through their nice new shiny KTM branded tool boxes. No joy. So after a few swear words and a coffee at local shop I decide its best to head the opposite way I wanted to go. South, to Chandigarh where everyone tells me, "ah yes there is BMW and Triumph workshops, they will have all the tools you need"

200kms south and I find the KTM workshop. Its huge and has hundreds of the small KTM Duke 200cc model lined up outside and in the showrooms. Guess what? Same result. They have never heard of such a tool and in my frustration I'm starting to wonder if this is a figment of my imagination so prove to them that such a thing exists on ebay using about $100 worth of roaming data on my phone to download a picture of the thing!
"Try Ducatti, they will have all the tools", they suggest. Great! Ducati do not make small bikes, they will have one surely.

I head to Ducatti shop and guess what? No chain tool!

Ducati workshop
I'm fed up with driving around and with the possible alternative of driving all the way south to Delhi just for this tool, decide to let the Ducati guys try to come up with a solution. I hear much banging of hammers and decide it's best not to look. In the meantime however, these guys get wind it's my birthday today and I'm presented with a garland of flowers and a birthday cake. They even get me lunch. How good is that! 7 hours later I have the chain, the link and sprockets replaced, not with the right tools, but the Ducati mechanics do their best with angle grinders, hammers and other ad-lib pieces of steel to finish the job. Not elegant but it works and I'm happy again.
India Times

After a couple of days in Chandigarh and even a newspaper interview which puts me on front page of the India Times, I'm off North to the place I've been keen to see for years. Kashmir.

I have to say that driving here is absolutely mad. It is the worst I've ever experienced. Trucks coming at you on the wrong side of the road on a blind corner, bikes nipping in and out, cars with young guys trying to run you down from behind. Horns beeping at all times of the day, cows wandering amongst the traffic to add to the mad random games. Incredible. In the 12 weeks on the road, I'd seen one small crash in Turkey. In India on the first week, I've seen about 6 or 7 that had just happened, ignoring the numerous wrecks left at the side of the road. I've been pushed into the gutter by a few buses and trucks and somehow managed to survive, either by luck, some off road skills, or incredible brakes. I've grown so used to it that I drive just like an Indian now. I hope I don't do this when I get to Australia. I will be chased by helicopters and will be shown on the 6 o clock news for being arrested.

Bullets and batteries

1 comment:

  1. How can motorcycle shops not have a chain tool?! It's so basic!