Sorry it has taken so long to post another blog, but India has been a frantic place. But now that we are in complete chill mode in Goa, we have the time to post.
The last blog entry was done in McLeod Ganj which is a lovely place. Not quite the tranquil place we were expecting and quite commercialised, but still quite nice.
We left McLeod Ganj after two weeks of cooking classes, turning the prayer wheels, visiting the Tibet museum and local arts and crafts. We headed for Manali which is North West of McLeod Ganj and a day and a half drive, so we stopped for the night in Mandi. Not much to say about Mandi except not to include it on any of your itineraries.
Manali was nice though, very cool with snow and glacier melt fed rivers (the river Beas being the most famous in the area) which made for good fishing. Plenty of Rainbow Trout in there.
We spent a week in Manali before moving a little further up to Old Manali where we stayed for a further week. Unfortunately Steve had another visit from the virus that knocked him for six in Turkey and was bed ridden for a few days. He was able to get out of bed for Liz's Birthday dinner with Stuart. Stuart had organised a birthday cake for Liz for the morning of her Birthday (Steve couldn't get out of bed at all the day before her Birthday, so Stuart was a lifesaver with organising the Birthday festivities). We had Liz's Birthday dinner at probably the best restaurant in Old Manali that make the best pizzas and pasta. Stuart and we separated at Old Manali as he was riding further North into Kashmir and Leh to meet up with a white water rafting expedition. We will meet up again back in Amritsar.
After Old Manali we went to Shimla, the capital city of the state, where after being quite disappointed with the standard of the hotels for the price settled for the Radisson Jass Hotel. We spent three weeks in Shimla, but this was not without its dramas. On the second day there after a monsoonal downpour, we were walking down some steps at the hotel and Liz slipped over landing on her backside, but her left leg came across banging her knee on the edge of the step. After treating it as a sprain and Steve having to help her to the loo and shower, she was able to put a bit of weight on it and hobble around. After a few days we were concerned that there was no real improvement so contacted a doctor who suggested physio. He recommended a good one and we spent every afternoon getting ultrasound therapy on her knee for a sprained medial cruciate ligament.
Steve was able to enjoy two games of golf in Shimla. The course is set on natural topography - quite hilly but beautiful. Lord Curzon developed the course over 100 years ago and it is the highest course in India, maybe the world. It does have the most challenging holes of anywhere - not being able to see the flag at tee off, being told by the caddie to aim between two trees and hope for the best! Steve was able to par two holes though, so pretty good going.
The same monsoonal downpour also cut us off from the outside world for a while too, the roads up to Shimla (Shimla is at 2,500 Meters above sea level) were blocked with more landslides than you could count and the only rail line had around one third of the track either wiped out or effected by landslides. One station had even completely disappeared down the mountain.
Liz's knee improved more and more each day and she was OK enough to venture on. We had hoped to catch the narrow gauge (Toy) Train down from Shimla to Kalka to catch the express to Delhi, but the lack of track after the monsoon cloudburst put an end to that idea, so with the roads newly opened we were able to get a car down to Kalka. We were pleasantly surprised by the train service, we booked First Class Air conditioned and thought that would be just for the seat, but the price of the ticket (which cost less than a daily travel card for the London Underground) included a litre bottle of mineral water, newspapers, a hot meal and tea, coffee and juice. The train was on time and arrived when it was meant to.
Getting off the train in Delhi was frantic, everyone scrabbling to get you in their taxi, but we had been previously advised to go directly to the pre-paid taxi office where you pay in advance for a taxi to your destination. This eliminates the risk of being ripped-off or worse, but it doesn't stop touts from trying.
The hotel in Delhi was average, but that didn't matter, we weren't sitting still in Delhi. The next day we caught the Agra express to see the Taj Mahal which is truly a wonderful sight. Any photographs you see of it really doesn't do it any justice. You absolutely need to see it in person to appreciate it. After our visit to the Taj Mahal, we visited the Red Fort in Agra (just a little further down river from the Taj) which is quite impressive. We then had lunch at the Sheraton Hotel and eventually returning to Delhi later that evening.
We caught the train to Amritsar to return to Mrs. Bandhari's to meet up with Stuart who would arrive in a couple of days and to be reunited with our bikes. We were to learn that the original Mrs. Bandhari had passed away the Sunday prior to our arrival having reached her 101st Birthday earlier in the year.
The day after we arrived in Amritsar Stuart arrived having had a better ride back than he expected. It was good to catch up again. We made our plans to ride to Delhi in order to have the bikes shipped to Singapore and left on the Sunday. We had hoped to reach Delhi that evening, but as we stopped for coffee we tended to an Indian motorcyclist who had been knocked off his small motorbike by a truck (he wasn't wearing a helmet but amazingly didn't sustain any head injuries) he did, however, break his leg just below his left knee and was complaining of a sore back. Steve had rushed over with his medical kit and after convincing the curious onlookers not to move him tended to his leg with Stuarts help. After splinting his leg and dressing the wound, some of his relatives arrived with their car and insisted on picking him up to take him to hospital (there was absolutely no sign of an ambulance even though one had been called by numerous people). Steve tried to convey to the relatives that as he was complaining of back pain, they really should wait for a stretcher to prevent him becoming a paraplegic, but they were quite insistent that they were going to take him, so Steve could do no more for the guy as he didn't want to be held responsible for paralysing a man needlessly.
This little episode delayed our ride into Delhi and soon night fell. This made for extremely dangerous riding (Indians are mad enough drivers during daylight hours, they are even worse at night) so we pulled into a hotel to stop for the night before having an early start the next morning for Delhi.
Due to bad signage and even worse driving, it took almost three hours to ride just 55KM into Delhi to our hotel. But once there we were able to (over three days) organise our bike to be shipped to Singapore. We are using a company that import and export motorcycles around the world, so we felt quite confident that they know how to ship bikes safely.
As the shipping of the bikes will take a while, we organised a flight to Goa (the efforts to obtain the tickets is another story all together). We stayed two nights in Panaji, the capital of Goa, before heading down to where we are now in Palolem, Southern Goa.
We plan to be here for a couple of weeks soaking up the sun on coconut palm lined beaches before hopefully heading to Bangalore to watch a one day international cricket match between Australia and India. If we can't get tickets, we'll head straight for Singapore instead.
So sorry it has been so long between blogs folks, while we have been in India for a while, not a lot has happened so there hasn't been much to report on.
We will be uploading our photos over the next week, so we'll let you know when that is done.
We will catch up with you all soon.
Liz and Steve.