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18th May 2005


Travels on an Indian Enfield in India III

After buying a pair of Bullets and learning to navigate around India, Dan Barratt needed somewhere to stay. And put on a bit of a stunt show, parking the bike...

'Hotel' in Hindi is 'Hotel' which is quite lucky. One evening we found ourselves near a small town as it got dark. As usual the lights didn't work. My headlight had filled with water after some rain and then the bulb blew of course. The other bike's lights either came on or went off when you turned the handlebars, the resulting sparks doing little to light the road ahead.

We were getting in need of a place to stay so in our best Hindi we shouted 'Hotel' at any likely looking people. We were directed into narrower and narrower streets. They became more and more crowded. The bikes kept stopping. Ali, who by now had mastered the 'swinging powerful stroke' necessary to start them, would attract quite an audience, all eager to advise and help by pulling levers and switches when it failed to start first kick. How could a white girl know how to start a motorbike? Better give her some help.

We were hot and needed a hotel, there was a small child who didn't seem to be doing much so I balanced him on my tank, the back seat being full of luggage. Following his directions we took him further and further from his parents. He did us proud and we found the town's only hotel. We would have liked to thank him but lost him under the crowd which had gathered to see 'Whites on Bikes'.

Our bikes were unloaded and, with our luggage, lifted up the 2-foot step into the hotel foyer by our devoted Indian fans. We retired to a welcome bed and the crowd dispersed.

Signs to major towns are written in English - good. Signs to other places are often written in squiggle (Hindi).

Oh.

People were always helpful and friendly. This is how we would find our way. Approaching a junction, not sure of the way to Agra for example.

'Agra, Agra, Agra?', this to a promising looking chap. 'Agra, Agra?'.

Blank look.

Again 'Agra?'.

Then a bloke beside him, or behind him, or from a shop next door would say 'Ah, Agra' exactly the same way we had said it!

There would then be some discussion, explaining to other locals where we were going. An arm would then wave in a vague, vague direction of the road we wanted. We were apprehensive but they were always right.

We also used a compass quite a lot, not so useful in the Home Counties, but when there are only a couple of roads to choose from it's quite useful.

We arrived in Udaipur a quite few years after the James Bond film crew which had shot 'Octopussy', and found a nice hotel.

The only slight problem was that it was up a long steep narrow alley, then round a few 90-degree bends before you entered the courtyard above. The alley was too steep to push the bikes up, too narrow to walk them up with the engine running, and there was a sacred cow tethered half way along. Half of the ramp had steps cut into it.

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Good hotels are hard to find so it was time to test the stunt capabilities of these not-so-nimble machines. They were unloaded to make them narrower and lighter. I had just started to get the first bike lined up for the run when people started to realise what was going to happen. 'Yes, yes, no problem, no problem'.

More people gathered. Tourists got the cameras out. The traffic was stopped. I roared across the road, up the ramp, clipping the mirror on the side of a house (for effect), dodged the sacred cow, a child who was coming to see what the noise was about, and made it round the sharp bend at the end. The exhaust note bounced from wall to wall just to let the town know we had arrived.

We then had to repeat the episode with the other bike. Coming down the next morning was no mean feat either.


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