India, Step 2 – Ivor Has a Smashing Time

Day 147 – Wednesday, September 18th 2013

Some good news to start the day – Ivor’s troubles on the way back into town were simply the result of a blocked fuel filter. We had plenty of spares with us, so with new unit installed Ivor was running fine again in no time.

We spent the rest of our day doing other small bits of maintenance, flushing out our ceramic water filters, and topped up the sealant around the edge of the hutch floor. Tomorrow, finally, we would be leaving this city.

Day 148 – Thursday, September 19th 2013

Pausing only to load the truck, provide a tour of Ivor to the inquisitive hotel staff, and fill the water tanks – WE WERE ON THE ROAD AGAIN – WAHOO!!!

We set a course for Ooty, the hill station set in the Nilgili Hills, but the total journey would still take a couple of days. Just to prove we were on the road in India, here’s a gallery containing some temples, some overloaded / over crowded vehicles:

We broke the journey at Salam, and after a couple of failures we managed to talk a particularly posh hotel into letting us sleep in their car park, on the condition that we would eat at their restaurant.

Day 149 – Friday, September 20th 2013

After waking up in Ivor for the first time in month, we drove the last leg of our route up the winding road to the Ooty hill station – originally known as Udhagamandalam, just have a go at pronouncing that one (if we’re lucky, you’ll have taken that literally and were in busy public place).

There was a bike under here somewhere

There was a bike under here somewhere

As we steadily climbed the hill (mountain, in most people’s books), the roads were lined with monkeys – which were still a novelty for us. Little did we know that they would be common place throughout the Indian hills.

Other than a little explore of the town, our main task for the afternoon was tracking down some Indian road Insurance. Another oddity of Indian bureaucracy is that to have left the port we were supposed to have car insurance. Yet no one will provide car insurance without first having inspected the vehicle – which was not possible at the port. Combine this with an Indian tendency to hang up the telephone when a call gets complicated, and to close or move insurance brokers without mentioning it to anyone, and you’ll understand why we drove as far as Ooty sans fully-comprehensive cover.  With paperwork in this country there are so many ‘I’s to be dotted and ‘T’s to be crossed that almost always someone will object to one of them – in this case we were lucky though, since we’d dropped into a broker in person they were willing to overlook the fact that Ivor did not appear on any of their databases and we left with the all important certificate.

Day 150 – Saturday, September 21st 2013

We were up nice and early to go and catch a ride on Nilgiri Mountain Railway that weaves its way through the range, and was first constructed by the British round about the turn of the 20th century. We rode to the town of Coonoor and back, being wowed by the tea plantation landscape the whole way.

Back in Ooty we made a quick pause for lunch, and the collection of supplies before setting  off  towards Sultan Batheri, where there was a national park which we hoped to take a safari through the following morning.

As we neared a hairpin turn, descending through one of the tea plantations, some people up on the bank started waving frantically at us. This isn’t that unusual a reception to receive for two white people driving a bizarre looking truck through southern India, so it was only when people riding along on the back of the tea truck in front of us started pointing that we realised something else was going on. We parked as soon as we could and clambered up the bank to find a large Indian elephant grazing on the tea bushes maybe 50 meters away from us.

Stopping at the edge of town, we parked up opposite a hotel with a friendly owner who let us park for free and use their facilities. We dropped in at a clothes store across the street for Kim to pick up a top – the staff were again very friendly, asked about our travels and gingerly requested a tour around Ivor. We showed them our humble abode (perhaps not so humble in their opinions), and went back to the hotel restaurant for a rather potent biryani before getting an early night.

Day 151 – Sunday, September 22nd 2013

The hotel owner from the night before had warned us that it would be busy trying to get onto a safari, so that we should get there early. At 6:30 when we arrived there was already a bit of a queue, but we still managed to get on one of the first few jeeps that would be touring around.

We thought it was just too lucky to believe that we saw two more elephants within a few minutes of entering the reserve, it was only while sorting out the photos for this blog that we spotted a chain around the feet of one of them, still ‘domesticated’ or otherwise, they are incredibly impressive animals.

Shortly after we saw a herd of deer, and then a large eagle was perched quite close to the trail. The wildlife count was impressive given the noise of the jeep, but we would not be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the park’s most famous inhabitant; the Bengal tiger, though we did catch sight of some fresh prints showing that one had been around that morning. The jeep ride was almost worth the trip alone, and the basic leaf sprung vehicles bounced their way around the reserve, surprising us with their ability.

When the tour finished it was still quite early in the morning, so we got straight on the road.

A missing bridge, a diversion down the back streets

A missing bridge, a diversion down the back streets

It was not too long before we were taking our first break however. At the precise time that a car was overtaking us (on the inside of a blind corner onto a bridge on  single lane road), an overhanging tree leapt out in front of us, desperate to give Ivor a caress as he passed. The tree succeeded, and on pulling over to inspect the damage, we were less than pleased to find smashed fibreglass wood and foam at the front left hand corner of the living area.

We took this pic in Goa, but it highlights the problem nicely

We took this pic in Goa, but it highlights the problem nicely

We were lucky in a few respects – firstly that it wasn’t raining so the newly exposed wood could not get saturated, and secondly that on impact the living area had pivoted to one side, on the system designed to take out flex in the trucks chassis, so the strike only effected a couple of inches in from the edge and did not go all the way through. In short, we would cover it with tape, and cross our fingers that it wouldn’t rain before we got a chance to seal the hole with a more permanent fix.

Since we were still trying to make up time lost on clearing Ivor from his shipping container, and because we were not in particularly good spirits after the tree smash, we skipped our planned beach break on the Kerala coastline, instead driving until sundown and pulling in at a cheap hotel in Kasaragod. During the last few km of our drive a rickshaw coming at us in the centre of the road had given us one final message from the Indian roads in the form of a smashed wing mirror – we did have a spare, but at this rate, India was going to get expensive – we were not sure if either Ivor’s nerves or ours could handle it.

After huge trouble checking us into the hotel, the staff eventually decided that we would be able to stay, despite their broken photocopier refusing to make copies of our passports.  You may recall what we said about the need to dot ‘I’s and cross ‘T’s…..

Day 152 – Monday, September 23rd 2013

The roads in the Karnataka province had been shockingly bad, with far too many people, and far too little intact tarmac. It would be fair to say that instead of potholes in the asphalt, there were only islands of road surface remaining in a sea of dirt. Going was painfully slow, but we’d covered quite some mileage the day before in spite of our little upsets, so we did not have too great a distance to cover before our next destination of Goa.

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We picked up a policeman that wanted a ride at one of the check points we passed through – the language barrier meant that we were not too sure whether it was a command or a request, but either way we rolled with it, and he joined us on the road for the next hour or so.

Arriving at Goa Palolem beach in the mid afternoon we managed to bag a parking spot that backed right onto the beach so that our bedroom window would have quite an exclusive sea view. We treated ourselves to a nice meal at a restaurant that also overlooked the beach along with a couple of beers and settled down for the night with a refreshing sea breeze coming through the truck.

Day 153 – Tuesday, September 24th 2013

It was high time that we attended to Ivor’s tree damage, so a local rickshaw driver toured us around a few shops that may have some of the glues we would need to plug the hole. We came away with a near-industrial sized pack of epoxy resin and some other little treats to help get the job done.

Dodging rainclouds for the repair we managed to get the wound initially patched up by 1pm before rewarding ourselves with large helpings of Baskin Robins ice cream on the beach. We took a swim and strolled along the shoreline as we waited for the first round of adhesive to set.

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Good as new? Watertight? Time will tell, but with the amount of Araldite we managed to get in there it should be.

We applied another layer to the repair, but no sooner had we completed the smearing that heavy clouds rolled in and let loose sheets of torrential rain. Kim sacrificed her dryness as she lay on the roof of the box holding plastic sheeting in place to protect our fix. The storm passed before long, but by the time we attached tape to make a demi-permanent cover Kim was saturated.

We carried out a few other bits of maintenance, and returned to last night’s restaurant since the food had been pretty tasty and the kingfisher beer was good and cold.

Day 154 – Wednesday, September 25th 2013

Again making up ground, we spent the whole day on the road, making it as far as Satara. After a pleasantly uneventful day cruising, will stopped at the Hotel Lake View – where the hotel owner allowed us to park if we ate in the hotel restaurant. We were only too happy to, since the food was incredibly good, and the service was impeccable. We still refer to the stuffed capsicum and lamb rogan-josh as one of the best meals of the trip so far.

Without a more cohesive way to present them, it’s time for a slightly ramshackle selection of the things we saw from the road that are all a part of this exciting country:

Day 155 – Thursday, September 26th 2013

Another long day on the roads, we aimed to get to the Ellora caves and just about made it. We stopped off at the Daulatabad fort, which was on route, but we made do with a quick view from the car park rather than a full visit since we were running low on time.

Just outside the entrance to the Ellora caves we found another hotel, and again bought dinner in exchange for an overnight parking spot.

Day 156 – Friday, September 27th 2013

Early birds catch worms, early tourists beat the crowds. We strolled the length of the caves site before the coach tours had their run of the place. There is a row 34 of temples that were chiselled from the rock faces between the 5th and 10th centuries, and are divided into Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain – reflecting the how the religion in favour had changed in the area throughout the time of development.  (Buddhist – 5th to 7thC, Hindu – 6th to 8thC, Jain – 9th to 10thC).

We were interrupted as we walked towards the Jain temples at the far end of the site by some big monkeys stalking us down a trail – they would walk along behind us, gaining ground all the time that we walked, and then stop the moment we turned round.  We weren’t comfortable at all with them, and didn’t know how to deal with them. We were lucky to come across a local, who was coming along in the other direction – he taught us an ancient Indian trick for dealing with troublesome primates; you throw stones at them. Hey presto, no more monkey business.  Actually, on the way back from the Jain temples a puppy even stuck close to us for the whole journey, and we could only presume it was for protection from the pesky primates.

Pictures are, in many cases, worth literally thousands of words, so to save us writing them – and more importantly, to save you reading them – the gallery can be seen below for your viewing pleasure:

We picked up a couple of scarves from a local shop (our mums have already received them for Christmas, so we can safely write about it now), and got on the road again. We stopped that night in the town of Sendhwa.

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