Friday, 31 July 2009

Hard Times!

We have really missed the truck and the freedom it gives us. Sure you can jump on a plane train bus but we still needed to be around and about to deal with shippers etc which is kind of limiting. The 6 days away from Mumbai we're great and if we had had the car we would have missed out on public transport. But it's our home and our safe haven, something we can rely on to change our scenery and look after us. So hearing that that we could get it back on the Friday was brilliant news. It also meant we could check out of the lunatic asylum/prison that was the Salvation army hostel. We booked a room in Mumbai for the Friday night at the YWCA which is a really impressive hotel, yep more expensive Euro25 a night but we knew it would be our last.

We had arranged for a really nice taxi driver called Dipen who we'd met before (and taken his card) to pick us up at 0900 Friday morning to take us to the port 2hrs away. At 0850 Dipen rang to say "a big mouse has eaten some of his electrics" but that he had organised his mate to get us. His mate duly arrived in beat up old crappy taxi with a very apologetic Dipen. He assured us that his friend would look after us and if we had any trouble to call him. We should have know from this auspicious start that today was not going to better.

200m away from the hotel and while edging across a round-a-bout a truck hits the front wing and takes off the headlight! It's cool he just got out picked up his head light chucked it on the passenger seat and off we went again. We eventually found the port and the customs house we needed (with a few phone calls) and met our "on-site man" Vishal. All seemed pretty straight forward, into the office check paper work sign a document show your passport and we were back in the taxi heading off to the container storage area 1/2 hour away.

At the container we had to sign in and wear high viz jackets and passes and weren't allowed to bring any personal affects in, so the taxi waited outside with our bags. We quickly found the container opened it up and......... hallelujah... our car!!!!! We were both ecstatic. I quickly undid the retaining straps and was ready to start her up but...... really big but...... the Customs officer had noticed a discrepancy between our carnet and the chassis number. We were gobsmacked. All the way from the UK and this had never been noticed but sure enough there in front of eyes was an extra letter on the carnet that didn't appear on the chassis plate. Okay we had the original registration document as well, so dug that out and, balls the extra letter is on there as well! It seems when it was first registered it was done incorrectly. Of course this meant customs wouldn't clear it. After a chat with the customs officer it was agreed that we should return to his office at 1400 to see what could be done.

Vishal, our man suggested we get something to eat and the only available place was the yards canteen so off we went. 200 dock workers and blond female westerner..... need I say more. Our taxi man was still waiting patiently outside the compound when it was time to go back to the customs house. In the mean time we had found an MOT certificate that had the correct chassis number on it and when we arrived at the office showed them this. We weren't really kept informed of what was going on so there was alot of sitting waiting and wondering. It turned out that they were looking through the law book and had found a clause stating that if the number discrepancy was sufficiently small and the importer had proof of the correct number on a different document then it was possible, with all the correct signatures, to release the car! So began the the signature chase. At 1745 I was summoned to the 6th floor and presented to the head honcho who quickly perused all the previous signatures and attachments then wanted to know all about our journey from England!!!? I had to indulge him as his was the last signature we needed. Duly got we were back in our poor taxi and off to the yard again with the release papers!

Opened the container once more jumped in the car turned the key and .... nothing. batteries were dead dead dead. So ensued 2 hours of variously trying to convince busy truck drivers to stop (unsuccessfully), getting forklifts to stop (successful but not powerful enough) and trying to find and extra set of jump leads to attach both our batteries at the same time. Kym popped out to let our long suffering taxi man what was going on and was discouraged by the security from hanging around outside (it's dark now) and eventually someone knew a mechanic that was called. 2230!!!! the guy arrives uses two batteries and an extra set of leads (told you) and it started! Now he tried to tell us it was 2000 rupees. The resulting exchange lasted about 10 minutes and lots of shouting and posturing later we gave him half that and drove out of the yard.

Now we had to pay the taxi driver. He would not for the life of me tell us a price! "you decide" "you decide" I asked an English speaking guy to ask him if he could give us a rough idea so neither of us ended up embarrassed but he wouldn't even do that! I suggested 1500 rupees and hand on his heart he said "thankyou very much" I asked the English to ask him if he was honestly really totally happy with this and he insisted he was. Bless him. Good news for him as well was that our man Vishal (yep, he never left us either) and two colleagues needed to get back to Mumbai so he had a return fare as well. We told him we'd follow him until we knew where we were and off we went.

As we reached the causeway that takes you across to Greater Mumbai I pulled around him and tooted and waved then noticed he was furiously flashing his one remaining head light. He'd broken down...... he desperately wanted us to stay with him until Dipen arrived but as I explained to Dipen it was midnight we were exhausted and we knew help was only 10 min away so Dipen agreed and told his man that we should go so we're just about to head off when Vishal and his two mates tried to jump in with us! We explained that we only had to seats but to them this wasn't a problem they just folded themselves in amongst our belongings and we were off again. We both felt a little guilty at abandoning our taxi man but Dipen had given us the go ahead. After dropping our three fares off we thought we'd pop into a late night restaurant we knew not too far from the hotel as we hadn't eaten a thing since lunch; so at 0030 we sat down had a beer and started to laugh about what a day we'd had. Finished food, drank beer, paid and left. Only 10 mins till bed. Turned the key................................. shit.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Some more

Everyone knows about the trains in India..... people hanging out of windows, on roofs,chickens etc etc.. well it's not that bad. We booked "2nd class non ac chair". There's no 3rd class and there's not really a 1st class, just variations on 2nd, maybe this makes everyone feel better? Our class meant we had pre arranged seats whereas I think straight 2nd class may mean the bench seats or possibly a chair if you can find one, oh and when I say chair I mean you have a wooden backrest and a thin bit of cushioning under your bum. 2nd class with ac gives you a real chair and a fold down seat back table and the chair reclines! Then on the overnight night trains you get: sleeper class, 2ac sleeper, 3ac sleeper and 1ac sleeper. We didn't do overnight so I don't really know the difference! The train pulled in and there was a mad scramble as the whole platform all tried to pile on the train before it had come to stand still and any one had got off. This was our first introduction to Indian queueing! Well we had our own seats so we weren't too bothered.. until we got to our seats and found them occupied by three women. Kym politely pointed that they were in our seats and fair play they moved onto the seats opposite with the 2 other women already sat there (these seats are supposed to accommodate 3). It wasn't until the ticket collector came along that it was discovered that 2 of the women were usurpers and didn't have seat reservations which begs the question why didn't the women we had moved ask the two freeloaders to move? The rest of the journey passed without too much ado apart from the grumpy ones that had been kicked out of a chair making it quite obvious they were not happy by variously eating food over the other women and sitting on the floor leaning against their knees until they complained. The end of the journey was another matter altogether. We pulled in to Aurangabad and as you do when you are new to a place we tried to get off quickly only to be met by a
wall of humans coming at us down the aisle. Instinct took over and with our big bag in front of me put my shoulder down and charged... Indians aren't very big and the results were quite spectacular, one guy flew in the air and over a seat back and the rest of them fell backwards out of the doors and back on to the platform where Kym and I nearly landed on top of them! Then bizarrely this bloke pops a business in my hand for the hotel we had planned to stay at and says he will take us there free of charge and you'll never guess what! He did!!

Aurangabad as a town isn't much to talk about but it is a jumping off point to visit the carved temple caves of Ellora and Ajanta. Ellora is a 30 minute local bus ride away but Ajanta is about 2 1/2 hours away and we really didn't fancy doing it by local bus. Lucky for us then that Bischan the Dutch German teacher and avid guitar collector/player was in reception and approached us about sharing a car and driver to take us there for the day. The next morning we hopped in an old Ambassador and trundled off. The photos do the talking for the caves, they were great, not just the the amazing carvings (in basalt which ain't exactly soft rock) but the beautiful gorge they were in as well. It seems us Westerners are a bit of a novelty over here as well and as such everyone wants their photo taken with us especially Kym, I guess it's the tattoos blond hair blue eye combo that does it. All good fun. Two days
later we hopped on a local bus to the Ellora caves and were amazed once more (we were also glad we hadn't taken the bus all the way to Ajanta!).

A train back to Mumbai in 2ac (luxury if a little cold!) and we were ready to get our car back. Unfortunately our container hadn't yet made it from the ship to the customs yard and we we're pretty pissed off, Kym so much that she shed a few tears in the shippers office (more for the fact that we may miss a rendezvous with our good friend Fatima in Dehli than the fact the car was delayed), whether this was the cause we'll never know but it seems the Thakkers pulled the stops out and we could get the car back on the Friday and still make it to Dehli on time. We had arrived back in Mumbai on the Tuesday and had booked in to the same hotel we stayed in the first time. Thinking we would only be in Mumbai for a night or two we decided we could get somewhere cheaper and save some money so we headed down the road to the Salvation Army hostel! Okay yeah yeah I know, we should have known better but we thought how bad could it be. The day before they had shown us a room that didn't look too bad (turns out they showed us the family room). The truth was.. it was disgusting.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Trippin

Made it out of Mumbai for a bit of respite from the rain and general Mumbai madness (also hotels aren't that cheap in Mumbai). We caught an overnight "luxury" bus to Nasik which is only 150km from Mumbai but took 8 hours!!!? Needless to say I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. The bus is arranged in bunks but even at 1.75m the bunks were too short for me. Heavy breathing and the occasional snort were testament that Kym managed a couple of hours. After being dropped in Nasik at 0430 with little sleep, the rickshaw driver should have known better than to touch Kym's bum but he had a go any way and experioanced the wrath of early morning pissed off Kym. There was no need for me to get involved and we got the cheapest rickshaw ride so far!

Nasik's on a sacred river (I get the feeling they're all sacred here) and a lot of pilgrims go there so the bathing ghats are a real hive of activity and a great place to just people watch. Two days there and we hopped on a train to Arangabad to check out the caves. I'll tell you about our first train journey next time....

Loving India!!!!

Nasik train station sign

Mumbai knife sharpener

Public transport

Daily life in Nasik

Nasik

Nasik

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta

Everyone wants a picture with a foreigner!

Ajanta

Ajanta

Ajanta caves near Arungabad

Not strictly caves but temples hewn from the basalt cliff face. Dating back to 2nd century BC and full of amazing paintings and carvings.

3 generations of the Thakkers

Our clearing agents in Mumbai

Monday, 13 July 2009

Mumbai

Hey Hey... made it! Pretty un-eventful flight and a taxi to downtown Mumbai and here we are in India. Holy cow what a place so far.. smelly..sometimes good..hot and sticky, wet, bustling, friendly, smiley (men and women!!!!!), very colouful, rich, poor, not that cheap, tasty (very very..), noisy and fun. That's only downtown Mumbai..!?

Visited a couple of shipping clearing agents on Friday, one foyer was a dark flea pit with skinny people sleeping on the stairs and the office upstairs wasn't much better; and the other was a modern tiled staircase with multiple offices upstairs with people working on computers!! Guess which one we went for. Mr Thakker all three generations of them we're charming and proficient and ran through everything we/they would need. The flea pit geezer wobbled his head (Kym's got it sussed, I can't do it) and mumbled.

Car gets here on the 19th but we don't expect it to clear much before the 24th so we're heading out of Mumbai for a bit of sight seeing tomorrow by bus. Inetrnet doesn't seem to have caught on much amongst the general public here so finding a computer is a task, I actually had a bit of a paddy the other day after wasting 40 mins on three different screens in little cubicles too small for Clarke Kent to spin around in and not seeing one single internet page (grumpy git).

Anyway we're fine and somewhat relieved to be away from the middle east and it's prohibitive ways even though I would reccomend everyone should visit and experience it's paradoxes.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Middle East.

Call me a whinney git, but it's not all fun and games this travelling malarky you know! Don't get me wrong, I appreciate what we're doing is something amazing and yes I do pinch myself every now and then, also things along the way tend to humble you from time to time. But.... it has it's downtimes too. Talking to other overlanders/travellers it's always a relief to here that they too sometimes get fed with with stuff. By stuff I mean just day to day chores, having to find food (okay there are shops everywhere but honestly some of them you wouldn't even want to step over the threshold), find a toilet (much harder than you think and we've had to become pretty un fussy about the state of them), sometimes just navigating, finding a suitable place to camp that's not a military installation, filling the water tanks and trying to converse with locals can really get on top of you. Here in Amman it's really got on top of us; I think we're Muslim'd out! Kym getting stared at all the time has been a constant pain for her but it's really starting to piss me off aswell now, to the extent that I actually told a bloke to pack it in the other day (he came back with the standard answer "weelcum to Jordan"). We just don't get it, we're no different to them really, Kym covers up and our clothes aren't that far different from anything they're wearing. Also a lot of the women dress pretty provocatively within the constraints. They might have a head scarf on but they'll also have skinny jeans and a tight fitting long-sleeved t-shirt on but they don't seem to get as much attention? I suppose after 3 months it's bound to have it's moments and honestly I wouldn't swap what we're doing for anything else right now (okay maybe a chance to surf J-Bay with Occy and Tom Curren next week might tempt me www.billabongpro.com) but after 8 days without our home in a budget hotel in downtown Amman boy I am ready to do something else. Mumbai here we come!!!!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Imman in Amman.


The Imman calling everyone to prayer, we hear this morning noon & night.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Photo - Downtown Amman.



Downtown really is scummy.

Photo - Downtown Amman.


Jessops !!

Photo - Downtown Amman.


Very strange to find these "I LOVE JESUS" bra's in a Muslim dominated country.

Photo - Downtown Amman.



Amman - Downtown.

While looking in one of what I can only describe as an Arab style deli with metal trays of olives, cheese, pickled peppers & some other dodgy looking things, I was curious to know what they were, they actually looked like eyes & knowing that the Arabs do like to eat some dodgy parts of animals this didn't seem to outrageous, so we ask this guy & he's trying to get Gary to try one but Gary's not having any of it until he gets a basic idea of what it really is, so he's pointing at his eye saying "sheep's eye's?", of course the guy laughs & Say's "no" but says something that sounds to Gary like testi so Gary's going "Testicle?" grimacing & pointing at his nether regions the guy again laughs & says "no spicy, tasty, vegetable" ahh tasty not testi, Gary then very bravely pops it in his mouth & it's a very small eye size aubergine stuffed with chill's, ahh that would be the red stuff that looked like blood oozing out then, Gary gave his approval with a thumbs up but didn't feel he wanted to repeat the experience as they were indeed very very spicy.

Photo - Downtown Amman.




Amman.

Found the supermarket & yippee they had fresh milk, I tell you the things we took for granted in the U.K, finding fresh milk in a supermarket is like finding they sell caviar in your local corner shop, (actually I'm not sure if England really has local corner shops anymore, Tesco has taken over) but you get the idea, fresh milk is like champagne, so much so that some little or maybe big bugger helped their selves to some of ours out of the fridge, now we've had to disguise it with a black bag.. Anyway shopping, most of our food shopping can be done just outside the hotel, there are numerous little shops selling tins of everything, noodles and condiments. We have found the local fruit & veg market where the veg is super cheap & fruit is really expensive. A fun experience, everyone shouting in Arabic what they are selling and I think the louder you shout the more you think your going to sell, so as you can imagine it's a pretty noisy place. It's also dominated by men so as a woman walking through, well you'd think I was the carnival queen. It really is like the old days here in downtown Amman you have a butchers, bakers, dairy, although they don't sell milk without salt in it, we tried it & take it from me I like salt but not in my milk thanks, yuck it's nasty. I get the idea Arab's like salt, some of the cheese is so salty it makes your eyes water. We have even managed to find an off license where a small can of Amstell will set you back £2. So we have abstained for the last few days, we hope it's going to be a lot cheaper in India & not so hard to find.

Photo - Amman




Our £14.50 a night hotel room downtown Amman.
Rainbow street market.

Amman.

We then retire back to our room where we take it in turns to use my laptop, for some unknown reason Gary's won't connect to this hotels network, if there does happen to be a computer techi out there reading this at all we need HELP.
As I was saying then before we know it we have managed to whittle away 4 more hours & it's lunch time, so with our little plastic bag of condiments we sit down to what looks like to the locals is our breakfast at lunch time. Then it's out for a walk in the afternoon to see what wonders Amman will surprise us with. Yesterday while in search of the supermarket which is the only place that sells fresh milk, we stumbled across a little local craft market the best thing was the people watching and the watermelon smoothie.

Photo - Amman


The Farrah hotel.

The Farrah hotel.

Amman - Farah hotel.

The last few days we have spent alot of time in our hotel room, it very quickly has become home & before you know it you have settled into a routine, Breakfast at 8.30-9.00 which consists of a flat bread presented in a plastic bag, a hard boiled egg & little plastic packets of butter, jam & cheese triangles, well we tend to put this all to one side and receive envious looks from the other western travels as we get out our bag of Muesli, bananas & honey, the hotel breakfast is saved for lunch which is when I feel it's much suitable for.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Photo - Aqaba.




Our last day in Aqaba and saying a teary goodbye to our new friends Igor, Rachel, Sarah , Charles and last but certainly not least Eleonore.



Shipping negotiations in Aqaba

Photo - Wadi Rum



Photo - Wadi Rum


Me looking for my flipflops in the sand.

Photo - Jordan.



Wednesday, 1 July 2009