Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Photo-L-R Sarah, Steve, Kym and Tyler the Cali kid.

Photo-Can you tell Kym's feeling better?


Great place to centre your chakras dude.



This amazing front passed over while we sat and had lunch. Blue sky in front and blue sky behind.

Off again

Just a quicky. After two and a bit blissful weeks of holiday we're on the move again. Tomorrow we've plucked up courage to catch a train to Hampi. Fortunately we've also met a lovely couple from Essex who are Happy to do the same journey with us so it'll be great to have support on our first venture back into the real India. The train is a two day affair but we've booked sleeper tickets so we set off at 10:35 tomorrow (Thur) and arrive in Hampi 14:45 on Fri. We'll stay there until Monday when we'll catch another over night train to Hyderabad to finish sorting out the car.

On that note; turns out the lorry drivers license had expired therefore invalidating his insurance. In a nutshell no one is gonna do bugger all about it and we have to pay for the repairs while the driver carries on doing his job illegally. After speaking to the police, insurance and Toyota they all pretty much shrugged their collective shoulders of it. We will give it one last shot at some sort of justice. A letter to the drivers company with a copy of our bill, police report and scans of the drivers license with a threatening letter of our intentions to prosecute and see what happens.

Varkala has been a tonic, loads of new friends, plenty of waves, cocktails, good food and bad cricket. Also we can't thank John and Pema enough for just listening and being totally supportive. Cheers guys (see you at the Gabba in 2011 John). So if you ever find yourself in India and need a break from it head to Varkala.


Saturday, 12 September 2009


The car is in Hyderabad awaiting parts and TLC, we are still waiting to hear whether the drivers insurance will entertain our claim against them. We're trying to short cut a very lengthy legal process by appealing to there better judgment. Explaining we only have 3 1/2 weeks of visa left and it's plainly obvious not only from the police report but also our photos from the scene (Kym had the foresight to take pictures, no one else did) that we were the victims. Mr Doshi at Toyota was instrumental in taking us down this path and has even offered to represent us in court while we continue our journey if that becomes necessary. If indeed it does become evident that we will have to take it to court we will have to pay for the repairs now and recover the cost in court, which apparently will be an inevitability, but when the court orders the insurance to pay it comes from a big government slush fund that all the insurance companies pay into rather than from their own accounts!!!! That's why they reject every claim. Love it here.

Booked a flight outta there and headed down to Kerala for r and r . Lucked in to a fantastic little two bedroomed homestay in Varkala run by John (Melbourne) and Pema (Tibet) who have taken us under their wing and soothed and comforted us. Wake up to Pema performing her offerings and quietly chanting her Buddhist mantras and then eat her gorgeous banana and coconut pancakes for breakfast before wandering down to the cliff edge and choosing a suitable venue to sit and while away a few hours reading and watching the sea eagles soaring over an Indian ocean lined with swell that makes it's way to the foot of the cliff before rising and dashing itself against the rocks. Therapy.

Photo - ooh er misses.

Photo Never ask an Indian to take a photo for you!!

Photo John and Pema

Photo Varkala

Fateful day

Early start again and we knew we had reasonable roads ahead so we looking forward to the fact that we should be in Hyderabad reasonably early. Stopped for lunch, we've been making our own sandwiches and brewing pot noodles rather than risk the road side eateries, and suitably fed and with a cup off tea to go we headed off again. About 1500 while in the outside lane of a dual carriageway (at speed the inside lane is too dangerous, herds of buffalo, cows, goats and bikes and walkers). On a clear stretch I spotted up ahead a lorry on the dirt just off the road looking suspiciously like it was going to pull out. They have no indicators so alot of intuition comes into driving here. I eased off and sure enough he started to pull out. At this point, with the truck at an angle, the driver looked out of the window over his shoulder at us. I flashed my full beam. My headlights were already on as they always are here to give us a better chance. He saw us and slowed almost to a stop then to our astonishment began moving again out into the second lane. There was nothing infront of him in the inside lane. I began braking and calculating the gap between the central reservation (30cm high kerb) and the still moving truck and realised we weren't going to a)stop b)fit through the gap. I actually said to Kym "I'm not going to stop" and as she replied something like don't be stupid I said "I'm not joking" Bang...

After cursory checks that we were both okay I got out. I was more furious than I have ever been in my life. I tried to pull the driver from the cab and started hitting him. His passenger was pulling him back in from the other side and because I was having to use one hand to hold myself up on the cab I gave up and just started screaming at him. On the opposite side of the carriageway was an RTA checkpoint. These are placed regularly on the national highways and lorries have to stop at them to get their papers stamped (I don't know why). This is why he had stopped. Incredible India, has a checkpoint on only one side of a dual carriageway with no where to park. A checkpoint guy with a uniform came over and tried to calm me down, by now Kym was out of the car and pleading with me to calm down also. I told the checkpoint guy to call the police and he sent someone back across to do this. He also wanted to get the vehicles moved which I refused until the police had seen them. He was insistent, ours wouldn't move anyway (buckled wheels burst tyre and steering broken) but there was no way I was going to let them move the truck. When the engine started I leapt into the cab and pulled out the key. When it started again I did the same. The checkpoint guy was furious but I pointed out to him that there was enough room for traffic to pass inside of the accident and anyway I had both sets of keys to the truck. All the while this was going on there had been absolutely no attempt at traffic management or warning signs by anybody including the staff of the RTA point. I got out our high viz jackets and Kym and I put them on. At this point the lorry engine started again and it began to move. Kym and I legged it to the checkpoint guy and asked what the f... was going on to be told that he had ordered him to move and they obviously had a 3rd key. The truck didn't move to the side of the road it drove off.

I went mental. Kym tried running after him and I tried to stop any passing vehicle. The one jeep that slowed enough for me to jump into the driver leapt out with the key and ran off!!! I guess I was ranting a bit. I found the checkpoint guy and almost strangled him with his whistle but managed to persuade him to get in his car and chase the truck. So now 45 mins has gone by and I keep being told by the other staff in the office that the police are coming. They arrive, one policeman and a driver. They organise for a recovery truck to move our car. 1/2 hour later and a pick up arrives with the "recovery team" who attach a cable to our winch hook and the back of their car. Another WTF moment. I asked if they would mind explaining what they were going to do and they told me they were going to tow my car to the side of the road. With two buckled wheels and no steering. I changed the most severely damaged wheel and said if they towed it slowly perhaps we could push the wheels in the direction we wanted the car to go so they told me to jump and then told me to steer.... We got it to the side and stopped in a huge muddy puddle. By now it was getting dark and raining.

I went to the police station in their jeep while Kym stayed with the car. I thought the police station must be miles away and was a little shocked when we arrived 5 min later. A really nice man who works at the station as I'm guessing, some kind of secretary, explained in great English that "Sir" was in a meeting but I was to begin writing a detailed account of what took place. Strangely enough the lorry driver who had travelled with us, did not have to (I wonder now whether he could write?) Having done so "Sir" arrived and promptly wanted to visit the accident site. I tried to explain that with the vehicles moved and no evidence of skid marks (wet surface) there wasn't much to see but I think he wanted to get out anyway. So back at the scene and everyone stats speculating about this and that. At one point the "Sir" said something in Hindi (or Telgulu which is the local language) and after asking the nice man to translate he rather embarrassingly replied "Sir wondered if you were maybe chit chatting with Madam?" I think my expression answered that one.

They police asked us what we thought we would like to do I said that ideally we want to get to Hyderabad where I knew there was a Toyota dealer. "Sir" organised for a crane and a lorry and after some more fraught moments,shouting, screaming and damage to the car it was on a truck and we were in the cab. Another visit to the police station to pick up a copy of the police report and of the lorries insurance documents and at one o'clock in the morning we set off for Hyderabad. Then it all went really weird. Straight out of "Fear and loathing" we entered Hyderabad at 3 in the morning and the whole place was going mental. Turns out it was the last night of Ganpatti which is a week long celebration of the God Ganesh. Ganesh is the elephant headed god and probably the best loved deity in India. They build huge idols of Ganesh and display them all week then on the last day put them on trailers or carts and have a huge procession to the waters edge where the statues are submerged. The processions go on all night and we couldn't believe that if all the statues that we saw were put in the lake in Hyderabad there wouldn't be a significant rise in the water level! So, sleep deprived, sitting in a shitty old lorry with two Indians watching massive pink elephants being followed by hundreds of people dancing to frantic drummers. Freaky. Found the garage the lorry stayed outside and we walked down the road barefoot and covered in mud in high viz jackets to a cheap hotel for 3 hrs sleep.

Photo Damage to the lorry.


Sagar to Nagpur didn't start well. A bus stopped in front of us on a narrow road, we stopped as did a rickshaw and a motorbike behind us then there was a big bang. I looked in the wing mirror and realised something had run into the back of the other traffic, Kym looked out of her window and saw the motorcyclist on the floor with his head facing the wrong way... People running towards the scene so we kept going Kym not good. It's times like this when unseen forces conspire to try and put things right and after a few silent miles a wrong turn took on one of the most recuprative drives we've had in India. Across a deeply forested/jungle section of the Deccan plateau on a recently resurfaced very quiet road (no lorries!) that twisted, turned dipped and rose through peaceful unpopulated surroundings. Therapy.

Of course it had to end but we were pleasantly suprised by Nagpur, wide roads pretty clean and big parks. After being let down yet again by the Lonely Planets recommendation we checked into to another hotel, with a very charming manager. He recommended the hotel restaurant and said it was very popular (of course he would). Turns out it was great. Cheapish beer and lovely food and to top that England Australia playing a 20twenty (abandoned 1/2 way!). Having slipped down in our seats to watch the cricket the manager came over for a chat. Hearing our converation another diner excused himself, apologised but couldn't help over hearing our tales and wondered if we would like to join him and his friend who had travelled to the North of India also. Both were local Indian guys and seemed nice enough so we shuffled along to their table. The two became about 10 and it turned out they all liked to meet here for a drink once a week as boys do! Great conversation and a couple more beers later and Kym and I were starting to flag a bit. We made our excuses and said good night to our new friends before asking for our bill which had already been taken care of. How nice was that. Top night. Therapy?

Photo Generous friends

Our intentions from Manali were to get South as soon as possible and down to the coast around Goa/Kerala. About 6 days driving we reckoned and carefully planned so that each night we would be in a town and with the guidance of the Lonely planet, find a room. After Chandigarh we made it to Agra and the same hotel we stayed at before (the road between Delhi and Agra is the only stretch we've driven more than once). First real road incident, well technically two. 1st push a guy off his motorbike. No biggy just came to a stand still on a dual carriageway where traffic lights had failed at a cross roads (I know, I know..... really, they do have them!! though they are more like instructions to stop, then keep edging forward until you can't see the light, then rely on your own judgement as to whether it's safe to go!) A mass of motorbikes had conspired to use numbers to make a break for it and were all across the carriageway. The only way you're ever going to move again is by force so you just edge very gently forward hence pushing a guy off his bike. He wasn't too upset, par for the course I'd say (shit, how pompously colonial does that sound!!?).

At last a clear stretch and up to 90kmh (perfect economy (56mph)) suddenly Eyore leaps out of the central reservation obviously suicidal. I think the last thing he would have seen was the part number for the drivers side headlight. The bull bar protected the headlight and ensured Eyore didn't know too much more about anything, didn't stop him pirouteing and putting a dent in the rear 1/4 panel with his arse though. Now got matching rear wings Eyore and Jodhpur.

Agra to Sagar with no incidents involving us, though as if to prove my point to Kym that it was necessary to beep and push (after the motorbike guy the day before) we kept seeing accidents of varying degrees of seriousness culminating in a bus that had t boned straight into the side of a tractor and trailer that were performing a U turn on a dual carriage way. Guessed that the driver at the very least didn't survive. Huge crowd of people and no one helping anyone. There are actually information signs up encouraging people to help accident victims by saying things like "you can't get in trouble for helping". It doesn't get easier here.

Photo Nek Chand's

Photo Nek Chand's

Photo Nek Chands

Photo Nek Chands

Photo Say Hi to Nishant and Erwin if you stay here (Manali)

Photo As common as stinging nettles.

Photo Manali


Ahhaaaa.... we're back! So sorry for the delay, it's only recently we've begun to realise that there are a lot more people reading this blog than we could have imagined. I believe in cyber language they're known as lurkers or does that only apply to chat rooms and forums? Whichever.. thank you all the same for all your comments and well wishes and please don't be shy I know it's a blog but input is invited and encouraged.

So the crash... The majority of people here are astounded that we have driven so far in India and not had and accident before now. In retrospect we both understand that it was almost an inevitability that we would collide with something at some point. I kid you not when I say that every single mode of transport in India displays evidence of regular highway skirmishes, perhaps with the exception of cars leaving show rooms or reversing off the back of the lorry that has delivered them; and events preceding the inevitable all now seem to be portentous.

We left Manali early in the morning and made it comfortably in time to visit Nek Chand's rock garden in Chandigarh. Some odd civil servant who in his part time collected the junk and waste from construction sites he worked at, took them home to his modest house in the jungle that encroaches on Chandigarh and started making sculptures and landscapes from it. 15 years later a local government survey looking for new development sites stumbled across his garden built illegally on government land. Fortunately some official with foresight (I wonder if this would have happened if it were say Delhi or Bombay rather than a city designed by Le Corbusier and only built in the 50's) recognised the value of the garden and Chand was provided with 50 labourers and encouraged to keep working. The result is an ongoing project (he's in his 80's now) that is one of Punjabs biggest recycling centres and a Gaudi-esq Pan's Labrynth ish rock garden full of legions of parading water carriers/monkeys/dogs/chai wallahs with tea cups for hats,etc in amongst streams, ponds and water falls. 5000 visitors a day are testament to it's popularity and you can't help in someway to be awed by his achievement but I couldn't help wishing I'd been there when the survey discovered it all hidden and personal rather than the (contrived? (sorry Nek)) spectacle it's become.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009






Had a big crash on Monday in the car. A lorry pulled off the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway across two empty lanes straight into our path. Un avoidable collision. We are both physically fine but the car has suffered some damage and is un driveable. I can't go into too many details on hear for potential legal reasons, other than to say that Dobro Toyota in Hyderabad and particularly Mr Doshi have been the one outstanding organisation in this whole sorry episode. So thankyou to them. We are leaving the car with them and flying down to Kerala for a break on the beach. Hope to catch up in a better mood from there.