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varkala

hey what’s up it’s eric!  well, everybody else has gone home, so i figure i’d post a hey whats up from the beach cliff paradise of varkala.  i’ve been by myself for a week or so now,  ryan geoff and maia made it to cochin where we’re storing our bikes and then flew back to mumbai.  i’ve been in varkala for a week just chilling out and hanging with the other tourists.  it’s been awesome.  i got sort of stuck here cause my bike cracked the inner transmission cover, and parts had to be ordered in from another city.  pretty good place to hang our for a few days though.  i picked up a black enfield 350 bullet in goa that’s run great so far, but this tranny problem needed to be fixed sooner than later, so here i’ve stayed.

so everybody else is back home safe and sound!  we lost jeremy in goa due to the combination of some wretched illness and a pretty cramped schedule if we were going to make it to cochin in time for his flight.  then the four of us, three bikes, rode south to cochin where the bikes were to be stored.  i’ve never driven in this traffic before and i gotta say the first couple days were crazy!  i can’t even begin to write about the traffic at this time because my mother might be reading this.  once you get the hang of it though it’s a riot.  it got fun on about day three, and we pretty much hauled ass from goa to cochin, five days of riding pretty much all day.

we made it to cochin with a day to spare, and then the others flew to mumbai and i headed south.   that was the plan anyway, but come to find out the bikes actually were to be stored about an hour inland of cochin in this little town called ponkonom.  well by the time we found that out, flights had been booked, and i was commissioned with the dubious task of hauling geoff and ryan’s bike plus mine to where they’re to be stored. 

 we got our hotel in cochin to arrange for a “truck”, but agreed to meet a couple km outside the main hotel center with the bikes, so we could avoid paying the tourist area markup which would have doubled or tripled the price.   stuff like this happens all the time, things that you’d never think of running into in the states.  tasks that i’m used to taking a few minutes can take hours or days.  anything, as they say, is possible in india, but there are sure no guarentees on how long it will take.

so our guy shows up and we shuttle the first two bikes over to some neighborhood a few minutes away.  then this “truck” shows up and it’s this little three wheeled glorified rickshaw, and i’m like oh crap.

our enfields are not what an india person might call “normal”.  we all have enfield 350 rockets, which are big heavy bikes by indian standards to begin with.  plus we have “india bars”, these large steel grills that protect your feet and legs and engine in the event of hitting a cow, goat, rickshaw, cement divider, or any one of the many other random obsticles that can rush out from behind something at any moment.  like ryan says, it’s like a game of paperboy.  the grills are essential, but they stick out off the bike another 20 cm on each side.  geoff’s has a big rack and box mounted on the back for storing massive ammounts of his and maia’s stuff.  it’s a really cool setup.  and geoff and ryan have massive oversized petrol tanks.   it’s a lot of bike.  anyway, long story short we get two of them on the truck and then decide to ride mine behind.  we got the bikes over to ponkonom where one of ryan’s extended family has a house and agreed to let us store them.  they greeted me with a fresh coconut pulp and milk drink and some tang (yes geoff they even have hot ponkonom tang), put me up, fed me supper and breakfast and agreed to let me drop off my bike on my way back to mumbai.

so with that taken care of i cruised down to varkala and have been here ever since, just sitting around chilling out reading and eating fresh fish, tali plates, fruit drinks and the like.  varkala has a beach and then this huge rock cliff covered with shops and beach resorts.  apparently during the season it’s quite busy but with monsoon coming things have emptied out a bit, prices drop, humidity rises, and we get these amazing cloudy sunsets and lightening storms in the evening.   the rain hasn’t hit yet but i’m hoping to catch it before i leave and then flee on my bike lest i be washed away.

i’m reading god of small things.  it’s an indian author and come to find out it’s set here in the state of kerala, in a town called kotoyam just a jog north of here.

well, that’s the news.  heading north tomorrow to see some tigers in a wildlife preserve.  met an english bloke who’s hiring a bike and we’re going to make the trek hopefully in the morning, we’ll see how tonight goes.  catch you later!

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Palolem Beach

We made it to the beach last night and it is so nice here. The cool beach breezes are helping our spirits immensely. Over the last couple of days all three of our cohorts have gotten sick. Maia and Eric had stomach problems, and Jeremy has some kind of upper respitory infection. We got the A/C room so that Jeremy and Eric would start feeling better. We got Jeremy on Cipro and his fever is dropping, so that’s a good thing.  Eric sharted himself today. I had trouble not laughing. I told him all my poop stories to help ease his pain.

The ocean is beautiful and the beach reminds me of Zipolite, Mexico, but smaller and no large hotels, just beach huts. Its the end of the season, so half of everything is closed, but there are a bunch of westerners here. We’re not really meeting too many people cause we’re in a group, but I think we’ll probably make more of an effort after we’ve relaxed a bit more.

We found a bike for Jeremy today, and I think Eric will rent one. Its a Royal Enfield Machismo and will do fine, so we’ll start heading down the coast in the morning. We won’t hit the mountains for a couple of days, but that will be a cool relief from the heat, which is easily over 100 degrees each day.

We went body surfing this afternoon. Jeremy and Geoff rented boogie boards and we rode around for quite a while. I got a little bit sun burned, but thank god for SolarCaine. We’re using SPF 50, but I’ve got to slather it on every 30 minutes or so to avoid burning. Being this close to the equator must be the problem.

We’re staying at the Palolem Beach Resort, which is the same place I stayed at last time we were here, but they’ve added a bunch more rooms. Luckily everything still looks the same, which is amazing since last time I was in here was in 2000. When I was here then we hit a similar beach at the southern tip of India, a place called Kovalam and it used to be quaint. Now its booming with hundreds of five story hotels, three deep in all directions. Thanks a lot, Lonely Planet.

It sounds like Eric might go rescue “Red Rocket” our third Enfield up in Diu. He’s got a couple more weeks after we leave and it would be a fun adventure. Check out the google map that I’ve created that shows exactly where we are. If you zoom all the way in, you can almost see us on the beach 🙂

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?q=&ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&om=1&msa=0&msid=113333706218539593144.00000112668696acac148&ll=18.521283,75.893555&spn=9.46958,13.64502&z=6

Pune to Goa

8 May, 2007
Ryan and I got pulled over today at a “random” stop location at an intersection in Pune. First the officer asked for our licence, and when I gladly pulled out my International Drivers Licence from AAA, he asked for the bikes’ papers. When we produced these with no problem, he finally asked for something that we didn’t have (or need, so we later found out), so he told us it would be a Rs. 1000 fine. I told him I would pay him Rs. 100, but nothing more. He was a bit shocked to have someone talk back like that, and I think it threw him. I knew there was something wrong though. He again told me 1000, but I told him I wasn’t going to give him anything more than 100. He finally accepted 500 and went on his way. When I asked for a receipt of the ticket he had just written, he told me that I didn’t get one, and that the copy (he had a piece of carbon paper under the top sheet) was for court. Yeah, right…
Shortly after that Ryan and I took the bikes down to the train station to pack them up for the train. It took about 4 hours and a little more greasing of the palms to get that done. We had to pay a policeman there to sign a paper stating that we have insurance on the bikes – again, a first for us…
Overnight on a hot second-class sleeper train to Goa, and we are here. We rode the bikes with the others in a taxi (we are going to buy bikes for the other guys here in Goa) for an hour from the train station in Vaso Da Gaya to Palolem, a sleepy little comunity on a lonely crescent of beach in Southern Goa. Goa is notable for it’s distinct flavor of architecture and food. The Portuguese only recently submitted Goa back to Indian rule. It was originally taken in hopes of controlling some of the spice trade through India. There are many cathedrals and buildings that are typically Portuguese, and many of the locals speak Portuguese better than Hindi!
We have made it to paradise, and are enjoying it already. We have already dunked our heads in the Arabian Sea and body-surfed the waves. We even think we saw some dolphins a little further out, but we didn’t swim out to investigate.
More to come as we trek further down India’s western coast…

Reunited

We have many pictures for you all and I hope we have a chance to put some of them here for you to see.  If not, we will have “Indian Night” at our house very soon – Indian cuisine followed by an animated tour of our slideshow.  Only text from me in the meantime:

We all met up in Mumbai on the first day and made it to Pune the next day.  We have been here for two days now.  We are expecting to leave for Goa tomorrow.  Goa is a small state in India, approximately the size of Los Angeles including all of its suburbs.  We will put the two Bulls on the train and move south.

Two days ago Ryan and I were reunited with our Bulls.  (the local popular slang for a Bullet is “Bull”)  We have spent the last couple of days polishing up not only the bikes, but our riding skills.  This is a very difficult place to navigate.  Not only does one have to worry about bike and possibly rider, but traffic.  There are rules to riding the streets of India, and they are NOTHING like the rules we have in Portland, Oregon, or anywhere else in the United States!  For instance, if there is an barrier in the middle of the street, and you want to go the direction of the traffic on the other side of the barrier, it is okay to go opposing traffic until a break in the barrier is seen, at which point the rider finds a suitable lull in the opposing traffic and makes a dash for the hole in the barrier.  Once there, the rider will rev up and hope to fit into normal traffic flow.  Phew!!

We really are having a ton of fun though.  It is very hot – approaching 40 degrees celsius.  We are drinking a lot of water.  Maia is not feeling very well today.  She was up in the middle of the night running back and forth to the toilet.  Everyone felt very bad for her.  She is being pampered appropriately today.

On the cuisine front, I would highly recommend the Garfunkel Special for 45 Indian Rupees (about $1.05) at the Shiv Sagar vegetarian restaurant, Pune.  A luxurious combination of green and white ice cream (I couldn’t distinguish a difference in flavor, only in color and texture – the green had chunks of nuts in it) surrounded by banana slices and topped with dried fruit.  The final topping is what really gives it that Garfunkel flair though:  edible silver papery stuff!  Yes, that’s right, you can eat the silver film on top!  I hope someone got a picture of it.  It may be some time before I am deserving of such a decadent treat again.

And We’re Off

Who hoooooooooooo!  The last meeting of the minds occurred at 8:30 PM at Geoff’s house.  Ryan was notably absent; last minute packing and India time already in his veins…

 Geoff left Portland this morning early and arrives in Newark at 4 PM.  I leave at noon arriving at 10 PM and Eric catches up at midnight.  Then we all catch the 8 AM flight to Mumbai the next morning, with a few pit-stops in Manhattan for Manhattan’s.  Jeremy Korb is flying fairly directly, with a layover in Switzerland and will arrive in Mumbai Friday night around 10 PM.  Being that Maia has been in Malaysia, she will beat us there by four hours.  That makes us a gang of five.  Geoff and I were a bit nervous when we talked about it yesterday.  This will be the first time we’ve taken a group to India.  We believe we’ve got all the right plans figured out; hoping to swoop them off to Pune before they get too much culture shock.  Two weeks isn’t long for at trip like this and my first two times to India I had culture shock for two weeks, so we’ve got to eliminate that or accelerate it.  At least this group of guinea pigs are well seasoned travelers, so our experiment will should go fairly well…

Indian Navigation

Indian navigation is a little different than it is here.  OK, well its a lot different.  First off, you’re going to have to get used to the fact that your clutch and rear brake pedals are switched.  That takes a couple of days to get used to.  I get used to it by just riding my brake until I remember that its the brake.  Kind of tough.

The other side of navigation in India, is just getting used to sharing the road.  Here we have a big campaign about sharing the road with motorcycles, but in India, we share the road with people, animals of all kinds, bicycles, scooters, moto-rickshaws, man powered rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, three-wheeled massive converted Enfields that look like they are straight out of Mad Max movies and more.  Its much like a three ringed circus.

Thats not even to mention the road itself.  Its funny, because here we might have say 4 or 5 lanes in typical freeways, but in India a road has as many lanes as vehicles can fit in any given road.  This might mean, there’s just enough room for your bike to squeeze by the bull lying between the tightly packed city walls, or it might mean that you can pull around to the outside of the bus so that you can beat him off the line for poll position.

One thing for sure; we’ll be riding in a pack and blocking for each other to make sure no one gets left behind.  Who hooooooooooo  Indian Adventure 2007  Here we come!

Southern India 2007

Okay, I have finally made it here to post a bit. I have never been this far south in India, so I am looking forward to new frontiers, food, scenery, etc. I am also really excited to be back united with my bike, “Sarge”. We have seen much together!

We are also pleased to have another member on our crew this trip. Jeremy Korb, a friend and fellow Portland moto-rider will be with us. We love bringing people new to India and showing them the splendors and rich culture of the place. My brother and good friend Ben Poh were the last groupies, and we had a blast with them.

The plan this trip is to make it to the very southernmost tip of the country where the oceans all meet up. We will be riding along the western coast for most of the trip hanging out on the beaches, sleeping under the palm trees (fending off the mosquitos). I always say this – and usually I am right – this has the potential for being the best trip yet!

WoooooHooooo!!