Hello, hello, is there anybody out there? Is there anyone reading this, because I certainly haven’t been writing it.
Since arriving in Kathmandu I sort of… Collapsed. It’s very easy to stay in the hostel, to go out and eat food and drink and be a lazy, lazy bum. Had to get the banana shipped, had to get it uncrated but that’s hard work that justifies the slack. That’s not what I’m meant to be here for. Wandering around a shopping mall buying a GoPro because I can. Eating god damn McDonald’s because it’s easy. Pffft.
I have been in Kuala Lumpur for the last ten days, for the first four I was ‘treating myself’ in a hotel, then I’ve been in a hostel for the last six, pretty much waiting for the mechanic to be done with my bike. It’s done today and I’m off to Penang. Hoping to get some mojo back.
Least it’s pretty…
Almost two weeks with no updates. My concentration span is shot so I’m not really taking pictures and I don’t have the patience to update this blog… Something I’ll have to work on. Some recaps are to come, but at the moment stringing words together is proving to be quite difficult.
In short, here’s what’s happened:
I like KL. It’s twinned with Gotham
I suppose this is the “proper” end of phase one. I’ve paid http://www.eagleexportcargo.com/ to ship the banana to Kuala Lumpur.
Stage one: Wash it. It was dirtier than the hard drive you keep in the back of the secret drawer. The one your girlfriend pretends to not know about, but inspires warm feelings in her for Dave at the office.
After this you get an escort to the cargo terminal of Kathmandu airport, where you need to crate it. The crate is made to the size of your bike by the exporter, in as close a fit as possible. This is because air shipments don’t really work on weight, they work on something called volumetric weight.
What this means, is that air freight parcels for a given size have a standard density applied to them, so for the size of my crate, the standardised weight was 391 KG, even though the actual weight of the bike and luggage was 325 KG. Annoying, because the banana is a tall, moderately wide, yet lightweight trails bike. Oh well.
Getting it into the crate requires a bit of disassembly. In my case this meant:
Then you go mental with a hammer and nails, wait half an hour for an agent to come back with your stamped carnet and you’re done.
Then you go to the pub and start freaking out about everything that can break in transit. Then four beers in you stop giving a shit.
And just about time. It’s all gone a bit Silent Hill.
Today I got up at 0500, which is military speak for “too bastard early” and headed five minutes down the road to the Taj Mahal. Everybody has told me that the best time to see it is at sunrise, when the colours of the breaking day light the white marble in tones of orange and gold and you bathe yourself in the warm glow of the love Shah Jahan had for Mumtaz.
So it was misty as fuck all morning, which led to this picture, which ended up on the front page of Reddit. Wheeeeeeeeee!
That’s me, on the Princess Diana bench contemplating just what has gone wrong. The answer is many things. All the things. TOO MANY OF THE THINGS. NOW I AM THINKING ABOUT THE THINGS.
See, here’s what I don’t get about the whole thing. Dude’s wife dies giving birth to their fourteenth daughter. For starters: JESUS CHRIST GET OFF HER AND LET HER DO SOME PILATES OR SOMETHING YOU MANIAC.
Additionally, he says he will never marry again. That’s all well and good… But he had three other wives and a harem stuffed to the gills with ladies who all feel like they’re not worth their skimpy veils.
“YOU LESSER LADIES. STEP UP YOUR GAME”
So I mean, yeah… He loved the woman a bunch, but it’s a pretty massive diss to the others.
Indian friend I’ve made said “See, really it means she’s the hottest”. THAT JUST MAKES IT WORSE. Now wife number three feels like ass because she hasn’t lost the baby weight from three kids ago and she’s got to pick up the slack now that missy over there has carked it.
She probably deserved a Mahal of her own for not straight up shanking his randy ass.
My favourite part of the story is the end. Shah Jahan wanted to build a second Mahal in black marble just over the way, but before he could start on it he was deposed by his son and put under house arrest until his death. Partially for being mental and spending all the treasury on a memorial to a chick he preferred to bang more than the other ladies he liked to bang and partially because the son was a bit of a prick.
Instead of giving him his own tomb, the old Shah was interred next to his favourite wife. Sounds fitting, right?
The whole point of the Taj Mahal is a perfectly symmetrical structure with Mumtaz at the centre. Whole thing is focussed on her. The Shah’s (bigger) sarcophagus is just to the side of hers, ruining the intended effect right at the very, very heart of it.
Now that is a huffy “fuck you, dad.”
I actually think it was pretty sweet I didn’t see it normally. Coz it looked fucking brutal in the mist.
And now in my head, Taj Mahal ist Krieg.
Sit nicely, get yourself a coffee mug of beer (licensing issues, don’t cha know) and let me tell you about my last couple of days.
Last update was some borderline sentimental crap about the lads. Well, they’re not here any more so it’s important to begin the business of solo tripping.
Short description: I rode from Mumbai via Nashik, onto Indore. Didn’t do anything in either of them. There are some nice buildings and that, but the places felt a bit same-same so sacked them off and headed from Indore to Agra in a single day.
It was 680km and I screwed up by eating lunch and smoking cigarettes, spending the last two hours riding in the dark, dodging black cows that just lie in the road, chilling their udders and that. Milky bastards.
I had some photos but my phone is throwing a shitfit and they’re corrupted, but trust me; riding about at night on Indian highways sucks something huge.
Anyway, I got to Agra and didn’t die.
This morning I was all set to go have a look at the Taj Mahal, but at breakfast everyone told me it’s really best to get up at retarded-o-clock and go for sunrise. “Eh”, says I, “unlikely I’m gonna be back here, let’s do this properly.”
So I’m a kilometre away from the Taj Mahal and have not, as yet, bothered to see it. Sod it. That’s tomorrow.
Today instead I took a bus outside of Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.
This is a small town with a massive old palace / fort and a huge mosque complex. The mosque complex is a replica of Mecca, which is a bit interesting as I’m never going to get to see the real one. Religious sites, (no matter how impressive) do not move me as much as they do others. Fact it was covered in hawkers and fake cripples detracted somewhat, too.
The palace is, to my eyes more interesting.
The story as I understand it is that at one point an sultan wanted a new capital, so he built this place. Then about fifteen years after it was finished the spring they got all the water from dried up and also, they kept getting rekt by a local sultanate. So he said fuck it and moved the capital back to Agra.
A different sultan used it for bits and bobs about thirty years later but for all intents and purposes it was disused until the British arrived and used it as a highly fortified gin store. Full of secret passages in which to hide more gin and some hookers and some backup lemons and spare whores. Guarded by cannons and soldiers and other militaria.
I don’t like gin so this seems like a bit much. Architecture is pretty sweet though.
I bothered to clean and lube my chain for the first time since I left Goa. The new sprocket is already grinding the teeth a tiny bit so I ran it in first on the centre stand and the thing is bouncing like a fucked up rubber band, even though it looks like it’s at the right tension.
I think that there are now enough tight links that when it’s not moving it seems less slack than it is, but when it’s moving they all loosen up a bit so it becomes ever so slightly too long. I’ll put a quarter turn on it tomorrow and that should sort it out.
Taj Mahal in about six hours. I kind of expect to be underwhelmed, but I’m willing to be proven wrong, it’s always nice when you think something everyone wants (like your mum) turns out to be worth the hype (unlike your mum.)
For the last three months or so, every night has had a little ritual. Whatever we’ve been able to get our hands on is pressed into service and we made a small toast:
Last night was the last one.
They guys are going home, so we’re never going to get the opportunity to say “somebody died”.
Safe journey guys. Love yer to bits.
*It comes from this:
Tonight is the guys last night. I’ve shot from Goa like a bat out of hell and am back in Mumbai to get a final dinner and wave them off. Going to try and get a Yamaha mechanic who can work on watercooled bikes to replace my temperature sensor and finally get the fan working automatically.
This is almost like the beginning of a new, solo, trip, so I’m starting to do the hostel thing. Last night and the night before I was in Pune.
Met an Iraqi dude. He was convinced he could eat this thing.
He could not. Hostels are good.
Well, I’m still alive…
That was last night on Vagator beach. It’s the international bike show. It was pretty OK. I won a hat on the wheelie bike, but then I went back to it five minutes later and the chain was busted, which I think I may have done.
There was another bike show last week that was Royal Enfield specific but I didn’t go to it at all. I’m not a huge fan of Enfields. They’re not the bikes I dreamed of when I was a kid and as an adult they just seem a bit lacking compared to those available nowadays.
I might be wrong though. I’m wrong about a lot of things a lot of the time.
Yesterday was also a RED-ASS-LETTER-DAY as a big box of parts for the banana turned up, posted to me from England by my friend Rue (LOVE YOU BOO.)
These parts pretty much all came from https://www.off-the-road.de who are utterly amazing for anything adventure-y and Yamaha-y. Go to them for all your XT needs.
They sourced a bunch of parts not listed on their website for me and the prices were really reasonable.
Stuff what I got:
The rear sprocket. Dear God, the rear sprocket…
We can charitably call that a bit ruined, I reckon.
It’s an alloy one and while it’s been out through the ringer more than just a little bit I wasn’t expecting this kind of wear. Properly mangled, it is.
So this morning Big and Little Chris instructed me in the arts of removing wheels, replacing sprockets, replacing brake pads and being a god. damned. man. Which I then ruined by refusing to let them change the sensor out for the new one.
It’s a simple job. I know it’s a simple job, a bit fiddly but ‘eh’. I’d rather not mess about with it. Probably a tank off job because of where it is and I’d like it to be torqued properly as it’s inside the water jacket. Big Chris thinks I am a wimp and he is correct.
Part of this is a corporate mindset I’ve not been able to shake. I don’t mind paying for something if it means I can blame them if it goes wrong. This is the wrong way of thinking when travelling. It’s much better to do it properly, yourself. I don’t trust myself yet, though…
Tonight I may be going to the afterparty for the bike show, except I appear to have twisted a muscle or something in my lower back. Probably from lifting wheels off and bending over with spanners all morning.
So, I will rest up the rest of the day then make sure I drink enough booze that I can’t feel it anymore and also so I can’t feel feelings in general because they are lame and stop you from going full Viking and destroying everything and setting fire to the rubble, sailing away carrying their livestock and singing sweet Viking songs.