Down in India … again

Re-entering India from Nepal was an easy border crossing. We even could exchange our Nepalese rupees for Indian rupees with an Italian cycler who went back to Nepal. We had all of the paperwork done and then the customs officer of India told us that he wanted to inspect our motorcycles. But our motorcycles where 200m away, so we had to get them first, because he wasn’t going to walk. The inspection turned out to be very easy as well, because he didn’t want to check the luggage or frame numbers, he only wanted to see our motorbikes with his own eyes. After some smalltalk we went for a homestay in the neighborhood of Kurseong. But the homestay we wanted didn’t exist (anymore), so we had to ride for another hour to the next homestay, which did exist and had room for us. They even cooked us a nice dinner. 

In Kurseong we walked to town to see the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as “toy train” (Unesco heritage). Built by the British in 1881. It still runs once a day with a steam locomotive. On the way back we walked through some tea fields, after all we are close to Darjeeling. 

When we left Kurseong we were given a scarf to wish us a safe trip. We wanted to drink a nice cup of Darjeeling tea in Darjeeling with a nice view on the mountains. But is was a cold and cloudy day and Darjeeling was a very busy town. So we skipped the tea drinking part and went to the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre. Tibetan refugees, who escaped from Tibet when following the Dalai Lama in 1959, are producing Tibetan handicraft.
Afterwards we cleaned our motorbikes on the side of the road. For free of course.

We also wanted to go to Sikkim, but the road we had chosen was not allowed for foreigners, so we had to do a big detour or we could return to Darjeeling. We chose to go to Darjeeling and spoiled ourselves with a luxury hotel (thanks Miranda). Nice unlimited hot shower, comfortable bed and excellent dinner. And of course a safe parking inside the emergency exit for the motorbikes.

The next day was going to be a day with obstacles. We faced a lot of emergency bridges, while the original ones were gone or damaged. In a town there was a national strike, blocking the entire road. So we decided to take a little detour. Turned out that the detour was possible, but the railroad crossing was not yet there. So we had to cross the railroad ourselves with some help of the locals. At the end of the day we looked for a hotel, but nowhere to find one. So we had to ride 100km in the dark to the next big town and on the way we were just able to ride past a tilted truck. 

The hotel was okay and we spent a few days here to do laundry and to clean our airfilters.

We wanted to stay an extra night in the hotel and asked if that was possible. It was, but we had to change to another room, which had no air conditioning. No problem, because we don’t use the AC anyway. But we didn’t check the bathroom. Appeared that the geyser used to be there, but not anymore. No hot shower tonight.

Today we found a tire workshop with the right size for our front wheel. Unfortunately only 1 tire. My tire was more worn out than Daniëlles tire, so we changed mine. We continued our trip through the jungle and the road was good and we were having a good time cruising through the jungle. But then fate struck me again. I had to ride aside for an opposite car. Probably a bit too far to the side. My new tire was on the edge of the asphalt and within a split second I was under my motorbike again. And of course on my right knee. The same knee like a couple of weeks ago. And it happened so fast that Daniëlle dodged, but also scratched my helmet with her front tire. My knee immediately hurt. It was still recovering from the first accident and now again I had a motorbike on my knee. But despite the fall, I was lucky again. Apparently I almost rode as fast as my guardian angel could fly. The guy from the car stopped and offered to take me to a nearby hospital. It did hurt more than the previous time, so I agreed. Only a 2 minute drive to the hospital. There they examined my knee, but no broken bones. Just heavily bruised. They cleaned my abrasions and offered an injection for the pain, but I could also take some painkillers instead. I chose the painkillers. And when I wanted to pay, it appeared to be a government hospital, so I didn’t have to pay anything. Not even for the painkillers.

The guy brought me back to my motor and I thanked him for all of his help.

The motorbike was a bit damaged, but was still good enough to ride. See the pictures below how my motorbike looks right now. During the accident the rim of my front wheel scratched the edge of the asphalt and as a result we saw some small pieces of rock between the rim and the tire. We stopped at the first tire workshop and deflated the tire, removed the small pieces of rock and inflated the tire again.

After that we still had to ride 200km to the next hotel. We arrived in the dark, but at least there was a hotel (only one) and we still could have dinner at a small restaurant nearby.

It is already December 24 and we want to celebrate Christmas in Mawlynnong, the cleanest town of Asia. Along the way we saw a lot of processions, because in this part of India most of the people are christians. Every procession had its own santa claus with a white plastic mask. Once we arrived in Mawlynnong, it took us some time to find the homestay we booked in advance. Not handy to change the name of your homestay, but with some local help we found it within 15 minutes.

When we were installed, we walked around the village and saw a lot of churches. A lot of people were decorating the churches and we asked a guy in a church if there would be a ceremony at christmas eve. He told us that we could go to the midnight mass, which we did. And then we found out that we had been talking to the pastor in the afternoon.

The midnight mass was in Hindi, but at least we could recognize some of the melodies. Afterwards we walked through the village with a candle in our hand and the community singing songs. And after the village walk everybody got milktea and cookies. Very nice experience. On Christmas day we slept late. We walked to a viewpoint where we could see Bangladesh, only a few kilometers away. We had our Christmas dinner in the village, but the only choice we had was veg or non-veg. Not a fancy christmas dinner this year.

Late in the evening we heard some singing and thought it would be another ceremony. But hell did we know that there was a Christmas party that lasted all night, unfortunately with a singer who sang out of tune.

On Boxing Day we walked to a living root bridge nearby. A lot of tourists, but nice to see how the locals built a bridge out of livings roots from a tree.

We left Mawlynnong and rode along the border of Bangladesh. We saw a nice waterfall and  met a group of Bangladesh guys. Later that day (9pm) we ended up in Silchar, a big town. We could even have dinner at 9:30pm. 

Next day Daniëlle saw some wet stain on her front rim. Usually it is dog pee, but not this time. Turned out that the oilseals of the front suspension started leaking. And only 4 km from the hotel we found a KTM dealer, who happened to have the oilseals that we needed. Within 2 hours the oilseals were changed and we were good to go again.

On the way to Dharmanagar we stopped at Unakoti, a place of worship with huge rock-carved figures and stone images celebrating Shiva. And we are the only foreign tourists here, so it felt that we were the tourist attraction. Anyway impressive to see so many rock-carved figures.

We wanted to celebrate new year in Aizawl. We talked to our host in Aizawl and she told us that fireworks are not allowed anymore, because of the noise. People with bad hearts could die from it, she said. Really, do these people never go on the street with all the noise? 

It wasn’t the best new years celebration we had. The host of our homestay already passed out at 9pm and we didn’t want babysit the children, so we went to our room where we had a view over the entire city. At midnight and we popped a bottle of non-alcoholic bubbles for a festive touch and after a half hour of fireworks it was quiet again. We did see a lot of wish balloons, but they don’t make a lot of noise.

We left Aizawl in the rain and it kept raining the whole day. After 120km we were wet and tired and stopped at a restaurant with some rooms. We could park our motorbike inside, but had to ride up a little slope. Unfortunately, Daniëlle lost her balance, couldn’t keep the motor upright because her wet shoe slipped. The motorbike fell and the windscreen was shattered. Daniëlle was okay.

The next day was dry again, but we only rode a short trip of 65km, because the next hotel would have been an extra 200km away. Too much for these roads. We ended up in Ngopa. Very friendly people here and very curious about the tourists. We walked through town to get some cash from an ATM and on the way we saw a haircutting saloon. We only payed € 1,20 for the both of us. The next day we stayed in Ngopa, because it was raining again. We still had some time before we needed to go to the India-Myanmar-border crossing.

The last stop in India was just 2km before the border crossing. Very convenient, because we wanted to be at border at 8am, where we would meet our Myanmar guide and a German couple who will be our travel companions for 6 days during the Myanmar crossing.

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