India Himalaya 2004
Dirty Gerty at Number 30

Dirty Gerty at number 30


Episode 1 Dirty Gerty at number 30

All is well in Manali. Driving towards Leh/Ladakh tomorrow/Thur. Hope to get there by Saturday. Am giving Indian woman a lift (friend of Delhi internet acquaintance... before you think any smutty stuff, she ain't my style. Style you ask? Since when did you ever have style Mr. Bright?). Am regretting giving offer. She has some bloke (brother/boyfriend/cousin??? who knows?) in tow, who is now riding part way too. Such a wet drip. Tell me if it is normal for somebody to eat off your plate, especially when you haven't offered it? Hope to make it to Leh, so I can lose her (and him... luckily he only has the holiday to go part way). Then again, if they annoy me any more, we can each go our separate ways before that.


Touchwood, the bike (2003 Enfield 500cc) is going well. Had to run in a new piston and rings. Rode 300 km in a straight line (great trunk road) from Delhi to Chandighr. Hot and straight and smooth, all at 50 km/h! Up here in the hills it's cooler, which is great. Drivers are still as insane as ever. The name of the bike is Gertrude (or should it be Gertrud? or Gerty, as in Dirty Gerty from number 30?)

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Episode 2 Happy Birthday Dalai


Today 6th July is His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, Spiritual Leader of Tibet's Birthday. All the Very Best to you Sir.

Anyway, sorry about yet another groupie mail. Arrived in Leh a couple of days ago and apart from a minor dose of food poisoning (ideal from me shrinking my fat a*se, hey Tini... what was that bet? 2 pound a pound?) on the night I arrived, all is cool with me and Gerty. Forgot to mention Norman in the last mail. He's here too and enjoying the views.

Ref my last tribulations with the Indian bird and her, as it turns out boyfriend (allegedly a Major in the Army... Anyone fancy invading India??? If all the soldiers are like him, there won't be much resistance...), well I've dumped both of them. And feel a great deal better for it too.

On day 2 of the Manali-Leh trip the two of them even have a domestic, because moron-man/mouse thinks I'm going to run off with his bird... Great... remember, I'd never met them before. They're friends of an (now to be ex-) acquaintance... why should I deal with this BS from some complete strangers? Anyway, part one is accomplished. He is dumped.


The bike was in mid air

Then, after a hard day's ride (woof woof, sorry, had to say it), she also develops a 'migraine' and the next day (the final push to Leh) ends up in a jeep. Good riddance. The bike behaves much better without the deadweight on the back and with the luggage somewhere above the back axle, rather than flopping around 3 feet behind it. The views again were absolutely and totally stunning.

Also manage to get round a huge traffic jam caused by a truck falling over on the single-track road. Took the luggage off the bike and just squeezed the bike round the edge of the truck. The bike wheels were just about touching the gravel on the edge of the 100-foot drop. The rest of the bike was in mid air. No I wasn't riding it! (Although I could have been, had I wanted to; it's just that I didn't, so there). About 8 people were holding onto the truck with one hand and onto the bike with the other as we wheeled it round the obstruction. The rest of the traffic had to wait for an army crane to winch the obstacle clear. That took them a further 3 hours.


The bike ran fine all the way (Brighty's touching big wooden desk). Paul, remember last year's stunts? It went up and over the 5300 meter Tanglang La in 2nd and 3rd gear! Without said offending extra load.

Leh is full. Of tourists. Of Israelis. Of Enfield Bullets (I estimate there must be about 100 of them in town)... have rechecked out the usual haunts. Assuming my man comes through with the Inner-Line-Permit (which you need 'cos you're so close to the Chinese/Tibet border), I'm off over the Tanglang La (allegedly the highest motorable road... 5600 meters) to the Nubra Valley tomorrow. After a couple of days the jolly continues to Pangong Tso, a rather stunning Lake that Paul and I got half-way to, before one of our bikes expired. I'll have a chai with the boys at the checkpoint for you Paul ;)

Also met some Indian chaps on Bullets from the group. Check their site Great people.

Talk to you again soon.
Gertrud, Norm and TBS

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Episode 3 DonkeyDonkey


Just got back from the mechanic. The bloke had the gall to tell me to wash my bike before he would work on it! This from a grease monkey who is black from grime and dirt. He works in a black greasy workshop, there is dirt everywhere and when it's not raining he is messing about in the dirt outside... So there you go. The bike wasn't even broken down. Just required a quick tune up. Touchwood, with a seeing to every 500km, Gertrude runs ok.


In the past 7 days, Normo and me travelled to Pangong Lake and the Nubra Valley. Before setting off to these 2 wonderful locations, I hadn't been sure if retracing my footsteps (or rather tyre tracks) was such a good idea. (You recall I was up here last year.) Well, I have to say having seen the wonderful (because Bekkkkkham uses 'amazing', I this is now a verboten adjective in my vocabulary) Pangong Lake; I'm hooked on Ladakh. The only thing I found slightly disconcerting was the daddy donkey and the mummy donkey that decided it was appropriate to partake in jiggy jiggy on the edge of the lake while I was deep in contemplation. The noise was as shocking as heard one night in early 1990 at Aston University, Vauxhall Court, Flat 17. I don't recall... was that you Dave (in the room to the left of me), or you Ben (in the room to the right of me)?

The ride there was with an Indian chap making a documentary on a local tribe of nomads (an oxymoron?). I ended up being filmed too. So look forward to the new movie: 'Bright of the Himalayas'. Various clips can be viewed via the India Overview Page. Out soon in a Bollywood Palace near you.


Monk with the big seashell horn that called the novices to prayer

Got back from the Nubra Valley yesterday. Coming back over the Khardung La Pass (the highest motorable road - at 5600 m: that's what the sign said), it rained, then it snowed, then it snowed even more. Great fun, couldn't see pooh; mud and icy water everywhere. But made it, with Gerty not missing a beat. The Nubra Valley itself was very mellow, with sand dune, camels, monasteries and snowy peaks all in the same view... the monks at Diskit Monastery were all v friendly and funky. Especially the monk with the big seashell horn that called the novices to prayer at 6.30am every morning. They then had to sing prayers in order to be let into the monastery.

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A final mention should go to the BRO. The Border Roads Organisation. These are the people who build and maintain the roads up here. Seriously, well done boys (and girls). They do an excellent job. IMHO they do a much better than the nutters working between Jtn 13 and 10 on the M25.


That's enough droning on. Off towards Kargil tomorrow. Then into the Zanskar Valley for a few days before transiting Srinagar, Jammu and Patankot to Dharamsala and an audience with the Dalai Lama, although I believe he'll be in Costa Rica (Migs, pass him my regards if YOU get to see him) in August.

Will try to stay in the north as long as possible. Hope to do a Buddhist thing in Dharamsala, visit Gangotrie etc. Will prob swing by Rajastan too.

Episode 4 Bright Gushes Fourth: The Juice


I recall you were last enlightened from Leh in Ladakh, in the far north of India. Since then Gerty, Norm et moi have viajed to Kargil, the Zanskar Valley, Srinagar, nearly to Jammu, Daramsala/Mcleod Ganj, twice over the Jalori La pass, back again to Manali and then down the great Trunk Road back to Delhi.

Gerty ran and ran and ran, through snowstorms over 5600 m passes, through 35 degree + heat across the plains. Without problems. Not bad for an Enfield. 4500 km in a month without a hiccup. When the website is finally up you'll be able to see a running, non broken down Enfield, next to a BMW F650 on the side of the road being worked on by it's owner, Vijay Parmar of Shimla, HP. Oh how I tittered to myself at the sight.

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What about farting? Maybe silently...

Dropped the bike off in Karol Bagh, the bike area of Delhi, yesterday and got my deposit back, no worries. Will take a bus back to Daramsala, the home of the Dalai Lama to take do a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. Will I be able to shut up for 10 hours a day, for 10 days? Probably, but with great difficulty. What about farting? Maybe silently...

The road from Leh to Kargil was very pleasant. I had some sort of expectation that it would be long boring and straight. Not at all. Kargil in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, however must rate as one of, if not the, armpit of the planet. And such pleasant (not) people. Next time the Pakistanis shell the place, maybe they can be a little more accurate. If the Kashmiris started again from scratch, they might make a better effort second time round.

The Zanskar Valley was very pretty, but should be renamed 'One Pen Valley' in line with the hoards of nasty Kashmiri kids sprinting to the road, the minute they see you or hear the pitch of the BuddhaBuddha Enfield exhaust and waving their index fingers demanding a pen. I tried to refrain, but once or twice I succumbed to the temptation of gesturing at them with a finger, but the one next to the index finger (not the thumb...)

Srinagar deserves not to be visited. 3 reasons:


1. The road there from Jammu. Indian drivers are certifiably the worst in the world: Much worse than anything Peru, Brazil, USA or Kenya has to offer. But the Jammu to Srinagar road tops it. I gave up counting the time I'm coming down a hill round a corner and imagine my surprise to have 2 big buses or trucks next to each other coming towards me. There's a cliff up one side and a hundreds of feet drop on the other. Stopping doesn't help. One bus/truck will still run into you, as the road ain't too wide.

2. The people: a combination of the worst of Egyptians, Ethiopians and Malawians.

3. There are soldiers with guns everywhere. Sandbags, gun emplacements even outside my hotel. While driving about 50km south of Srinagar, there's a traffic jam. I ask a couple of blokes in a bus what's happened. The reply: "There has been an encounter." I tried to correct his English with the clarification of "encounter" meaning "accident"!. "What, you mean a collision? 2 trucks have collided?" He doesn't concur. He says the army have just shot dead a militant, next to the road. Fine, I said and legged it for the next 150km without stopping and avoiding eye contact with anybody on the side of the road.

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James Bondesque

The bike was green and black. When I gave it back in Delhi it was green, black and orange across the front. While driving up to Daramsala there were a truck and a minibus ahead of me. As I pull out to overtake the minibus, this bus decides he is overtaking the truck. I end up in the dirt on the wrong side of the road. No problem really, except there are two big baskets of oranges that somebody is selling to passing motorists. Or rather "was selling". I'm sure it was quite spectacular for a spectator to see the oranges flying everywhere. A bit James Bondesque I believe. I was concentrating on not falling off... Afraid I didn't stop to admire my handiwork either.

In Daramsala, the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile a chap talks to me over dinner. Can I teach him English? After hearing his story, I agree. He's a refugee in his early 20s, escaped from Tibet in 2000 by walking for 40 something days over the mountains to Nepal. A former monk who has give up his monkdom because be "likes smoking, beer and women". Seems like good enough reasons to me to give up the cloth.

I had the honour of seeing His Holiness, the Dalai Lama as he walked into a Monastery to give a talk. As his entourage arrived, everyone was struggling to catch a glimpse of him. I first recognised his distinct laugh. The talk itself was in Tibetan, with translations into English and Mandarin. I'd have to say, to me and not being disrespectful, his Tibetan sounded very similar to the alleged Spanish spoken by Julio Geordio the footballer in the Harry Enfield and Chums sketch, except that there were no "Why ey mannn" nor "I headed it into the top corner" comments.


The Jalori La pass, although only at 3200 meters was very steep up and down. On the way down the Gerty's handing change somewhat. The brakes got so hot they failed. I was driving with a French chap on a Yamaha TTR600 and with Vijay, on his Beemer. Hopefully I can get his video of steam rising 6 feet into the air as I poured water on the outside of the Gerty's brake drums.

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Episode 5 My soul is beyond saving.


Not much to report here. Dropped out of the meditation lark after less than 24 hours. Clearly my soul is beyond saving. My a*se hut too much sitting in the lotus position.

Headed south on the train. Read lots of books. In Goa there were storms all week. I won the Mr Wet T-shirt competition after riding a scooter in the rain for 2 hours.

Went to Hampi and enjoyed the banana and chocolate lassis at the Mango Tree restaurant. The rubble was ok too, including some really rude frescos, which considering the Hindus are so prudish about showing flesh shocked my sensibilities a little.


Am now in Mysore, which is giving me a sore somewhere on my anatomy (sorry, poor pun). Will make a quick visit to Kerala and take a boat somewhere.

I miss the biking. It's great for many reasons including that you can choose which locals you talk to, rather than having every nerd, freak, beggar, wierdo rickshaw wallah, hotel tout etc talking at you. C'est la vie.

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