Trip statistics

in Journey to Dakar by on September 20th, 2010

Distance: 12,269km

Time: 1 month 22 days (including 10 days waiting for our bike’s custom clearance in Delhi)

Countries: 13 (India, Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany!)

Potholes: countless!

Mountain passes: 9 (highest was Khardungla Pass 5,604m)

Flat tires: Front tire – 3 (60km before Khiva, leaving Budapest and entering Vienna); Back tire – 1 (Gulmet along the KKH); Enfield – 1 (in Bilaspur)

Broken bike cables: Enfield throttle cable – 2 (near Bilaspur and near Pang)

Bike rack welding: 3 times (near Pang in India, Islamabad and Besham in Pakistan)

Incidents of crime: Major – thankfully none!; Minor – theft of MJo’s riding gloves by workshop assistant in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan

Injuries: Major – thankfully none!; Minor: Sabby’s sprained ankle in Khiva, Uzbekistan

Photos: over 3,000 (and that’s not counting the roughly 5,000 we deleted!)

Most distance covered in a day: 860km (Kungrad => Beynau => Atyrau)

Longest day on the road: 15 hours (from Khorog to Dushanbe in Tajikistan)

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What a difference a month makes

in Journey to Dakar by on August 25th, 2010

25 Jul 2010 in Besham, Pakistan


25 Aug 2010 in Bad Mitterndorf, Austria

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Foodie post!

in Journey to Dakar by on August 18th, 2010

As Sabby’s friends will attest, she is a HUGE foodie and she will travel for food.  Unfortunately, this trip has not been one of those foodie adventures.  Nonetheless, we have still managed to sample some of the local goodies, so this is a foodie post especially for Sabby.

The food in Central Asia was broadly similar across Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.  Not to mention a common love for dill, which Sabby does not like and will go to great lengths to pick out of her food.

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Soup with meatballs and vegies, tomato, cucumber and dill (evil!!) salad

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Shaslik, manty (Uzbek steamed dumpling filled with meat, similar to Russian pelmeni and Ukrainian varenky)

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Laghman (proof that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from the East), pelmeni with salad (note how Sabby has picked all the dill off her food)

And ever since Tajikistan, we have been seeing melons galore. Sabby loves loves loves watermelons and so we try to get some wherever we can, including at the Tajik crossing!
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Of course the culinary highlight of our trip so far has to be the meals we have on the road, creativity at its best born out of hunger and desperation.

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What do you do when you have dry stale bread and some Snickers bars which melted in the heat of the desert? Melted Snickers sandwiches of course!!

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The same concept of harnessing the sun's heat to melt stuff can be applied to making melted cheese sandwiches

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Special report: how to take a shower without running water in the dessert

in Journey to Dakar by on August 17th, 2010

Proper showers are not always available in some of the places we have been.  But it is still (somewhat) possible to stay clean with these outdoor showers.  Essentially the set-up is one shower booth with a tank at the top which needs to be filled up with water.  If you are not too dirty, then taking a shower is not too complicated but if you are so dirty/smelly that your own mother does not want to be near you, then it is a three-man job to keep the water going until you are clean.  One guy has to fill up buckets at the base, one guy has to empty the bucket into the tank at the top and one man has to shower!

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The shower booth itself is fairly basic.

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Listomania – one more of MJo’s new obsessions

in Journey to Dakar by on August 16th, 2010

MJo loves animals and on our journey, everytime we come across any animals, donkeys and camels in this case, he shouts “photo” to Sabby.  Here is some evidence of his obsession…

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Whilst we are on the road…

in Journey to Dakar by on August 14th, 2010

…we want you to know, dear esteemed readers, that we have not forgotten you.  We have left Khiva now and are heading via Kazakhstan towards Volgograd (Russia).

Along our way, we will be passing one of the biggest environmental disasters in the world – the shrunken Aral Sea.  Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea has now shrunk by some 90 percent following a Soviet project to divert water from the rivers that feed it to boost cotton production in the arid region.  Fishing villages now lie in barren desert wasteland and the fish stocks are gone. Frequent dust storms carry polluted, toxic dust across the region and the local climate has even shifted without the water’s moderating properties resulting in scorchingly hot summers and brutally cold winters.  We will be stopping at Moynak, a town once on the shore where there is now a “cemetery” of rusting ships and the water line 170km away from where it used to be.

We will then cross into Kazakhstan and covering almost 1,000km across the desert.  Kazakh roads are not renowned for quality and in particular the stretch we will be covering.  After all our experience with bad roads, hopefully these roads will be a piece of cake.  Now we just need to figure out how we will get petrol in the desert…

Watch out for our updates when we eventually get to Russia!

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Thanksgiving

in Journey to Dakar by on August 11th, 2010

Lest you think we have been shut off from the world holed up in remote parts of the Pamir, we have actually been pretty good at keeping up with the latest world news.  For example, we know all about the JetBlue steward who got fed up of passengers not listening to his instructions, and so decided to grab a beer, activate the emergency chute and head off home.

We have also been reading closely the news about flooding in Kashmir, Pakistan and northwestern China, areas which we passed through earlier on our journey.  We have been so lucky with the weather.  Plus various incidents along our trip, such as missing the avalanche after Sost by a mere five mins and making it through the washed away road in no man’s land before the water levels got too high.  Our guardian angels have clearly been working overtime!  Not to mention, in spite of our Indian custom woes, that our bike was not part of the cargo on this container ship which was tipped over outside of the Bombay port, where our bike arrived at as well.

So thank you, our dear guardian angels, for watching over us and keeping us safe!

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FLASH UPDATE 3

in Journey to Dakar by on July 20th, 2010

Am sitting across MJo in the hotel lobby and his phone just rang: the bike has been cleared, but by phone presumably because the guy from the airport could not find an umbrella. So the bike still has to go to the airport for inspection.

MJo is about to lose it, excuse me as I need to administer to him an IV drip of something strongly alcoholic immediately.

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FLASH UPDATE 2

in Journey to Dakar by on July 20th, 2010

MJo just received a call saying that the customs guy has been unable to clear the bike because it is raining and he does not have an umbrella.

????!!!!

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Delhi to Leh: day 2

in India, Journey to Dakar by on July 15th, 2010

Although it was only day 2 of our trip, the day would prove to be eventful…

As we had made good progress the day before, we treated ourselves to a rather leisurely start at half nine.  A mere 20km later, the throttle cable snapped!  In the middle of a mountain road with the nearest town being 30km away!

Our broken throttle cable

This would be the first of many mechanical problems we would face with the Royal Enfield which deserves a whole post just for itself.

Some Indian riders/drivers travelling the same way stopped to help us.  Everyone was very nice and got involved in the action – some tried to help with fixing it, some proferred advice.

Kind motorcyclists stopped to help us try to fix the bike

Even the shopkeeper from the little highway kiosk tries to tell us how to solve the problem

Eventually it became clear that only a new cable was gonna solve he problem. Sunny who had stopped gave us a ride with all our stuff to the next town, Bilaspur. Our new friends, Sunny and his travel buddies from Jet Airways, also tried to help us find a mechanic there.  But of course, it happened to be the day of the bandh, another word for an Indian nationwide strike, called by the opposition party!  All the shops in town were closed. Luckily enough, our rickshaw driver knew where the mechanic lived and took us there. Double luckily, the mechanic, Manu, turns out to be the only guy who knows how to fix Royal Enfield bikes for 200km (in either direction)!

MJo hopped onto the back of Manu’s little scooter and they went off together to fix the bike.  He eventually returned three hours later, exhausted and hungry (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast that day), but at least the bike was working again.

We spent the night in a little motel in Bilaspur.  On a touristy note, Bilaspur is not a town we would have on the must-see tourist route.

It hadn’t been an easy day but we realised that we had many little blessings to be thankful for – help from strangers, finding the only Royal Enfield mechanic within 200km, a hot shower, gin and Sprite and of course, each other.

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