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Journey to Dakar

From the frontline in Delhi!

in Bureaucracy, India by Marcus & Sabrina on July 3rd, 2010

Halleluia, we have both made it to Delhi!  Not without some drama along the way though…

Our bike also made it to India, but due to a huge back log at Mumbai port, the vessel was only able to berth yesterday and it will take “at least” another week to get it to Delhi.  Note to people shipping bikes to India – aside from a shipping agent, you will also need a customs clearing agent to help you get the bike out.  That is another lesson we learnt recently and will update you when we find one who doesn’t try to screw us on the price.

So in the meantime, we are going to rent a Royal Enfield to ride up to Ladakh and then fly back to Delhi to pick up our own bike.  Check out this bike, apparently from the 1950′s, its hard to believe that this bike can travel up several 5000+ meter passes, but we hope to live to tell the tale next week!

The Royal Enfield lacked a bit of the royal feeling though

Regarding other things that made it to India, all our stuff somehow made it too – jerry cans, new bike seat, sleeping bags, tents, new windscreen, first aid kit, helmets, motorcycle gear etc etc.  Lots of cross-continental “schlepping” involved in all of this (MJo alone had 43kg of “hand luggage” with him on board).  Through hours of trial and error, we’ve managed to pack most of the things onto the Royal Enfield.

Sabby infront of our "fully loaded" Royal Enfield from the 1950's

And last but not least, there was much drama at the Delhi airport last night when Sabby flew in.  As a Singaporean, she is entitled to apply for a visa on arrival.  But she thought a Pakistan visa would be enough proof of intent to exit so she didn’t have a return air ticket, which of course in hindsight seems a little silly. So she spent three hours at the airport last night (12am-3am) buying a new ticket, changing money (another note: the visa-on-arrival counter only takes USD or Indian rupees, no euros nor pounds).   She finally made it to the hotel at 4am, to be greeted by a rather inebriated MJo who also had an adventure of an evening, but let’s save that tale for another time.

And so here we are…off to Ladakh tomorrow!

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3 days to go…

in India by Marcus & Sabrina on June 28th, 2010

…and here’s the update:

  1. MJo made it to Singapore to sort out last minute preparations from where he will then fly on to Delhi.
  2. Sabby made it to London and back over the weekend.  And now she has to study for exams before she flies out to Delhi.
  3. After a few days during which no one was able to tell us where our bike is, we have found the bike!  Yeay!  No doubt it will arrive slightly later than we’d planned for, at least we have our wheels.
  4. We’ve gone through a steep learning curve over the last week about building websites.  For the uninitiated, www.elance.com is a great website for finding freelancers to help you out with IT/web issues.
  5. Oh and very importantly, the World Cup is starting to get really interesting and we will watch the matches from India.

So yes, it’s all happening.

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S.O.S. – Save Our aSses (pardon our French)

in Journey to Dakar by Marcus & Sabrina on June 25th, 2010

One common remark we get when telling people about our trip is about how much our bums will hurt after 2 months on the bike, riding everyday and covering 10,000km.  On an earlier trip riding through Bhutan, I had not felt any major discomfort , but then that was riding for only 3 days (you can see photos of our trip here).

One can always learn though from other riders, we got some good tips from our visit to Touratech’s HQ and its annual travel event…

Africa Twin with sheepskin strapped over the seat for comfort

So guess what?  We’ve got our own sheepskin-covered seat too.  So rest assured, our bums are safe!

Here's MJo preparing our sheepskin seat.

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Touratech Travel Event 20 June 2010

in Bike & Gear by MJo on June 21st, 2010

touratech

Touratech Travel Event 20 June 2010

We attended Touratech’s annual travel event open house weekend on 20 June 2010. A world leader in customized motorcycle parts and almost a destination in itself. Hundreds of bikes from all over Europe attended and the sheer sight of that many bikes was a feast for the eye.

I wanted to get a bit deeper into the GPS navigation subject so we attended two workshops, which outlined the latest technology changes for touring navigation. It is quite amazing what Touratech’s newest software release (TTQV 5) is able to do. One can now scan regular fold out maps, and have the software translate it into latitude and longtitude data, thus enabling the enduser to use practically any old map (these could be hiking, trekking or just regular road maps) for importing and then navigating via one’s own GPS.  Unfortunately the release will be too late for our trip, so we are still using (for the more remote areas of China and central Asia) the good old fold out maps.

Bike and bike enthusiasts

Bikes and bike enthusiasts from all over in attendance

The event also made for some very interesting exchanges with fellow bikers on every issue from maintenance to on the road repairs.

touratech workshop

A glimpse into the Touratech workshop where it all happens

Cooking pannier

Some very cool gear including this pannier which opens up to become a kitchen on the road

MJo and Sabby at Touratech

And that's us at the Touratech event!

A few Bratwursts later, we headed back home.

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Day of Bad News

in Journey to Dakar by Sabby on June 19th, 2010

Yesterday was not a good day for our trip planning.  We got a bunch of not-so-good news:

    1.  The first part of our journey – the road from Manali to Leh – has been closed due to unexpected snowfall.  Snow in June?!  Well, 2 weeks to go to our trip so hopefully the snow has melted and the sun is shining in full force by then.
    2.   Our shipping agent in Malaysia writes to tell us that he was having trouble finding a boat to take our shipment to Delhi.  Unsurprisingly, he’s found a way to get around it but it is going to cost us much more than his original quote.  The last minute price hikes are something we’re getting used to.
    3.   Headlines of the WSJ (and most other news providers) is about the violence in Kyrgyzstan.  An estimated 700 people have so far died in Osh from the ethnic clashes.  Well, our route doesn’t take us directly through Osh or Bishek, the major centres of violence, but more through the remote parts of the country. So fingers crossed that the political situation won’t affect the border crossing from neighbouring China from where we will enter the country.
    4.  Oh and I think the Karakom Highway is still flooded and covered by a 20km long lake (after the major earthquake earlier this year).

Argh.  Frustrating.

But  I guess we will have to deal with far worse things on our trip, not such a bad thing that we get tested early on.  We will prove our mettle; we are tough cookies.  As MJo put it, “it’s too late, we are committed to this.  Whatever comes our way we will deal with it”.

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First Post

in Journey to Dakar by Marcus & Sabrina on June 15th, 2010

Sabby is typing this from Fontainebleau, France while MJo is fast asleep in Balingen, Germany.  In 18 days, we will be setting off for our trip from New Delhi, India.  Scary yet exciting!

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