From here I will start with the nr of days on the road from the start on the 5th of february and the amount of km I had done that day;

Day 1, 240 km: Pharenda, India

On thursday the 5th of February it was finally time to start cruisin’. I’d been so much looking forward to start driving that the last couple of days in Nepal, waiting for my Indian visa application to come through, were torture! In restless anticipation of the visa I spent my days saying goodbye to all the valuable friends I made in Pokhara, ultimately to meet a lot of them on the morning of the 5th, at Raju’s workshop for a farewell cup of chai and the necessary hugs and kisses. I was actually expecting a light goodbye event, but the whole thing was quite moving.

A customer of Raju’s with his son and some other friends of theirs were waiting for me on the streets when I came up to the workshop to be the first ones to wish me all the best. At the workshop itself a rather large crew of people, Nepali and foreign, had gathered to see me off. We ended up writing their safe-travel messages on Dolly and so many handshakes and hugs later, we were ready to go, yes! And of course Dolly didn’t start. I think there’s a video of me somewhere, desperately trying to kick some life into her, with camera’s recording the rather painful event. So much for a smooth beginning of the trip! After 1025 kicks she finally fired up and we left!

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George, who I had gotten acquainted with when he first came in from India for bike repairs and after that never left the workshop, joined me for the first 100 km of the trip to the Sunauli border. I’d planned to drive the 200 km to the border on the first day and cross the next day, from where I would continue to Varanasi in the one or two days after.

I made good time to Sunauli and arrived at the, very unattractive, to say the least, border settlement around 3 pm. Fuck it, I thought, I’m going for it right away and head straight into India to try to get as far as I could on the first day.

By that time, the bike was stalling like an idiot when driving under 5 km/hour or when trying to take off from a stopped position so I continuously had to kick it back to life while stop-and-going through traffic and customs.

The border made me nervous. This was the moment where all preparations had led to and where all the paperwork I had to organise would be checked. And it wouldn’t be Nepal if some of it wasn’t arranged (let’s say) ‘creatively’, of which I wasn’t sure how it would hold up against the customs checks. Also, the paperwork didn’t completely matched the state of the bike. For some reason, the registration paperwork (and therefore my Carnet de Passages) stated that the bike has two cylinders and that it would be red. It has one cylinder and it is black (well, more black than red anyway), and people had warned me that the Nepali police could be very tight on these things. I’d also noticed this while riding with friends in Pokhara, that they could give people a hard time even when your mirrors are not standard (which seemed very useless to me..). Anyway, enough reasons to feel the anxiety sweat running down to your buttcrack while approaching the border.

Turns out, no one at the Nepali side of the border had even the slightest interest in the vehicle I was driving. The only reaction I got was when I told a customs officer about my plans to drive the bike to Holland was a lot of laughter and him letting his friends in on this entertaining fact. After getting my exit stamp, I was acting like the enthusiastic traveller while crossing (yeah yeah, Nepal is great, lovely people, beautiful, etcetc) to avoid them taking a closer look at the bike while trying to get it started again. I was relieved when I finally made it to the Indian side of the border, 50 meters down the road. First step of getting into India: Done!

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The Indian side of the border was a bit more thorough. Customs wanted to check my luggage and were a bit more interested in the bike. At that time I still had my fingers crossed for getting through without too much trouble, also India could be difficult if you run into an officer having a bad day. But after waiting half an hour for them to process my carnet, I got it back stamped and well and I was ready to set off! (Not before I got ripped off by a local by changing dollars to Indian Rupees for a crazy exchange rate, or course)

I’ll be honest with you, the first impression of India were shit. I had the feeling I had ended up in a post-apocalyptic, anarchic, world which was all but drained from happiness and sunshine. It was cold, there were destroyed buildings, black smoking fires, trash EVERYWHERE, poor people on the streets, everything was covered in a thick gray fog which didn’t allow for any sunshine to come through and in traffic it was every man for himself.

So there I was, for the first time in India, on my own on a self-build bike which hadn’t proved itself yet and wasn’t doing too well on slow speed, finding myself in these conditions. I’d like to describe how it felt but that would be impossible. There were feelings of euphoria because I’d successfully made it into India after all preparations and there was ‘what on earth have I gotten myself into, how am I ever going to do this?!’-type of thoughts. Needless to say, it was all pretty much overwhelming.

The upside of arriving in India, though, was that roads immediately became flat and of decent quality. So after dealing with the, in hindsight unnecessary, border anxiety, administration bullcrap and people who want your money I moved out into the unknown.

I did about 60 km into India when I hit Pharenda at about 4:30 pm to find a hotel, an hour before dark. The first one I found with some local guy his directions proved to be the worst (I mean, the WORST) shithole of a hotel I had ever seen. They showed me the room, which was inside a building that looked more like an abandoned construction site, with walls covered in mold, smelling like a sewer and a bed that looked like several people had recently died on it. And that only for 500 INR (Indian Rupees), in comparison to nice guesthouses in Nepal which cost about half of that.

No sir, I was pretty confident I could find something better or cheaper if I did some looking around. There wasn’t something better. So shithole it was. I went back to the hotel, slumped, and to my surprise the owner still accepted my offer to stay in the room if he gave it to me for 350, even though I’d put myself in the worst bargaining position by coming back.

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Day 2, 505 km: Varanasi, India

After a great, mosquito infested, sleepless why-does-everything-feel-wet night, I got out of there as early as possible (and found the hotel staff sleeping on tables in front of my room).

I made it that day to Varanasi, a trip of about 300 km. The ride was smooth and after a tea and breakfast stop in dirty Gorakhpur I’d left the foggy, post-war looking areas about halfway down to find some sun and a greener environment, which made the whole experience a lot better!

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Upon arriving in Varanasi I finally ran into the type of traffic everyone warns you for when you tell them you want to go driving around there. It was hot, more crowded than anything I’d seen before and a continuous battle with other traffic to be able to keep moving forward. To be honest, I actually quite liked it, swerving through traffic, and I was pretty good at it! The thing was, I had no clue where to go. I had a name of a hostel I wanted to check out, a stalling bike in slow traffic and the location of the train station with a tourist information centre, read off my Lonely Planet.

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With the help of Google Maps on my phone, which surprisingly allowed me to navigate the main roads offline, I made my way to the train station with a healthy amount of re-kick-starting Dolly whenever it stalled in mid-traffic. The guy on duty in the tourist information centre sent me off with a map with the location of the hostel on it and about an hour, several inquiries for directions and detours later I had found my first stop: Stops hostel in Varanasi! I felt so proud that I had found my way and successfully made it to here!

Varanasi was great! Stops hostel was great! It was a 180 degrees turn from what I’d seen on my first day in India. The weather was amazing, my accommodation amongst one of the best hostels I’d been, being clean, well organised and with great staff and other travelers and the city provided the first insight in Hindu cultural heritage. Since this blog is more focussed on the bike adventure I won’t go much into detail about all the touristy stuff I did here, but if you ever get there make sure you do a sunrise tour on the Ganges river.

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I’d already planned to do my spare parts shopping as soon as possible in India, since it’s way cheaper than Nepal. So while spending a few days in Varanasi I went to the local Royal Enfield parts dealer.

The guy who owns the place was a great and inviting 60 year old guy, who will come to Amsterdam to party with me and chase white girls, as he stressed a couple of times. I was starting to see a pattern amongst Nepali and Indian men 😉

I did all the required shopping there; a new exhaust pipe and muffler which I needed to replace in Varanasi since the original one was leaking quite bad. I thought that could’ve something to do with the bike stalling, misfire due to a leaking exhaust. I also got the standard long-trip-spare-parts such as light bulbs, brake shoes, clutch plates, cables, etc. My front shocks were also leaking quite bad, which made for a bumpy ride, so I got directions to a good Royal Enfield mechanic from my favorite parts shop owner.

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I’d met a friendly ozzie named Cody in my hostel during my stay, who was interested in experiencing India on the road and was headed in the same way as me.

So after I’d gotten everything done, getting my picture taken with numerous random Indian guys who found it pretty cool that there was a white face in their neighbourhood, and spending about 5 days in Varanasi, me and Cody headed off to Khajuraho.