Varanasi and Khajuraho were about 400 km apart. With 2 people on one bike, doing a maximum of 70 km/hour not counting stops, it would be a long day on the road. But doable! With the minimum of information we had we decided to take the shortest ‘looking’ road on the map, guessing that the the roads would be of similar condition as the ones I had seen before. We guessed wrong.

Reis blog Geert

In comparison to Nepal, people start quite late with their daily lives. Where in Nepal people would get up and start doing about their daily business at sunrise, in India they couldn’t be bothered until about 9 or 10 am to get stuff done.

This was valuable information for me, riding a motorcycle through the country, as I could use that quiet time in the morning to leave a crowded place without too much hassle and traffic. And so we did, with a bike packed with 2 people’s worth of luggage and twice my own weight riding the tough 1 cylinder propelled bike, we set off into the unknown!

Cody was ready for it!

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We got out off Varanasi and onto the main road pretty easy and were making good progress until Cody asked, about 30 km outside of town, that that wobbling feeling was. I’d felt it too and was kind of hoping it was the uneven road and Cody moving around on the buddy seat that was causing the bike to start swerving around on the road, but we’d lost our back-wheel bearings.

So it was time for my first road-side bearing replacement! I was a bit excited, these type of things where what all my training in Pokhara had led to, I had to fix it myself! 😉

The fixing part wasn’t so difficult. I had the right tools and the right spare parts which I had picked up in Varanasi, but the instantly gathered and fast growing crowd was what bothered us. In a matter of seconds we had collected 20+ curious indians who didn’t feel like allowing space for us to fix the bike and all thought they knew better on how to get the job done. On top of that; they didn’t really get that talking to us in Hindi with us replying to them in English (or Dutch, for that matter) would not go anywhere anytime soon. Also the phrase ‘No Hindi’, ‘Tore Tore Hindi’ (which are both practically Hindi for ‘I don’t speak Hindi’) with very obvious denying head-movements did not cause them to stop trying.

Me, trying to ignore the gathering crowd hoping they would lose interest

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Nope! And man, fixing stuff is more difficult when people try to grab your tools all the time.

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Even though I didn’ treat all of our spectators very nice (‘Get out of my way!’, ‘No, don’t touch that!’), they were undividedly happy that we got our bike fixed when we did and applauded us when we took off again. These crowds might not be the most convenient aspect of your roadside fix, but at least every single participant is, in essence, trying to be helpful. And that’s a cool thought.

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We continued on our way and after a lunch stop in Allahabad we were ready for the next big leg of today’s trip. This is where we hit the jackpot; after a short drive we got guided off the highway by a roadworks detour which got us on the worst piece of shit road I’d seen on the entire trip. It was an elevated road, with 100 meter patches of tarmac followed by, at least double to distance, pothole infested, sandy and rocky stretches of road. And it was hot. We continued down the road for a bit but found out quite soon that it wasn’t going to be a nice ride for the both of is. You can see the ‘roadworks’ icon on the image of the map at the top of this post, but that wasn’t there when we checked it at that time. It should’ve.

The road only allowed bumping from pothole to pothole, in first and sometimes second gear. Having my dear Dolly pull herself, me, Cody and all our luggage out of one pothole to the other. And the conditions just didn’t change. After 10 k’s of these conditions, with every bit of tarmac we found we thought ‘this is probable the end of it, no-one in their right minds would allow these type of conditions for an open road’. It didn’t end.

After 2 hours of driving on this road we’d done about 45 km. It was so hot that we had to let the bike cool down for a while in the shadow somewhere at the side of the road. That wasn’t easy to find but we managed something and within the first seconds of our stop the first curious spectator had already posted himself on a spot with a good look-out on our situation. Cody had bet me that there would be 10 of ‘m within the first 5 minutes of our stop, since we were in such a desolate and deserted place I guessed that 7 would be the maximum possible number. We were both wrong; we still don’t know where they came from, but we gathered over 12 in the first 3 minutes.

Here they come again!

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I was also a bit worried about the bike. It were tough conditions and together with the heat I was hoping it wasn’t all too much for the bike.

After letting it cool down for a while we continued on our way. We were very happy to find out that after 50 km on this road, the roadworks had ended and we found ourselves on a smoother track.

We made another stop to look for shelter because it had started raining and that’s when I noticed a weird sound from deep within the engine. Dammit, we’d overdone it.

I didn’t really know what the sound was but I could tell it was bad news since it sounded like the piston was ‘rattling’ loosely through the cylinder or something. And we were still far from Khajuraho.

I’d thought about ending up with bike trouble underway and I was expecting to run in, at least, some, but not something major within the first 1000 km of the trip..

We decided to slowly head for the first town, which was Rewa, to look for a mechanic. And man, let me tell you, this was not my favorite stop on the road.

I’ll keep it short, but Rewa ended up giving us both bad food poisoning, we got tricked into getting our bike fixed at an incompetent mechanic, no-one spoke english, it was crowded, hot and dirty. We did not have a great time there.

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Our Rewa mechanics team. I still can’t look ‘m in the face. Long story.

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After making the most of it for 2 days and 3 nights, our mechanic was finished with the work that needed to be done. The floating bush of the bikes engine was finished and had to be replaced, so the whole engine of the bike had to be rebuild after a new bush was placed on the crank. Not an easy job, and to make things worse, after the mechanic in Rewa completely took the bike apart, we learned that he had no clue about Royal Enfields. Not much we could do then so we just had to hope for the best. And have him change the parts on the outside of the bike that he had put on the wrong way around. It did not give me a lot of confidence about the rest of his work.

After leaving proof of our food poisoning in the hotel toilet and sink (sorry Rewa..), we got out of there as soon as possible after we got the bike back.

In hindsight; although it can be an intimidating and exhausting experience, I am happy that I experienced the non-touristy side of North India as well. It gives you a better perspective of how the country works then when you stay on the beaten travelers path, which I find a valuable thing.

In order to not stress the bike anymore than necessary, Cody would jump on a train to Khajuraho while I would ride Dolly there. I had gotten the bike double checked by a mechanic who DID know about Royal Enfields and who we got acquainted with, unfortunately a little too late for the fix we needed. He said it was all good as far as he could tell and we were good to go.

Day 10, 902 km: Khajuraho, India

The drive to Khajuraho went smooth! We left early, I made good time and the roads were tons better than what we’d seen before.

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It was only a 170 km drive and although I was still worried that the engine could seize any minute because that mechanic had forgotten about one bolt or something like that, the bike ran fine!

The drive took me through desert-like landscapes, beautiful rivers, changed into a tiger sanctuary with the roads winding through a forest and with monkeys everywhere! I tried to take a picture of them but they were too shy to get close enough to.

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Monkeys on the left!

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Me and Cody met up in our guesthouse in Khajuraho. Khajuraho is a remote settlement next to an important Hindu cultural site with a lot of ancient temples scattered around in the area (including the famous kamasutra temples, which learned me a new trick or two ;). Because there is not much else around, the settlement is built around tourism and me and Cody were happy to find some other white faces and western influences there.

Due to our Rewa experience, we’d noticed that we are both all about getting out of our comfort zone, but we do need to be able to get back in a more familiar environment every now and then in order to cope with it. We were happy that Khajuraho offered us that!

The temple sites were amazing. There was one huge ‘park’ in which the temples were really well maintained and reconstructed where necessary. It was clean, it was impressive and not like anything I’d seen before.

We spend a day in the park and bicycling around to other, more isolated temple area’s around the vicinity and soon found out that Khajuraho is famous for 2 things: The amazing cultural heritage and the harassment of tourists by locals who are trying to take your money in exchange for, often, crappy souvenirs or drugs. And really, the latter should not be underestimated.

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Hihi, kamasutra dingen

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The lonely planet mentions this as well and it’s true; Khajuraho is well worth visiting, but the harassment takes out the a lot of the fun. Especially when one of them is following Cody around everywhere he goes and you’re not able to get rid of him, even in your guesthouse. It was funny for me though 😛

So after checking the temples for one day we decided to move on. Cody had to go in the direction of Mumbai since his trip was almost over and I had decided to skip the Taj Mahal and head west for Rajasthan and so saving a couple of days on my way down south to head for the beaches.

We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways the next morning, my next stop: Orchha!