Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Jan 8, 2000

INDIA -- Introduction to a 3rd World

-- Story by Erin --

It's day number 233 of our journey and we've been in India for about 4 weeks now.  We've seen Christmas and New Year's come and go yet it feels like we are on a different planet somehow. 

We arrived at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 9th in Mumbai (Bombay).  Even at that wee hour of the morning you could feel the heat and the humidity and knew the days would be mighty warm still in this part of India.  The better part of the first two days were spent trying to figure out who to talk to and what procedures to follow in order to extricate the motorcycles from the customs officials at the airport.  We assumed it would take several days, so we set ourselves up in a nice little dive of a hotel near the airport.  We didn't spend all of our time hassling with the bureaucracy though, the cargo/customs were closed for the weekend so we managed to squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing.

Gateway to India Arch

In Bombay we saw the Gateway to India arch (above), the Taj Mahal Hotel (the nicest in Mumbai), most of the Colaba and Fort sections of the city (where the tourist books tell you to go), visited a Jain temple and made a small offering, and strolled through the hanging gardens.  Perhaps best of all we tried our hand at navigating the rail system into the city and bargaining with the auto-rickshaws.

The railroad has a reputation for being overcrowded at any time of day with people literally clinging to the outside of the train, 2nd or 1st class it doesn't matter.  Being from New York City we thought we could take this on and we were right.  No problems but no seats either on the train.  However the locals are all friendly, most speak English very well, and are always willing to help out with information and directions.  In dealing with the taxi/rickshaws you just need to haggle with them.  It's a supply and demand thing----too many of "them" and not enough of "us".  Eventually they give in. 

So, we finally got our bikes released on December 13th and headed down to Goa the next day -- Details of importing at the bottom.  Did I mention that Indian's drive on the left side of the road here?  Besides that little brain twister there is all of the other road hazards to watch out for, like sacred cows, goats, dogs, little children, old folks, scooters, rickshaws, big trucks and crazy bus drivers.  When we arrived in Goa, our friend Christian Lehnen (from Cologne, Germany) was already there.  We originally met Christian on the internet (he and Chris have the same motorbike), then spent some time together this past summer.  We told him about our plans for India, and as he's been 5 times before (using trains and busses), he agreed to come join us.   When he arrived in Goa, he arranged to rent a 350 Enfield "Bullet" for about $7/day. 

We spent Christmas in Goa, 600kms south of Mumbai, although not necessarily by choice.  We were kind of stuck there because Chris' GS was having some electrical problems.  There could be worse places to be stuck.  The pace of life in Goa is perfect.  No wonder so many hippies came here in the 70's and never went home!  The temperature was about 90+ F during the day and the humidity was pretty high.  The beach was about 500 meters away, white sand, palm trees, and warm water.  We spent our spare time (in between trying to fix the GS) swimming in the Arabian Sea, drinking King Fisher beer, and eating fresh grilled fish on the beach every night.  We stayed in a nice little guest house called Savio's Rest House for about $2.50/day.  We even spent Christmas Eve going to midnight mass with Savio's family at their church.  On Christmas Day they prepared a special meal and shared it with us.  We really felt welcome and will never forget it.

We met lots of great people in Goa including 2 other RTW motorcyclists here in Goa:  Liam from Belfast on a Honda Africa Twin; and Mika from Germany on a Yamaha XT600.  We shared stories and experiences, and plan to see them in the future.   We will probably see Liam again in Thailand and Australia as his itinerary is similar to ours.  Mika is first heading north to Russia and Mongolia, and plans to be on the road for 5-6 years. 

Chris and ChristianOkay, back the GS electrical problem.   We checked the usual culprits and had no luck in finding the problem.  The locals are good about these things, luckily for us so we had plenty of help (along with calls to/from Al Jesse).   After pulling the bike apart and testing pieces like the rotor, stator, diode board, and voltage regulator with electricians in the area, we were down to a wiring problem. 

Finally we heard that the Hyundai car dealership down the road had some really good mechanics and one of the local guys personally introduced us to them.  They worked on the bike for two and a half days before we were ready to throw in the towel.  At that point we had spent a full week of our time that we had planned to spend travelling around India with Christian working on the damn bike.  At this point we decided to cut our losses and ride 2-up on my bike and spend the next two and a half weeks seeing what we could see of the south.  The guys at the Hyundai dealership didn't want to give up however.  So they convinced us to leave the bike with them while we were away and they would continue to work on it.

We left Goa on the morning of December 28th and drove over the Western Ghats (means steps in Hindi) toward our first destination, Badami.  We had heard that the road over the Ghats was is very bad shape but didn't know just how bad until we got there.  The worst of it was about a 20 km stretch of chewed up pavement/ huge stones/ mega-potholes/ loose sand---definitely the worst we've experienced so far.


After a bone-jarring day of riding 250 kms (about 8 hours in the saddle) we finally arrived in Badami around 5:00 p.m.  Badami is a very small town at the foot of the Sandstone Ridge.  It's got one main road through town which is so dusty it's hard to imagine there is actually pavement under all that dirt on the road!  The attraction here are the many temples carved out of the sandstone rock on the hill, the huge "tank" (or reservoir) built several hundred years ago, the two forts, and the temple caves.  We spent that first evening wandering around the "tank" and admiring it's relative peace and tranquility compared to the town below.  We also wandered the narrow streets and alleyways peering into doorways and stumbling upon quaint old courtyards filled with the local domesticated animal life.

The next day we spent exploring all of the temples, caves and one of the forts.  It was so beautiful if defies words.  Here is also where we had our first encounter with monkeys-----loads of them!  These little rascals love to steal you fruit or small bags right out of your hand.  We took the advise of the local museum caretaker to walk always with a good switch (stick) in our hand.  Badami is wonderful in that it seems relatively untouched by tourism.  We felt like the only Western tourists in town, besides a few bus loads of Indian tourists.   The only negative thing I can say about this little town is the non-stop assault by the small children asking us "What's your name?", "What's your country?", "School pen, chocolate, rupee????".  It literally never ended.  (Since then we've discovered this is a widespread problem in India.)  In 24 hours I must have shaken over 500 little hands.  I hope I don't come across as cynical but it is so distracting that you can't enjoy the sights in peace and quiet contemplation (as they were meant for!)  We did meet many very friendly Indian's that were just curious as to where we had come from---school teachers, retired folk from Bombay, honeymooners, etc.

We found that Indian's as a whole are a very inquisitive people.  One must redefine one's concept of "personal space".   Literally every time we stop to get off the bike there is an instant crowd around us and the bike----sometimes as many as 50 people or more.  We've actually been asked by the local police a few times to move along because the crowds were blocking traffic!   It's such an odd phenomenon.  I had read about other people's similar experiences with this but never imagined what it was like until now.  You have no privacy.  Everything exposed on the bike is free game to flip, turn, rotate and in general be touched.  We've even had a few bold young fellows hop on the bike while we weren't looking just to see how the weight of it feels!  Most people however just cram around the bike to get a look at it and just stare at us.  We now know what animals in the zoo must feel like.

On December 30th, we arrived in Hampi, a small city 350kms east of Goa with an impressive collection of temples which date back to the 15th/16th centuries.  Hampi is centered on an old bazaar, the old buildings of which are still occupied by local merchants.  Hampi is a bit of a "travelers Mecca" and is a very laid back place.  It's a well known Hippie hang out and you see young people walking around in tie-dyed clothes, barefoot and hair in dread-locks.   But the best thing about Hampi are the vast numbers of temples and palaces to see which are spread out along a 4 km stretch of land.  The center of town is dominated by a 52 meter high gopuram of a temple.


The 2 days we were in Hampi we hiked to see the various temples, climbed a mountain to see the sunset, got lost in a big banana field (where we saw a HUGE snake!), and took a relaxing ride in a "basket boat" up along the river.


We rang in the new Millennium in Hampi.  New Years Eve may not have been filled with mayhem, but we met some new friends and had a very memorable experience.  We watched the local restaurant owner and their family decorate the path in front of their house with colorful designs and New Year's wishes.  Although we didn't see the ball in Times Square drop (we haven't watched TV in weeks) we had a 5 minute power outage at 12:02am, which created a bit of amusement.  Other than that, Y2K began without any major catastrophes and on a very peaceful note indeed.

Our introduction to our first real (third world is not very PC) developing country has proved to be a very enlightening experience so far.  Yes, there's lots of poverty and pollution, so much so you choke on it sometimes.  But this is a very beautiful country with lovely people and so much promise for the future.



  • 3 Days (5 including weekend)
  • Fax to FIAA (Indian AA) from CAA (Canadian AA) authorizing authenticity of Carnet - We sent an email request Thursday evening and the faxed documents were received Friday morning.
  • Authorization letter from FIAA to Indian Customs officials
  • Visit to Customs Office at Mumbai docks (most vehicles enter Mumbai by sea) for Carnet paperwork
  • Roughly 27 signatures from various offices (Mumbai and at the airport)
  • $211 in import fees
  • (+ $2,252 for shipping and $1,114 airfare paid in Israel)
  • NOTE:  Clearing agent requested $175 for 2 bikes (1 bike for $100) -- We did it ourselves, but it required a lot of leg-work.
  • Overlanders claimed it only took about an hour at border
  • Upon reflection, we should have ridden across the Middle East

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