End of our adventure. Finally: Jaisalmer

We have finally arrived – after 10 hours drive – we reach the Rajastani desert town of Jaisalmer.
This is what happened on our last leg of this epic journey:

We left our hotel in Ajmer at 5 a.m. 
For the first time on this trip, we manage to get going this early.  
When we arrived last night at about 1.30 in the morning, we discovered to our surprise, that another team from Canada hat parked their Tuk Tuk at the same hotel. Before leaving, we spruced up their Tuk with a couple of our „Zefant“ stickers. Then we haul ourselves into the early morning traffic of Ajmer. At the outskirts of town, Stephan stops to check the oil. We drink another roadside sweet chai and leave the town behind. It´s hilly and our Tuk is slowly crawling up the inclines.

From just above the town, we have a lovely view of the many marble quarries. The light blue material is used for building houses as well as making wonderful sculptures. 

 

 

From here we continue to Jaisalmer.

The early morning temperature hits 30 degrees centigrade and we realize that we are in the desert – and not just because of the heat:

During the day we often see people waving colourful flags as well as small tent-cities, churning out loud music.

 They are celebrating a festival to honour a deity. Since in India there are more than 10.000 deities to be worshiped, we try to imagine how many festivals there must be, if all of them were revered equally….

When ever we pass people celebrating these festivals, people greet us enthusiastically friendly and give us surprised looks – especially when they notice our “Zefant”.

On the road, we get overtaken by another team and after a short chat, we carry on, noticing how much faster their Tuk is going than ours.

 

 
 

It takes only a few seconds before they are just a black dot off in the distance.
At lunch time we spot a second team: one of them rides behind a police man on a motorbike, the other one in a taxi-rickshaw. Both of them sport bandages on their arms. Just before finishing, they unfortunately overlooked one of the countless speed bumps, quite common outside schools and hospitals. They hit it, doing 50 km/h, taking flight in their Tuk and crashing it. They just came out of hospital, having suffered nothing more seriouse than a number of bruises as well as skin taken off their arms. They were on their way to the nearest police station to fill in paperwork. 2 hours later, they actually overtake us in their accident-streamlined rickshaw. The entire frame has been erodynamically pushed back, there is no wind screen and some struts have simply been torn off. It proves what we know already: a rickshaw is indestructable – the continue on!
Just before reaching Jaisalmer, we are stoped one last time on the road by the fun loving occupants of a snazy BMW320 – they take the obligatory pictures of us and our „Zefant“.

 We count the kilometers with every road sign and hope our ever slowing rickshaw will make it through.
 
It is nearly 5.30 pm when we finally arrive in Jaisalmer and cross the finish line.
When we took this shot on the finish line, unbelievable but true, a Norwegian team overtook us….how absurd.
When we reached the actual final destination though, they are nice and let us pass first.
Stephan enters us as team number 61 arriving at the finish line in Jaisalmer.
 
Vikash from “The Adventurists” presents us with our certificates of participation. This is the end of our epic journey.
 

 

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On to Jaisalmer!

….just a short bit of info from the tuktuk front….

after a long series of visits to workshops in Agra, Jaipur and Ajmer where we had the clutch, carborator and breaks fixed, we are now totally set on travelling the last leg of our journey from Jodphur to Jaisalmer. This is why we drove till 1 am last night on roads beyond description, racing through the Rajasthan night traffic. When we finally picked a hotel for the night and drove into the yard to park, we had a lovely surprise awaiting us: another tuktuk there, belonging to a Canadian team!
We got up at 5.30 this morning and there are 300 long kilometers ahead of us today which we will bravely attack….

If you were wondering why there aren´t any pictures posted lately, do not worry, we took literally hundreds of funny, interesting and exciting fotos on our travels lately, hoping to be able to post them in the next couple of days. Without much ado, I run off now, Stephan is already reving the engine!

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Agro getting to Agra

Hello my dear readers.
Last night, we finally arrived in Agra and are now sitting high up, on the roof top terrace of our hotel, ready to share with you our latest adventures. On my right, as you can see on the photo below, is the Taj Mahal – in all it´s splendid beauty. Our rooftop terrace is, without exageration, the highest all around and allowes us a simply wonderful view of this phenomenal structure.

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Below us, Indian traffic is in full swing, with hongking horns and ringing bells of countless small vehicles . Luckily, there are no trucks, as their horns are brutally loud, due to the simple fact that the alleys here are too narrow for them. We are really enjoying our day „off“, lazing up on the terrace without sparing a thought to driving or fixing our rickshaw. We had a lovely breakfast of banana pancakes and ginger tea – what more could we ask for?!

 

Here comes our report of yesterdays adventures. The usual morning routine gets us started, with squeezing our big suitcase into the rickshaw, checking out of the hotel in Kanpur and getting ready to go to Agra. With the help of the hotel staff as well as the watch man, we push start the rickshaw. It´s quite a spectacle in this small yard and takes several tries before it finally puffs into life. After each unsuccessful try, the rickshaw gets pushed back to the starting point and it starts all over again. Some hotel guests have come to watch, with grins on their faces and after the third try, we are away, weaving through morning traffic, heading for the highway to Agra. It´s been the same procedure for the last couple of days. We put in a short stop to get a blessing from one of the many sadhus which can be found collecting alms in the mornings.

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Right from the start we notice that our Tuk doesn´t seem to want to go anywhere today. We manage to hit top speed at 25 km/h. Fourth gear refuses to work alltogether, even though we drove in it most of the way so far. After about an hour, Stephan stops at a small workshop. The manager personally changes our spark plugs and cleans the air filter, adjusts the carburator and indicates that this should improve things greatly. After a short test run without much improvement, we carry on in a crawl. After two more hours, in which we covered a mere 30 km, we stop at another work shop. The mechanic here takes apart the carburator, cleans the nozzle, checks spark plugs and air filter and gets exactely the same result as the last one. We drive on in deep frustration, knowing that we´d have to wait till the next big city, hopefully finding a rickshaw expert there to solve our problem. At one of our many fuel stops (the rickshaw uses approx. 6 liters per 70 km), Stephan finally finds the reason for all our troubles: the suspension of the tank shifts during driving and partly blocks the fuel from reaching the carburetor. We use a tension belt to secure the tank and now the motor propells us forward with the lightening speed of 50 km/h. The final 200 km to Agra just whiz by in a blur.

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Varanasi Press Coverage

Our arrival and the night we spent in Varanasi was a memorable event, with amazing people, and we must write a seperate, long article about it all, once we get the time to do it.

Here are a few newspaper clippings from the day after:


To highten your excitement, we would like to share with you that we were personally guided through night time Varanasi by Lenin and Che on a motorcycle:

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Cable Fires on Rickshaw Tyres

At least today we definitely wanted to make it to Varanasi! But first we had to fix our poor Zefant rickshaw which had been badly damaged during the last night. Switching gears was nearly impossible and driving felt like one of the rear tires was square instead of round.

Luckily we found a mechanic on the road, however nearly drowning in the mud. That poor mechanic had to look for his spanners and nuts in the inch-deep puddles and had to pay attention that no small parts fell in to never be seen again:

The biggest problem was a broken engine mount, which was the reason for the engine to rotate itself on every single roation and then hit back on the frame. It’s a miracle that it did not get completely destroyed when drove like this for surely 50-100 kilometers. The broken rubber enginge mount could not be sourced. Instead it has been replaced by a simple screw. That should do until Varanasi…

We were too slowed down to reach before the onset of night but at least we were moving – even occasionally without rain. We contacted Dr. Lenin, the chairman of PVCHR in Varanasi saying we were about to arrive there.

In a village about 50 km before Mohania, we felt sorry for the poor people there, who had to suffer the awful smell of burning plastic.

Unfortunately, shortly after, our horn stoped working, followed in quick succession by lights and windscreen wipers.

A glance under the bonnet showed that WE were the actual source of that awful burning plastic smell – our cable harness had been reduced to a smoldering heap.

Since it was almost completely dark by now and it just started raining again, we decided to put the truck spotlight to the front of the rickshaw with a couple of spare brackets and newly found screws. Quickly it was connected to the generator and we finally had some light! Mac Gyver would have been proud of us! At the back, Benjamins torch, turned to flickering mode, makes for a great taillight! 

Since the windshield wipers are out of action, too, and it is by now poring with rain, we decide to take out the windshield altogether in order to be able to see anything at all. This gets is soaking wet in seconds BUT we manage to get to Mohania, where we find a hotel, which is fully booked and sports the most wonderful manager, who gives up his room for us – marvellous!

Tomorrow we will make Varanasi!

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The mother of all traffic jams before Patna

Today we finally reached Patna. The first part of the way went really well – until it started to rain again…..It turned the road into a kind of swimming pool and from one minute to the next, traffic just stopped. The next 5 hours were spent in a massive traffic jam outside Patna. We limped from one water filled pot hole to the next, just to find that we had to wait another 10 minutes till we could repeat the exercise with the next one. The engine literally drowned several times during the exercise and more than once, we had to push it out of make shift lakes, trying to get it started on the other side. It all sounds like nothing much, just bear in mind that you are surrounded by gazillions of other vehicles trying to occupy the merest bit of space given up by another vehicle the second it moves. Once we apparently weren´t fast enough and a police man, wielding a stick, started shouting at us and hitting our poor rickshaw with his stick. We scrambled to hurry up!

 In the heat of everything, we had snatched the side mirror of an ambulance. The driver, not missing a beat, charged us the trifle of 500 rupees for it, then bent it back into shape and got on with his business….
 When we finally arrived in Patna, we got lost in the many dark back alleys there, desperately trying to find this quite big hotel. The end of it was that we were escorted to it ,by the military in a jeep, looking like it has sprung right out of an A-Team sequel. 

It´s 10 pm now and we are so tired that we are passing on dinner, just fall into bed and….zzzz zzzzz zzzzz zzzzz……

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Limping into Bihat

We had decided to take a train from Siliguri to Pagna – which didn´t seem to exist. Since there was no accommodation on the way, we decided to drive all night – only stoping at 5 am. The “road” reminded us to write to DICT.com about re-defining the word pothole….
It poured with rain and we were forced to stop for shelter in a bus stop, where we joined 3 crazy indian motorcyclists, dancing to the tortured sounds of some populare song, out of a mobile phone.

Focusing on Indians and India is a murky agenda for Stephan – since his glasses dropped out ot the rickshaw by mistake and were run over within 5 seconds by a following truck.
The resued remains make up a quater of his original specs and may be used as a monocle:

We were lucky to find a simple hotel in Bihat, caught a couple of hours of sleep and gave Stephans upset belly a chance to recover.

We never arrived anywhere as dirty and wet as in Bihat – lucky they let us into the hotel!
Tomorrow, we continue on to Patna….

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Repairs in Cooch Bihar

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Redefinition of Potholes

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Stranded in Bijni

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