Saturday 10th December 2011

Mumbai to Igatpuri 80 miles

Well I survived my first day on the roads of India! They weren’t as bad as I thought, in fact I thought they were worse in Turkey! Only noticed this morning they drive on the left.
Managed to negotiate my way out of Mumbai surprisingly easy despite there not being any signs, just followed the traffic and my compass. Bit of change in the temperature to what I’ve got used to in europe, the biggest problem I’ve had is keeping hydrated can’t carry too much water, it just gets so hot it’s not nice drinking hot water, luckily there are loads of places to buy water along the road and it’s nice and cold! Stopped at one place had a bottle of coke, bottle of water and something to eat for 90 pence! Have to have a few beers tonight to stock up on my fluids!
The bell was good today, I kept using it all the time, think if I was in England people would think I was special keep ringing the bell. Going up a big hill towards the end of the day was quite good I was having a bit of banter with the trucks they were trying to get me to hold on and get a lift up the hill, but I was fine. I even managed to overtake a couple of really slow lorries.
By the end of the day I think I looked like an Indian, I was so dirty from the fumes and dust and because your sweating so much, it just all sticks to you! Perhaps thats why the first hotel I stopped at said they were full! Can’t get used to them shaking there head in a no gesture but saying yes, most bizarre to an English man!

Friday 9th December 2011 – Getting ready to leave Mumbai

Think I’m going to like India! Curry for breakfast again first thing, it seems to be the norm. Been for a wander today, don’t feel threatened or intimidated at all, and certainly not being hassled to buy anything unlike Istanbul! Had some street food and some sugar cane juice, not sure if it’s a wise move or not! We’ll see tomorrow! Also decided to have a shave by a street trader, it cost me less than 50 pence. Not quite the same as Michael Palins shave when he was here, his was done by a blind man! It was dark when I had mine though and there wasn’t any lights!

Yesterday I went to a cafe/bar called Leopold’s apparently in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists this was one of the places they attacked killing 6 people. There are two windows inside that have been preserved with bullet holes still in them! This was told to me by an Indian sports presenter I met in there, he said he’s quite famous, not too sure about that I’ll Google him, but whatever he was a good laugh and good company. It’ll be good to get peddling again tomorrow, not really done any cycling for a week now! Think it’s going to be an adventure getting out of Mumbai!

Thursday 8th December 2011 – Arrive in Mumbai

Good flight over it went really quickly and landed at Mumbai on time, got off the plane and followed the crowd to passport control. How busy was that, joined a long snaking queue that must have taken a good 3/4 of an hour, once you’ve done that you then join another queue in front of one of about thirty passport control men, was starting to get a bit anxious about my bike now, needn’t have worried though! Got to baggage reclaim and there was no sign of anything but after a short while cases started to appear, my bag came along pretty quickly, which then just left me to worry about my bike. My bag and everybody’s case was soaking, it was raining pretty hard in Turkey, apparently I heard a woman say that she saw them all just sitting next to the plane not covered at all! That really knocked my confidence, surely they wouldn’t leave a cardboard box out in the rain, would they? But why was it taking so long to come out, maybe it had got wet and all the bits of the bike had fallen out and I’d be missing a wheel or the pedals would be gone, I kept asking about it and kept being told it will come out soon! Eventually the conveyor belt stopped and from behind the plastic screen I saw a box being pushed out, it was my bike and it was soaked but luckily the box was just about holding together and it looked as if nothing could have fallen out! The 3 reals of tape that I used to wrap the box paid off as it was this that was holding it all together.

Got a taxi to the hotel, what a journey that was, the bike was tied to the roof and he drove like a bat out of hell! I did learn 2 things about driving in India, traffic lights are completely ignored and they don’t even slow down when there red! Speed bumps are to be ignored also, the faster you take the better! I hit my head quite a few times in the taxi and hurt my back, I’m surprised the bike stayed on the roof, after 40 bone breaking head bashing minutes we arrived at the hotel and surprisingly so did the bike, I did wonder if there was any damage to the bike it would have happened in the taxi not in the plane!

By the time the bike had been man handled into the hotel and up to my room the box had given up and was falling to pieces but it had done it’s job.

Breakfast was now being served, so had some curry for breakfast and an hours sleep then put the bike back together which was surprisingly easy, whether it stays together is a different story!

I spent the afternoon playing the tourist.

Wednesday 7th December 2011

Got everything packed first thing, then went to have a final look around the markets, such busy places there’s a good atmosphere in them. Managed to sort some anti malaria tablets out as well. Bit of a miserable day it started to rain about midday. Strange I arrived in Istanbul in the rain and leaving in the rain!
Got a taxi from the hotel to the airport, so much easier with the bike in a big box. Said goodbye to the hotel staff once again and said you never know I might be back. I most certainly would go back and I would recommend the hotel to anybody, the staff are so friendly and helpful and it’s in a great position.
Got to the airport in plenty of time in case of any problems with the bike. Just as well checked in as normal and was given a piece of paper and told to go and pay for the bike which I was expecting, went over to the excess baggage desk and got charged £380 nearly as much as my ticket! But thought if that’s what it is, that’s what it is! Went back to check in and gave the girl my receipt who looked at it, spoke to a colleague and wandered off to the excess baggage desk, turns out I got charged the wrong price, it wasn’t excess baggage it was sports equipment, because I’m an athlete!! It only cost me £55 in the end much better! Thanks to the staff on the check in desks particularly the girl who helped me, Elif, very good customer service. Seems a shame to leave Turkey the way I am and I’m a little peed off with it! But realistically it was the only safe and practical way, I’ll just have to return at some later date and ride Iran and Pakistan!