|November 16, 2013
The hotel I picked is lovely. It’s right in off the town square. Just enough off that it’s quite private AND Suu Kyi is sleeping safely in her sleeping bag. We’ll be unmolested when I work on her tonight.
The floor of my room is covered in jute and feels great on the feet. I will have to pick some up when I return. The high traffic areas have fax Middle-Eastern rugs on them. I have a boot area when my stinky shit is, the main bedroom and a tea nook that overlooks the Himalaya. Perfect. I have satellite TV and internet in my room too! All the furniture is made of dark teak even the floors. There is also a hut style wood stove. Plus I get Canadian style blankets!! Thick and heavy. It gets cold at night here at night. The elevation is 2135m. There is a larger dining hall/bullshit area too. The windows overlook the square and there is some folk singing going on. I am writing this in the retiring hall. The skyline gives great views of Khangchendzonga, 8473m [the third highest], Kahru 7318m, Jannu 7710m and Parduin 6669m.. If this sounds truly unbelievable that’s because it is. It is stunning – really really stunning!!! The weather is phenomenal! Baby blue
Even all covered up and Suu Kyi no where in sight I am getting asked to pose for family photos.
All the tourists seem to be of the wealthier sect. I see a few types like me but not many. It is the most white skin I have seen since leaving Canada. But the town is smallish so they are more concentrated here. There’s an airport 90km’s away. Three or fiur hours drive by jeep.
I found a very small curio shop that has a culpa and thigh bone horn. He told me they where the only ones he has and says they are very very hard to come by these days. He does have a deojie that he claims is over 300 years old. It is like no other I have ever seen. I am going to get something from there but I don’t know what just yet. He has so much shit packed into such a small place it will take some time. He know that I am a collector and he’ll pull out some stuff fore me to look at when I return.
I have to prepare Suu Kyi for a journey tomorrow but I am thinking I may stay another day to acclimatize. I had a head ache last night. 2135m is fuck all but when your coming from 120m… I have never had this problem before. Even when I climbed Pisco 5600m?? in Peru I was fine. But I think the drop off point was near 2700m. I want to drive to a small village called Sandakphu and it sits around 3636m. Suu Kyi is already running hot. I wonder how she’ll hand the elevation. It’s only about 40km’s away but the guy at the tourist booth. He told me that I will not be able to go there and return in one day. He was great. He gave me small detailed maps of the area and even told me of a small book I should buy. I bought it and the same one for Sikkim. I think I am going to spend more time in Sikkim than Assam. Darjeeling is great but…
November 17, 2013
I got a new card for the GoPro today and it’s all ready to go. I also bought the newest edition of Lonely Planet India. I will be sending the old one home with some other shit. I always send stuff to the office because there is always someone there to sign for it. I suppose I could send it to Cara’s office too.
I set up Suu Kyi and went for a rip up to Tiger Hill [2690m]. It’s a view point where you can see Lhotse , Everest  Makalu [8475m] and, of course, Khangchendzonga  is staring you right in the face The road was rough but she ate it up. She’s an incredible machine. It was my first time seeing it. I am much more impressed if someone has K2 on their resume than Everest. The three sisters were very far away.
I heard some British guy say to the staff this morning that they were checking out because they wanted a more modern hotel. Is this my travelling brethren? This guy should stay with me for a couple weeks. Good god man!! Really?!!
I am going to get up early tomorrow and ride to Sandakphu. The views are better here. I will bring all the tools, spare tubes, patch kit, compressor, assorted nuts, bolts, tape, zip ties and other knickknacks, my first aid kit, long johns and mirco-down coat. I will also bring a tooth brush incase I don’t make it back before night fall. I’ll have to keep six on my chai breaks. I have told the hotel guys that I will be leaving most of my gear in the room and that I plan on returning but might not. I have to remember to wear sunscreen. If I can’t repair any problem with what I am brining she’ll have to be put on a truck and taken to Delhi for repairs.
I have been doing lots of research on Sikkim. I am looking forward to going there. I should be in Gantok by the middle of next week. I have to apply for an Interline Permit [IP]. These are easy enough to get. The bible writes that just go to the District Magistrates Office [DMO]with a copy of your passport [I have] and a couple of passport photos [I have]. I always get four from the machine at the mall – they’ll take any small size photo. Or I get a few done here – there cheap. I went to the DMO today with my shit and was handed a form, told to fill it out and get it stamped at the Foreigners Registration Office [FRO]. Of course – face palm. The DMO and the FRO are several km’s apart. Easy for me but anyone else would be cabbing it. If this is all that is requires I would be extremely surprised.
I met a Scottish lady today who is married [partners] with an Indian fellow. They have land in Bhod Gaya, a small hotel and run a charity for kids. She also does nor-for-profit tours to Indian from Scotland. Her clients just make a donation to her charity.
When I went up to Tiger Hill there was a class on a field trip up there. I spoke to the teacher for quite along time. All the kids listened. He asked me what I liked most about India and I said the people and gave him a hug. All the students clapped. After that I drove a little further up and met a British and a n American couple. The American man was really taken back with Suu Kyi.
I bought a true Nepalese Gurkha Army knife today. It’s called a Khukuri. Gurkhas all carry a Khukuri. It’s a forward-curving knife. Gurkhas are well known for their reputation as fearless in combat. The former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, once stated that, "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”
November 18, 2013
I tried to drive to Sandakphu today but only made it as far as almost Tongu. The road was too rough and I was worried about Suu Kyi plus a dumped her a couple of times. The first time was at the start of the really steep section. Some foreigner trekking with a guild couldn’t decide which side of the road he should be on. This way - that way - this way - that way. I ended up laying her down upright in the ditch. They helped me get her out. No problem. I came up on a gompa and thought I should stop and at a few pictures, of course there was kids hanging out. One of them pointed out that my gas tank was leaking. When I put her in the ditch I must have cracked the tank some how. I don’t know how this was possible because I was going slowly and I have laid her over a lot harder than that and the tank has been fine. It was my large auxiliary tank. I have even read that thses tanks are virtually indestructible.
I drove her around so that I could lay her on her side on an uphill slope to inspect the damage. I had no fuel in the auxiliary tank but the lower 1/6 of the tank [where the crack was] sits lower than the main tank and because the two are plumbed together fuel from the main tank will naturally will flow out the crack. It was a good thing this kid was there and noticed because I didn’t. I washed it down and cleaned it up the best I could. First I used Indian crazy glue on it then I put a think coat of oil & gas resistant Seal-All on it. When I installed the auxiliary tank I plumbed the two together using quick couplers on each side of the auxiliary tank. Thinking that if I have to remove fuel this will be an easy way to do it. The female end is self sealing once the male end is decoupled. Fortunately I had put the female ends on the main tank side so when I decoupled the two tanks the main tank was isolated. Unfortunately there was a lot [four litres] of fuel that needed to be collected from the auxiliary tank. I found a few one litre bottles plus the kid got a few from his house and Bang Bob’s your uncle!
I wrapped plastic around all the ends and zip tied then neatly to the frame. If and when I need the auxiliary tank the Seal-All will be dry. I really don’t think that it’s going to hold. I do have Quick-Weld but it’s not for plastic. I’ll think of something in the mean time. I have only been using the main tank anyway.
After that was all done I carried on. The road turned into an Inca Trail type of scenario. I road for about five km’s and dumped again, really bad this time and that was enough for the day. I carry my camera in the inside of my jacket and I fell on it. I broke the view finder but the camera survived. A few ribs not so much. I wacked my head pretty hard too.
I road down to where the road had branched off and headed the other direction – away from Darjeeling. I road for about an hour and still no town and I was getting hungry so I turned around and headed back. It was really nice drive.
There was a big fire in a building in the town before Darjeeling so I couldn’t pass because of the bucket brigade and fire truck. I got off and watched for awhile then went to look for a restaurant. There was none. I ate a package of cookies and laid down on the front stoop of a store that was closed and had a nap. I woke to the sound of car horns so I knew traffic was moving again. I got back on her and we went back to Darjeeling. We arrived at 3:00. I was beat. I quickly went and had a vegi-burger, fries and a coke, came home and had a nap.
November 19, 2013
I have decided to stay in Darjeeling until I finish Shanaram. This is, by far, the best book I have ever read. Some books like this you have to wonder, “All of this can not be true.” Having been to India four times now I know, without a doubt, it’s all true. The man is a legend. I will be here for another four or five days.
My ribs hurt like hell. This is not the first time I have laid it over and hurt my ribs.
Another group of tourists is coming to the hotel and I guess they reserved all the rooms on the floor I am on. I think there are four. I will have to move tomorrow. I told them I would move around 10am or so.
Another group of riders showed up today; our and Enfields and one on a Hero. The Enfields are really old. They have drum brakes. They all belong to the tour guild. The group is from Sweden. The tour guild is also from there but lives here in a town called Kalimpong. He has a wife and young boy there. On top of motorcycle tours around this area he has been overland to and from Sweden with groups before. I asked how long it took to get is Iranian and Pakistani visa and he said Iran was three weeks and Pakistan two days. The overland from Europe to Asia has always been on the back burner mostly because of what I have read about getting visas into Iran and Pakistan. He also does paragliding and runs a small hotel. Great guy. He has been in India for about 15 years, four of which were working for an NGO in Kolkota. He gave me lots of tips about where to drive in the Sikkim. Sounds fantastic. His name is Roger Lenngren
I hear them now in the common area having beers. I should join them with my maps and bullshit for awhile but the book…I would also like to get tips on places to stay. They are doing basically the same route through Northern West Bengal and Sikkim. They are probably is only on tour for three weeks
I had a shower today. The first one in about four or five days. It’s just too damn cold. Plus I haven’t sweated a drop. The showerhead was one of the best I have ever had in recent memory, traveling.
I found a little nick knack shop that sells old Tibetan stuff. I bought five items. The total price was 3 lak. Unbelievable collectors’ pieces!! It was a brilliant find. I got a conch wrapped in silver, a Tibetan book, a staff, a necklace and an abacus. I am hoping that in Nagaland I can find some similar tribal stuff. Maybe a shrunken head. I would pay dearly for an item of that rarity. Some may say that ‘you’re stealing heritage’. I say I am preserving it. It will go to others anyway but mine will end up in a museum when I die, it will not be sold to the next person. The guy sure was asking a lot of questions. “Are you a collector? Are you going to sell anything? What do you already have and where is it from?”
I really really miss Cara. I wish she were here. With the Land Rover she will be. I would like to take Liza and Lucy too.
At least by stay here and finishing the book I know that Suu Kyi is same, I have good food, good room, internet, access to new books and hot water.
I got my Sikkim permit today. 0 Rs. just a lot of walking. It is only for 15 days and begins on November 22, 2013. Sikkim is only 20km’s away. I also took in my clothes to be washed. I have no clean underwear. I can go commando in everything except my riding pants, they’re too coarse. Plus, if I get hurt and got to go to the hospital…yikes! I make one pair last two days by turning them inside out. Socks I wear two times before they need a wash. They are polypro so they dry easy. I have hand washed them before.
I have been thinking about how to further patch the hole in the aux. petro tank. I am running out of Seal-All so I bought two tubes of gasket maker. I am not sure how ‘adhesive’ it is but its petro and oil resistant. I am going to get an larger piece of old inner tube, apply the gasket maker to the tank and put a piece of the tube on it. It takes 24 hours to dry. I would like to have constant pressure on the rubber. I am thinking that I’ll lay Suu Kyi on her side, and place a two or three rocks on the tube. The area is not flat so what I am going to do is fold up a rag and place it on the tube before I place the rocks. I will be able to make a ‘flat’ area out of the rag yet keeping the same about of pressure, from the rocks, on the curvature of the tank. I really wish I had access to the inside on the tank. If I had I know I could seal the crack. This is the best idea I have thought of yet.
November 22, 2013
I must leave Darjeeling tomorrow. I have been here too long now. The book is finished. Some parts seem to be too unreal to be true, as are in most books of this nature. At the beginning everything seemed plausible be near the end… I have no real reason to doubt the story and it was a good read.
My ribs have healed enough to start riding again. It was much worse than I initially thought. When I would move in a certain way it would hurt like hell. Sleeping was a bitch. There was only really one position I could sleep in. It hurt like hell getting to that position. Laying in that one position for more than a few hours, on these thin mattress’s was difficult. I would try to roll on to my back and that was it. Ouch!! Trevor D. knows all about this. He blew out his back in the US and had a few sleepless nights getting back to Canada for treatment. Everyone wanted me to go to a doctor to get looked at and maybe a pain prescription but my body is clean now and I need it to remain that way. If I start taking anything it will be the end of the trip. I can finally cough. I couldn’t imagine sneezing. I really don’t think I broke any ribs.
I am sending stuff home today and tomorrow. It’s the stuff I bought from Dorjee. He sure is an interesting man. The most he sold at any one time to a single person was USD$40,000 worth. It went to a collector who gave some to a museum. He personally knows XXXXXXXX, the author of Seven Years in Tibet quite well. He has travelled with him quite a bit with a film crew. He also has bought a lot of stuff from Dorjee. Dorjee is an interesting man, now that I have gotten to know him better.
I had to stop taking Champix. I was getting wild head spins. At first I thought it may be the altitude but after two days I knew it was something else. I played around with the times I take my anti-seizure drugs and isolated it to the Champix. It’s not essential and it’s not helping me quit smoking either. Fuck it, I have to quit cold turkey. Cara will only have me back if I quit smoking anyway and that is reason enough to quit. My head was spinning so bad a couple of days ago I tripped and landed on my face. It was embarrassing not to mention sent shock wave into my ribs. People came over to help me up. It was one of those trip-ups where I couldn’t get my other foot forward fast enough. Right on my face in front of a few people. So embarrassing. I tried my best to hide the pain in my ribs.
I have to clean the screen on this laptop. I am going to meet Dorjee for chai at 11am. It has been a little cloudy towards Khangchendzonga lately. I asked Dorjee about it and he told me it’s temporary. I was thinking that maybe the really good weather/clear sky season was coming to an end.
I made my maps all the way to Guwahati in Assam. With my road atlas I can travel about one atlas page per day so what I do is photocopy a few pages and tape them together. This way I don’t have to keep pulling out the atlas, only the copies. Plus I made copies of maps of a few larger towns such as Gantok, Guwahati and such from the Bible. It’s always a good source of maps for towns and smaller areas.
I am ready to get the fuck out of Dodge. I am done with this place and the cold. I looked on the internet and it was minus 20 in Kamloops yesterday.