After two days resting, Joel finally had his energy back enough to continue. We hit the road, relieved to find our route now left the highway, and wound through rolling hills into Rajasthan; Land of the Kings. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked and disgusted to read that at this point we took our helmets off, to enjoy the wind in our (my) hair, and easy conversation; i.e. not shouting single words at each other. There was next to no traffic on the roads, and the surface quality was appalling, leading us to reach no greater speed than we would on our pushbikes. It felt amazing, and suddenly people became so friendly! –It’s important to note here that about 1% of Indian motorcyclists wear helmets, perhaps because they’re too pricey; but more likely they’re too hot! In cities, there are often laws (unenforceable on the whole, but a good source of police baksheesh, and applicable for the driver only!) and wonderful signs encourage riders to don some protective headgear, usually in a nifty rhyme – in Goa, a favourite one was: Don’t be a hell-mate! Wear a helmet!– So I suppose we look less like two aliens on an over-loaded bike, and begin to resemble humans, a little. We started to get more smiles and waves, which felt lovely and welcoming. We spent the night in a clean hotel in Banswara; Hotel Raj Palace; no street noise, A/C, and even a little balcony, all for 400Rs (£5). However, of all the facilities, the one thing we appreciated most was the lack of fumes, as our last residence had been over a paint shop!
Next stop: Udaipur… but before we set off, a morning trip to a mechanic pulled in a good crowd, and some bad news – talk of big problem in Dolly’s engine, a good few hours work, the mechanic signed to us. Can we make it to Udaipur we asked? – a beautiful city, home of the Lake Palace Hotel, made famous in Bond’s Octopussy. We’d rather be stuck there waiting. He motioned that we’d be fine to carry on (160km) so we decided to take the risk. The road was stunning, as we neared the city, we came through a protected forest, and some gorgeous pinky hills. No problems with Dolly, she was running OK but Joel had a bit of an uneasy feeling about her; there were some new noises, and she wasn’t feeling right. Hmmm… The joy of the Enfield.
We found a big, light room with an absolutely splendid view over the lake, complete with un petit balcon, wall hangings and stained glass windows; in the traditional Udaipur style, arches with scalloped edges. And wifi?! We are really feeling like a modern Maharaja and his Maharani now.
The next morning we made our way to a mechanic, bracing ourselves for bad news. When the boss finally arrived, he confirmed it was just that. He showed us little shavings of metal in the oil. I ain’t no biker, but I got a feelin’ that ain’t great… New crank bearings needed, a job which involves taking the whole engine to pieces. Ouch. The rupees add up…
In the evening we went to see a traditional dance performance and puppet show at a beautiful old haveli on the lakeside. The performance was divided into sections, and each was introduced by the compere. The first one was a ritual, in which the male dancers pranced about staring maniacally into the heavens; the drumming was fierce and intense. Mirroring my sentiments exactly, a toddler burst into tears and was taken out by her father. Luckily the following dancers were smiling women, twirling and shaking in their finery; J and I were tapping our knees and grinning like little hyenas in no time. Phew!
Next Morning: Just picked up Dolly, only to find all petrol magically vanished. Our hosts in the hotel laughed when we told them; “You should always be emptying the tank before taking it to the mechanic! Just leave them 1 litre!” I shoulda known. (Indian English is mainly comprised of verbs in the present continuous, for those who’re interested!)
We’re almost ready to set off for Pushkar, on shiny Dolly, good as new. Went to pick up a shirt from a tailor that Joel got talked into having made last night after a beer, (By me and the tailor both!)