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Old 5th February 2010, 15:12   #1
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Default Vesta Tours and Travels: Package for adventurous couples - Explore Rajasthan!

“How about a really long ride, dear? We neither are growing any younger nor are the responsibilities becoming smaller.”
“Alright. But where? Leh Ladakh is unaccessible in Jan-Feb. What else is good?”



Prologue - Planning, preparation and surprises

It was around in Nov 2009, that me and Nandinee, my wife, started to get an itch for a ride. We had recently gone on a three day Konkan ride (Gandhi Jayanti Weekend ride to Konkan), which prompted us to get on a bigger one. After checking the leaves and discussing a couple of options, we came to the conclusion that Rajasthan was perhaps the best place to visit in Jan-Feb season.

Once the place was fixed, the other things started falling in place, like booking the tickets, getting leaves approved, and reserving hotels. Hotels were finalized mostly based on the Youth Hostel association (as it greatly reduces the price) or for the places where there was no affiliated hotel, internet reviews. We had three months to go for the ride, so these things didn’t take any time more than required.

Now the bike needed to be spruced up for long rides. We had a custom made saddle bag from my previous bike Caliber 115. But Vesta (GS150R) has an up swept silencer, and also protruded side panels. After a lot of thinking and inputs from welders, we finally made her a set of calipers to protect her belly from Saddle bag scratches.

Vesta at the welders, waiting for her armor to be prepared



Also, the seat width is more in GS than in caliber. So the connecting cloth in the saddle bag was put anew and sown properly, so we had good storage with safe distance from silencer and no pressure on side panels.

We wanted to make sure we do not get stranded on lonely roads. I already have a puncture repair kit (a spare tube and a foot pump, along with the knowledge of changing the punctured tube). The possible hardware failures that could land us in trouble if we weren't able to find the original parts were clutch and accelerator cables and spark plug. Somehow, I was not able to procure the spark plug, but we bought the cables and found a nice spot under the seat to store them. Also, the documents in originals and copies were always kept with the bike.

We knew zilch about Rajasthan, except that it is beautiful with great roads. Internet helped a great deal, along with Lonely Planet, and so after a long discussion thread, the itinerary was finalized as follows.

-1. 20 Jan Wed: Evening ride from Pune to Mumbai
0. 22 Jan Fri: Evening train from Mumbai Central to Jaipur
1. 23 Jan Sat: Jaipur Get down from train
2. 24 Jan Sun: Explore Jaipur
3. 25 Jan Mon: Udaipur via Pushkar/Ajmer ~400 km
4. 26 Jan Tue: Udaipur sightseeing
5. 27 Jan Wed: Jodhpur 266km
6. 28 Jan Thu: Jaisalmer 285 KM
7,8. 29, 30 Jan Fri, Sat: Jaisalmer + SAM + Desert Festival
9. 31 Jan Sun: Ride to Jodhpur 285 km
10. 1 Feb Mon: Jodhpur Local sightseeing
11. 2 Feb Tue: Early morning train to Pune
12. 3 Feb Wed: reach Pune at 6am.

Rajasthan was getting colder day by day, and we were getting precautionary warnings by everyone. So bought a pair of thermal wears for both of us, which proved to be of tremendous use, especially at night. The three months advanced planning came very handy in giving us enough time for booking etc, for finalizing the itinerary, and most importantly, to save enough money for the trip.

Days came and gone, and soon the day of arriving in Mumbai came. The saddle bars were tested fully this day, and to our delight they performed wonderfully. It was a 4 hour uneventful ride from Pune to Thane, which was quite tiring in peak hours, but it was inevitable as the train was leaving from Mumbai Central Station. We checked all the bags again and again, making sure we don't keep anything important behind, when it struck me that I removed the cables from bike when giving it to servicing, and forgot to put it back. Now the cables were in Pune, I was in Thane, and less than 24 hours were left! So much for a good start!

...to be continued.
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Old 5th February 2010, 15:23   #2
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Good start...awaiting the next part....vrrooom
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Old 5th February 2010, 15:24   #3
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Great one in the offing. Getting a partner on such a bike expedition is a boon. Getting a life partner like that is a Maha boon. None of the epic rakshashas even have thought of asking for such a maha boon! All they wanted was long life, blah blah.
I'm hooked on to this one sir.
Seems a great preparation there, down to the knee caps and elbow pads!
The greatness about bike trips is that you are exposed to the elements and are not confined to closed space with a/c on.
Way to go!
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Old 5th February 2010, 18:34   #4
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First train ride – Day 0

There are no photos of this day, because the camera was hidden deep inside the luggage, and things were happening too fast or too slow, to take it out.

I rode Vesta to Mumbai from Thane, for going to office. The difference between traffic of Mumbai and Pune is sharply noticeable. In Mumbai, almost everyone was sticking to his lane, the signals were observed religiously, and even large vehicles were not stuck in traffic. In Pune, it is usually a competition with everyone else, with each vehicle trying to inch ahead of the other.

Luckily, I got the cables couriered from Pune to Mumbai office, and got it in time. I had to shell out 80 bucks for this transport, but still, the fact that I got them in hand when needed made it worth.

When I inquired in the luggage office of Mumbai Central station about putting the bike on train, I was told to submit the bike at around 5pm, when the train was leaving on 6.50pm. Now, something for the uninitiated readers about transferring motorcycle by train. There are two luggage classes, one is parcel, and other is luggage. Parcel is something you send on its own. The ticket for parcel is cheaper than luggage, but it is not immediately delivered. You should keep 3-4 days or 1 week buffer between sending and receiving the motorcycle. The second option is luggage, when you take the bike in the train you are traveling with. This costs more, but has the convenience of sure shot transfer on defined time.

I obviously chose to book the bike as luggage, as having it on time was more important than saving a few hundreds.

Then started the play of corrupt and whimsical system. Agents started nagging us the moment we set foot inside the premises, demanding Rs.500 extra for their ‘efforts’. Staying true to Mumbai’s costliness, even the packing of bike in gunny bags was quoted at Rs.350. Even the packing was too shabby to justify even 50 bucks. Not willing to bend to the will of these looters, we decided to pack and book the bike ourselves.

We started packing the bike at around 5p.m. with a cardboard box, whole lot of newspapers, a brown tape and a gunny bag. Removing petrol from the bike took its own sweet time, and a lot of shaking as the huge tank of GS150 apparently has a lot of places for petrol to play hide and seek.

After packing the bike ourselves, suddenly two goons in cops’ uniform arrived out of nowhere and started demanding the removal of package so that they can see the inside of tank. I told them to rather check the removed petrol pipe below and confirm the petrol is removed. Though the tank was as empty as their brain and nothing could be seen from top of tank, they would not budge, and kept on insisting of the removal of packing, just to harass us. It took a couple of shouted heated sentence and angry stances to shoo them away.

Finally, we started filling the form at 6.00pm. Seeing that we are unwilling to pay any bribe, the railway authorities worked on the slowest speed possible. It was 6.48pm already, and the bike was still in the luggage area. Finally we caught one officer who arranged a coolie. After running with the damn coolie for full length of the platform, as the railway booking staff gave me the last bogie to enter the bike, finally the bike was on board on 6.53pm, and train left at 6.55pm.

It took several minutes for both me and Nandinee to recover from all the tiredness and sickness from the attitude of Railways. When the train finally left the platform, we couldn’t help but laugh hysterically, for reasons yet unknown to us. Maybe it was out of triumph, that we showed the corrupt system not all people are willing to bend, some still fight.

The night was full of deserved sleep and curiosity about the first ever out-of-state ride we were doing. Tomorrow Vesta would breathe in a different place altogether. I hoped she was enjoying her first ever train ride, and prayed that may she be safe from any falling luggage. Soon anxiety gave way to tiredness, and we were sound asleep in the train finding its way in darkness. Tomorrow would mark the start of a whole new adventure for us.

...to be continued.
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Old 5th February 2010, 21:30   #5
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Welcome to India! Good experience you had with the railways. The morons charged me 150 bucks for a cycle to be packed, loaded and unloaded in a trip from Chennai to Mangalore in 1993. I was young and believed all the crap they said as rules. The coolie charged 25 bucks to get my cycle out of the parcel van and leave it on the platform! Wouldn't let me climb in stating rules. That was the only time I got anything over by parcel van.
Waiting for photos.
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Old 5th February 2010, 22:26   #6
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Default Transporting Bike by Train

Here is some useful and detail information regarding taking bike by train.

AFAIK, this is based on real time experiences of 60kph members.

60Kph - Loading the bike in the train

Regards,
Rajat

Last edited by rajatmakar : 5th February 2010 at 22:27. Reason: Corrected spelling
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Old 5th February 2010, 23:05   #7
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Wow! I wouldn't dream of doing a two wheel trip with my wife! I'm waiting to see more pictures and the rest of the story. I had ridden part of the route to Mangalore on my BIL's bike and when we reached, I couldn't distinguish between where the seat began and where my butt ended!

More wow!
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Old 5th February 2010, 23:38   #8
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City of circles – Day 1

After spending the morning with lazy wakeup and stone cold breakfast, we were eager to reach Jaipur. Train reached at 1 p.m. Again I had to walk to full platform to get Vesta. When I reached the luggage bogie (the brake van), my heart skipped by the sight. It was packed to the brim with packages and its door was locked due to excess luggage. Some railway staff finally opened it after kicking, and the huge pile of big boxes placed randomly greeted us. A railway staff climbed up that pile, and started throwing the boxes out. With increased heartbeats and shocked brain, I continued to watch and wonder what must have happened to Vesta!

That moment I saw to the left, and one more such brake van was being unloaded. Unable to see the sight of Vesta pressed under such huge piles of boxes, I moved there, just to see her standing neatly without anything around it in the next bogie! Seems all the running and excitement of last evening made my memory faint about the exact location of the brake van!

Finally she was unloaded gently, and was released by the booking staff immediately, without demanding any bribe. Pushed it all the way again back to the bogie, where Nandinee was sitting with the luggage waiting for us. In that excitement, we threw open the packing of the bike and started loading the bike with tankbag and saddlebag. Someone on the platform asked us not to unpack the bike before leaving the platform, else we could get in trouble, and soon enough, we found ourselves staring in the face of one angry railway staff.

“Why the hell did you unpack the bike?!”
“Ummm, just wanted to load the luggage…?”
“Have you released it? Show the documents!”

Finally after showing the release form to him, he let us go, but not without a strict warning and a stern gaze.

Pushed Vesta down that platform, up on another one, all the way till we were out of the station. There we finally threw all the packing away, except keeping that gunny bag for return travel. We didn’t know it would come in handy in a much different way soon afterwards. Put the petrol back in bike, and it started in first crank.

The booked hotel was Jaipur Inn, or so we thought. Finding our way there tired and hungry, when we checked the reception, we were told there were no such booking! Even the person we were talking was not working there! Now that was too much of a surprise for us to take light heartedly. After digging that issue, we realized the booking was in Residency Inn, and not in Jaipur Inn!

So again went the Baarat of 3 musketeers in search of the hotel. Finally we checked in the hotel at around 2.30p.m. Had our first Rajasthani Thali at the hotel. I never knew Rajasthan so famous for its desert would be having thali dripping with ghee. If you are a light-meal person, skip the Rajasthani thali!

When I started riding in Jaipur, the first thing I noticed is the chowk circles. They are so many, that you lose track of them! We finally remembered the way back to the hotel as you first cross the statue of sage looking diretly to you, and then someone else’s statues right shoulder!

In evening we started to roam around the city, just to know each other better. We first went to Birla temple. On its way, we saw something big mansion on top of a hill. A local told us it was Moti Dongri, and the royal family still stays there. It is open for public only on Mahashivratri. So clicked it from a distance and moved on.

Moti Dongri



Birla temple was as usual very beautiful and soothing. The idols inside the mandir are neatly scalped.





Roamed around in the Mandir’s campus till dayfall, and then started our way to the bazaar.

Moti Dongri at night



Nandinee asked a group of local girls who were busy chit chatting about the best place to buy mojaris. We both had not brought a pair of sandals, so buying a pair of mojaris was on the top of the shopping list.

We passed this beautiful Ramnivas Haveli on way.



Finally entered the old city, and parked Vesta in a comparatively safe spot. Roamed around in the bazaar just to get a general feel of the prices. The mojaris we liked were quoted at Rs.250 for each. The closing deal after Nandinee’s hard negotiations and after a lot of drama and heated sentences was 300 for two! So beware if you can’t negotiate!

Finally at 9p.m. we left the bazaar with some prized shopping in our hands, in search of food. Finding a descent hotel within affordable range proved to be surprisingly difficult. Finally we came across a little gem, named Hotel Mohan. It is marked in Lonely Planet as well.

After a hearty dinner, we headed to our room and fell on the beds dead tired. Vesta was locked safely, and dreams of the full day tour of Jaipur, of its famous Hawa mahal and Jantar Mantar gave company to all of us.

...to be continued.

Last edited by ani_meher : 5th February 2010 at 23:43.
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Old 5th February 2010, 23:42   #9
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Nice stuff. Post more man! What does Vesta mean?
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Old 6th February 2010, 01:18   #10
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Good going there! I envy you. The last bike trip I had was in 1995. I was the pillion rider there.
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Old 6th February 2010, 22:18   #11
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The pink city – Day 2

After a rather late wake up, we quickly plotted the map about the sights to visit today. We had our breakfast at Rawat Kachori, a hotel famous for – well, kachoris. It was so crowded; it took some pushing around and some yelling to finally emerge victorious with 2 kachoris and hot jalebis. The battle was worth it!

Rawat Kachori’s kitchen



The first spot was Hawa Mahal. The approach road to old city was actually quite dirty and crowded, but when we entered the old city, it was surprising to see the planning. The city is planned in such way that even after so many years after it’s establishment, the two laned roads flow the traffic perfectly, all the shops are at the outer side and residential area is in the inner part. There were various clusters of shops clubbed together to form separate bazaars (Bapu Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar etc), and each shop was numbered chronologically. Wish we had such planner today to plan our noisy cities, or even the outside of the old Jaipur city!



The footpath just below the Hawamahal is kept vacant specially for tourists. Parked Vesta some distance ahead, but later realized there was a separate parking available just outside the Hawamahal.

A snake charmer just outside the Hawamahal



Hired an old guide to show us the Hawa mahal. He toured us around quite nicely, and later we roamed around by ourselves clicking here and there.





It was very sunny that day, and the sunglasses helped a lot. A tip to rajasthan travelers, you can forget to wear your pants but don’t wear to forget to wear sunglasses. While the former may or may not hurt others eyes, the later will surely hurt yours!



We were told that Hawa mahal was built after the design of the peacock feather in Lord Krishna’s mukut, but somehow it didn’t seem symmetrical.



A LOT of pigeons were seen here, and afterwards in almost every place. My hate for these birds kept on rising, especially after they gave nice beauty spots on my polished Vesta in our office parking lot!



Next we had our lunch in a hotel Kailash, which is on way to the city palace. The rickshawallas told us that the tourist spots are closed in 1-2pm, but this was a lie. All spots are open from 9.30a.m. to 5.00p.m.

When we visited the palace, came to know the camera fees were some 50 or 80 bucks. Since I am no professional photographer, we shoved the camera in the bag, and walked in just to see. The palace was huge, and we saw two big silver jars which were of our height, that contained some 900 gallons of water. These were used by the then king, and even taken to England! In the rest of the palace, there was some party preparation going on, and people were putting on the show. It was feeling as if we had stepped on a film set!

The main hall of the city palace is beautiful, but sadly, photography was not allowed -even to those who paid for the thing.

The portraits of the royal hotshots didn’t impress us, especially seeing a bunch of royal guys sitting around a firung officer and his wife and smiling for the camera was not a favorite topic to our liking.

After city palace, we headed to the greatly famous Jantar Mantar. Now this is something that each and everyone have heard of. Naturally, our curiosity about this place was sky high. Unlike city palace, the tickets were reasonable here.



We saw some really cool scientific buildings here, but I felt a person who knows Jyotishya and astrology / astronomy will enjoy this great deal more than anyone else.







We were free by 4.00p.m. Still had an hour or so before all the tourist spot close down. So we decided to head for Nahar Garh, which we could see from a distance.

Enroute to Nahargarh, you pass a tower called tower of life. The title is actually an irony, because criminals were hanged on these towers for the rest of the city to see the effect of wrongdoing.



We took the Nahargarh road, asking our way to locals. We passed through some really dirty areas, where pigs were playing happily in the middle of the road, overjoyed with all the garbage that was flowing freely. A local pointed us the way, and when we started riding on that path, soon I realized there was no turning back! The road was quite narrow, and very steep, so no question of taking a U turn. You have to finish the full climb, then only you can turn. While climbing the small steep ghaat in first gear, we spotted a biker coming down, and confirmed that this was the way up. After some 7-8 clip bends, we finally entered the parking of Nahargarh fort.

Identify the place!



This place is where the Rang de basanti was filmed. Nice place to see, but nothing much to do.

Climbed as high as possible, much to Nandinee’s agony, because she is a flat road horse, and can’t handle the steep roads.

Panoramic view of the city



The Gata loops of Jaipur, with 8 bends!



We saw cars coming to the parking, and decided to see which route did they take. We thought Nehargarh was just the Rang de basanti place, that’s all. But we were proved wront. Nahargarh was actually a place where the officials from the king’s darbar were staying, and it is a small palace that is open for public to see.



Wish we had such corporations today which provide such dedicated accommodation to its employees!





Leaving Nahargarh



While leaving Nahargarh, the guard told us to take the same route we took for coming up, as the route for cars is from Amer fort, Jalmahal etc, and the shortcut saves some 10-12 kms. Again we rode from the steep path, clinking and banging due to the rocky roads, passed the stinky steps and entered the old city.

We had dinner early that night, and packed the stuff. Tomorrow was a big day, because Udaipur was some 410kms away, the longest I would ever ride in one day. Gave a feast of 500 bucks of fuel to Vesta, wished her goodnight, and awaited the morning eagerly for the longest ride ever.
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Old 6th February 2010, 22:25   #12
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Thanks for your comments! Vesta is a Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family.

Hope you like this next installment of day 2.
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Old 6th February 2010, 23:40   #13
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Nice one here!! . You are really lucky to have such a good wife
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Old 7th February 2010, 23:07   #14
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Forth rode Vesta - Day 3

The day began earlier than yesterday, and even surprising ourselves we were ready around 8-8.30a.m. we met some of Pune university people who have come there on trip in large group, and chatted for a while. Seeing a Pune registered bike there itself was big enough a shock for few of them, and seeing us two gearing up for the ride pushed the curiosity to new highs. A quick bashing to all the youngsters in that group by their seniors was in order:

“See! They are riding on their own in a new land! And you?! Tired of just a bus journey? Shameful!”

I suppressed the urge to ask them how many of them would permit their children for such rides, seeing at the faces of those youngsters. Clicked a photo instead with the group, and rode ahead.



The plan was to ride to Udaipur, while covering Pushkar and Ajmer on way. After some period, animals in our stomach started to sing, and we had to take halt, where we had surprisingly good parathas, the best we had in all Rajasthan trip.



The road till Ajmer bypass is smooth sailing. At Ajmer junction, you get a choice to bypass the city or to enter it. We chose to enter the city, and to see Pushkar Ajmer and again join the roads to Udaipur. It was around noon.

Pushkar road is very similar to Konkan roads, with ups and downs and bit patchy and bumpy roads. I was quite curious about Pushkar, but frankly got bit disappointed. The Brahma Mandir despite being the only one in the c0untry is not that visual delight, and the lake was all dried. The famous pandits at the lake tried to advertise their service, but my riding attire was enough to discourage them.

We took turns in visiting the temple and the lake, as we couldn’t leave the bike with its luggage unattended in the middle of a crowded city.

Vesta waiting in the streets while we took the Darshan of the lake



Finally left Pushkar at around 1.30p.m. the time was already running against us, and the hope of reaching Udaipur in daylight was diminishing each moment. We took Ajmer Darga’s entry gate darshan on bike only, and took U turn and got out of the crowded city.

Riding through Ajmer



Had lunch on some unnamed hotel, and started riding to Udaipur. This would prove as the toughest ride, as the distance seemed so far, and because of the ongoing road work around Rajsamand, the hourly distance crossed was hardly 50kms.

Had my first sand crossing today. Riding in sand is very different than riding on water or plain road. Each time, the bike gives latkas and jhatkas, and you have your heart in your throat all the time.

See the guy in the M80 almost slipping



Vesta kept on churning kms one after another. After some period, it started getting boring frankly. So tried all sorts of tricks to keep myself interested, like counting seconds for each 0.1 kms, counting number of white vehicles etc. When the tricks stopped working, took a cold drink halt at a dhaba.



GS150R’s seat is usually soft, but now that we had saddle bag on the pillion’s seat, it wasn’t soft at all. Nandinee was having problem sitting for extended time. That’s when I noticed that we were carrying the gunny back for packing Vesta back home. Folded it to make an Asana for her highness, and that proved to be very useful. That time onwards, Nandinee might forget anything while on ride, but never the gunny bag seat!

Riding on the roads while sunset time was bit of a humbling experience. You can see large vehicles approaching you from a great distance, and the overall ride at that time was nothing but enchanted and humbling.



Soon night fell, and big vehicles with their bigger headlights started to blind us. I started tailgating a bus, but soon unannounced bad roads appeared and forced us to lose her. Later, I started following a jeep. As expected, once he spotted Vesta trying to follow, he started trying to shake us off. I sped up and caught him at a speedbraker, and requested him to lead us. He obliged, and then it was a fast persuit of some 60-70k.m.s, with the jeep heading the way. He bid goodbye at Shrinathji, around 50kms from Udaipur at 8.30p.m.. Vesta too was running on reserve. So took a small tea break, filled fuel in bike and prepared for the final one hour ride.



The kilometers kept on reducing one at a time, and after many twists and turns of the Aravali hills road, finally I saw the sign Udaipur 0 kms. But the city is still much away from this sign. We had the hotel ‘Dream heaven guest house’ located deep in the heart of the old city. We reached there at 10.30p.m. after asking a lot of help. The hotel is located at a steep 40degree climb hill. Poor Vesta had to climb this in order to rest for the night. Found the hotel caretaker and got the room. I ran upstairs to the rooftop hotel to order dinner, and returned to find Nandinee standing outside of the room with anger and fear in eyes. Immediately I recognized the feeling, it must be a lizard!

The poor hotel owner had to come down with its broom to shoo that big (any crawling thing above 2 inches is big for Nandinee) lizard out of the room. For some reason, he kept calling the ‘Chipkali’ as ‘Chipak-li’. It sure was funny to listen, but I had to suppress my laughter because I wanted to sleep in the same room, and not to be shooed away by Nandinee like the ‘chipakli’!

When we fell on the beds with sore bodies and full stomachs, whole ride kept flashing in front of my eyes. We rode with iron wills and iron butts, through traffic and clear ways, through muddy paths and perfect roads. Vesta rode like there was no stopping, like a rail engine, happily lugging us along.

The day’s total ride was 460k.m.s. A new personal record for longest ride in a day was made, both in terms of distance as well as time.

...to be continued.

Last edited by ani_meher : 7th February 2010 at 23:11.
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Old 7th February 2010, 23:43   #15
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“See! They are riding on their own in a new land! And you?! Tired of just a bus journey? Shameful!”

Good comment there.
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