Feeling pretty rough right now. The last 1500 miles has been hard riding and despite resting up as often as possible, it seems to be taking it's toll.
There have been some amazing moments along the way though that have made it all worthwhile.
Ranthambhore did not let me down. I was very lucky to find myself graced with the presence of a tiger
on my second run in to the jungle. Machli decided to join us just as I thought all hope was lost. Machli is the oldest Tiger in the wild and boy did she command a presence! I was so honoured and despite seeing us in our open top jeep, she didn't seem to mind and just pottered over to the watering hole and promptly got in it to cool down. It was particularly hot that afternoon and so I wondered if I would have some payback for my time in the sun searching for her. The summer heat in India is not a place to be hanging out if you can help it. I decided whatever the cost, it was worth it! I had seen my first wild tiger! It really was such a special moment.
Riding in India can feel like you are riding on a knife edge at at times. The near misses, the heat and the constant obstacles of cows, pigs, bikes and trucks not to mention the SPEED BUMPS THAT HAVE NO WARNINGS!! Sometimes it feels like a great adventure and other times it feels like survival. I struggled to keep my concentration and energy levels up and so decided to stop every half an hour for water and rest before pushing on again. You know it's getting to you when your mind is telling you to let go of the bars and just let yourself fall!
Thankfully there was a wonderful hotel waiting for me and I soon recovered with a little rest and food. There was no way I was going back out in that heat though and so decided to stay in my room until the following evening when I would go and check out the Pink City and its forts and palaces. This time I left Rhonda at home and went by Rickshaw! An experience in itself.
Jaipur shall always be remembered with fondness now as this is where I received the news that I had
become a Grandmother. That was pretty emotional I can tell you! I would have loved to fly back just for a hug but this was always going to happen and even if my budget allowed, it would probably make it too hard to leave again! A Skype call would have to suffice. Alexis is beautiful!
Destinations Unlimited), who had arranged all these great hotels for me (along with the star man Anil who I would take with me if I could!) and were now going to put me up at their place for a couple of days.
What great hosts! It was so nice to stay with them in their beautiful home. A big Indian family, who all welcomed me in like I was a long lost cousin! Nothing was too much trouble and as I was starting to feel the effects of the heat and the long riding days, they arranged for medication, ordered rest, fed me up and offered their home for as long as I needed it. I felt so comfortable and welcomed that I decided to stay an extra day!! In fact two!!
These guys sponsored me through the last 12 days but best of all they offered their friendship and it really was very easy to accept and reciprocate. We had such a lovely time together. In fact the third most wonderful thing happened on the last day I was with them. Ashu, Anil and I went off to see the Taj Mahal. I hadn't planned on going but it was a shame to miss it and so we took a day trip together. The first site through one of the splendid gates as we entered was breathtaking! I hadn't expected to be moved quite as much as it did but now I see why it is one of the the seven wonders of the world.
India is so diverse and keeps on surprising me. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of this complicated, crazy, wonderful country. Yes it can be unforgiving, particularly mid summer on a motorbike, but it also gives so much and the people here are wonderful. I have met some really colourful characters and the bikers have been out in their droves to wish me luck. They don't hide behind cool nonchalance, instead choosing to just show their admiration and support for a long distance rider crossing their country, in any way they can. I even had one biker waiting on the side of the road for me as I came out of Jaipur, with a gift from his mother. It was a gift for my daughter in law to celebrate the birth of her first child. I was escorted in to Gurgaon and again out of Gurgaon by bikers. I have had flowers brought to my hotel and I have had so many messages that I just had to give up trying to reply to them all in the end! I did try though!
The roads may be crazy and I deserve everything I get for riding in the midday sun but the sites are something to behold. I have ridden through elephant rush hour and water buffalo rush hour, I have watched a man crawling on his knees (for who knows how many miles. It can be as much as 200) to keep his promise with his god who answered his prayers and I have witnessed hard working genuine people all over the country. I have NOT met any murders or rapists and I have not been malled by crazy crowds (we drew attention for sure but all were just curious and more for the bike than for me).
There is certainly a lot of poverty here and the danger on the roads cannot be ignored. 1500 miles is a lot of road and I think I must have seen it all by now (although something tells me there is more to come)! I was told you need three good things to survive on Indian roads - Good breaks, good horn and good luck! It's all true but what an interesting country.
Tomorrow will decide whether I am ready to hit the mountains and the famous Lay Ladakh (AKA bikers paradise).
Wifi may be an issue. I don't think Sikh temples come with it