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Indian Journal

6th May. Delhi.

A lot to cram into one day.

Finally arrive after uneventful but sleepless flight. Doha, meh - pretty flares at night from gas burning, little else to say for it.

Then Delhi. It's different every time I visit at the airport. Twenty years ago my memory is of utter chaos and crowds ten deep outside the exit all clamouring for your attention (and bags), it was terrifying. Today the place is modern looking and mostly empty. Outside I can see only shimmering heat, a couple of people standing around, nothing much. I establish that once I exit that I won't be allowed back into this cool, air-conditioned area. I've got no money, no cash except dollars and I don't really want to be trying to spend dollars just yet, so spend an hour trying to change money at a counter where they seemed determined to simply make me wait as long as possible whilst doing anything else they could think of. Welcome back to India.

Outside I eventually find my ride, a man called 'Serves', who spoke no English, but smiled a lot. We walk for ten minutes to where he's parked, in a concrete car park. On the lower ground floor there's a pack of snarling, barking dogs, all teeth and aggression. He just walks past them and I run after. We pull away, music distorting the speakers of the radio, only to be immediately pulled over by a policeman who demands to see all the documents that exist. Serves pulls out bits of paper that look twenty years old, tatty and blackened and the policeman unfolds them carefully and peers at them in great detail. He stares at me for a while then waves us along and we drive to

the hotel, which is too posh for my liking. It's almost impossible to do anything without half a dozen people getting involved and helping you, and then waiting for baksheesh for their trouble. I collapsed on the bed after drinking a beer provided by Rosie, my 'house boy', at a dramatic cost of 600Rs per bottle. I'm trying not to get to obsessed about money, but it's flying out of my pockets at a horrifying rate here.

Wake up after a few hours feeling dreadful. I decide to change money, walk out, find a rickshaw for the day, go and buy a helmet and jacket, pick up the bike, then come back and relax. Not ambitious at all, no sir. So I wander downstairs and am immediately intercepted by he hotel manager who informs me that he can arrange all of these things for me. Why trouble myself? Of course he can. In the end, after a brief haggle, he offers me a driver and a car for the day for 1,300Rs. A driver I can trust, he says. I figure I'd be looking at 600Rs for a rickshaw anyway, maybe more, and I'm tired, so I give in and say yes. He changes money for me at a recent rate. He's clearly not trying to rip me off and is genuinely trying to to be helpful, it's just that everything in this hotel costs two times what it should. 650ml Kingfisher for 400Rs! Mind you, it is 8% alc...

So. Perhaps four hours of crazy delhi traffic later (via a really poor attempt at Kard Bargh - he just took me to a street stall near there - I haggled a 1,900Rs helmet down to 1,100Rs (it's probably worth 800).

Then to collect the Enfield. A long drive across Delhi that involved a lot of the driver yelling on the phone to someone, and several askings of random people on the street. The bike shop guy came to meet us at a juice shack in the vicinity and led the way back. Addresses in Delhi don't seem to make a great deal of sense, all I'm saying.

The bike place is tucked away in a shady courtyard, high fences separate some workshops and a few Enfields from children playing and old women doing laundry. The owner isn't here, he's called and I'm told he's coming soon, would I like some chai? Hours pass as I stare at the overtly sexual motorcycle posters on the wall of the office, which also has a dozen motorbikes rammed into it and so smells of oil and grease.

The owner eventually arrives, he's very pleasant and immediately realises I don't know much about bike mechanics. He looks worried. 'Let's do a little mechanical course, shall we?' he says. His minion strips much of the bike down as I watch, he points out various parts that can go wrong, things to check, how to change the plugs, fuses, it's quite involved. Then he hands me a huge toolkit equipped with enough tools to de-construct and reconstruct a motorcycle, and then another bag of spare parts. 'You pay for the parts you use when you come back.' he says.

Then a test ride. I'm instructed to take it and go around the block. Okay. Start her up and, my, she's quite big, I float forward like I'm driving a small boat, turn at the gate and carefully make my way through the laundry and children, ducking under hanging washing and trying not to ride into a deep gutter, and into the glorious sunshine. I turn up the dusty road and gun it. Oh my oh my, my first ride of an Enfield Bullet, a grin so wide that my face would split.

Then forms, documents, another hour of faffing in the office, more chai, and a $200 deposit. What? Sigh, okay. Then I'm waving goodbye, they look like they think they're never going to see me again (after I told them my planned route) and I'm free. I follow my driver back to the hotel, but only after a stop at the petrol station where five attendants all crowd round me and question me about England and where I'm going and what I'm doing and... 870Rs full tank.

I'm honestly unsure if I'd have made it back to the hotel without following the driver, in the state I was in anyway. So hot, so many vehicles, so much waiting in traffic, I felt faint. Every time I let the revs drop, the bike would stall, so I was sitting with high revs in traffic, endlessly. Hours passed, or so it seemed. I'll check the stalling thing tomorrow.