To Mumbai and Back in 6 days

Mumbai

Mumbai

That is Mumbai, but we’re in Delhi again. This quick journey South turned out to be semi-epic.

After having dinner and learning about the Sikh religion, we returned to the hotel turbanised and gifted. We received holy turbans, wristlets, prayer chains and a holy Sikh blade as well as tons of information about a different spiritual culture.

‘A beard is a gift you give your face. And a passport to awesome’

The Sikh are warrior spirits, and in the time before, they used to take off their protective turbans only for battle. They realised that the hair makes the head look larger, and therefore in the eyes of the enemy they seem more fierce. That means the power lies in the facial hair, and that a man without a beard is like a lion without it’s mane.

With power comes corruption, and therefore the metal wristlet on my right wrist (sword hand) is there to remind me not to use the hand for evil. An evil hand used for personal gain will not accomplish content in life, instead a protective hand will always protect the content in life.

The turban around my head protects my hair, my ears, and if necessary, my face. It is surprisingly good while riding the tuk tuk on the dusty roads.

The prayer chain is used to pray in the mornings, and each bead is given the intent, ‘Wah, hey, guru’, ecstasy beyond words, to remind the mind to think positively.

And the sword is carried at all times as a symbol of willpower and purification.

Just before learning all this, while waiting for our new brothers to come pick us up, we got a phone call from our Pakistan counsellor friend. Our visas had been approved, and we were to be back in Delhi asap. I received an email later that started with the words, Dear brother Pyry. I think this is the most peaceful way of starting a letter, and it should be used more ofter.

The next morning, after the lovely dinner, we contemplated whether to cancel the shipping and drive through Pakistan, or continue with it and go by foot. The shipping company had already started the shipping procedure and there were still so many question marks concerning Pakistan.

We tried to contact everyone we knew to get all possible information, but we couldn’t reach anyone. Juho was set on shipping, but Pyry was set on driving. We decided to see what the shipping company had to say.

Turned out that the shipping company had already ordered the container so there would be charges, but luckily the customs had not been started yet. This didn’t lean to either side, so we still didn’t know what to do. Then something unexpected happened.

Mustafa, the shipping agent, a man from India, told us to drive through Pakistan. This was an act of humanity, because it was against personal gain. Mustafa said that shipping is always and option, but driving through Pakistan is what our project is about. He encouraged us to fight on, no matter what happens. We will make it through driving, and fulfil this once in a lifetime dream the way it should be done. We should at least try, because if all else fails, shipping is always an option.

This was a clear decision, and something opened up in us. Teary eyed from the kind gesture, we offered to pay the charges that had come from our haste. Mustafa answered that we need not pay. He told us that this is part of business, and that sometimes these things happen. He knew that we need the little money we have more than him, so instead of taking our money, he gave us spirit to get home.

This was something so unexpected that all of the stress from India was released. It seems like one small humane gesture can make a huge change for the better in someone else’s life.

As a thank you, we would like to mention to all who are in need to ship vehicles to/from India, that there is a good hearted man in Mumbai called Mustafa, who works for the shipping company Sadikally Esoofally & Co. (Estd.1938). He does things effectively, knows how to deal with the infamous carnets, and it was a breeze dealing with him and his team. It was very welcomed after the horror of Kolkata.

Then, on that Tuesday, we left Mumbai to be in Delhi by 10 am Friday. It was already 2 pm so there was no time to waste.

On the first day we managed our destination which was a motel on the south side of Vadodara. We chose that because on the way we were there and it had absolutely fabulous food.

The second day we were supposed to drive an epic 800Km to Pushkar, but close to Modasa we had our first break down.

We had stopped for lunch and once finished we drove off.

Pyryhigwaystreetfood

After one kilometer the engine stalled and refused to start up again. It seemed like petrol wasn’t getting to where it was supposed to, but we didn’t know how to fix it. Almost 10,000 Km driven, it was about time to learn.

Hinaus

We managed to hitch a ride with a local auto-rickshaw who towed us to a mechanic in Modasa. You can probably imagine we gathered ourself quite a crowd.

mechanic pällistelyä

The problem turned out to be a blocked petrol tube and it was fixed with compressed air and while we were at it we decided to fix everything else as well.

The wire for the back charger was changed, a chipped metal bracket that holds the electrics was reattached, and the belt was tightened. We spent 3 hours learning about our engine as well as the locals.

mechanic

In the end we let the mechanic do a test drive with the tuk tuk around town and he drove around stopping every once in a while to show this strange phenomenon to his friends. He bought us some pidi cigarettes as a gift and drove back.

Once asking for the cost, the mechanic refused to take any money. Everyone was smiling so we accepted it as a gift. With humanity completely restored, we headed off for Pushkar.

Every once in a while the blockage came back, but this time wiser than before, we could unblock it by opening the petrol tube and blowing hard. We’ve also found out that if we clean the air filter often, our engine keeps it’s power. With a lack of air the petrol doesn’t burn properly and power is lost. Keeping air and petrol coming keeps the engine working effectively.

We had lost 3 hours of driving, so we only made it 100 Km South of Pushkar, to another roadside hotel. This was close to a beautiful small desert mountain village and they happened to have the best food we’ve had so far. I found a new favourite dish, though unfortunately I cannot remember the name. It starts with a K I think and there might have been an L.

On Thursday we drove all the way up to Delhi so we made it for our 10 o’clock appointment at the Pakistan High Commission. Once again the meeting at the Pakistan Embassy was superb. I’ve noticed that all of the Pakistani people I have met so far have all been honest and humble. Every place has it’s good sides and bad sides, but most countries cannot openly say that they have problems. Most prefer a path of illusion, but the counsellor we talked to told me that in Pakistan, they believe that in the end honesty will prevail. The country is not perfect, but they are still good people, hopefully.

We have now strengthened our tuk tuk, cleaned the suspension as well as everything else, and we are ready for the next unknown. By next week we will be in Pakistan continuing our adventure.

mechanic posse

Weighing Options

Pakistan is geographically in a spot that is extremely difficult to go around, with the Arabian Sea in the south, and the Himalayas in the north. Going over the Himalayas is not an option because our Tuk Tuk is not a trained mountain climber, and it would mean crossing Indo-Pakistan-Chinese borders that give way to Kashmir, which is closed off from foreigners. Going round south would mean going by boat, and to detour the Himalayas completely would mean driving all the way to the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos.

We’ve figured we have 5 options. All of these are preliminary and we need to see how things play out a little before making any final decisions. This Bon Voyage feeling we have again, is waiting for that Carpe Diem moment, so we can strike when the time is right.

Here’s the choices.

1) Balochistan

The only roads to Iran go through Balochistan. It is the northwest province of Pakistan, bordering Afganistan in the north, and Iran in the west. The northern road from Quetta to the Iranian border town of Zahedan is the shortest and most commonly used, but it’s close to the Afganistan border and not wholly under the central governments control.

This area is known for it’s kidnappings, and foreigners are requested to have an armed convoy while travelling through.

This used to be our primary option, but now they have temporarily closed the road leading to Quetta because of the military operation against the Taliban they started last week.

2) South Balochistan

The southern road would probably be the safer route, but as far as we know, the road and the border crossing is closed for foreigners. The only way to find out if it’s passable is to go and try.

3) Karachi

Eastern Pakistan is relatively safe and we could cross from Amritsar to Lahore, drive south to Karachi, hire a dhow, and sail to Iran. This would allow us to learn a little about Pakistani food, and the sea voyage would be short as possible.

The problem with this option is that yesterday Mr. Tahir-Ul-Qadri arrived to Pakistan and added some flavour to the situation.

Tahir-Ul-Qadri is a cleric turned politician, and the leader of a moderate Islamic Party. He vows for a peaceful revolution, but his arrival to Pakistan seemed to have brought more tension than peace. His flight was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore because of clashes between his supporters and police in Islamabad.

This means that our visas are pending until the situation in Lahore is clear. We have 2 more options just incase.

4) Ferry

We’ve heard rumours that there is a ferry link between India and UAE. We’ve heard of one ferry going Chennai-Karachi-Dubai, and one Mumbai-Karachi-Dubai. Mumbai is far south, and Chennai even further, and it will take us days to drive there. This option would be risking it, because it is based on a rumour.

This leaves us with the final choice.

5) Shipping from India

We will do all we can to not do this again, but life’s not always fair is it.

Our closest port for shipping is in Ahmedabad, but Mumbai seems to have more options. Both are south and in the monsoon area, so time is not on our side.

This is the list so far and the best we’ve come up with. None of these options seem like a good one for the moment, so if anyone knows a thing or two that we don’t, now would be the opportune time to speak up.

Kokookko koko kokko. Koko kokkoko? Koko kokko.

Would you please build the whole bonfire.

The whole bonfire?

The whole bonfire.

That’s what the title means. It’s time for JUHANNUS!

Back at home people are fleeing the city as everybody heads to the countryside. It is truly a magical celebration of good company, good food, and good drink. During the weekend Finns will dance around bonfires, spank each other in the sauna with branches, do magic spells in the nightless night, drink vodka like water and drown in numbers.

Fatalities are known to happen, because Juhannus is a celebration for Ukko. He is The Man, symbolising fertility and strength, so games and competitions are typical, and when drunk, it sometimes goes a little overboard.

Here on this side of the world we have run into a similar situation that has completely gotten out of hand. Pakistan decided to see who’s toughest by going to war, and they’ve decided to have their full on military operation right on top of the road that we were supposed to be driving on.

This is a little more serious than how we like to take things, so we will gladly spend Juhannus here, on Finnish soil, in the safety of the Embassy.

Hopefully all of this manliness will be over by the beginning of next week, with as few casualties as possible, so we could be on our way again.

Just in case it’s not over, we are searching for detours.

 

A new hope

After an agonising few days of disproving every lie and every excuse, we finally came out with our Tuk Tuk. To this day, we haven’t had to pay a single cent to corruption, and we didn’t even have to pay for the detention charges. Victory!

It was however, one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life. The good thing is that I found a new side of myself. A side I have kept hidden all my life, because I have feared it.

I had to harness every ounce of willpower I had for three days straight so that we got the tuk tuk out. They delayed everything with lies, deceit, and accusations, and we had to counter every one with honour and respect. It was without a doubt the dirtiest game I have ever played, but we were the only ones that came out with a clear conscience.

lorry

Now we finally have our Tuk Tuk back, but only 3 days to get to Amritsar. We thought we’d leg it to Varanasi on the first day, Delhi the second, and the rest on the third and hopefully have 2,5 days to clear customs and get to Lahore. We had to promise not to film anymore in India to get our visas, so it’s a good thing to go quickly.

We left Kolkata at 5.30 with our 3 wheeled Panther, and weaved through the giant snakes of trucks. Our tuk tuk is just the right size to squeeze and manoeuvre while the beast weaves itself along.

Every so often a toll collection point came, but our tuk tuk seems to bring out sympathies from people so we only had to pay at one.

It was nice to know that we were heading home again, because the sun set where the road led to.

rekka ojassa

 

We rode in the dark for the last 3 hours, and I felt like Luke Skywalker. I had no choice but use the force most of the time, because we needed to make time by going an average of 60km/h, and visibility was next to nothing.

Everybody, and I mean everybody has the long lights on all the time, which glares the eyes and makes it almost impossible to see. Luckily the dust in the air reveals the magnificent beams of light heading to the heavens, leaving only silhouettes of the trucks, tractors, mopeds, bicycles and people, which can be used to navigate through. Someone having tail lights was a one-in-fifty chance.

What made it even more difficult, is that sometimes there was row of headlight all coming towards, and they seem to be wanting to pass from both sides. Some drivers here find it more effective to get home, driving against the traffic on the wrong side of the highway. Mainly motorbikes, and tractors, but every so often a truck comes towards.

Luckily we found an ambulance on alert,  and used them to show us the way. They had good lights and a patient in the back, so no bumps, but as fast as possible.

We arrived to Varanasi at 10 pm.

Same thing the next day to Delhi, and the next to Amritsar. We could make it, but it would be suicide.

We will rest a day in the city
that is said to have the longest running continuous population in all of the world, and take 1.5 days to drive to Delhi.

We will get new Pakistan visas from there.

Varanasi

Riding the Bible Belt To India, 20.05.14, Moreh

Still with Buddha.

We left Kalaymyo on the eve of the 17th of May. Accommodation prices were outrageous so we stayed only one night. For locals one night in a hotel is around 8,000 Kyat (8 USD), while for foreigners the same room costs 40,000 Kyat (40 USD).

Foreigners always get a 10,000 Kyat extra, and if 2 foreigners take one room for two people, the price was always 40 000 K This was the same for every hotel in Kale, except the one we accidentally found on the outskirts of town that was only 35 000 Kyats. It didn’t belong to the cartel because it was a brothel, and luckily that night we were the only guests.

The next morning we finished off our unfinished dailies and spent some hours on the internet trying to sign into facebook. Then we jumped on pedals and gave few hours of sunlight to ride as far as we could with no stress as we were ready for another night in our hammocks.

We ate our dinner at the crossroads between Kalaw, Kaleymyo and Tamu and it was a feast to remember. It turned out to be by far the most expensive dinner we’ve had, totalling a whopping 7000 Kyat (7.3USD) even though the coffee was free. We did however get to eat the largest and best prawns we have ever seen in our life and the company was excellent.

We continued on towards Tamu in search of a nice quiet place next to some small stream. To our surprise this new Myanmar-India road, built in 2009, was like a desert with houses all along the road. There was no place to hang our hammocks, no stream to wash ourselves, and we started to come desperate.

Having only 10 minutes of sunlight left, we passed a monastery and decided to go ask for a place to stay. The head monk was nice enough to give us a floor for the night, but he called the local policeman to come check out our passports. The policeman informed us that normally foreigners are only allowed to sleep in the designated hotels in Kale. But since we had the head monks permission for the night, he gave us an exception.

MyanmarPojat

The next morning one of the monks asked us to play with the local kids during the day and in return we asked to stay another night. One of the children liked us so much that he wanted a picture with us and he had made us gifts. We played and sang with the ukulele and got ourselves a crowd of women and children. The monks had gone for their morning walk to gather food.

Suddenly the policeman came to tell us that the head monk had denied us a second night, and that we were to leave. The child who gave us the gifts seemed so disappointed that I decided to give him my necklace with the Amulet of Will, to show that his enthusiasm had not gone unnoticed. I gave the amulet in the hopes that he will remember for the rest of his life, that everything is possible as long as he has the Will to do it. Judging from the sparkle in his eyes, I think he understood.

Then we donated 3 Unity energy efficient cooking stoves to the head monk and he seemed a little baffled by our good will. It made us feel great to do something good even though we had been denied the second night.

UnityMunkit

 

The policeman, who was also baffled by our goodwill towards the monks and children, told us to go to a place called Kamphat Ranch Township. We would be allowed to stay there for the next night. We hopped on our bicycles and continued.

 

 

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Riding on the Bible Belt

We rode a good 35-40 miles during the heat of the day into an area that seemed like midwest of America. Churches started appearing everywhere and religious Christian music could be heard all around. We had stumbled into the Myanmar Bible Belt.

I don’t think these people have ever seen two hairy white men riding Chinese ladies bicycles Myanmar style before for everybody stopped to stare. Some smiled, some waved, but most stood still with their mouth wide open. Not literally but that’s what it felt like.

Every eye was on us, and elderly people came to us and wanted to shake our hands. This was a blast from the past, and the strangest thing I could never have imagined running into in Myanmar.

We continued on and the churches started multiplying. There were Protestants at least 3 different sorts, Presbyterians more than we could count, Baptists of numerous kind, Calvinists, Immanuel Baptists, and many we didn’t even know existed. A village of 2,000 people had at least 15 different churches, one every 30m. It’s as if every missionary had made followers to put up his own church.

We stopped for lunch at a village called Kamphat 2 and asked for directions to Kamphat Ranch Township. No one knew what it was. But as we finished our meal, one man came to talk to us. Apparently his youngest brother had wanted to meet us but spoke no English, so he had asked him to come invite us to stay at their home. We gladly took up their offer, it sounded much better than staying with the Myanmar authorities for a night.

They turned out to be a large family from the Chin tribe, and we could not have had  better last days in Myanmar. They took us into the family with open arms, and we opened our hearts to them. We spent the two days with them learning about their Chin food, Chin way of life, and Chin Christianity.

ChinPoika

The Chin people have over 200 tribes with different dialects and cultures, all being Chin and mostly Christians. This also explains the number of churches because the Chin people are used to having small, closed communities.

The Chin are happy, modest people, and speak english quite well. Many have been to Singapore or Malaysia, but have come back to their home village to get married. They don’t have much, but they don’t need much nor want much. All they want is Good Will and Gods blessing.

They are also very, very smart people. Their mind is on energy efficiency and self sufficiency. They use car batteries to light up the house and they use solar panels to charge it up. They only use energy saving lamps and LED lamps, and only during evening time. They build all of their own things and design their own energy efficient cooking stoves. We learned a lot from them.

We played football and volleyball, took part in the evening mass and the blessing of a newly opened school. It was interesting to see their worship not understanding a single word, except amen and the singing. Chin people are full of musicality.

The food and the way of life was very similar to that of the food and way of life in Finland only 50 years back, simple but loveable. Their Christianity on the other hand is unmatched anywhere else we have ever been.

It seemed the only thing that differed between us and them, is that they reflect everything on their book, and we don’t have a book. We spoke with different terms, but all of the intentions were exactly the same.

On the morning of the 20th we left our newfound family and headed for the border crossing at Tamu-Moreh. It was 37 miles of pedalling in the near 43°C heat. We made it to the border, only to meet a grumpy immigration officer who told us to turn around and go back to Kale.

We tried to explain that we had bought the permissions from Yangon for 180 USD and showed the receipt and all the Embassy papers to back it up but he refused to hear a word and commanded us to leave and go back to Kale.

We tried to to explain: “The receipt says, Tamu border pass, 2 pers.”

And he answered; “Tamu ends here, no pass. Go back to Kale”.

After 15 minutes of persuading him to call the number we were given by Seven Diamond travel agency, he finally started to listen. It turned out that our permissions were faxed only an hour earlier and he had not seen them yet. Once he had his paper from the Myanmar Authorities everything was suddenly ok.

Thank God we didn’t have to turn around and ride all the way back because we were already at the brink of heat exhaustion. After we finished with him, we noticed he was obviously not used to letting anyone with a foreign passport go thorough because we had to remind him to stamp us out.

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Moreh

We got over the border, and on the Indian side we were Invited to have lunch with Indian Army border officials. We had just had lunch on the Myanmar side to get rid of our last Kyats, but we just couldn’t turn down the offer.

Juho managed to eat it all, but Pyry was just too full to finish it all. The overeating and the heat was just too much. Pyry managed to keep it all in and ride to the police station to be stamped in by the Indian Immigration, and then it happened.

The heat, the sun and the food was just too much for Pyry, and his stomach decided to empty itself right in front of the Immmigration office window. He was on the brink of heat exhaustion. Pyry managed to keep everything from the police official and he stamped us in. We rode into town and found ourselves some cold water and a nice garage to rest before continuing.

While Pyry was sleeping, Juho tried to map out possibilities of getting to Imphal by bus. He also tried to sell our bicycles because they couldn’t fit in the minivans.

It turns out that the locals are not allowed to go to Imphal after 4 pm, and we were in no state to ride over the mountains. We took a room for the night and went around Moreh trying to sell our bikes.

“You want to buy a bicycle? Very cheap. Only for you my friend! Rare bicycles driven over the border by foreigners, you can sell for much more.” We tried everything but nobody wanted the damn things.

After dinner we came back to our room to write this blog. After half an hour 2 men came to knock on our door. They had heard we were selling our bikes and had searched a long time to find us. They knew they had a good deal because we had no time nor the will to make money off of them. We had made it quite clear that we just wanted to get rid of them quickly.

In the end we got half the money back and a good lesson of Indian bargaining. They were happy and we were happy.

Finally we are in India.