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What a difference a day makes

A hot shower, a great meal, clean clothes and I’m a new man.  I made it into Agra early in the morning, not long after Lynne arrived on the train from Delhi. Great to see each other as it seems like I’ve been on the road for a month.

The Heritage Homestay is just what I needed – a family guest house which makes a wonderful change from half star hotels and noisy truckstops. I have to say though that even while the truckstops are very basic, with only a army camp bed, the food is always great tasting & hot. A daily menu of different types of dhal, freshly made chapattis, a few vegetables washed down with a cup of hot sweet chai. Everyone’s super friendly, my gear is never touched and when I nod off after a hard day’s riding I’m dry, warm & safe amongst people who are genuinely hospitable.

As expected the bike draws crowds where-ever I stop and not once has anyone ever touched anything. My age seems to amaze people and even when no-one speaks English, (and that’s often) we still seem to share a mutual understanding that the world really is a great place regardless of our differences. As the wise Mr Singh our host says, our dress code, language & culture maybe different but we all bleed the same colour.

I had been starting the morning with a hot chai, and during the day just having a bottle of mango drink & a bottle of coke. Now that I’m more comfortable on the road and have a routine (and getting my ear chewed) I’ll make a point of having breakfast to maintain my energy level before I set off each day. It can be pretty cold at times but I’ve been told it is 45 degrees here in the summer so I’m glad I chose this time of year to travel.

Back home when selecting gear for the trip my priorities were quite different than what I now see as more important. For instance, I chose well made waterproof boots with strong toe caps. After eight hours in the rain in Nepal the boots were soaked through & took days to dry out. The toe caps have caused a problem that wouldn’t occur with normal motorcycle riding and that is when trying to stop in heavy traffic. Because the bike is so high I find myself pushing my toes into the ground for extra stability – otherwise termed as panic stops. This has caused the nail on both my big toes to blacken and be pretty sore for the first few days.  It’s been suggested to me by my support advisor to switch to some open sandals for when I’m not riding to try and stave off any infection. But you know me, I just nod and keep right on. When the toes fall off then I’ll know I should have taken the wise one’s advice.

Despite the added weight some items have proved essential. Even though there’s no camping out in India my sleeping bag has been handy for added warmth & for when the sheets on hotel beds are what you might call questionable.  I’d like to be carrying less weight but the only things I can find to chuck out at this stage are the waterproof pannier covers…they’re totally useless in these conditions.

While the bike is running well, there’ve been a few minor mishaps that have required attention now we’re laid up for a few days. One of the problems is the amount of oil that leaks out of the exhaust valve lifters. This combined with dust and grime coats my boots, pants, the bike and gear bags, making it difficult to keep anything clean. So the first job was to get everything back to normal. It’s amazing how much better it feels to set off with clean gear, even if it only stays that way for a few hours. I’ve now extended the rubber hose from the exhaust pipe to minimize the amount of oil spraying out from there.

Constant jarring over bumpy roads has broken the light hinges and Mr Singh has kindly offered to get the light repaired in his engineering shop. The wedge that secures the pedal gear to the frame needed adjusting & a shortened nail did the trick. The rubber bulb fell off the horn when the brass ring came loose, so a strong hose clip now holds it in place.  When the back tube blew apart it forced the tyre hard up against the mudguard, breaking a mudguard stay and pushing the mudguard up against the stand, removing a large chunk of paint. By the time I reach Belgium I reckon the FN will be really looking at least 101 years old!

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