Early start with a hearty breakfast followed by lots of photos with the hotel staff and Rickshaws outside the front. Smally pulled a blinder by feigning sickness to then ask if she could have take away breakfast- promptly filling two large take away boxes and decimating the pastrie buffet! <\p>
Fairly uneventful road bashing day driving. Roads surprisingly good which meant we'd got some pretty good mileage done. All going well until Leo ground to a halt. Towed to nearby town and after batting off an insane frenzy of attention and about 1:30hr of some chap tinkering (whilst the girls were upstairs powdering their noses with said chaps wife and daughter) it was announced that the piston had once again seized in the cylinder. Copious amounts of oil later we set off again, Leo, as the continuous weakest link, setting the pace. Tiger had decided to start developing a rather unnerving graunching noise towards the end of the day. For fear of gearbox issues Nelly towed Tiger for 10-15km until the next petrol station to investigate. We initially thought that lady luck was on our side when a friendly mechanic pulled up and offered us to his work shop some 5km away. On arriving the mechanic had phoned ahead to invite the rest of the town and local journalists down to see the foreigners. Sadly said mechanic diagnosed the issue as overheating; nonsense considering what we'd done previous days and that we'd just let it cool for well over an hour. As genuine the sentiment was we weren't really interested in staying the night in the town and wanted to get back on the road ASAP. <\p>
Decided to camp just outside Adilabad to not repeat the emotion of 2 nights ago being mobbed in a small town whilst trying to check in. <\p>
The Lions had gone ahead and recced a great spot just off the main drag and out of sight of most. Whilst the night was still warm, mosi-nets were erected between Rickshaws and tents thought not necessary. 1 hour into slumber cue dust storm... followed by continuous drizzle. Unsurprisingly out came the tents, which are never the simplest to put up in the dark, let alone a hurricane force sandstorm... <\p>
Not a particularly restful night, but up at 5am regardless ready to tackle the next day. Due to Leo's engine (and general) weakness, the Lions set off early with the intention that the others will soon catch up. Dickie then discovered the potential reason for Tiger sounding rough, the exhaust was effectively now dangling off. No bolt to repair, a wire coat hanger and banging in a peg of wood had to suffice for now. Theres a reason we've moved on from making vehicles out of wood, because it's not very good! Na's fingers got particularly sore being on constant whittling duty creating more pegs as each would last only the next 20-25km. <\p>
Progress was made by the tail-enders, Tiger, Chav an Nelly, but being constantly plagued by wooden peg loss meant that by nightfall they were about 2 hours behind the Lions. It's amazing how much progress is made without Tony's nagging about people 'faffing'. <\p>
The Lions had decided to push hard for Varanasi, driving long into the night. The other three elected that Varanasi was a step too far so went to find a campsite!
They came off the highway and recced a field, it was unsuitable due to its close proximity to farm dwellings so headed back to the road to find a better spot. Tiger was the last to return to the road and was stopped by a couple of locals brandishing sticks and shouting erratically. They smelt of booze and had been attracted by their lights, unable to communicate with them and as more locals joined the pair tiger made a run for it. Sticks were used to beat tigers furry behind. The other furballers were mid recce as tiger sprinted past them shouting 'go go go , don't stop!' this is how tiger lost her tail; a mild wound which could easily have been much worse. A drunk angry local who thought we may be after his land has it now. They camped at a food station in a cow barn 10km up the road with very kind permission from the owner, another lesson learned!
The next morning saw Varanassi by 2 pm, they bumped into the lions in winding streets heading for a hotel by the Ganges having their vehicles serviced. What luck! <\p> < p> And now the blog baton is passed from the Alesburys back to Team Smearne to tell the Lion's share of the story (see what I did there? Bloody hilarious). <\p>
As another Indian sunrise cracked the morning sky with a burst of orange, Leo and Simba bounded off down the road, leaving the other 3 for what they expected to be nothing more than a couple of hours... It turned out to be a couple of days! Despite the steady speeds to allow Leo's sandpaper-bored engine to bed in, the 2 kings of the African Plains ate up the miles with a steady convoy rhythm for the majority of the day. <\p>
We noticed a gradual change in attitude as we progressed through the vast expanse of the arid GIFA (Great Indian F*#k All) and the friendly faces and amused intrigue faded in to leathery frowns and a growing reluctance to address the females of the group. However, our routine was going well until last light when Leo's engine had a mini tantrum. A 10 minute cooling break and a battery swap to give Simba some lights for the night (still no working alternator) and we pressed on to do what we promised we would never chance our arm at again - drive at night. Ah well, we were steeled for the carnage and determined to complete our 450km day and make it to our target of Jabalpur. Along the journey we were given constant reminders of the true risks of driving in India - crumpled remains of all shapes and sizes, including another dead body from a hit and run (700,000 people die on Indian roads every year) this one appeared to have been there for some time - quite a macabre spectacle).<\p>
After 16 hours on the road including a significant amount of running the terrifying night-gauntlet (brilliantly led by the Hattersley boys due to Simba's less than adequate headlight situation) we finally found a hotel amongst the manic, dusty streets. The one we wanted was full and our final destination looked distinctly Fawlty Towers at first glance. Imagine our surprise when we were ushered in to newly decorated rooms equipped to the highest standards. This prize wasn't taken until we had completed a long-winded interview with yet another newspaper. How they find us so quickly is beyond me. Food, then bed. <\p>
As always, late to bed early to rise. Having now put significant distance between themselves and the three Furball wagons of the rear guard, the Lions opted to crack on to Varanasi for the next RV and were turning wheels by 0600 once again. (with a little help from a local Rickshaw driver to lead us out of the city).<\p>
We were staring down the barrel of a 500km day but hopeful, given the high quality of dual-carriageways that we had been on for a large chunk of the previous day. Our hopes were shattered in very short order. Roads gave way to dust tracks which then gave way to what can only be described as one long bomb crater, and our average speed plummeted to a morale-crushing 10kph. The roads occasionally improved but we never again saw the tarmacced two-lane glory of the southern highways. Onwards we pressed though. <\p>
As the sun fell in the west we began to realise that we were in for yet another game of Russian Roulette. The only problem is, out here, it seems like they are playing with a single-shot rifle. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, we adjusted our target to a town 100km short of Varanasi and pressed on into the chaotic darkness. Upon arrival we found ourselves in a dusty maelstrom of noisy traffic, run-down buildings and teeming masses- and a lack of sleeping options. A new fire was lit in us and the consensus was taken to chin a pint of man-up and go for the grand prize. Onwards rode the leonine pair and it was not a pleasant experience. We passed crash after crash, most very recent. We attempted to latch on the back of a lorry and let him clear the way for us -the drivers pressed faces to the windscreen to try and pick out potholes in the face of full-beam headlights whilst the co-pilots hung out of the side warning of approaching cyclists, pedestrians and obstacles, none of which were lit, then Simba lost power. <\p>
With no obvious sign of the cause he was restarted after a quick cool-down and we pressed on tentatively. Our break was fortuitous as we soon caught up to find the truck we had been following stationary, in the middle of the road. The driver was stood at the front doing very little whilst, at his feet lay a body in a large, and still growing, pool of blood. Another poor soul had fallen foul of Indian driving.<\p>
Simba's engine cut out twice more, much to our trouser-filling horror. The lack of an alternator had forced us to hardwire our headlights straight to the engine. This meant that as soon as our engine cut out we became invisible to the 40 tonne trucks missing us by inches and we couldn't see a safe place to pull off, or anything else for that matter. Some quick head torch action and a rapid push cleared us away from the immediate danger but it was not until the third stop that we found a loose spark-plug HT lead. Duck tape cures all and we finally approached the outskirts of one of the world's oldest cities. Varanasi is a vast and complicated expanse so we grabbed a tuk-tuk driver to follow and headed straight for our hotel, or so we thought. Despite the late hour and how exhausted we all looked, he took us on a painful 'tour' of the city, which involved nothing but crappy back streets and being stopped by an angry mob of very drunk local guys who ordered us to take down our 'American' flags but leave the Indian one up. Turns out drunken pikeys are the same wherever you go. After a little banter back at them ( we weren't giving up that easily) the flags came down to avoid the inevitable fight and we rolled in to our hotel at midnight. No doubt others have done similar but I suspect that 500km and 18 hours of driving (5 of them at night) must be up there somewhere with the epics if the Rickshaw Run. And so... Exhaustion. <\p>
Falakata: One thing Paddy did miss out of his blog was the way in which the fur ballers were informed of Na’s collapse; a young lad with very good English poked his head around the corner and announced ‘Sir, I think your friend is in an extreme situation!’ This was pure comedy on looking back, alt...