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Old 12-20-2011, 08:02 AM   #301
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Nice enough place to be stuck. That town was called Mahabalapuram when I was there. They have a university that teaches South Indian temple archetecture there and the best stone carving schools in India. It is the best place in India to buy a stone carving if you want one (I still have mine on the mantle). The swimming is good if you don't feel sick (Re can swim). There are temples in the water you can swim to- at least one is underwater. That bas-relief stone carving with the big elephant is the biggest bas-relief in the world if I recall correctly.

Feel well.
Mal was a nice break, it was nice to eat some familiar food and see some familiar faces while I finally recovered. The stone carving of the elephant (Arjuna's Penance) was one of the best sights there. We are in Mysore now after 3 days in Ooty and loving the cooler weather.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:05 AM   #302
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I logged on today looking to read something a little different that was still going on!
This is the perfect report for me!
Exactly how I'd do a RTW trip, a small, simple bike and a slower pace of travel!
Just one question though, how many miles have you put on the bikes so far?
We just rolled over 13,700 miles today and had just under 600 miles on them before we started the trip. The biggest drawback to the Symbas (and small bikes in general) is the lack of suspension travel and clearance, but other than that we are loving them.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:20 AM   #303
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12/13 Touring Mamallapuram

I woke up feeling much better this morning- no fever and my stomach was feeling pretty good. Mal is a big tourist town for foreigners due to its proximity to Chennai and laid back atmosphere. This makes for decent food and some familiar faces. Before heading out to tour the sights, Re and I stopped for breakfast a couple of doors up the street at the oddly named, “Freshly, N Hot,” where we had a lovely breakfast of real coffee, fruit salads, and croissants. The French influence of Pondy seems to extend this far north.



Since the sights in Mal are spread over more distance than we wanted to walk, we saddled up the Symbas and hit the road. Our first stop was the Five Rathas, a group of five shrines that were hidden in the sand until rediscovered and excavated by the British 200 years ago. Though the Rathas were impressive in that each one was carved from a single piece of stone, we were a little underwhelmed by the small size of the site. From here we rode a short distance to a group of mandapams situated on Mal's main hill. The hike through the rocks led to several temples carved out of the hillside.



We then rode the bikes down to see Arjuna's Penance and Krishna's Butterball. Arjuna's Penance is an enormous relief carving on the face of a stone temple and was the highlight of the temples in Mal.



Krishna's Butterball is just a giant rock that appears to be improbably balanced.

Having seen the sights on the south side of town, we returned to the hotel, where we dropped off the bikes and found some lunch. After lunch we walked down to the beach and made our way to the Shore Temple. This temple was again, small, but magnificently carved, and with an ocean view to boot.



We continued south along the beach and found ourselves at a funny little beach carnival. It consisted mainly of a couple of “pop the balloon with a BB gun” stands and the saddest kiddie rides we've ever seen. While we may not have been impressed, lots of local people seemed to be having a pretty good time.

Re finally found hair bleach in a color besides brown and decided now was a good opportunity to do her hair. The box said it was golden blonde, and yet 30 minutes later, Re was now a redhead. Hopefully some of the color will wash out over the next few days. Later that night we went to the local French restaurant for a delicious dinner.

3 miles.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:21 AM   #304
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12/14 Lazy Day in Mal/One Month in India

After breakfast we worked on ride reports and blogposts in the room. We made our way out for a lunch of cheese omelets and frites. In the afternoon, we worked on ride reports some more, and I uploaded the results and a few photos on the frustratingly slow and intermittent wifi while Re hit the town and came back with two paperbacks and a watermelon. Since our plan was to hit the road for Vellore tomorrow, we decided to have a big dinner of salads, steak, and grilled calamari.


0 miles.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:27 AM   #305
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12/15 Ride to Vellore

The power went out overnight, so no AC and no fan made for a crappy night's sleep. The power outage likely was due to the huge rainstorms and high wind that went on for most of the night. When the sun came up, it was still raining. Since the ride to Vellore was only a hundred miles or so, we decided to give the weather until 9:30 to sort itself out. The rain stopped during breakfast, so we headed back to the room and loaded the bikes. We questioned the wisdom of heading out from such a nice place into potentially bad weather but decided to go for it anyway.

While it was not raining when we pulled out of the hotel, it was very dark in every direction, and the cloud deck was solid as far as we could see. Approximately two miles down the road, it started raining again. The rain continued on and off (mostly on) for the entire trip, but it did stop once we reached the outskirts of Vellore. Today's ride was really a tale of two different rides.



The first 50 miles was made up of intermittent, very heavy rain and some of the worst road, if not the worst road, in India. It took us three hours to make the first 30 miles.



We spent about 20 of those minutes under the awning of some business, where we chatted with the local people hiding from the rain. The last 50 miles were on 4-lane divided highway with excellent paving and light traffic (and only the occasional rain shower).

Vellore is a strange town. It's main business is medicine. The Christian Medical College Hospital and Vellore Fort dominate the city, but fortunately, we were here for the latter. Our hotel was directly across the street from the hospital, and the streets were filled with patients and their families. We wandered around the main street and a few back streets, taking in the sights, when we heard drums and firecrackers coming around the corner. Being a fan of loud noises, we headed toward their source. We found a procession of drummers and marchers pulling a large, flower covered float, and periodically someone would light a string of firecrackers. As the procession passed, the flower covered float made its way in front of us and it was then we noticed the dead person riding in the float. It must have been some sort of funeral procession. One side benefit of being a “destination” town is the large number of restaurants. We had excellent Indian food for both lunch and dinner and beers for dessert.

While we enjoyed lunch and dinner, one of the most difficult elements of long-term travel for Re and I is lack of choice in food. Re is an excellent cook and is happy to make whatever we want for meals. We are used to being able to say, “hey, I'd like...” and either make it or go out and buy it someplace. But that choice doesn't exist on the road. It's one thing to be limited to the often excellent local cuisine for a two-week vacation, but after 4.5 months on the road, I do really miss being able to choose what I want for dinner.

100 miles in 5 hours.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:34 AM   #306
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12/16 Touring Fort Vellore and Ride to Erode

We left the AC and fan on overnight in order to dry out our boots and gloves, and we were happy to see that they were nearly dry when we got up. Since we got into Vellore late yesterday, we decided to visit Fort Vellore this morning before riding towards Ooty. After having some fruit, we walked down to the fort and toured the grounds.



The fort is grandest from the exterior, where the high walls and wide moat are an impressive sight. The buildings in the interior of the fort have, on the other hand, seen better days. Like much of colonial-era India, they are returning to nature. The highlight of the fort was the beautiful Hindu temple within.



The Jalakanteshwara Temple was built in the mid-1500s and is a spectacular example of stone carving.



The wedding hall in particular is made up of a large number of columns, all intricately carved from floor to ceiling.

Another site checked off the list, and we headed back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped for a breakfast of masala dosa and coffee. We loaded up the bikes and hit the road by 11:30 am. The first 120 miles or so was easy riding, and we made good time.



Once again, it was four lane goodness through farmland and rivers, with hazy mountains in the distance. Since Ooty was nearly 300 miles from Vellore, we knew we would not make it in one day and instead, decided to head for Erode for the night. My GPS stubbornly insisted that we take the long way, but the sign on the roadside promised that if we turned right off of our four-lane goodness, it would save nearly 20 miles. While Re and I stopped to discuss our options, a taxi driver assured us that the shortcut was the way to go. Shortcut, my ass. Shortly after we turned right, the road fell apart. The road surface alternated between shitty and nonexistent and our average speed plummeted. This road also went through dozens of small towns, all with their own set of speedbumps. Eventually we rode past the nuclear plant (?) and made it to Erode by about 5:30 pm.

Erode wasn't listed in our guidebook, but a quick check of the GPS found a cluster of hotels listed near the bus station. Re shortly found a decent room for cheap money, but we later discovered that the room was filled with mosquitoes. We found dinner at an outdoor restaurant set in a nice garden before heading back to the room to make war with the mosquitoes.



195 miles in 6 hours.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:36 AM   #307
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12/17 Ride to Ooty

Last night's sleep was particularly poor due to the apparently never ending supply of mosquitoes. Before we went to bed, we killed at least 40 mosquitoes between us, and yet, somewhere in the room, there must have been a tiny, mosquito clown car, because they just kept coming. Since the room only came with a wool blanket and it certainly wasn't that cold, we slept inside our silk sleepsacks, and I tried in vain all night to keep my head inside the sleepsack.

We hit the road by 8:30 for the hundred or so miles left to Ooty. The first 10 miles or so were through the extended urban area. About 6 miles into the ride, the law of averages and bad drivers caught up with Re. While riding through a commercial area, I passed an autorickshaw parked on the left side of the road and saw in my peripheral vision another motorbike rider shooting blindly out of a side street into oncoming traffic, as is pretty standard here. Unfortunately the oncoming traffic was Re. No, nononononononononono. I glanced in my rearview mirror in time to see Re t-bone this fine gentleman. She was able to get on the brakes momentarily, and fortunately we weren't traveling fast at the time, but she did center punch the other bike. When I spun around, I saw both bikes in the road and a group of people helping both riders up. When I reached the scene, Re and her bike were upright, and Re was fine, just pissed. The assembled crowd helped us get her bike to the side of the road, so the now backing up traffic could go. Apparently the other rider decided not to stick around for the ass-kicking Re was ready to dole out, as he had left the scene. Amazingly, a quick once over of Re's bike revealed no new damage! From its time on its side, Re's bike had flooded and took a bit to start, but we were back underway.

The roads today were under construction and will eventually be four-lane highway, but for now, they are stretches of paved road connected by dirt and rock. In one particularly bad pothole that I missed avoiding, I re-bent my rear brake lever all the way back to the footpeg again and also dinged the corner of my chain case to the point where it was dragging on the chain. After fixing the chain case (the rear brake lever will have to wait) we again continued towards Ooty. As we rode, large mountains appeared through the haze and got closer and closer, until we reached them. The final thirty-five miles to Ooty was a serpentine road that rose from 1600 feet to 7500 feet. Unfortunately, Ooty is a popular place to visit, and so this thirty-five miles was a near-continuous conga line of slow buses and trucks. We joined our Indian two-wheeled brethren in making blind, stupid overtaking maneuvers, until I nearly paid the price. On one steep section, I very optimistically tried to overtake a bus and made it about halfway alongside, when a line of small trucks came around the corner towards me. Unable to complete the pass, I attempted to slow down and get in behind the bus, but was unable to before the trucks arrived. The roads here are very narrow and I found my left mirror scraping on the side of the bus while two of the trucks clipped my right mirror as they passed. Considering that our mirrors only extend about an inch beyond our handlebars, that was really way too fuckin' close. Part of the problem is that the bikes are not enjoying the altitude and are running very poorly, and the other part is that there is a dumbass riding my bike.

We eventually made it to Ooty (alive) and found the YWCA, where we are staying overnight. The novel thing about Ooty is the temperature. When we arrived around 1:30 pm, it was only about 70 degrees. After unpacking the bikes and getting situated, we walked into town for a late lunch at a restaurant that serves meat other than chicken. I dined on some lovely lamb sheesh kebabs while Re had the tandoori chicken. After picking up some snacks for later, we made our way back to the room and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and being thankful to still be alive.

100 miles in 5 hours. The bikes are very unhappy with the altitude and we had too many close calls today.
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Old 12-20-2011, 08:49 AM   #308
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Part of the problem is that the bikes are not enjoying the altitude and are running very poorly, and the other part is that there is a dumbass riding my bike.
At least you have a sense of humor about it all. ;) I'm still thoroughly enjoying this report and thank you for putting the time in to keep us updated. The ride on those little Syms is much different than you'd hear on a big adventure bike!!
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Old 12-21-2011, 02:10 PM   #309
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amazing how many hours in the saddle per day you two are doing ... very similar to touring by bicycles.
in cycling your butt toughens as the season progresses.. so how's your butts holding up?
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Old 12-21-2011, 06:58 PM   #310
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amazing how many hours in the saddle per day you two are doing ... very similar to touring by bicycles.
in cycling your butt toughens as the season progresses.. so how's your butts holding up?
Well, Re's is still as lovely as ever! Some days are harder than others, for sure. We each had a homemade sheepskin seat pad when we began the trip but we lost them in Africa. And now the foam in our seats seems to have given up, so the seats aren't as comfortable as they once were. The roads here also leave a lot to be desired. The potholes and speedbumps have been giving us a pretty constant pounding. (Insert some joke about being Mike Tyson's cellmate here ) We would love to get the foam replaced before we leave India. We are keeping an eye out for seat upholsterers on the bike shop streets here in but only seem to see them when we are on our way out of town. The other issue is heat + artificial fibers - all of our clothes are synthetic lightweight fabric and that coupled with the high temps has made for some rashes. We did pick up some different powder in Pondy and the temps have been cooler for the past week or so (and should be for most of the rest of India and Nepal), so that rashes haven't been so much of an issue lately.

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Old 12-22-2011, 03:44 AM   #311
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You should send a link for your thread/blog to the marketing department at Sym and ask if they would like to sponsor you for any spares required. As you've barely needed any yet and the thread represents priceless advertising for the reliability and durability of their products they may just agree. Not only that but two sets of foam and two covers pluse fixings won't exactly break the budget for them, even with shipping to India. Plus how many people are actually touring the world, or at least a very large part of it, on Sym Simbas?
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Old 12-22-2011, 06:34 AM   #312
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Well, Re's is still as lovely as ever! Some days are harder than others, for sure. We each had a homemade sheepskin seat pad when we began the trip but we lost them in Africa. And now the foam in our seats seems to have given up, so the seats aren't as comfortable as they once were. The roads here also leave a lot to be desired. The potholes and speedbumps have been giving us a pretty constant pounding. (Insert some joke about being Mike Tyson's cellmate here ) We would love to get the foam replaced before we leave India. We are keeping an eye out for seat upholsterers on the bike shop streets here in but only seem to see them when we are on our way out of town. The other issue is heat + artificial fibers - all of our clothes are synthetic lightweight fabric and that coupled with the high temps has made for some rashes. We did pick up some different powder in Pondy and the temps have been cooler for the past week or so (and should be for most of the rest of India and Nepal), so that rashes haven't been so much of an issue lately.
bummer you lost the sheep skin covers. have you tried cycling shorts?

was wondering if the Darien lights was going to be too restrictive, venting wise for hot muggy conditions. hopefully my plans are to travel that region in the future.
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Old 12-22-2011, 03:36 PM   #313
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Love the report so far. Happy and safe travels to you both

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Old 12-23-2011, 09:54 AM   #314
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from my - limited - experience I would assume that the upholstery guys are somewhere in a backyard or a sideroad. You might have to ask around.

Buying a few cotton clothes should be quite cheap in India and could be discarted later on.

Love your report, anyway . I worked in Delhi from 2004 to 2007, that's where I started to ride. I had a tuned TVS Fiero (150cc) and rode quite a bit in the foothills ov the Himalayas.

Keep going (and a happy christmas)

andi
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Old 12-23-2011, 06:31 PM   #315
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What an inspiration

Christmas Greetings from Alaska. Riding weather is 4 or 5 months away. So thank you for the wonderful ride report and the Photos. Really enjoyed your tale so far, and along for the rest of the trip.
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