Saturday, 26 January 2008

My name is B, Mr B - Rajasthan Vol. 3

At times the holiday felt like a James Bond film. This feeling was aided by Fiona who reminded me of a young Judi Dench (Sorry Fiona, I just didn't see the Annie Lennox look. That's a bit like me claiming to look like a young Paul Newman, I guess we can both dream....) add in her stern looks at some of my antics, and I felt I was in the presence of "M". Then there was Gordon tutting and rolling his eyes in the background, making for the perfect "Q". The picture was almost complete.

"Now pay attention Black, this is serious business.......".

Q claims that he is wearing a covert listening
device, but I think it’s an earring…..

With the love interest sorted (Mrs B of course) all that was needed was an exciting action sequence, which happened to come in the form of an auto-rickshaw race through the streets of Udaipur. With M squeezed in between Q and myself, we pursued the villainous Cockney rhyming slang boss Stephen, who with his henchman Mark (good cop turned bad after listening to too much 80’s synthesised music) had kidnapped Mrs B with the intention of ransoming her for a supply of Vegetable Samosa's and a couple of tickets for Depeche Mode or failing that, Erasure.

The chase took us through the crowded streets and our driver did a fantastic job - threading his underpowered vehicle between cows, elephants, cars, lorries, pedestrians and anything that was thrown, sidled, slithered, hopped or occasionally squelched across our path (1) . It was obvious that Q was excited to be out of his laboratory, as he encouraged the driver to take more risks. M was content to squeeze the life out of a lime she was holding with one hand (I believe this has subsequently been immortalised in an Indian folk song, "Death of a lime", which is proving about as popular with the tourists as other Indian music) while she held my right arm in a death grip with the other. At one point I lost all feeling from below my elbow, which is probably just as well, otherwise I would have been screaming like a little girl - not a great sound when you are attempting to develop a macho image. It was worth it, however, for the beautiful finger prints that M left embedded in my arm, which I can treasure for years to come as a memento of the mission. We finally caught up with the baddies by a picturesque lake, where, despite my life threatening arm injury, I managed to rescue Mrs B (2) . The last I saw of M, she was off searching for the perfect cup of Tea and some retail therapy, Q was trailing along in her wake attempting to prevent economic meltdown, after all the film was already running well over budget......

M - “Keep stretching Q, we’ll get that wallet open one day….”
Oh no another episode down and still little evidence of actual cycling. Honest we did do loads of it, which I’m sure will be covered in future episode of the BlackSLOG……


(1) Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic evidence of the Rickshaw race, I was too busy hanging on for dear life, but I’m sure that I can produce some soiled underwear if required.

Our Rickshaw driver’s hair was a bit
dishevelled at the end of the race

I’m not sure if this is some of the extras from the Rickshaw race scene
attempting to recover or victims of the great Kumbalgargh fart….

(Return to text)

2) To be honest I think Mrs B’s hostage takers, were glad to let her go, as she kept requiring tea stops and then taking ages in the restroom.

I demand Depech Mode tickets

I demand Vegetable Samosa's

I demand Tea

Mrs B does not quite grasp the concept of being held hostage. In the scheme of things stealing Stephen’s face mask and then making demands was not really fair on her guards……….

(Return to text)

Monday, 14 January 2008

Continuing our cycling tour - Rajasthan Vol.2

An introduction to some of the more colourful characters who made up our cycling party through Rajasthan.

When I first met Marvin (I’ve changed his name to protect the not so innocent) I did not think it was possible to meet anyone more miserable. He initially reminded me of Frasier from Dad's Army "We're doooommmed Mr Mannering, all dooooommmmed!". After he became ill though, it was clear that he was actually a reincarnation of Marvin the paranoid robot from "Hitchhikers Guide", brought to flesh (1),. When asked how he was feeling by Arianne his rather depressed mechanical reply was “I'm ok, I suppose. I'm lucky to have survived the day......!" To cap it all his legs, when cycling, spun around at the same speed whatever gear he was in. On uphill sections it was all very impressive, even if he did appear to be going backwards. However on the flat sections it just looked wrong, all activity with very little go....His demeanour improved slightly under the influence of the cocktail of various tablets and potions he managed to purloin from the other guests on the trip. (The Indian beggars could have done a lot worse than study his technique.) With four doctors, two nurses and a chemist, he was always going to get an interesting combination of drug to experiment with. Sadly, as the cocktail wore off his hangdog expression returned, along with the doom and gloom that is his excuse for a personality.

Clive in India
Clive was a wonderful travelling companion with excellent anecdotes about one-footed hamsters and an apparent love of playing with words that I love so much. His only faults being:-

• Loud snoring. I hasten to explain - before you jump to the wrong conclusion - that he was in the next room, not the same bed, yet still managed to keep me awake (I have been reliably informed that James could keep people three rooms down awake. Fortunately, I never got that close as he was banished to far flung rooms about the various hotels we stayed in. It would have been fascinating to pit Mrs B's legendary "sleep anywhere" ability against James's sleep destroying reputation. I think the result would have been too close to call).

• A healthy and possibly life-lengthening fear of risk, which while all very sensible, cuts an awful lot of fun out of life. If Clive gets reincarnated, it is 95% certain he will return as a possum. Might this just about explain his third fault?

• An incredible inability to identify men when they are dressed as women. Whilst everyone else in the group was squirming at the antics of the (quite frankly butch) lads in dresses, poor Clive found himself strangely attracted to these frankfurter and beans sporting lassies. He was most put out when he was informed that the girls had meat and two veg, initially going into denial and then sadness at being so thoroughly duped. Fortunately, Clive, being a respectable married man (I can say this with a certain amount of confidence, having worked out for myself that our "female" entertainers peed in a vertical position, if the fancy took them. I'm guessing on the respectable, but am more than happy to give Clive the benefit of the doubt) had not entered into any arrangements, financial or otherwise and was spared the ordeal of being introduced to any of the boy's respective parents. I guess none of us are infallible and we all have our blind-spots, mine being far too numerous to mention. Who are we to criticise if the poor possum believes that Dame Edna is his estranged Grandmother...?

A puzzled Clive trying to work out what sex is Mrs B????

Relief all around as Clive finally gets one correct…..

James & the giant peach (AKA.. The great Kumbalgargh fart).
It has already been established that James came with a Government snore warning, with the decibel count making the average Heavy Metal concert sound like a gentle mountain stream. What we had not been warned about was the musical ability of other parts of him. Small children were knocked from their feet and even M's hat (2), was seen to quiver under the force of James's Ripper, in the fort at Kumbalgargh. (I'm not sure my underwear would have withstood such an eruption. I can only assume James has invested in reinforced kecks). Even as the laughter echoed around the courtyard, we should be grateful that it occurred in the open and not in one of the rooms surrounding it, there would have been casualties for sure. As it is, Pakistan were forced to go to red alert, for fear of the missile launch that registered on their defence systems, while a small local village built a temple dedicated to a new thunder god. The fart of the holiday competition was over, with still over a week to go.

M suffering the after effects of James’s ripper…..whilst
Krishna was just relieved to be shielded from the initial blast

The ornithologist (or HORNYTHOLIGY as I like to call it) and the quick change artist
Neil was probably the fastest cyclist in the group and would have finished days ahead of everyone, if he had not had to stop for every feathered creature that fluttered across the horizon. Arianne on the other hand was not that keen on cycling but made up for that by having more changes of clothes during the two weeks than a complete Spice Girl world tour. The strangest thing was that Arianne’s bags were tiny, about a third of the size of Mrs B’s. I don’t know where she was storing her clothes, although I swear my bag got heavier each time Arianne purchased anything…

PC Mark
Now I thought that he was a really nice guy, but it turned out he has a real mean streak. About halfway through the holiday he maliciously mentioned Lemon Puff biscuits. Now, I have not had Lemon Puff biscuits for about 10 years, but once he had sown that seed I had a craving that could not be satisfied. How cruel is that? I managed to track down a packet once I got home to good old Blighty. I can report that I managed about three before wanting to throw up. At this point I suddenly remembered why I had not eaten Lemon Puff biscuits for ten years. I of course had to finish the packet in order to hide my tracks from Mrs B. Give him his due, Mark made up for his mean streak, by very generously sharing his cold with me.

Don’t mess with a girl and her Lemon Puffs. Unfortunately, Mrs B discovered that I had eaten all the lemon puffs without offering her any. I had to get a second packet, which Mischief came over all territorial. Mrs B then complained that they were the wrong shape and not flaky enough. She must be thinking of some inferior Tesco own brand version……

The photo Girl
Holly turned out to be the group’s photo girl, either being asked to pose in photos with a stream of well to do Indian families or, slightly more bizarrely, being requested to take photos of different Indian families and not with their cameras but with her own. Whenever the rest of us attempted to take photos of the local population, we would receive requests for tips, while Holly had volunteers throwing themselves at her. On reflection, we should have got Holly to charge them for being in her pictures and then the rest of us could have used the money to pay the other people demanding tips to be in ours. This would also have been an excellent way of redistributing wealth, kick starting the local economy and wiping out poverty in the areas that we visited.

Holly on photographic duty, I still feel that we could have bridged the poverty gap
if holly had charged all the locals who requested her to take their pictures…..

I myself had a number of similar photo opportunities but they all seemed to be from aging Asian gentlemen. I was not sure how to take it when some bloke tells me that he thinks that you are a very handsome gentleman. I felt like I was being groomed for the Bollywood sex industry. I declined all such offers as I suspected that they did not want me but my straw hat……..

Sadly the hat looks better than me, still it’s nice to reflect in its glory

Two episodes in and I’ve yet to even scratch the surface of the cycling, until next time….. (possibly)

(1) If there had been a vet in the group there is a good chance that he would have been put down, to save all the misery, both his and ours. I'd even picked out a nice spot in one of the gardens for him, but fortunately had not wasted time digging the hole.
The spot I picked out for Marvin was already used by some geezer called Gandhi, I’m sure he would not have minded sharing his space with Marv….

(2) You get to meet M in the next episode. Yes Clive, I’m still attempting to trick you all into subscribing for future BlackLOGS. Think of it as an episode of Eastenders without all that misery, or it would have been if Marvin had not been with us (Return to Text)

Marvin during his Eastenders audition. Unfortunately, he proved
too miserable even for the worlds most depressive soap.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Preparation for the BlackSLOG – Rajasthan Vol.1

When Mrs B first mentioned India as a destination for cycling, little did I know how much trauma this would involve and that was before we even started the journey. For starters we have been punctured by more needles then a porcupine lothario and enough tablets to make us rattle almost as loudly as our bikes. We had very similar responses from most people whenever we mentioned that we were going to cycle around India.

Most People “How much do you want?”

Us “Sorry?”

Most People “How much do you want us to sponsor you?”
Us “Nothing”

Most People “Aren’t you doing it for charity?”

Us “No, no, just for fun….”

Most People “Nutters !!!”

The malaria tablets were a saga all on their own. I had not realised that there was such a wide choice.

Type 1 malaria tablets
Cost – Cheap, take for six months before you travel, a pill every 30 seconds while you are on holiday followed by daily tablets for 10 tears after your return.
Side effects - whatever you want: excruciating cramps, headache, joint pain, fever, sweating, nausea and vomiting, intense muscle spasms, kidney failure, low urine output, less than 400 ml per day (One),fluid in the lungs, labored breathing, and frothy sputum. Sounds like you are actually paying for the privilege to get Malaria.

Type 2 malaria tablets
Cost - Moderately expensive, i.e. you might still afford to eat once, possibly twice, a week for the rest of the year.
Side effects – very similar to above but as you feel very drowsy all the time you don’t notice the rest of the side effects.

Type 3 malaria tablets
Cost - Billionaires only
Side effects - instant poverty, although this can be considered a bonus for people on a diet, through the considerable weight loss when you can’t afford to eat. For £20 we got a bit of paper saying “You can take this to the chemist and pay for the tablets”. OK, so what is it for a prescription these days? £7? Sadly not. The bit of paper we had just purchased allowed us the privilege of emptying our bank account as we enter the financial black hole that is the world of private prescription…… The main benefits of type 3 seem to be that you are now so poor you no longer worry about illness.

If I had thought about it, we probably should have done it for charity, at least it would have paid for our flights, accommodation, bikes, food and medical expenses. Sadly, I would have had difficulty finding a charity that would cover the shortfall…….

Just some of the tablets that may have accounted for breaching our baggage weight limit.

The bikes
While I have moaned about our bikes for as long as I have been blogging and in truth since about 20 minutes after we purchased the damned things, I was as surprised as anyone when we ended up taking them with us. To cut a long story short it was the easiest and cheapest way or would have been before we had the damned things serviced. When the bike shop staff finally finished laughing (I should never have told them that we were taking the bikes to India to cycle with and not to scrap), they set about rebuilding them. This would have been great if the cost had not been twice what we paid for the bikes in the first place (and if they had let me know before just doing the work).

The Bikes had never looked so good sadly once we got to Delhi and unpacked them they were back to their same old selves. We should have probably brought the tolleys instead….

Getting there
When flying, I can't recommend highly enough the advantage of travelling with a large unwieldy box. We found ourselves ushered to the front of the check-in queue. At one stage I thought we were even going to get upgraded, when the girl attending to us vanished to go and talk to her supervisor. It turned out she was trying to work out how much to charge us for being 10kg over weight (Two) (personally I think it was mostly Mrs B as she has been so busy at work that most of her fitness training has gone out the window, leaving me to take up the slack). As I felt the check-in girl had us banged to rights (especially as I had told a fib about the weight of our bikes, which were closer to 20kg rather than the 16kg I declared. I was just quoting what I had read in the Exodus literature about the average weight of a boxed bike, and just happened to forget to declare the 20kg worth of tools, spares and energy bars that I had stuffed into the two boxes - figuring the removal of our mudguards would more than compensate). Fortunately, she mistook my quite patient silence, as I waited to find out how much we would have to pay, as a hard bargaining position and crumbled before our eyes. She waved us through before the mob could lynch us for pushing in and then holding them up. It had been a queue when we were ushered to the front of it, but was now definitely showing signs of transforming itself into a mob. Some of the people at the back were now starting to hand out pitch-forks and flaming torches. (Just how do these people expect to get that stuff through security......?)

My hard bargaining look, the poor check in girl never stood a chance

(1) This actually sounds like a bonus, none of that awkward trooping to the toilet all the time…. (you will probably be pleased to know that Mrs B put a ban on any toilet photo’s) (Return to text)

Even I have to admit that this is a crap picture. Apparently they collect the dung and use it for fires. Thankfully it’s such a warm country.

(2) I had made every attempt to keep the weight of our luggage down, even going as far as taking only one belt; I mean what can happen to a belt... Hmmm, the one I specially selected for the trip did not even get me through Airport security at Heathrow, falling out of the tray and getting chewed by the conveyer belt, now that’s just plain nasty, belt cannibalism. I certainly didn't see that one coming…….. (Return to text)

I think I might have overdone the weight loss a tad. I didn’t manage to sell much water either…..