Day twenty one. Lucknow to Agra. The impossible made possible
It was hard to realize that this was our last day. We had more than 320 kms to go, and we anticipated it to be another rough day. Our start time was at 09:10, and we set off into the morning rush in Lucknow. It wasn’t too bad. Actually, driving out of the city we found it to be rather pretty, with good roads and an un-Indian cleanliness we’re not used to. Soon we were on the highway to Agra. It was big, it was new, the tarmac was good (with the odd Indian «specialties») and it was almost empty. No scooters or motorcycles, almost no big trucks and very few cars. It might have something to do with the fact that it was a toll road and the price was 590 rupis! There were fences to keep out animals, and we only had to evade the occasional dog and road worker. Frøya had just one little trick up her sleeve to keep us on our toes: Approximately 50 kms before the finish we suddenly noticed that both fuel gauges were at zero. After the mild panic setting in, we realized (or rather: hoped) that this would have to be another gauge-failure and we kept going. Keeping the speed at about 100 kmh we covered more ground quickly than we have ever done on this rally, and very soon we were lining up for the finishing arc at the Oberoi Amarvila Hotel, still with petrol in the tank.
It was an incredible feeling having made it all the way. This rally was so much tougher than we would have ever imagined, and we’re very proud to having made a Morgan this solid to make it through these three gruelling weeks. Frøya really is the best rallying Morgan in the world!
As soon as we had unloaded our luggage at the hotel we were hushed away to the parking spot where CARS, the company handling the shipping of the cars, were ready to get to work and put the cars into their containers. It happened all very suddenly, and then we were on our own. We won’t see Frøya again until Christmas. Then the work will start to make her ready for her next adventure.
We then assembled in the bar where several bottles of well deserved Moët Chandon were chased down with equal amounts of G&Ts. After a bath with tripple scrubbing to get rid of the dust, all the boys were given a turban to wear for dinner. Some of the girls had saris, and we were shown a picture presentation of all the cars and people on the rally. It’s strange to see from the outside what we have really done, and there was applause and cheering all the way through the presentation.
Then there was the Prize Giving, where we were given a bronze medal and a copper pot so we had something to carry water in on our next rally, should our radiator cap fail again. (We can promise that we will carry a spare or two, so the pot will probably stay at home)
We went to bed after dinner, being very tired. It’s not anti climatic, but it’s strange not having to get up to our start time like we have done for the last three weeks. We don’t have to worry about the car either, so perhaps we’re having a bit of an empty feeling the day after. Anyway it’s time for some contemplating on the rally, India, Nepal (and not in the least Kathmandu), the roads and the meaning of all this.
We have of course enjoyed ourselves immensely, as we would when we can spend the whole day in Frøya. There have been some ups and downs, but having done this gives us a good sense of achievement, both technically and personally. As with the P to P, we have not have had any problems in the car, even when we had problems with the car. We decided early that Bjørn should do all the navigation and Trond should drive. It has actually worked better in the sense that we get better at what we do when we don’t switch roles every day, and we have not made any mistakes.
As for the rally, we had a chat with one of the representatives from the Automobile Club in Lucknow, and he said he wouldn’t even take his Land Rover over the passes we should have traversed, had we not been caught out by the abnormal weather. So perhaps we were «saved by the bell» so to speak. Anyway the roads and the traffic has made this to be more of a challenge than we had ever expected so we don’t think we have missed anything. We have met a lot of nice people on the rally and on the road. We have experienced that Frøya stirs up a lot more attention than most other cars on this rally, and we love that, of course. We have shaken more Indian hands, both police-men’s, toll booth attendants’ and general public’s, than most Norwegians would in a lifetime and we’ve seen places that defies our description, both good and bad.
So, would we do it again? We think not. We did get our share of terrible roads and dust, and should we ever come back at all, it would be in machinery more suite for this. We’re not quite sure what that would be, but it would have better suspension and air conditioning.
Peking to Paris is called «the longest Endurance Rally in the world». We have been driving the Himalayan Challenge. We think that sums it up.
This is our last entry in this blog. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have, and should you have comments or questions, please go to our Facebook page A Morgan in Himalaya.
Day twenty. Chitwan to Lucknow. Why do you want my engine number?
We did get up early to be ready for the long drive to Chitwan in India. It wouldn’t get any shorter by having to cross the Nepalese Indian border. Quite the contrary. Starting orders were the same, but we were given a 6 minute time between starts so we all wouldn’t show up at the border all at once.
Yesterday Frøya had had her challenges. First we thought that one or the other rear chock absorber had had it. When we got in she was sitting proud on all four wheels, so we decided that the massive pounding of the thousands of holes had just made her shock absorbers get a bit hot. Secondly we had felt a tiny whiff of petrol smell in the afternoon. We couldn’t find any obvious leaks, but this morning it was clear that something had happened, the smell got even more obvious, and the level in the tank fell more quickly than our consumption should allow. We decided that this was a problem we could live with the last two days, so we ran on the tank that was leaking until it was empty, using the other tank as reserve. This worked very well.
Getting out of Chitwan was just as painful as getting in. Luckily the main road was better (albeit not perfect in any respect) but we made good time to the border. That was a chapter all of itself, as total chaos reigned. We had to figure out for ourselves where to go with which documents, and finally we all assembled in the customs office on the Nepalese side, waiting for the man with the stamp to finish his lunch! Some waited for more than an hour, but eventually he turned up to fulfill his most sacred objective. Our papers were somewhere in the middle of the pile when suddenly they were finished and we were out the door. Leaving the building we were tapped on the shoulder by one of the lower officials who said that this was the time for some payment for swift services rendered! We were too perplex to protest, and 50 Nepalese rupis changed hands. This glorious example of corruption was reportedly repeated several times. We don’t think the last man in line wanted to pay much…
Then we were to handle the Indian immigration. With a massive sea of people, vans, lorries, beggars and tractors all dressed up for some religious occasion, it was a sight to see and a situation to dread. It was total mayhem, and as the different offices for customs and immigration were camouflaged as ordinary shops along a street full of other shops, we were very happy to have assistance from our local Indian helpers. The authorities should know it all, and finally they wanted to inspect our cars to see that they really were as we said they were. Luckily the Indian official didn’t want to walk the 100 meters to where the police had decided we could park, so after some persuasion he handed us our papers and without more trouble we were on our way. We sped off, only to realize that our ordeal was nothing compared to the one of the lorrydrivers going from India to Nepal. There was a more than 10 kms long line of trucks parked waiting for customs. Poor sods!
We had approximately 320 kms to our hotel, so lunch was very short (read: non existent) and we headed west. Forget all you know about our normal highways. This is India, and traffic comes from any direction, also towards you in you own lane. Vigilance is essential and the horn used frequently. All the trucks stayed in the right lane as far away from pedestrians, motorcycles, bikes, dogs, goats and cattle (which also inhabited the central carriageway divider) as they could, and we often passed cars on the inside. This got harder as it got dark, but we got to the hotel in good order, and had a great dinner with our new friends.
Tomorrow is the last day. Let’s hope we all get to Agra safely. There’s only about 320 kms. Should be a breeze.
Day nineteen. Kathmandu to Chitwan. Easy drive you said?
Today we were getting out of Kathmandu. I think everybody was looking forward to that, but I’m not sure everybody knew what the Nepalese roads had in store for us. We know it might be boring to read about more bad roads now, but as it’s turned out, this is The Major Obstacle to overcome for all contestants on this rally. Some (read «us») more than others. It started surprisingly well, as the ring road taking us out of Kathmandu had some really great stretches. Not long, but great. And the rest was to become an ever increasing amount of insults the whole day through. After the regularity (which didn’t go very well, not least because two buses stopped us from starting in the first place) we were driving a road, which even after our more than two weeks in India and Nepal, defies description. In the road book they used terms as «roughish» and «potholes for the next 17 kms». The bottom was reached when «semi-appalling» turned out to be better than what had come before – or after. And it never stopped.
Now we are in Barahi Jungle lodge, where music and elephants greeted us when we got in, and where they serve a much needed GT. We’re getting up early tomorrow as well, to the border crossing, and to drive almost 500 kms to get to our hotel in Luchnow. This seems to be another long, rough day, and we’re honestly starting to have enough of those.
Day eighteen. Second rest day in Kathmandu. Flying high.
We had to get up early to get to the airport. Some hoped we’d evade the traffic so early in the morning, but that didn’t happen. The airport was very crowded too, but in the end we reached the heliport of Simrik Air. Our first stop was Lukla airport, or Tenzing-Hillary airport as it’s been called since Edmund Hillary died in 2008. It’s one of the highest airports in the world at 2.860 metres, and it’s very difficult to land planes on, as it slopes 12 degrees, and the planes must land upwards and take off downhill. Not much room for error there.
Our next leg was up to hotel Everest View at 3.880 metres. There we got our breakfast while we were waiting for the helicopter to take us up to see Mt. Everest. We could not land at the base camp, but we got as close to the mountain as possible without climbing it. It was a stunning view, and we were actually filled with awe at that powerful sight. This was really worth getting up early for!
Down again at Lukla we were regrouped into yet another helicopter that took us back to Kathmandu Airport. This really was a «Bucket List» item that we now can cross off.
Back at the hotel we’re now making ready for an early start tomorrow. It’s not that far to Barahi Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, but we know how time flies on these roads, so it might very well be a long day. We have been promised elephants in the car park and that should be something to look forward to.
Day seventeen. Rest day in Kathmandu. The Peaceful Oasis
Today was a rest day in the truest sense of the word. We couldn’t think of anything to do with Frøya, so we took the the day off by the pool. We were hoping to insert some pictures into the blog, and one would think that a decent hotel like this would have a decent bandwidth. Turned out it doesn’t. We solved it by resizing all the pictures and constantly calling the reception to restore the failing connection. It worked pretty well, and the pics are in, as you see.
We spent the day with our new friends in the Ford 62, Richard and Nigel. Nigel had hoped to find a welding shop with a lifting stand. In Nepal? Yeah, right!
As we’re not in Nepal every day(!) we thought we’ll do one touristic thing before leaving. Tomorrow we’ll be true tourists and take a helicopter ride up to Base Camp. We’ll dig out the warm clothes and hope we’ll not be too affected by the height. Time will tell.
Day sixteen. Pokhara to Kathmandu. The clutch killer
Today we woke up to the most amazing view. Snow clad mountains were shimmering in the sunshine all around us. We hadn’t seen them yesterday, as we had had rain the last hour of the day. Now there was sunshine and we were looking to another great day in Nepal.
Pokhara was a nice town, but driving out of it was a nightmare. It started OK, with comparably good roads, but they deteriorated quickly, and in the end they were being reduced to mere mud tracks.
After a while they became the ordinary broken roads we know so well, and we began to make some speed again. At one of the Passage Controls there was a sign saying: «It is forbidden to throw hotel mangers in the pool». The story behind it is that some of the crews had downed a bottle of whisky (or two) and started to throw each other into the pool. As the bar manager turned up to quiet things down, he was thrown into the pool too. The story doesn’t say which mood he was in after this, but one can imagine that he was not amused. Never a dull moment on a rally!
We have also experienced a new strange sound. We’re not sure what makes it, but it’s probably an insect of some sort. The sound reminds us of an electric saw on high pitch and with a bad bearing. The sound is intense, and comes and goes, and our friends Nigel and Richard in the Ford 62 stopped to check that it wasn’t their car making the noise.
Our lunch stop today was somewhat different, in that we were to take a cable car up to a mountain to get our time cards stamped there. The view from the top was not as good as we hoped because it was partly misty, but we could buy a lot of souvenirs had we wanted to. We went down to have lunch, and then set off on our last leg to Kathmandu. We were told there would be some congestion, partly because of slow lorries(!) and buses, but we had never could imagine the sheer number of them. They came in large packs, and vastly outnumbered ordinary cars. As we are in Nepal, there are the odd mountain to climb also, and queuing up these hills like that is unpleasant work for an already tired clutch. We passed as many as we could in ways not condoned by the police back home, but we still got caught up once in a while. We had to pass a summit to get in to Kathmandu, and on the few last kilometers we could definitely smell what could have been impending doom. Luckily, it wasn’t.
Frøya got over the summit with all her systems intact. Regrettably our problems weren’t over there as going in to Kathmandu turned out to be an ordeal of it’s own. Traffic was stifling, the smog and dust lay thick and heavy and the roads were appalling. Trond was here on the first modern Peking to Paris in 1997, and claimed he couldn’t see any difference to the town. Truth be told, they have had a nasty earthquake here that may account for some of the problems, but as we see it, this is not a nice city.
Seeking refuge in the cool stylish surroundings of Hyatt Regency restored some of our declining view of life. We’re certain that you can find interesting things to do i Kathmandu, but when we’re about to drive here again, it’s to leave town.
Tomorrow will be a rest day in the purest sense of the word. We have no apparent technical problems with Frøya, so we take it easy and recharge our batteries.
Day fifteen. Bardia lodge to Pokhara. Close race
As we woke up from our rather rough beds at the Bardia Lodge, we realized that we hadn’t heard any roaring tigers in the night. We did hear a hyperactive cockerel, but that didn’t quite match our expectations. The breakfast was very simple, but quickly executed, and we were on our way, the most exotic animal trace was a heap of elephant dung on the side of the road. Then we started on one of the longest days of the rally. We were to go about 450 kms to the town of Pokhara, where we were promised that a real steak should available for dinner.
We quickly learned that the organizers had really made this a race against the clock, and at our first time control we were in at our minute. One minute later, and we would have been getting penalty points. It wasn’t quite as close at the second time control, but we were only a few minutes early.
On the only regularity of the day we were only 6 seconds late, due to being trapped behind a bus. This can happen to anyone, and we were very happy with our result.
As for our first full days drive in Nepal: there might be a lot fewer people here, but they are not used to western vehicles traveling at western speed. We were even stopped by the police today. There were about 5 or 6 officers ganging up on us, telling us that we were speeding. There was no speed measuring device visible, but we said we were sorry if we had violated any laws, and promised to keep to the approved 40-45 kmh in the future. This might have been bending the truth just a little, as we would have never reached Pokhara before nightfall, had we stayed true to our word. As a matter of fact, the police had a point; the locals were not used to people traveling at our speed, and that can make for dangerous situations. Yesterday this resulted in a motorcycle driver being hit by one of the competitors after having crossed right before him. Luckily he didn’t get hurt. There are a lot of police check points along the way, being made like chicanes, but most of the time they seem not to be manned.
It was very warm most of the day, but just an hour before we got to out hotel we were hit by a shower that washed off some of today’s dust. We clocked in just minutes before MPL (Maximum Permitted Lateness) and dived into the bathtub. Then we got ready for having steak for dinner. Having almost all of the contestants as guests in one restaurant obviously put a strain on the kitchen, but there was enough beer to shorten the more than two hour’s wait, so we didn’t complain (much).
Frøya has once again been running trouble free even though she has been pushed hard. We believe she likes that.
Tomorrow we go to Katmandu for two rest days and a possibility for having some laundry done. We think we’re starting to smell…
Day fourteen. Nainital to Bardia Lodge. Border-crossing
Today was to be a transport and customs-clearing day. And it was. In great weather we set off down the mountainside from about 1.800 meters to the lowlands, and a fair bit of faster driving without all the twist and turns we are so used to. As a matter of fact, once we cleared the mountain, the roads were arrow straight. That does not mean that there were no pot holes, cows, dogs or stray motorcycles and tuk-tuks keeping us on our toes. They were plenty, but we could keep a decent speed, at last.
The Indian-Nepalese border was a challenge in itself, with several «posts» to be cleared: passport, carnet du passage, drivers license, all of the above, carnet, passport and passport. We got a bit nervous when one of the border officials said that he would close an hour for lunch at noon, there were several people in line, and the clock was five to twelve. He was persuaded to postpone lunch, and we believe all got through in time.
The inspirational word from the Indian Road Authorities before we left the country was: «We love you, but not you speed». We’ll be back, and we’ll see about that.
Driving in Nepal isn’t too different from driving in India, but we noticed a few things. The villages are much wider, that is that the houses aren’t so close to the road. This, and the fact that there are much less people here, makes for less crowded towns. (We haven’t been to Katmandu yet, but for the moment, this is the impression). There’s also less garbage here, perhaps because they are poorer, and not prone to throw thing away. Who knows?
Now we’re at Bardia Lodge. A kind of safari lodge set in a park with lots of wild animals including tigers. We haven’t seen any tigers yet, but we’ll keep our eyes open tonight. It’s very hot and humid, and there is no AC in the dining room, which incidentally also doubles as bar and reception. The lodge had invited a song and dance group, that did what we believe must be traditional songs and dances, many which included us putting money on a black cloth, and the youngest, prettiest and fittest ones bent over backwards (literally) to pick up the notes with their teeth and putting them in a basket.
On the way here we felt almost like in Mongolia again. We had to choose the best track to cross a riverbed. Luckily there wasn’t much water in the river, as they obviously haven’t had a flood like they did in Manali.
And btw: after the rather bumpy drive the other day, our temperature gauge has decided to work again. Now it’s staying steady at 90 degs, but of course we don’t trust it like our «bottle-meter». Perhaps a real beating was all it took? And Frøya is still behaving impeccably.
Tomorrow will be a very long day, and if rumour has it right, we can have a steak for dinner. That will be a welcome change from rice and curry.
Day thirteen. Rudraprayag to Nainital. Our prayers heard.
Today was a very good day! We said we wanted a boring day. What we really wanted was a day with good weather, good roads and Frøya in a good mood. We got it all! With the odd Indian interference the roads and the scenery was really fantastic. It was more like driving in the alps.
We were to have two regularities today, but for some reason the first one was cancelled. The second was in an open hilly woodland and was set up with a few twists. The first one being that we did a self start on the clock. The other was that the speed change was not given by distance but by passing a certain point in the terrain, namely the first pedestrian crossing we came to. It went fairly well, but there obviously is room for improvement, even though we thought we were spot on the clock. We suspect the organizers must be running by another time altogether…
We have discovered that the Indian authorities are indeed taking their responsibility for traffic safety seriously. Along the roads we see a series of different signs, obviously put there to make the common Indian think twice about his driving pattern. Among these sign are: «Accidents bring tears. Safety brings cheers», «Reach home in one piece. Not in pieces», «Be alert, accidents hurt» or perhaps our favourite: «Chance takers are accident makers». We’re not quite sure if these signs help much, considering that a lot of the drivers we meet obviously never had a driving lesson in their life.
Driving into Nainital this evening we were surprised to se a great lake with water sports and a very busy, almost European central city life. It seemed quite different from a lot of the India we have seen before. The hotel the Naini Retreat is very pleasant with the added value of serving a decent GT…
Tomorrow we will pass the Nepalese border. We hope it will go smoothly, but have been warned that both the Indians and the Nepalese are fond of hand written ledgers where they enter all information deemed interesting, several times.
Internet speed is still a rare commodity, so we’ll post pictures as soon as we can. The tracker haven’t tracked us since before Rishikesh, so we’ll see if we can sort it out tomorrow. All else seem to function flawlessly.
Day twelve. Rishikesh to Rudraprayag. The impossible becoming possible
Day eleven. Mussoorie to Rishikesh. 3/4 good, 1/4 bad.
The day started very good. Up in the hills in Mussorie the weather was warm, Frøya was behaving impeccably and we were looking for a nice drive to Rishikesh, the city made famous by the Beatles and their seeking of a higher meaning (or what ever they might have been looking for). Nevertheless the city is known as perhaps the holiest place for Hindus, and also as the meditation capital. This should warrant a peaceful decent to this city by the Ganges. It most certainly was not. We might have foreseen it, as the daily amendments to our road book pointed out that on the last 45 to 50 kms there would be almost constant roadworks. We’ve learned the hard way not to ask questions we don’t want the answers to, but how bad could it be?
We were to do less than 200 kms, but were given ample time because of possible delays. Our first climb was a bit higher than the highest mountain in Norway, but the mountain sides were lush with green forests and terraced fields. It was the prettiest scenery we have traveled through so far. The roads were relatively good also, and we were having a great time. The only regularity was the first with speed changes. This is normally not a problem, but we are only given a simple table where speed changes are not taken into consideration, so we had to calculate everything by ourselves. It was fun, but trickier than we expected. We came in 14 seconds too early, but that doesn’t really matter. We loved it anyway.
After lunch we pushed on to Rishikesh and the «Aloha on the Ganges» hotel. In so many ways we are a long way away from Hawaii. Anyway, at the announced place, the road started to deteriorate noticeably, and there were road works all over. It is a miracle that our little car survived this exercise, as the roads got so appaling that we really have no words for it. It was extremely dusty, and at times we could not see where the road was going. And as we descended towards the city it just deteriorated further until we could do noting else than laugh. We tried to pass the larger vehicles, but in the end we were stuck behind a line of buses that brought the proverbial sandstorm upon us.
After what seemed like a dusty eternity we finally arrived at the hotel where we took the same picture we took on the dustiest day in Mongolia. It’s hard to see the difference. In the lobby we were given the usual coloured dot on our forehead, this time it was yellow, and a glass of lichee juice. We don’t know why they insist on denying us the one thing that would even out the events a bit, but we had to resort to coke and cucumber spritzer. We should probably have done some meditation as well, but we weren’t in the mood.
Before a very good Indian dinner, we enjoyed our aforementioned drinks on the terrace, where the sound of several priest called to prayer with the tranquil Ganges floating by. Who knows; maybe the Hindi has found something here? We, on the other hand are just happy that we have arrived in good health all three of us, that there was enough warm water on tap to give us a trippel wash to get the dust out of nose and ears and that the worst stretch of Indian road now is behind us. We hope at least.
The hotel is unable to provide proper wifi so we’ll post the pictures at a later stage, hopefully tomorrow.
Day ten. Detour to Mussorie. Shakedown time
Today was the day. The day to see if our two days work was any good, the day to test our «fancy equipment», so to speak, and the day to do a more than 300 km drive to Mussoorie, the first day of seven without a resting day.
The detour came about as a consequence of a big rock falling on the road we were supposed to take, leading us on a 60 kms longer route than initially planned. It might not seem so long, but in the Himalayas, 60 kms could well mean an extra two hours to your itinerary.
With that in mind we got up to an early start from our exquisitely luxurious Wildflower Hall Hotel. Our start time was 07:15 and we were very anxious to see what the day would bring and how Frøya would perform. We shouldn’t have worried. She was performing faultlessly, and it seems the new, thinner head gasket has indeed given her higher compression and a much needed boost in torque. Not much, but still better so the clutch won’t have to work so hard. There was no over heating, and our over-heating-water-bottle-gauge stayed cold and empty all day. We were at our hotel at about 4pm, so we’re talking a solid 9 hour’s drive here.
The roads have been sometimes very good (and very un-Indian) like the ones we like to drive a Morgan on back home. Good asphalt and nice bends to feel the chassis flex under us, and the bonnet bobbing up and down before our eyes. Then there have been the ones we hate (the very Indian ones) with holes, ruts and corrugations which makes our teeth rattle and backs ache. It almost seems like the less traveled roads are the best, while the ones being more used are the worst. We’re used to it being the other way around. Road maintenance may not be a primary concern here…
As we clambered out of the car at the hotel, Bjørn was assaulted by a local TV-station that wanted an interview. After the usual questions about the car, they wanted to know how we felt about the local weather(!) and their city. Being a polite lad he didn’t fully disclose his views on the gridlock that took half an hour to pass, and that could have costed Frøya her clutch, and then he took off.
It was strange, just to walk into the shower and then into the bar without having any worries about the car. It’s easy to get used to, but we need to remember how life can really be, so we don’t get too sure of ourselves. There will be many more climbs and decents, hair pin turns and rutted roads, so anything can happen.
Tomorrow will be a hectic drive to Rishikesh, and the rumor goes that they do not condone the enjoyment of alcohol in public places there. What then, with our Gin and Tonics?
Day nine. Emotional rollercoaster and failing gauges.
Today was another rest day, which we needed very much to fix some of Frøya’s ailments. After burning if not midnight oil, then definitely late-evening-oil yesterday to change the head gasket, we were ready for some fine tuning and test driving. It started very badly! Final adjustment of the valves was done and we started her up. The temperature rose very quickly to way above normal level. We couldn’t really understand why, and Trond even opened the water pump to see if that too had been affected by the overheating. Nope. It was ok. We were beginning to feel slightly desperate, and even started discussing what we should do if all our work should fail. There are a few things that can happen to a motor when over heating, that we would have difficulty addressing under these conditions.
Taking one step back, we considered our options and possibilities once more. We have had problems with our gauges before. To say it like it is: they look nice, but are shit! We very keenly remember the oil pressure gauge incident in Russia, and the one just the other day. Then we have had problems with one of the fuel tank senders, which we have now fixed incidentally, so we thought maybe the temperature gauge also was faulty having been cooked one time too many. We decided to disregard the gauge completely, and made a new, very analog temperature sensor of our own design. If we can rely on the new radiator cap to function correctly, it will start letting out water and steam should the engine start overheating, so we taped a plastic bottle to the top of the left hand side wing for the driver to see, made a hole in the cork and put the tube from the radiator neck in it. Any water or steam from the radiator should be rapidly visible and we can then pull over to deal with the problem.
We then adjusted our carburetors, which were not in sync, and took a test drive into town. Frøya was running beautifully. We also felt she was pulling stronger than ever before. On the road the gauge was spiking, but our bottle was cold and empty. Getting into town, we stopped at a gas station and filled her up, and asked our way to a welding shop where we could have our dampers strengthened. We were pointed to Verma Welding Works, which was no more than a hole in the wall like many of these Indian workshops, and there a nice man did an expert welding job on our three dampers. For this work, which took him 20 minutes, he wanted 100 rupis. With the current exchange rate this is not much more than a pound. Any attempt to give him more was politely declined.
Going back to the hotel our spirits were duly lifted, and we now feel we have a chance to carry on. The clutch is still very much an issue, but a replacement is said to be on it’s way from New Delhi. Perhaps it will materialize one day?
Day eight. Shimla to Shimla by way of a shortcut.
We really hoped that we were in the clear technically speaking when we started this morning. Alas, this was not to be! During the first short regularity Frøya started to misfire in a way we haven’t heard before. The regularity itself was all but ruined by us being trapped behind a bus that met a friend in another bus. They stopped for a merry chat while apoplexy was building up at our end. When we finally got past our talkative friends, we never got back to doing as well as we imagined we had done it before this incident. I think we got some 10 seconds off the mark, and that really didn’t do our place on the score board any good. Soon the scoreboard would seem less important as the misfire persisted, and the temperature started to rise again. We decided that the head gasket must have been blown after all during our previous overheating incidents, even though we initially thought it hadn’t. Being the eternal optimist sometimes has it’s darker sides.
So after having filled water two times in less than five minutes, we decided to head directly to the next hotel. This, however was easier said than done, as we had to drive back through Shimla and it’s steep and crowded streets which we both knew could be the end of Frøya’s clutch.
On the way we stopped by Top Gear Auto to fill even more water. The very kind manager called a friend who had a garage with a machine shop who could help us skim our top should we need it. He can also weld our dampers, so he might be a useful acquaintance. He led us to his garage, and though it might not live up to Norwegian standards, we believe he knows his work.
It can’t have been more than 20 kms from the city center to the hotel, but it took literally hours getting there. At the bottom of a particularly steep and crowded road, we got help from a local friend of Daniel and Ravi in the Citroën DS20 who very kindly towed us up. In the middle of the steep hill, a pedestrian Indian thought he’d take a quick run between our cars. He got caught in our towing rope and fell straight in the other lane wondering what hit him. Luckily it wasn’t a car, as no car was there to run him over. It obviously wasn’t his turn today…
We trundled along towards the hotel with Frøya sounding more and more like a mix between a tuk-tuk and some very ancient agricultural machine running on barely 3 cylinders.
The last insult would be the entry road to the otherwise splendid Wildflower Hotel. It was long and steep, and we were fearing for our clutch once more. A serious talk to the security man made him assure us that no-one would come down the road as we went up and that made us take our chance. Trond got us up without problems.
Not before had we entered the hotel and decided to have lunch did the sky open and a hail storm fell on us for an hour. We had decided to wait an hour before we could start working on the engine to let it cool down, but we were in no mood to change the head gasket in pouring rain. So we waited an hour more, and also had the Hotel very kindly clear a car port for us to work in. They even put up a working light and helped us in any way they could.
The job is simple enough if it’s done in an ordinary work shop. Our premises was simple at best, but we managed to get the head off, clean it and decide that is didn’t need skimming. This last decision was made on eyesight, but as most other tolerances on a Morgan usually is «within an inch» we hope it will do. Ever the optimist, you know. After some quick adjustment of the tappets, the engine fired and sounded fine. We’ll see how it goes after tomorrow’s test run.
We surely hope we won’t be repairing our all way to Agra, but then again, it’s better to do repairs all the way than being stranded. Our chances of a place on the score board was lost today, but we’ll keep pushing on as long as we can, hopefully to the end. That’s why we’re here.
Day seven. First rest day in Shimla or: Stop that monkey!
After the long day yesterday we turned in early to be ready to rest today. Well, as we hadn’t fallen victim to another natural disaster, we didn’t get much rest. There were several situations to address, like the cooling incident and the suspension problem. In addition we had a slightly misfiring engine we should have a closer look at.
We got a taxi with a knowledgeable driver and drove down the winding slopes of Shimla. The city is built on top of a mountain ridge, and looked like it was flowing down the sides of that ridge. All the shops and garages are small, crowded and dirty, but the guys there obviously know what they are doing. We had a list of things we needed, the most important items being a new water hose and rear shock absorbers. The radiator cap-issue resolved by itself as our friendly fellow competitors and sweep mechanics all cued up to give us their spares. We got some coolant fluid from our new Danish friends, the Rollners, just before a monkey jumped in and snatched their bag full of electrical spares and tools. There was some hectic work from the locals before the item could be returned to their rightful, and happy, owners. We heard about this happening yet another time today, as a monkey had snatched one of the guys sunglasses and held them hostage for a suitable ransom in the form of something edible. Seems like an effective way of making a living.
To our little shopping trip: we found a well equipped motorcycle repair shop that had the dampers we needed. The hose was located in what could best be described as a hole in the wall below a sweet shop. We would never had found it but for our driver who obviously had local knowledge. More specialized equipment(!) like spark plugs and WD40 lubrication could not be sourced.
Scrutinizing the dampers closer, we realized that they all must have a weakness with welding on the lower ring, that we have now broken twice, but we opted to put one of the new ones on anyway. If it breaks again we’ll se if we can have the rest welded on next resting day, which is on Saturday.
Sometime during the day we realized that we had forgotten to have any lunch, so we’re now looking forward to dinner, even if we’re pretty sure it will be Indian today too.
Tomorrow the organizers have made a little detour for us when we are moving camp to the hotel we should originally have had, the Wildflower, had we come here tomorrow after having climbed the higher passes. There will be two regularity sections, and we’ll see if we can press the right button on the clock, and perhaps climb the list. That would be fun.
On a different note: some might think it shouldn’t have been necessary to drop the trip to the Rhotang pass. I got hold of this picture taken from a helicoper the other day. The little thing in the picture is a bus… I’m game for a little driving in snow anytime, but we left our snow chains back home.
Day six. Manali to Shimla. Short distance, long day.
Today we got up at 4PM to be ready to drive off at 5. It was pitch dark when all the cars left in convoy on the app. 240 km trek to Shimla.
The organizers had located a bridge that was still standing, and we lined up: the small cars first, and the larger at the rear, the thought being that the bridge was so narrow that at least the smaller cars would get across. The organizer must have measured the cars correctly, as all got over the river unharmed. We did the crossing as quickly as we could as it was quite steep at the far end, and we always have the well being of the clutch in mind. Someone used the phrase: «you went like a scalded cat».
On the news they said that this was a 100-year flood, and we believe them. This river was bad.
Safely on the other side we continued our journey south to Shimla. We are having difficulties deciding what to think of this country. The roads are terrible, we mean REALLY TERRIBLE, the buildings are either unfinished or falling apart, or both, and there is garbage all over the place. Cleaning a few beaches in Europe or USA for plastic will not make much difference. Here you find the plastic that will eventually end up in the ocean! In addition you have cows, dogs and monkeys in the middle of the street, so it’s never safe to relax. We feel like we are driving on something between a war zone, a building site and the city garbage dump. In addition to that, we are always surrounded by the nicest, happiest people, that want to shake our hands, ask us where we are from, and what they can do for us. It’s really confusing, and we believe that you must somehow see behind all the unpleasant things to really enjoy, or understand the land and the people.
As for our trip today, it did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. First we have the clutch, of course, but treated well, it seems to work. Then we started getting an overheating problem. The temperature went up, and we started loosing water. We weren’t quite sure from where, but we suspected the radiator cap was at fault. After having tried fixing it, we had a really scary experience with the temp spiking, and suddenly the oil pressure light came on and engine started to emit strange sounds! This was eerily like the situation we had somewhere between Perm and Kazan in Russia during the Peking to Paris, and our spirits were not especially high at at that time. Strange thing is that after the initial chock where we discovered that it was just a hose for the radiator that had split, pouring the entire content of boiling water onto the oil pressure sensor, obviously destroying it, we were both very calm having experienced what we thought was the last day on the rally. We had a replacement hose, and Trond changed it easily.
Our oil pressure was still good and we could go on. We had good help, both professionally and psychologically, from the sweep mechanics who arrived at the scene of the disaster after 5 minutes. They drove after us the rest of the trip, stopping with us when we had to top up the radiator occasionally.
Finally we must have broken the rear coil over damper we replaced yesterday. It was obviously not of the same quality as the ones we got in Ulaan Bataar. Tomorrow we will try to find both dampers, radiator caps and an oil pressure sender. Shouldn’t be a problem, but we’re in India; you never really know for sure.
Now we stay at the very nice Oberoi Cecil hotel in Shimla. We’ve already taken a bath and a beer, and we also sent some smelly clothes to the laundry. We’ll stay here for two nights, and then we will move to the Wildflower Hall hotel which is said to be even better, to stay two more nights. Then we will be on track again as far as the rally schedule is concerned. Hope all is well with the car by then.
Day five. Another rest day in Manali. Hopefully the last one.
Today we were to move camp, so to speak. The day was sunny for a change, and the view was spectacular. After an earlyish breakfast we were usherd onto a truck that took us down to where the road was washed away. Having passed that spot on foot, luckily without too much mud left, we took another truck into Manali center where our cars were parked. Frøya was very wet inside, so we took off the roof and dried her as best we could. Then we drove out of town, over the bridge and southwards to our new hotel. There was still quite a lot of water in the streets, but not more than an average river crossing in Mongolia. We did fine.
After having pulled into our car park, we noticed that Frøya was sitting a bit low on the right rear wheel. Trond dived in and found that one of the dampers had broken near the bottom. We have brought some extra, and Trond changed it easily.
We also found that the tyre pressure was a bit low on all four wheels. We pumped them up and hope that this may make her roll a bit easier. That might help the clutch problem as well. The last thing we did was taking out the thermostat. She has been running a bit warm, at least according to the temp gauge, and this might help. We found we had not brought gasket sealer, so we found a small shop (more like a hole in the wall) that had. This cost us the sum of 45 rupis, which is less than 5 NOK.
We got a few surprises for dinner. The first one was that they had finally gotten time to make up the results. We have a total of 13 seconds penalty, which should place us at 10th place (even though the list said 12th. Must be a typo…). This should also put us on a shared 1st in class (even though the list said 2nd. Another typo, obviously…)
The other surprise was that start tomorrow will be at 5AM. It won’t be a regular start either, as we will start at the same time and travel in convoy down to the only bridge that is left down in the valley. The smaller cars are to start first, as the bridge is so narrow that that the bigger cars might have problems crossing it. This should be exiting!
Day four. Rest day. And we really mean rest day.
After our rather arduous day yesterday, we were to have a real rest day today. The rain was still falling hard as forcasted, and the land slide we had traversed yesterday night had been washed into the river, together with most of the road it was sitting on. This meant that the road was still not open, and we stayed at the hotel. We had a late breakfast, and Bjørn started to dry his clothes with the hair dryer. This was tedious work, so he started to dry up, and separate the pages of the soaked second road book. This was only partially successful, so we’ll see if we can either find a new one, or make a copy of someone else’s.
Day three. McLeodganj to Manali. How bad can it be?
To answer that question right away: Pretty bad! We woke up to a very rainy morning and a very discomforting weather forecast. We’re talking downpour around 100 mm per day the next two days. Luckily we don’t see that very often at home.
After our little clutch episode at the end of the day yesterday, we asked Skippy, the chief mechanic, to tow us up the steep road from the hotel, and the rally was on. We should only do about 220 kms today, but we had been given the whole day to do it in, so we should have anticipated what to expect. To be honest, there is no way we could anticipate what the day would bring.
Day two. Chandigarh To McLeodganj. Rain and problems.
We got up to a very bleak day, with rain pouring down. This kept a lot of the Indians off the road, so even without much visibility because of the windows were misting up, the drive wasn’t too bad.
Our secret weapon against misting windows is to clean the windows with baby wipes. Luckily we haven’t got the «Dehli Belly» (yet) so we have no other use for them. We did have to be careful with puddles the size of medium sized lakes, as our tyres aren’t too good in the wet, and we had a few incidents with water planing. When getting closer to the mountain this got to be less of a problem, as the roads got so bad with ruts, holes and gravel that we had to reduce our speed dramatically.
We had our first Regularity section today. It was quite easy with straight forward navigation and speed of only 25 kmh. Only when we were about to overtake the car in front of us, did we understand that something was not quite right. Turned out that the navigator (Bjørn this time) was using the table for 30 kms! Luckily this isn’t the Monte Carlo, and we have no secret gps measuring points along the route. We just stopped, and waited until we were on track again. We didn’t do too badly, with only a 7 second penalty. This put us in 14. place.
With this in mind, we we quite cheerful when we got close to the hotel. What we didn’t know, was that the last three kilometers were the steepest we will probably ever encounter (both on this rally, and probably later in life as well). A normal Indian traffic congestion didn’t make things better, and neither did the fact that one of Frøya’s carburetor were flooding. This let to reduced torque, and Trond had to rev the engine hard, and use the clutch too much. In the end we had smoke coming in from under the dashboard and a very obvious smell of burnt clutch. We did somehow get her up the steep hills and down to the hotel on the other side of the hill, but only time will tell if we have a real problem on our hands. Trond is already on the case of finding which Indian car will have a clutch we can use, should it come to that. Hope it won’t.
It’s still raining like crazy, and the forecast is even worse, so it will be another wet day tomorrow. The bad weather is also keeping us from taking the photos we would like. We really don’t see much, but we hope this will get better when it stops raining.
Day one. New Delhi to Chandigarh. Traffical anarchy
Today was the big day. We got up earlier than usual for a short breakfast. It was still hot and humid, and we packed the car for the first time, like we did every day during the Peking to Paris. What we believe to be a Buddhist priest said a prayer for Frøya and wrote something in Hindi on the bonnet. He said it translated to «Home», and was a prayer for the car to return home safely. We asked him to write the same on our Norwegian flags. Now we have flags with both Chinese and Indian blessing. Isn’t rallying a great thing?
Afterwards it was our turn, and all the drivers and navigators were blessed and marked with a red mark on the forehead like proper Indians. We also received a bracelet for good luck, so now we feel properly protected.
Returning to the car we found a flowers garland with marigolds on Frøya’s bonnet. She looked even more beautiful than usual.
Our start was changed to 10:13, and to loud cheering from spectators and staff at the hotel, we set out into the Indian traffic. Bjørn was driving today, and with Trond’s exellent navigation we made almost no mistakes getting out of the big city. Coming in yesterday, we thought we had seen it all, but the traffic in the Indian countryside was probably as close to anarchy as you can find it. The thing is, that Bjørn warmed up to this way of driving, and he’s still not sure if Trond’s observation that he drove like he was born there was to be considered a compliment. It’s strange, but in some twisted way we both felt that the traffic was flowing much better here than at home. Having done just a few of the maneuvers needed to tackle this traffic most certainly would have cost us our driver’s licenses back home, but it sure is efficient.
The countryside was a mixture of sights and smells we have never encountered before and we definitely haven’t seen endless poverty like this. Still all people we meet are friendly, waiving and cheering to us, and of course taking the odd photograph.
The Taj Chandigarh Hotel is very good, but the organizers have warned us not to get too used to the comfort. The weather report is not very encouraging either, with heavy rain in the region we are traveling. We’ll just have see how the next few days will be. It’s supposed to be an adventure, right?
Day -1. Hotter than July.
Today we were ready to fetch Frøya. We might not have slept as easy as the previous nights, knowing this was the day, and we were up bright and early to catch the bus to the warehouse some 60 kms south east of New Delhi where all the cars were lined up ready for delivery. There were a few non starters and the occasional jump cable was brought out. Frøya was dusty, but started on the first turn of the key. Big smiles all around! We were in no doubt that she had been safe, as there were several guards with double barreled shot guns posted around the premises. Made us think of the grouse hunting we had to drop to come to New Delhi on time.
The navigation back was quite easy. We had been slightly nervous about the traffic, and in a country where road signs and -markings are considered merely decorational, and where you use your horn more than you use the brakes, one would expect a poor European to feel on thin ice. Not so! Trond took us safely back to the hotel adapting to the driving pattern of the locals very quickly. It was very hot, but the engine ran at normal temperature. We had to stop along the way to fix the accelerator cable, though. The heat in the engine compartment was so high, that the rubber on the outside of the cable had softened, making it slide through the fixing point on the bulkhead. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a few strips, and we were back on the road.
Scrutineering and registration went like a breeze, and we even got to update the tracker unit so that you can all see where we are. Try it HERE.
We must put in a little word about our experience with the local bank. In order to buy oxygen containers and other bits and pieces, we needed some US Dollars. Back home we’re used to bringing our credit card, signing a form and walk off with whatever currency we desire. Not so in India. After having brought passport, credit card and massive amounts of patience needed to fill in numerous forms, we were told that they would not accept our credit card. We had to walk out into the street, use their outside ATM, extract not more than 10000 rupis at a time and not do that more than 2 times per card, and come back to change them into the desired amount of dollars. 2 employees used the better part of half an hour to help us achieve that. How to keep 1.5 billion Indians at work!
Now, we’re back at the pool. Tonight there will be a briefing and a dinner for all. And tomorrow we’re in business.
Day -2. The Waiting Game.
Ok. The game is on. That is, not quite yet. To comply with Indian Customs Regulations, we all had to have an immigration stamp in our passports 3 days before we could collect our cars. Staying at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi for three days waiting for the (very slow) mill of the Government to realize that we are actually here, might seem like tedious work for some. Not for us. We take the long hours by the pool during the day, the excellent dinners at night and the frequent trips to the bar at any time we might fancy, in our stride, not complaining for a second.
Today we took a Tuk-tuk to the local railway museum. This gave us a very close look at how the traffic in India works. As our driver told us: «To drive in Inda you need three things; Good brakes, good horn and good luck». We believe him. We also got a good excuse for a stiff drink in the bar.
Tomorrow we will fetch Frøya, bring her to the hotel for scrutineering and signing on. Friday is the big day. Our start time will be 10:19, and from then on we’re pretty much on our own. We’re looking forward to that.
Welcome to Frøya the Morgan’s new homepage.
Here I will blog about Frøya’s adventures. You might already know about the Peking to Paris Endurance Rally that we did in 2016. If not, you can go to to the blog page and check it out. It was a fabulous 35 days trip and a wonderful adventure, but we can’t stop there. Our next adventure is a 21 day round trip doing the Himalayan Challenge. The start is September 21. from New Delhi and we will pass the finishing line in Agra. That too should be quite a journey.
I will start blogging a few days before the rally starts.