Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back in Delhi and on to Nepal, 2 tank system and increasing veg oil use.

6th Nov
Went to pick up bike from the train parcel office. I had sent it with an agent, rather than direct with the railway service. I had not intended that, but was hijacked at the Secunderabad, Hyderabad parcel office. Anyway it seemed ok so I went with it. It is a good way to travel with your bike in India. You have to be prepared to have a knock or two on the bike. Batty had a few scratches on the panniers and the headlight has a crack. It saved so much time and was such a relaxed way of traveling that it was worth it.
It was good to be back fleetingly in Delhi, and I recognise my way around a bit now. I was to have another go at getting the larger fuel tank with a small compartment for diesel to start/stop and the larger side for veg oil once the engine is hot. Ashish of had the tank and he and his colleague Bundy, have been very helpful. I needed a 'T' connector for the 2 tanks to join into the 1 fuel pump. This they found along with the extra length of tube that I have looped around into an outer engine casing that will get quite hot, but hopefully not too hot to melt the rubber. I have this cunning plan, having read about it on various sites, to try and preheat the veg oil before it goes into the pump and then ignition system, in doing so making for a better/cleaner ignition. We will see.

This is the loop of tube running into an outer engine casing that should heat the oil to help combustion.

It was a good opportunity to get a new back tyre and a new leather cover for my seat which will hopefully last a bit better. (I have been asked about the sheepskin cover a lot, and i appreciate the concern for my back side. Alas we parted company in Goa, as the wiff had got to much. I don't think the rains helped all that much.) This has meant staying here an extra day as the Ede holiday. I want to leave on Tuesday for Nepal after getting the tyre and seat sorted.
I met Prem Kumar at Ashish's office. I knew Prem although without realising it, as I have been a reader of his website which seemed to come up on web searches about routes in India. In particular I had read it when trying to find the highest pass in the world, which I learnt is a place that foreigners cannot go as it is on the Chinese border, but it was Prim who discovered it, rode it and wrote it up for the site. Charming chap and very enthusiastic about all matters about long rides and bike adventure.
8th Nov
Make a plan in India and then double or triple the time. What was supposed to be a couple of hours changing the tyre, seat, battery, and a few other odd and sods, ran deep into the afternoon. I had given up with trying to put the seat back on, so fiddly. My guardian angel came along in the form of Vivienne, who's colleague does this all the time and she suggested that he should help. So kind, particularly when it held her back from getting all the supplies she needed from Ashish, for her custom Enfield business.
Talking of tyres, my last continental rear tyre has done the best part of 10,000 miles which I thought was pretty good. This new one is made by MRF and is the one new Enfields are fitted with here. The chap who put it on said I would get 30,000 Kms from it, 2 x the last one. If that is so it will see me home almost...
I needed to leave and at least get out of Delhi that night. When I got on the road it was 4.30pm and the simple route out of the city turned into a complete nonsense as major roads were blocked with Ede festival processions.
It took 3 hrs and I write from a squalid hotel on the outskirts. The upside is that the mutton curry they made me was v delicious.
Hopefully I will make the border at Mahendranagar today.
Well it is 9.30 and I have moved 200 yards from the hotel start at 7.45. Batty would not start. Various kind folk tried to help me bump start her but to no avail. A kind man by name of Rajnish Chopna, has taken charge and got an Enfield mechanic to come and have a look. He, in turn, thinks it is a diesel engine issue, so a mechanic skilled in such matters has been called, we will see.
I have had starting problems of late, which I put down to the new battery I put in when the original gave up the ghost a couple of weeks back in Tamil Nadu. It was a 9 amp battery instead of 14. So when I replaced that yesterday I thought it would fix it. Truth is that the new battery will not have charged properly, which combined with a clutch that has been rather shagged by the exit from Delhi yesterday has meant that the kick start is slipping a bit and not getting the turn I need to start it properly.
A chap, who has an original diesel Enfield, turns up and puts the kick start at a higher angle, which gives a bigger swing. This gets her going, the battery starts charging and off I go. Leaving probably about 50 cheering on lookers and a few saviors, who put everything aside to help, so kind. After a long run she now easily starts off the battery. Oh sweet joy. Batty is a wonderful being, but her complexities and moods just occasionally confound me.
My brunch just before getting to Nepal
And my chef and his kitchen

Leaving India was a breeze at the boarder, and a joy. The immigration chaps all smiles and jokes and the customs chief the same. All about how his colleague, who was sorting my paperwork,  was a tremendous fxxker, with 2 wives in India and a girlfriend in Nepal. Very amusing made all the more so because the man in question seemed so placid, serious and just unlikely. He was wearing a cardi for goodness sake. Or was there a twinkle in his eye that hinted at a Lothario, dark horse and all that.
I took this pic of the bike and lady driver to show how to really pack a bike, least anyone thought Batty was over loaded. Just after I took she fell over with the bike. It took 3 of us chaps near by to help her back on 2 wheels.

Nearly 6000 miles in India over 3 months and I wish I could say that I could give an quick summary of it. No, it is far too much of a heady cocktail, so many ingredients that have you loving it and then loathing it in the same minute. I suppose I am bit tired of non stop juxtapositions that just confuse this simple mind. How can extraordinary natural beauty, some of the kindest of people, with such a sophisticated 6000 year old religious and social culture, intensely strong family structures, say nothing of the delicious food, be so off balanced by such endemic corruption, some shocking child and women abuse, horrific poverty, little sense of civic pride and that occasional whiff of poo. India is galloping into a poll position on the world stage, there are huge fortunes being made and the quest for material wealth is fueling an environmental carelessness that I am afraid will compromise us all if not arrested soon. Not that we can talk of course.

Would I say visit India, a thousand times yes.
I had a good feeling from day 1 in Nepal, and for lunch on the first day I had a delicious fish, battered in a spicy way and then fried.  This was in a small town called Karnali.
I had to stop and snap this small holding. It was so idyllic. The houses are mud plastered over elephant grass, supported by timber struts

The plan to make for Tilawakot was changed when on a quick stop at a mechanic to get the chain guard fixed, it has started making an annoying rattle, I was greeted by an other customer who asked me where I was going. It turned out that he was a guide in the Bardia National Park and his very nice manner easily persuaded me to spend a couple of nights at his 'resort' on the edge of the park.
The rooms/bungalows (£4pn) at the Tharu resort are delightfully simple, clean and comfortable. Good food and a great day trekking in the Park.

Alas we did not see a tiger, but Sitaran and his trainee Daman did get us incredibly close to a pair or rhinos by getting me to climb up a tree. It was very exciting.

A working Elephant after a days work logging etc in the Park

No Zoom required. Taken from up a tree.

Daman, spotting up a tree

Onwards to Lumbini. This is where Buddha was born circa 565 BC and is one of 4 most sacred places for Buddhists. An area of many hundreds of acres have been walled around the actual birth place and about 20 other contemporary temples have or are being built by many of the nations with a  Buddhist population. Funnily enough Germany and France have one, but the UK and US did not, which interested me. I thought there would have been as many Buddhists in UK as France or Germany, maybe they are still being planned. Anyway the styles all differ, and in 50 or 100 years time when the new build look has weathered away, they will all be much more fantastic. For now they did not do much for me but it was good to see the scale of the devotion etc.

No Cameras were allowed in this white building, which marks the spot of his birth sadly.
The pool in front is where his mother was bathing (I imagine it was just a natural pond then...) when she went into labour

 I think this is either the Chinese or Nepalese Temple, you can see the newness.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kadapa and Hyderabad, Aarti Home and video interview with Sandhya Puchalapalli

I am cheating as I write, by being on a train that is charging through the night to Delhi. It is saving 1400 kms of riding and will help me to Nepal before my visa runs out next week. I have rather weakly justified it by saying to myself that it is a South-North journey and not 'around'.

I arrived in Kadapa after a couple of days riding from Dindigal, I stayed in a rather disappointing hole of a hotel and town along the way. The manager was trying to and succeeding in massively overcharging me for a room that over looked a busy 24 hour petrol station. I am afraid I did not have the will power to move and it rather blackened my feeling towards the town of Tiropattur. I have had a few nights like this before and the best thing is to just get up early and move on.
This lady cooked me breakfast the next day, and was all smiles and giggles right up till I took her picture...which she was v happy about,  I guess this must be her pose. She restored my humour for sure.

I was enjoying the ride so much  driving north out of Tamil Nadu, I only managed to get this picture of the beautiful landscape I was going through...reminded me of Zimbabwe

The next days adventure was being interviewed by a local newspaper in a nameless village that I stopped in. Not a journalistic masterpiece I fear, as the editor had very few words of English and his questions were pure guess work as far as my understanding them were concerned. I gave him a few lines and then he wanted a photo which by chance, I assume, happened just when a herd of camels went by, making for quite a composition. I wonder if I will ever see it?
The editor at his newsdesk 
Those Camels

My reasons for going to this smallish town of Kadapa, off any beaten track, was to come to visit Aarti Home. Katie James had introduced me to it some years back and I loved how they go about saving and making lives for mainly abandoned girls in a land where girls are less wanted than boys. It is a horrid situation that has evolved over the years and is the cause of unmeasurable sorrow and suffering. I should add that it is chiefly in the rural communities that this is the case.
Un related to my tale, but thought you would like to see how the laundry is delivered to my hotel 

My few days there getting to know the Home and many of those involved, but in particular Sandhya Puchalapalli, has been a highlight of the trip.
Sandhya welcomed me into her home and family with a warmth that was hot to the touch. We ended up doing a video interview about the Aarti and the issues. Here it is....I have edited out a few of the really long stutters, to try and keep it moving, but left enough in just so you know it's me:

I drove to Hyderabad, which is about 250 miles and had 4 rather fantastic days. I was lucky enough to get a good deal at a 4 star hotel called the Tulip so was pretty comfortable and all mod cons etc. I rather lazily did not put the cover over Batty and the amount if extra chats I had  because of this laziness was rather striking. Batty does pull a crowd, not quite a honeypot, but nearly. One of these chats was with Manoj, who is an officer in the air force, we ended up having a few enjoyable Old Monks together. Old Monk is apparently the rum of choice for many an Indian Gentleman.

Paul has been doing our SEO (getting our site top of google etc)  off and on for a few years and I had wanted to meet him. Although he has a deceptively English name he is a born and bred Hydrabadian Christian. Apparently I was the first client to make it out there. Little prepared was I for the great welcome I was to get, there was a banner at the entrance welcoming me by name, a bouquet of flowers, lots of chocolate, even a photographer, and a great row of smiling faces. I felt like the Queen on an official visit. Very touching.

What a welcome

When we were leaving for lunch, Paul asked if I would say a few words to the team about success, not sure why he picked me, but I suppose it is pretty rare that someone takes a year or two out of their career. Anyway I immediately thought to talk about the best investment you can make in life is to deliver more than you are both expected to do and paid to do. It will always pay back handsomely as long as one knows that it is usually a mid to long term investment. It is not just a work thing, but can cover all aspects of life, although my experience of it has been particularly in work.
Paul liked that it seemed, as his team hurried back to their desks.

At lunch, in this themed restaurant that had you sitting in a railway carriage of the 1920s and served by waiters dressed as the Hitler youth, and over a very delicious feast I was asked if I believed in God. I had not been asked that for a very long time, and not by a devout Christian. I said no I did not, followed by quite a long explanation for my reasons for our state of being, I was fearful that this may prompt a sermon, but luckily Rini's brother, the photographer, agreed with everything I said much to my surprise from an Indian who all seem to believe in something or other.
After lunch I met up with Sandya as we had to take another interview video because the first one had a fan over the top of the mic which made the sound awful. She and her husband were in Hyderabad delivering their grand daughter back to their daughter. We met at the offices of, which is her brother's year old travel firm. He has enjoyed a very successful time in pharmaceutical manufacturing and now he is leaving others to run that whilst he follows his heart and sets up a wildlife travel business.
Stupidly my camera ran out of battery, so yet another date had to be made the next day.
That took place at the family home, and a lunch was laid on with the whole family. I was an hour late which was the third time I had been late for her, and I hated being so. They all waited  and we had a very delicious lunch, the home prepared food in this family is quite astonishingly good.
The interview went well and then it was really time to say farewell...a very fond one.
In the morning Paul and Rini, his lovely wife, had given me a conducted tour of the city. The Charminar was a favourite along with the jade collection in the Sajarjun Museum.

Paul and Rini infront of the Charminar

The other phenomenon that really caught my imagination was a hall that had a large English clock in the centre of one of the sides. When the hour comes,  a little mechanical chap at the top of the face pops out of a hut to strike the bell. Rather like a Swiss cuckoo clock.  This is watched by hundreds and hundreds of people, the clock is on a video camera and shown on screens around the hall so everyone can see it. It was almost religious, fun to see and all, but rather a huge celebration of a relatively straightforward clock. I was probably missing something... Alas camera's are not allowed there and you will have to take my word for it.

I met Darius about 10 or 12 years ago in England and he is a great pal of Arjun's and Karan's. We had been in touch and managed to hook up on the Thursday evening. He kindly collected me from the hotel and we went to his home, which is a large modern house with a good size garden in the heart of the city, very stylish and lovely to be in such a haven. He had a couple of other pals, Mark and Birdy, over and we had a high octane evening of much beer and a delicious dinner. It reminded me of the Curry Club back home and the brotherhood of good friends, much missed on this trip.

The next day I ran around a bit getting Batty booked on to the train, always a nervy the first time trying new things, but so far it has been fairly straight forward after a couple of wrong alleys.
Darius was true to his word and came and collected me from the hotel, took me home for a delicious and fun lunch before sending me off with one of his drivers to the station.

Batty all parceled up

It is now the morning after a good nights sleep and this train travel is fantastic. Comfortable and clean beds, quiet fellow passengers and hours (25 all told) of reading and writing time.  If you have made it this far down the blog, you will be wondering how I have had so much time to write...the wonder of trains.

PS. Jeremy Sigee kindly sent me this Bloomberg article about how the US military, along with many other commercial operators are soon to be going the Batty way for their fuel. Wouldn't it be a great thing if we can travel around the world with far less environmental concerns....that is not to say that it should be done in a way that compromises food for people, but I should think with the likes of glycerine ( See what Aquafuel are up to here) producing algae in play, the consequences should be easily managed:

By Alex Morales and Louise Downing
    Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Biofuels face their biggest test yet
-- whether they can power fighter jets and tanks in battle at prices the world's best-funded military can afford.
    The U.S. Air Force is set to certify all of its 40-plus aircraft models to burn fuels derived from waste oils and plants by 2013, three years ahead of target, Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary Kevin Geiss said. The Army wants 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The Navy and Marines aim to shift half their energy use from oil, gas and coal by 2020.
    "Reliance on fossil fuels is simply too much of a vulnerability for a military organization to have," U.S. Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus said in an interview.
    Yet the U.S., stung by an oil embargo during the 1973 Arab- Israeli war, won't deploy biofuels beyond testing until prices tumble. The Air Force wants them "cost-competitive" with traditional fuel, for which it pays $8 billion a year. Producers see it the other way around, saying they need big buyers before building refineries to help slash costs, according to Honeywell International Inc., which developed a process to make biofuels.
    "The first few widgets are always more expensive than the billionth," said James Rekoske, vice president of renewable energy at Honeywell's UOP unit. "That's where we're at."
Honeywell expects to have delivered about 800,000 gallons of biojet fuel from 2009 through early 2012.
    Rekoske said prices need to dive to $3 to $4 a gallon from more than $10 now. Refineries, costing about $300 million each, are "mission critical" and a giant customer like the U.S.
government is necessary to carry production to the next level.

                      Convincing Bankers

    "You can't take a 10-year contract from an American airline to the bank and get the financing that you need,"
Rekoske said. "You can if you have a 10-year contract from the U.S. Navy."
    The military's drive to cut dependence on oil, coal and gas goes beyond biofuels. It's developing wind and solar farms to power U.S. bases and expanding the use of renewables into combat zones such as Afghanistan, where a study last year showed one Marine is killed or wounded for every 50 fuel and water convoys.
    Under a 2005 law, federal government facilities must source at least 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2010-2012, and at least 7.5 percent afterward.
    President Barack Obama on Aug. 16 announced the Navy and Departments of Agriculture and Energy would each plow $170 million over three years into the commercial development of biofuels, with the aim of generating at least as much in private investment. The Navy aims to ramp up its biofuels use to 3 million gallons in 2016 from 900,000 gallons next year.

                       'Create a Market'

    "The U.S. military is by the far the largest user in the country, so we can create a market for it," Mabus said. The Navy is the "guaranteed customer" needed to get the industry "across the so-called valley of death from a good idea to commercial scale," he said.
    The armed forces say they've been successful testing fuels produced from sources as diverse as animal fat, frying oils and camelina, an oil-bearing plant that's relatively drought- and freeze-resistant.
    Major Aaron Jelinek, the lead solo pilot in the Air Force's Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, performed aerobatics including loops, rolls and formation flying at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on May 20-21. It was the F-16 fighter jet's first flight using a fuel made from the camelina plant.
    "I could tell no difference between flying that day when I had biofuel in my tank versus flying the day before or the day after," Jelinek said in an interview.
    The military wants its vehicles, except for the ships that are nuclear-powered, to be able to use new combustibles, cutting fossil fuel imports from politically unstable nations.

                         Green Hornet

    "We do buy a lot now from countries that we sure wouldn't let build our aircraft or ships, but we give them a say in whether they sail or fly because we buy our fuels from them,"
said Mabus.
    The Navy has flown its Green Hornet fighter aircraft at 1.7 times the speed of sound using a biofuel blend and aims to have certified all of its aircraft for the fuels by year-end.
    While the tests were done in the U.S., once certified, the forces will be able to operate aircraft on biofuels anywhere, including war zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
    "If the fuel is available, whether it's in Afghanistan or it's in Kentucky, we want to be able to use it," said Geiss.
    The Navy's fuel bill rose $1 billion this year because of the conflict that cut off Libyan output, said Mabus.
   Volatile prices for oil can hit budgets. At the Navy, which spends about $4 billion a year on fuels, the energy bill rises
$31 million for every $1 gain in the price of a barrel of oil, Mabus said. The Air Force has twice the budget.

                      $8 Billion in Fuel

    "When you've got a bill of $8 billion, you're going to look for opportunities to diversify your options," said Geiss.
    The Army aims to approve biofuels for its aircraft and ground vehicles, including Humvees, Abrams battle tanks and Apache helicopters by the end of 2013, a spokesman, Dave Foster, said in an e-mail.
    The Air Force certified biofuels for use in F-15s, F-16s and C-17 cargo planes and they're set for approval for the whole fleet by 2013, said Jeff Braun, director of the Alternative Fuels Certification Office. The force has a 2016 deadline for being able to get half its needs from 50/50 alternative fuel blends, equivalent to 400 million gallons of biofuels or other combustibles, such as synthetic liquid fuels from coal and gas.
    "We can use an almost unlimited number of feedstocks to produce these fuels," said Braun. "From a performance stand- point you can't tell the difference whether you're burning a camelina blend, a tallow blend, or another fuel that's made up of a bunch of waste greases -- fry grease or seasoning grease."

                   Boeing, Lockheed Martin

    The Air Force has worked with aircraft makers Boeing Co.
and Lockheed Martin Corp. and engine-makers Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, General Electric Co. and United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney in testing the biofuels, said Braun. The fuels used were made by Honeywell's UOP, Sustainable Oils Inc. and Dynamic Fuels LLC, a venture by Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    The results of the military tests have been shared with commercial airlines, many of which have carried out their own trials -- starting with Air New Zealand Ltd. in December 2008, and Continental Airlines -- now part of United Continental Holdings Inc. -- and Japan Airlines Co. the following month, according to Honeywell.
    The data from military and commercial airlines helped ASTM International, formerly the American Society for Testing & Materials, in July approve the fuels for use in commercial planes, paving the way for Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe's second-largest airline, to become the first carrier in the world to offer regular scheduled flights running on biofuel.

                     Lufthansa Precedent

    "Lufthansa wouldn't be flying today if we had not done our work to enable development of that ASTM standard," Geiss said.
    The next hurdle is for the fuels to be produced commercially at prices the military would accept.
    Honeywell made 800,000 gallons of fuel for the Air Force's tests, though it doesn't aim to produce the fuels commercially.
It plans to license the technique to refiners such as Valero Energy Corp. and Darling International Inc., which are building a $368 million plant in Louisiana, Rekoske said. While it'll be licensed to make bio-jet fuel, Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, said the focus will be on making ground transportation fuels.

For Related News and Information:
Top renewable energy and environment stories: TOP ENV <GO> Most-read renewable energy stories: MNI ALTNRG <GO> Energy asset search: BMAP <GO> Climate-change news: NI CLIMATE <GO>

--Editors: Todd White, Steve Geimann

To contact the reporters on this story:
Alex Morales in London at +44-20-7330-7718 or; Louise Downing in London at +44-20-3216-4633 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at +44-20-7330-7862 or