5/6 2006 Kichha, India
Lat N 28° 52,84', Long E 79° 31,03'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
05 Jun 2006
42154 km

Even though there was only 250 kilometers to Rishikesh it took us all day to get there. Rishikesh is packed with Ashrams. Since the Beatles were here in the late sixties Rishikesh has a reputation of being the yoga and meditation capital of the world for westerners. Even if there are a lot of them here they are few compared to the big crowd of Indian people. Rishikesh is also an important place for pilgrimage.

6/6 2006 Rishikesh, India
Lat N 30° 07,67', Long E 78° 19,87'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
06 Jun 2006
42434 km

Of course we needed to try out the yoga and meditation scene here in Rishikesh. We started out with a morning yoga class. Catharina managed to talk Christian and Elisabeth in to trying yoga. They enjoyed it but thought once was enough for them. Catharina, on the other hand wanted to do this thoroughly while she was here and she took the afternoon class and the evening class too. Bert took the opportunity to get a full body massage instead.

7/6 2006 Rishikesh, India
Lat N 30° 07,67', Long E 78° 19,87'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
07 Jun 2006
42434 km

Today we did not get very far. Our plan was to go to Shimla. After only 50 kilometers we passed through the town Dehra Dun and got stopped by a man on a motorbike.

The Indian man said to Bert ”Do you work for Metso?” What? How could he possibly know that? The man gives us his business card and presents himself as Mr Rajiv Ghildiyal, Senior Fiberline Advisor at Metso.

He told us he visited Sweden a few weeks ago and got to hear about our trip in Asia. And all of a sudden he run in to us driving though his home town Dehra Dun. What are the odds for that?

Rajiv invited us to his home and convinced us to stay the night. He told us we would never make it anyway to Shimla today anyway. He introduced us to hid wife Kalpana, and his daughter Megha and their German Sheppard Simba. They live in a big, nice house and we could park our car in their garden.

They took really good care of us. After a cool shower and lunch they took us to Mussoorie and Dhanaulti in the mountains. Afterwards we went back to town to have dinner at a restaurant.

. Sedan tog de med oss på

8/6 2006 Dehra Dun, India
Lat N 30° 19,91', Long E 78° 03,45'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
08 Jun 2006
42509 km

After breakfast we continued to Shimla. Shimla was not at all what we expected. Complete lack of charm, crowded, traffic jam and with a lot of touts hassling us. We decided to wild camp along the way instead of staying there.

9/6 2006 Wild Camp, India
Lat N 31° 09,66', Long E 77° 03,20'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
09 Jun 2006
42769 km

Yesterday we parked for the night in a gravel pit. A good spot we thought. But late in the night the trucks came rolling in. We had to get up to move our car, luckily just one hundred meters.

In the evening we arrived in Manali. When we were looking for a place to park, Christian and Elisabet showed up again. We decided to stay the night in a parking lot. Some times it is kind of tricky to find a good place to park…

10/6 2006 Manali, India
Lat N 32° 15,88', Long E 77° 11,25'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
10 Jun 2006
43020 km

This time we bring our car when climbing high altitude. Today we started our journey from Manali at 2 050 meters to Ladak Leh at 3 505 meter. We will cross several very high passes on this trip.

We crossed the first of them, Rohtang La at 3 978 meter today. Along the way there were a lot of small shops renting out winter clothes to Indian tourists that was to experience snow for the fist time in their life. They wrapped themselves up until they all looked like Eskimos.

The road was very busy, narrow and winding. Of course there were no crash barriers. Just a few days ago it opened for the season, but parts of the road was not yet cleared.

Up in the pass all Indians were like crazy, they all slided around in the snow , throwing snowballs at each other, riding the sledge and posed with slalom skis – without even putting them on properly.

Catharina got extremely happy realizing she could ride a Yak. She had been talking about this for weeks. The Yak was really nice and very cute !

11/6 2006 Rohtang La, India
Lat N 32° 23,01', Long E 77° 15,69'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
11 Jun 2006
43087 km

Yesterday we found a great place to park for the night, right blow the pass at 3 550 meters next to a stream. The place we found was so nice that we decided to stay to get a rest today. We have been on the road for many days now.

12/6 2006 Rohtang La, India
Lat N 32° 23,01', Long E 77° 15,69'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
12 Jun 2006
43087 km

Bert takes us through the most difficult of situations on these sometimes non existing roads. Time and time again during the trip we have said to ourselves; it does not get any worse then this. But time and time again we are proven wrong.

To travel roads like these with a 4x4 wheel Jeep with a high clearance is no challenge, but to do it with a regular SAAB is definitely a real challenge.

A lot of places we traveled we would not even had considered under other circumstances. But we get through somehow. The steel shield that protects our engine is our best friend right now. When we come to Sweden the shield will get a place of honors in our house. It has taken a lot of beating!

Up here the weather changes quickly . In the morning it was nice and sunny, after a couple of hours the wind had picked up close to a sand storm . The distance between the petrol stations in the mountains are great and we really need to fill up when we have the opportunity.

13/6 2006 Wild camp Patsio India
Lat N 32° 45,15', Long E 77° 15,37'
Today: 39.2 °F ( 4 °C)
13 Jun 2006
43187 km

We talked to a man this morning about the road conditions to Leh. He told us that the road getting better ahead. We did not notice that at all.

It is not about getting to Leh fast - it is all about getting there at all. In rare moments we manage to drive 20 kilometer per hour, we nearly get blinded by the speed.

A couple of times a day we get stopped at check points. The register us, check our passports and visa.

Today we climbed two pass; first Baralacha La at 4 883 meter and then Lachlung La at 5 060 meter. The first pass was no problem. But after the 21 hairpin bends ”red bully” got stuck in the mud right before the pass. We were driving in front and didn’t notice it. We waited for them to show up at the pass.

After a while we started to wonder where they were. We turned around to see what’s happened. By then they already got some assistance by four men and two trucks, and were already loose from the mud .

Up in the pass we had to take a break. Poor ”red bully” was overheated after the rough time in the mud pit.

14/6 2006 Wild camp Pang, India
Lat N 33° 05,69', Long E 77° 44,08'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
14 Jun 2006
43323 km

We spent the night at 4 600 meters. Bert went out to take a pee in the middle of the night. He put his feet in his slippers that were standing outside to discover they were full of snow.

Our beautiful and powerful SAAB was assigned an important task today – take a 2,5 ton over loaded ”red bully” in tow. After a cool night he refused to start. Christian thinks the problem was that there was no antifreeze in the diesel tank.

We are now in Ladakh. Today we crossed the last of the passes before reaching Leh. Taglang La at 5 330 meters is in fact the second highest road pass in the world. Ladakh is called ”the land of the high passes”. Three of the highest road passes in the world are found in the Ladakh area.

We are pretty sure that not many SAAB cars have been at 5 330 meters – not many Toppolas either …

Before traveling this high up we were a bit concerned about how it would affect the petrol/air mixture in our fuel injection engine. But there has been no problem at all. Fuel injection engines produced after 1990 handle this automatically.

15/6 2006 Leh, India
Lat N 34° 10,24', Long E 77° 34,67'
Today: 68 °F ( 20 °C)
15 Jun 2006
43513 km

Indus valley were Leh is located is green, beautiful and surrounded by snow capped mountains. The climate in Leh at 3 550 meters is cool and nice in summer. But as soon as the sun disappears it gets chilly. Leh is not at all what we expected. We thought it would be a calm, harmonic place with not so many people. Instead it is completely cramped with tourists – mostly westerners.

Already in the morning hours all shops, internet cafés and restaurants closed down. The rumor had it that the Buddhists had ordered the close down in protest of what the Muslims had done. No one wanted to talk about what has happened. We only got woolly explanations like ”Muslims have misbehaved”. In the evening we finally got an answer to our questions. Apparently a young Buddhist girl hade been raped by a Muslim yesterday. This is what caused the protest and close down.

Cathairna tried a traditional Indian Yoga class – a combination of ordinary yoga exercises and spiritual elements. Now she knows what type of yoga that suite me the best. All the other types of yoga I’ve tried had been too ”clinical”. This feels more like a combination of yoga and meditation. Great!

After the yoga class Catharina continued with a two hour meditation calls lead by a Buddhist. It all started out with one hour introduction in Buddhist teachings and philosophy connected to the meditations session. Very interesting!

16/6 2006 Leh, India
Lat N 34° 10,24', Long E 77° 34,67'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
16 Jun 2006
43513 km

Rain and +8°C. When the sun is out the weather is perfect. But now it feels like it has been rain and freezing for days.

Today all shops were open again. Bert and Christian arranged with a permit to go to ”Kardung La”, the highest road pass in the world and onwards to Nubra Valley. These places are behind ”Inner line”, and close to the sensitive Chinese border. That is why a special permit is required. We also bought supplies so we could stay there for a few days.

17/6 2006 Leh, India
Lat N 34° 10,24', Long E 77° 34,67'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
17 Jun 2006
43513 km

For two days it has been a heavy snowfall up in the pass. This means that we can not go there today as planned. Maybe we can go tomorrow.

Instead we decided to go to Thiksey Gompa , about 20 kilometers from Leh. It is on of the best preserved and most popular Monastery’s around Leh. In the monastery we saw a two story high golden Buddha statue.

The Buddhist prayer flags we see all over the Himalaya area symbolizes the five elements; water, earth, fire, air and wind.

18/6 2006 Thiksey Gonpa, India
Lat N 34° 03,46', Long E 77° 40,06'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
18 Jun 2006
43563 km

This was realy an exciting day. ”Kardung La” pass was open again so we decided to go. After just 20 kilometers is was time to put on the snow chains. There were long line of cars , trucks and busses stuck along the narrow road. Without snow chains we would definitely not have made it. For several kilometers we were sliding on our belly on the slush string.

Poor ”Red Bully” had worse problems than us. They got stuck again and again and had to be pushed loose . Finally a truck showed some compassion and pulled poor ”Red Bully” all the way to the highest road pass in the world.

All signs in the pass states that ”Kardung La” pass is at 5 602 meter. All maps we have seen over India tell the same story. But our GPS it claims the height is 5 385 meters.

When admiring the scenery we discovered we got a flat ! The rear left tire of the SAAB is completely empty. And it was a gigantic hole! Is there possibly no shittier place in the world to get a flat tire?

To put on our spare wheel was not even to think about. We could definitely not go all the way down to Leh with that one on there roads. Christians ”tire on a can” turned out to be broken. We decided that Bert should go down to civilization with Christian and Elisabet to fix the tire, while Catharina stayed with the car.

We think we have set up a new record in two disciplines today; a SAAB car at highest altitude ever and a flat tire at the highest altitude ever, 5 602 meters - or what altitude it actually is. Maybe something for the Guinness Book of Records?

19/6 2006 Leh Wild Camp, India
Lat N 34° 10,88', Long E 77° 35,73'
Today: 62.6 °F ( 17 °C)
19 Jun 2006
43644 km

We are now heading for Srinagar in Kashmir, without Elisabet and Christian. Before we started our climb over the passes we drove along Indus. The scenery looks cool. We see blazing green oasis dotted along the bluish-green Indus. The lush oases are surrounded by a brown, stone desert landscape.

A gang of Sikhs armed with swords and daggers stopped us. Just as most other people they were just curious about our car. They also insisted that we joined them for lunch.

We thought this was going to be a nice and calm day in the car. But no way! We heard a “ BANG ”! Immediately we realized what happened. Our newly fixed tire had exploded. The metal cord was ripped and a there was a huge hole in the tire. This time it was no way of mending the tire.

We were 100 kilometers from Leh, 320 kilometers from Srinagar and with three high passes ahead. We put on the spare wheel and drove slowly to a military camp. They tried to give us compressed air from a truck because we had not enough air in out spare tire. It did not work that well. After three hours and the help of 30 Indians the tiny bit of air pressure we had in our spare tire was all gone.

We now was stranded in the middle of nowhere with one flat tire and a spare tire with no air and a broken air valve. But tomorrow is another day. We decided to sort it out then and went to sleep.

At nine PM an English speaking officer in command banged on the door. ”You are parked at an ammunition depot. It is dangerous. You must leave immediately.” We explained to him that we can not move on three wheels. After promising him that we not for a second would leave our car during the night he let us stay. When wanted to confiscate our passports we said “Absolutely out of the question!”

20/6 2006 Lamayuru, India
Lat N 34° 17,23', Long E 76° 35,55'
Today: 68 °F ( 20 °C)
20 Jun 2006
43781 km

Before we decided to go to Srinagar we enquired about the security. We talked to several high-ranking officers and they all said it was OK for us to go there as long as we stayed away from military and police camps. Now we find ourselves stranded right outside one of Kashmir’s large ammunition depots…

This morning we decided that Bert should take the spare wheel to Khalsi 30 kilometers east to fix the air valve and fill it up with air or go back to Leh to buy a new tire, depending what ride he could get. Not many vehicles passed. It took him 1 ½ to get a lift to Leh.

Nine hours later Bert showed up again. The right tire dimention was not possible to find in Leh. The best alternative was a blank worn, 2” too big tire. But it was cheap, only, 6 $US including a three times mended tube. Hope we manage to get all the way to Srinagar with this one....

21/6 2006 Lamayuru, India
Lat N 34° 17,14', Long E 76° 46,10'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
21 Jun 2006
43789 km

This morning Catharina discovered that her yellow, bright, floral patterned clogs were gone. It has never been a problem leavening them outside during the night. The thieves and the dogs have never seemed to like them. After a while Catharina found both her clogs and the guilty one…

We went to the village pump to wash our hair. We were really pleased to be alone doing this. Always when we stop to do quite ordinary things like to get water we stir up such a commotion. Usually the whole village come to a halt and just watches our every move.

We decided to stay in Lamayuru to wait for Christian and Elisabet . Tomorrow we plan to visit the annual Lamayuru Monastery festival.

22/6 2006 Lamayuru, India
Lat N 34° 17,14', Long E 76° 46,10'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
22 Jun 2006
43789 km

A day full of activity in Lamayuru Monastery. Accompanied by drums and big horns 30 monks has danced all day. Dressed in colorful clothes and masks they performed a for us completely incomprehensible dance. The dancers made a small leap with one leg in the air in front of them and them a pirouette. For nine hours they went on with this procedure. Now and then they came to a complete halt and just stood there for several minutes before they continued the dance again.

This annual two day festival are held in late June or in July, depending on that the stars. There are a lot of visiting monks from Monasteries close by. The older monks are seated at the music stand and the youngsters at the second floor.

The most interesting part has been to watch all the very beautiful, wrinkled old women and men in their traditional clothes – spinning their shiny prayer spinners . Bert got all excited and took about 200 photos today!

23/6 2006 Lamayuru, India
Lat N 34° 17,14', Long E 76° 46,10'
Today: 73.4 °F ( 23 °C)
23 Jun 2006
43789 km

We are now leaving the Buddhist Ladak area for Kashmir. Approaching Kargil we saw a clear change towards the Muslim way of living. All women again wore head scarves covering their hair and also we could see a lot more mosques.

Traveling the road between Kargil and Draas we find ourselves right in the border area of ”Line of control”. The river forms a natural border towards the Pakistani controlled long disputed border area. The Indian side has been badly shelled during the years. We see yellow signs along the road telling us that we now are in sight of the enemy side. We try to peek up the steep mountain walls to discover the Pakistani military posts, but they are probably well hidden.

24/6 2006 Wild camp, India
Lat N 34° 29,39', Long E 75° 57,10'
Today: 80.6 °F ( 27 °C)
24 Jun 2006
43975 km

Bert started the day with barters. He traded pens and old clothes with a group of women. In return he used them as models .

It is pretty cool when we roll up the window shade here in the mountains. Every morning we see another fantastic view.

The closer we get to Srinagar the more soldiers we see. Armed soldiers are posted within sight of each other along the road and we meet endless convoys of big army trucks .

We parked for the night at a nice spot down by the river. After a short while a white armored car with a machine gun on the roof checked us out from a distance. A moment later a solder came down to tell us ”it is dangerous to park here”. After speaking to him for a while he took our names and nationalities and let us stay for the night.

25/6 2006 Wild camp, India
Lat N 34° 16,22', Long E 75° 10,11'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
25 Jun 2006
44049 km

Every morning we find a gang of curious Indians outside our car, and it is not only children. For hours they just stand there watching our every move without saying a word. We Northerners feel they are too close for comfort; we definitely have a larger comfort zone. After six months in India we have gotten used to this. But still, some days it is very annoying.

In the afternoon we arrived in Srinagar. We are back in the heat again. Srinagar is situated at only 1 000 meters. Even so people escape the heat in Delhi for “cool” Kashmir.

Srinagar is best known for its houseboats on Dal Lake. During colonial days the British were not allowed to own land in Kashmir. To get round this they built luxurious houseboats to escape to in the steaming hot summer months.

During the afternoon we took a taxi boat in the Dal Lake where most of Srinagars 3 000 house boats are located. Gliding though the channels reminds us about Venice. Other boats approach us trying to sell us souvenirs, drinks, saffron etcetera. We are surprised to see big stone houses in Dal Lake and we learn that the village is built on a small island. It feels kind of strange to se a mixture of real houses and boats right in the water.

26/6 2006 Srinagar, India
Lat N 34° 07,43', Long E 74° 49,84'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
26 Jun 2006
44128 km

We could not find new tires in Srinagar. Obviously European high quality tires can only be found in Delhi. We keep our fingers crossed that our already worn out tires will last all the way. And we still have a tire that are 2” larger than the others.

We live on a houseboat with three bedrooms, dining room, lounge and a veranda in old English style with lots of wood-carvings . The boat is in Nagin Lake. Here it is more quiet and not so crowded as in Dal Lake. But sill the souvenir salesmen interrupt us again and again by boarding our boat. We are not interested in small boxes, jewellery or pashmina shawls – get it!

Anyway, we had a really nice afternoon. A houseboat is a highly recommended place for relaxing, reading books and philosophizes.

27/6 2006 Srinagar, India
Lat N 34° 07,43', Long E 74° 49,84'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
27 Jun 2006
44128 km

Cloudy and rein, perfect weather for a day on the road. We are now heading for Dharamsala. The Srinagar area is simply crawling with military , police, barbed wire, barriers, fire trenches, sandbags and armored cars .

But we do not feel unsafe. The soldiers and the police men are nice, helpful and waves smiling as we pass by.

Even though the security situation is much better now than it has been for many years, one should not feel too safe. Just a couple if weeks ago five Indian tourists were killed in a grenade attack.

28/6 2006 Srinagar, India
Lat N 32° 32,56', Long E 75° 09,61'
Today: 96.8 °F ( 36 °C)
28 Jun 2006
44458 km

No, we did not make it all the way to Delhi. Today we got a flat on our right rear tire. We got it fixed, but not very good at all.

By a coincidence we drove by a shop selling Goodyear tires in a suitable dimension; 1” larger than the ones we already have. Pleased to finally find a shop with suitable tires we decided to buy four new ones

Before we chanced to the new tires we checked our ground clearance. It was equal to a cigarette lighter! Our new tires are 1” larger and that will give us about 1 ½ centimeters more ground clearance. In percent this is a considerable improvement.

Four new Goodyear tires made in India, including wheel-balancing coasted us 311 $US. We really hope that Goodyear takes good care of its brand all over the world, and that we did not get Indian quality tires…

Our SAAB feels more fit and steady with the new tires. And the strange “swinging” feel in the rear has disappeared completely.

29/6 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 13,94', Long E 76° 19,42'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
29 Jun 2006
44629 km

Dalai Lama is our closest neighbor right now. Our car is parked right outside his residence – Tsuglagkhang. We were parked so close that the security men actually had to make us move our car a bit further down the road.

After the Chinese Liberation Army invaded Tibet and killed 1,2 million Tibetans, the Dalai Lama fled across the Himalayas on foot with his entourage. In 1959 they were granted political asylum in India. Since 1959 he has his official residence in McLoad Ganj.

Dalai Lama travel extensively. But right now he is at home giving “open teachings sessions”. We registered immediately for the afternoon session. A lot of people and many nationalities were represented among the audience. The security was high and no cameras were allowed inside.

The best part for us was to actually see the Dalai Lama walking by at close distance. Our knowledge about Buddhism is not that great and we had a hard time keeping up with the lecture.

30/6 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 13,94', Long E 76° 19,42'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
30 Jun 2006
44629 km

We have been recommended a six day ”Silent Retreat” in McLoad Ganj. ”Silent Retreat” means absolute silence 24 hours a day. The participants are not allowed to leave the house and the diet is strictly vegetarian.

Today we went to Z-Meditation to speak to Ajay and Suruchi that will lead the retreat. Catharina had already decided that she wanted to do it. Bert on the other hand was skeptical at first. But it sounded very interesting, and both of us decided to attend. The cost for a six day retreat, food and accommodation are 35 $US per person.

The retreat starts July 2: nd. We now have two days getting used to the thought of absolute silence, no reading, no listening to music, no communication what so ever, no nothing.

In the afternoon we took a walk from McLoad Ganj down to Dharamsala, 500 meters below. Halfway down the Tibet exile government is located. There is also a library with the remaining 40% of the Buddhist scriptures saved form being destroyed by the Chinese. McLoad Ganj is like a small Tibet.

1/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
01 Jul 2006
44629 km

Skype rules! Finally we have found a fast enough connection to use for Skype for makeing phone calls over the Internet. It is almost free to call from India to Sweden, only 2 cent. Great, to be able to talk away with family and friends!

2/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
02 Jul 2006
44629 km

Ooohh! This afternoon it starts – the Silent Retreat. To meet oneself is not that easy. Right now we have butterflies in our stomachs. We feel excitement, are a bit scared, but we have no doubt about that this will be a very interesting experience. Can we really take this? Maybe go nuts!

Anyway, we have a full schedule ahead of us. Here is our program .

3/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
03 Jul 2006
44629 km

Silent Retreat.

4/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
04 Jul 2006
44629 km

Silent Retreat.

5/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
05 Jul 2006
44629 km

Silent Retreat.

6/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
06 Jul 2006
44629 km

Silent Retreat.

7/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
07 Jul 2006
44629 km

Free again. Not that we have transformed - but our six day ”Silent Retreat” is finally over. To be silent for six days was no problem at all. In fact felt good.

The first days were kind of boring and hard to get a grip on. The constant prayers of ”peace and unconditional love” in the beginning and end of every session contributed to this feeling. But towards the end it got better. Even if some things still feel a bit unworldly and hard to digest, a lot of interesting thoughts were raised. We also were taught a couple of techniques to calm our restless minds.

Our food was all vegetarian, especially composed to detoxify our bodies. Jesus, we must have been badly poisoned. We turned really ill. Both of us got a bad, bad diarrhea for four days. Bert also got a fever and pain in his joints. Furthermore he fainted at the toilet and hit his head on the floor.

Suruchi and Ajay is of the opinion that one should eat moderately. This means we were constantly hungry for six days. Every day we counted the hour and minutes to our next meal.

In the final hour of the retreat Bert got kind of a revelation. Bert who had been interested but very skeptical to all this came to a stage of deep mediation for the first time. All of a sudden he felt like he needed to revaluate his previous opinion. Well, we will see where that leads him.

When the silence finally was broken our first thought was food. We decide to have a big vegetarian sushi lunch at the Japanese restaurant, right away! We had lunch with Dick and Nana who also were equally hungry. They had also been released from the”Silent Retreat” and the”Holistic Yoga” course. It was Dick and Nana who recommended this”Silent Retreat”.

8/7 2006 McLoad Ganj, India
Lat N 32° 14,22', Long E 76° 19,62'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
08 Jul 2006
44629 km

We are now heading for Calcutta, a “short” trip of 2 000 kilometers over the plains of India. We expect hat the trip will take us five long days of driving. And that it will be a very hot, humid and hard trip.

When we tried to start the car after a cloudy and rainy week – it would not work. The battery was completely empty. But Dick came to our rescue and we were soon on our way.

In Calcutta we are going to meet Elisabet and Christian. We plan to ship our cars in the same container to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia as soon as possible. We feel that we had enough of India.

9/7 2006 A1 truck stop, India
Lat N 30° 27,43', Long E 76° 38,81'
Today: 32 °F (................. 37 °C)
09 Jul 2006
44629 km

The plains of India turned out to be exactly as hot and sweaty under the monsoon as expected. Last night we were tossing and turning like worms in the heat. At 2 AM the temperature was still +34° C! And we will have four more of these days before reaching Calcutta.

10/7 2006 A1 truck stop, India
Lat N 30° 27,43', Long E 76° 38,81'
Today: 32 °F (................. 33 °C)
10 Jul 2006
-197300 km

The A1 Plaza truck stops is the best that happened to India since Gandhi. Clean restaurants, fast and good service fresh food, clean toilets and showers. Dinner for two, access to shower, toilet and safe parking for the night, only 4 $US. Perfect!

In the morning we heard a ”bang” from under the hood. It turned out to be on of the fan belts that were broken. In the afternoon we heard a new “bang”; immediately we realized that it was the second fan belt gone broken. Now we could not go any further.

Luckily this happened right outside an A1 Plaza that also had a work shop. Spare fan belts we had already, and 30 minutes later we were on our way with our new fan belts. We love the A1 Plaza truck stops. They are perfect for us overland travelers!

11/7 2006 A1 truck stop, India
Lat N 25° 21,04', Long E 82° 14,30'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
11 Jul 2006
45919 km

We heard that the road to Varanasi probably was alright. We are in fact traveling the National Highway 2, one of the more important roads in India. After Varanasi, driving through the states of Bihar and Jharkhand the road turned really bad; muddy, slushy and in a real poor state.

In the midst of it all we ended up in the biggest traffic jam ever. A 10 kilometer line on each side of a one way bridge. We could see that the traffic was in a complete stand still since many hours. The trucks were parked in three triple lanes, waiting. It would probably take them 24 hours to get through the eye of the needle. How can they take this?

We were lucky to get trough the traffic jam within a couple of hours. With a small car like ours we could zigzag through the jam.

12/7 2006 A1 truck stop, India
Lat N 30° 27,43', Long E 76° 38,81'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
12 Jul 2006
46371 km

Finally in Kolkata! We have been driving 400-450 kilometers per day since we left McLeod Ganj. But it takes time. We had an average speed of 35 kilometer an hour. We had hoped for maybe 50 kilometer an hour. After all, we are traveling a National Highway…

This means we have been driving long days, 11 to 12 hours per day these last five days. But know we are here. The only thing we need to do know is to find Christian, Elisabet and ”Red Bully” in this 13,5 million town.

13/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
13 Jul 2006
46665 km

Stayed at the Farlawn Hotel, a real gem. It is an old colonial hotel with lots of charm, run by an old English lady. Highly recommended!

All meals were included, and of course also afternoon tea in the garden. The food was genuine English sweet, fatty and fried.

We got in contact with Christian and Elisabet today; we checked out and went to them. In the evening we had meeting with our shipping agent. Christian and Elisabet who met him twice before felt a bit dubious, they thought he behaved a bit strange. We are spending a lot of money for the shipping and need to have an agent we can trust.

When we arrived to the meeting the agent turned up dead drunk, he slipped in the mud out in the street, didn’t know what he was saying, and changed his mind all the time. He worked for a shipping company. But not until know we realized that he planned to make this deal on the side in his own company. We felt that NO, we can not go on with this agent even though he already had started preparing for our shipment. So, we just left.

14/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 36,29', Long E 88° 23,49'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
14 Jul 2006
46683 km

Today we had to start from scratch again. We sent inquires to four possible shipping agents. One came to visit us in the afternoon at our hotel, the other one we visited at their office close by. We have been promised an offer from all, Monday at the latest.

Probably the prices will get higher because we have tried to choose bigger and more established companies this time. We have lost time and money on all this hassle with the first agent. In Kolkata we really do not want to spend a single minute more than we need to; especially during the monsoon with the rain, streets flooded with disgusting dirty water.

15/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
15 Jul 2006
46683 km

Catharina has a bad stomach again. Maybe it is a another slight bout since the ”Silent Retreat” cure. Her poor guts probably got completely exhausted by the seven day diarrhea…

Bert, Christian and Elisabet had a meeting with one other Shipping Agent we had sent an inquire to. The price was 800 Euro per car, plus all port costs in Port Klang, Malaysia probably adding up to 300 Euro. That is far more than we are willing to pay. This means we have to wait until Monday to see what the other offers are before deciding what to do.

16/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
16 Jul 2006
46683 km

Sunday; everything is closed. We sent an inquiry to a Shipping Agent in Chennai that we think will be able to give us a reasonable offer. But it is 2000 kilometers to Chennai and would relay be happy not to have to make such a trip. We want to leave India NOW!

17/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
17 Jul 2006
46683 km

We decided to go with the agent Trans World. After a bit of a negotiation we got the price down to 750 Euro per car plus port costs of approximately 300 Euro in Port Klang, Malaysia. Trans World felt like a reasonable choice. At least it looked like a real company and they also seemed to know what they were talking about.

Now the race against time begins. Our ship leaves on Friday. This means we have to get the all the clearance done and also, finish the custom stuff today! It normally takes two-three days of customary Indian bureaucracy, laziness, arrogance and bribes.

We realized that we really had to work this hard to be able to ship on Friday. And never give them a moment of rest. Otherwise we have to stay one more week in dirty, stinking, sweaty Kolkata.

The Clearance Office was our first stop. It took us only two hours to make and sign all the copies. If we had not been there taking over the entire office space that no one else could get in and disturb the process, it would have taken much longer.

After that we took a taxi to the Customs Office. The agent succeeded in shaking us off his back almost immediately. After four hours we managed to locate him. Then an arrogant bastard of an official put the whole process to a complete halt, also his deputy director-general and finally also the Customs Office joined in. They refused to talk to us at all and just said that we had to come back tomorrow at 12 noon.

Our agent begged and pleaded to make them to do the few final steps today. We really needed to get our paper though the machinery. It was still 30 minutes left before closing time when they made us to leave.

18/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
18 Jul 2006
46683 km

Again we have been at the bloody Customs Office. The people working here are arrogant bastards who use their positions to make life hell for others. They are lazy, arrogant employees taking bribes to do the things they are paid to do. And they do everything they can to delay the already overwhelming Indian bureaucratic process. We are not the only ones thinking this way. We talked to a couple of guys working at a clearance company – they completely agreed on this matter. Today they even had a procession of demonstrators for increased wages. How dare they! All they should have is a kick in the ass!

After three hours and five agents running around on our behalf trying to make it happen – we were finally thorough the first part of the step of the custom.

19/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
19 Jul 2006
46683 km

The Monsoon poured down all night and most of the morning. The cloaks are not able to take care of all the water. Now the city is flooded in knee high dirty water. We where staying in the hotel most of the day waiting for the Trans World agent to call us. Today we are going to load and lash the cars and seal the container.

Here is a translation list to Indian time: Actual minutes: Indian minutes: 5 minutes = at least 30 minutes 10 minutes = at least 1 hour 1 hour = at least 3-4 hours

At 1.30 PM the agent was supposed to pick us up at the hotel to show us the way to the container freight station. When the agent still hasn’t showed up at 4 PM and after at least 200 phone calls from us; we decided to go the Trans World office to speak the manager -again…

After a lively meeting we finally went to the container freight station. But now it was already late, the lashing had to be done in the dark. The poor bastards had to use a candle for a light. But these guys seemed to know what they where doing. They were the most professional of all we met this far.

Luckily we had time to book air tickets today. We are flying strait to Singapore. The tickets are 200 Euro per person. Then we can spend a few days there waiting for our car. Christian and Elisabet fly to Bangkok instead. The tickets to are half the price only 100 Euro and then they take the train or the bus to from there to Malaysia.

20/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 91.4 °F ( 33 °C)
20 Jul 2006
46683 km

Flooding – today again. We stayed in bed until lunch time. We had to wait for the water to sink before going out anyway.

We are now waiting for our Carnet de Passage to get stamped and to get the container get through customs in Haldia Port. Tomorrow we will get our passports, Carnet de Passages and ”The Bill of Loading” we need to be able to get the cars out in Malaysia.

We spent our afternoon the best possible way by making a haircut and making a looooong visit to the book store.

21/7 2006 Kolkata, India
Lat N 22° 33,51', Long E 88° 21,16'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
21 Jul 2006
46683 km

Not until 6 PM we could come to the Trans Worlds office to get all our paperwork and to pay for the freight. They claimed they needed more money for the bribes of the customs. It took two hours of arguing and discussing to get an agreement of the already fixed price we had got. This has really been an adventure; hard work but a very educating one. On the surface Trans World looks like proper company. That is in fact the reason why we choose them. But now we know that was not good enough.

We have learned not to do business with Indian people. It is obviously in their culture not to stand by their word. Time and again they us contradicting information, they hassle, they lie and they sell their honor very cheep. On top of all this they expect us to trust them!!! None of them would have been able to keep their job not even for a day in Sweden behaving like they do. If you are going to ship your car; for good sake don’t use Trans World as an agent!

After the meeting we where in a hurry to get to the airport. Our flight to Singapore was tonight. Christian and Elisabet fly to Bangkok tomorrow morning.

We have in fact had a really nice time in India. It is sad it had to end like this. Even though we are sick of India and angry right now we still think India is a fantastic, colorful and fascinating country to travel.