Friday, 8 June 2012

Delhi Stories!

Other than motorbike shops, as per the previous post, we did manage to do other things in Delhi!

Minimal sight seeing though, Delhi was mainly a stop to resupply and replace items that just weren't available in other places. We were told numerous times that we could get anything in Delhi, but it turns out that's not strictly true. It's the same as any other city really and I've heard the locals rely on internet shopping and shipments from the US, just like back in Australia really.

Drew needed the Vespa looked at and possibly repaired again after all the suspension troubles he's had. I needed new rear brake pads, new tyres, spark plugs, an oil and filter change and possibly a new air filter. And we both had canon cameras that needed repairing. And we both needed phone sim cards... So we set off to do these things!

But first... Thanks to Leisa and Jeremy (and Jack and Sophia) for letting us stay with them in Vasant Vihar. We managed to plant ourselves so well that they packed up all the furniture and moved out while we were still there! It wasn't because of us though, they had to have everything packed for moving house in July but they'd be away on Holiday before they had to be out of this house. This was a big help as the hotel prices in Delhi are very high so we saved a bit of cash (but spent it else where of course).

The first step was easy, get the sim cards so we had constant internet wherever we went! (Required!). The problem was that you are unable to buy sim cards unless you have a letter proving your local address in India, and if you don't have a local address you don't get a sim card, that's the simple end of it. We tried in one office in Varanasi but if you're a tourist you need the hotel manager to write a letter to say that you are staying in room x for the entire period your visa is valid for. So we avoided trying to get one until we realised we could use Leisa and Jeremys address. Armed with the 'local address' we went to the Vodafone office in Basant Lok and waded through the paperwork and photocopied passports and visas to obtain the sim card. After an hour it all was done and our money was taken and we had our sim cards! However, they would take up to 48 hours to activate (Indian efficiency). So to celebrate we went to McDonalds, just one of the many many many times we went there.

The next task was to sort out the cameras, so we headed out to the nearest canon drop off point to see what they said. And what they said was not good: At least 1 week to get a response back from canon on what had to be done, and then there was the repair time after that. They recommended we take the cameras to the service center ourselves to save the 3-4 days in shipping between offices in the same city. Indian Efficiency!

With no luck there we headed out to see if we could get the bikes sorted. We went to a place that is mentioned on Horizons Unlimited called Kaulson Racing. I managed to get my brake pads and spark plugs but they didn't have air or oil filters for my bike, and no front tyre that would fit. They wanted to do the oil change for me but they wanted to take the filter out and compare it to others they have in stock and see what fits. Knowing that the parts for my bike are only similar to other dirt bikes that aren't available in India I opted not to leave it there for servicing. Drew left his bike there to get the suspension re-enforced.

While we were in the Kaulson office discussing what needed to be done, we also mentioned having to go out to Gorgaon (Delhis Dandenong) to the Canon service center. One of the Kaulson guys happened to be driving out there that afternoon so Drew got a lift with him and dropped off both cameras to the service center and I rode back to the Vasant Vihar palace. Unfortunately for Drew he attempted to get back from Gorgaon after 4pm which is peak time on the roads in Delhi. There just wasn't a taxi available for hours to get him back to Vasant Vihar. He eventually turned up several hours later after back and forth emails over how to get back over some free wifi he found (the sim cards were still not working).

With cameras dropped off, and one bike dropped off, and still 24 hours to wait until the Phones should be working, we had some time to waste...  And after talking to the family we learnt that there was a big mall just nearby called Ambience Mall or more correctly: Vasant Kunj mall... We'd later learn there was a second Ambience Mall, much to the confusion of us and our taxi driver.

Scary Tuk Tuk (or Indian Helicopter) ride to Ambience. 

Ambience mall is a proper little western enclave in India. On the short tuk tuk ride there you go past one of the big slums in the area. Apparently the entire mall is built on what was the biggest slum in Delhi, but once you're inside you don't have to care about that. To get in you have to go through the usual metal detector and pat downs we've been getting used to, but if you go through the BMW shop you can get in without passing security...

There's a actually three malls (not the Australian word, but I'm persisting!) all next to each other, and when taking the short walk between them all you have to go outside and then get another security pat down and bag check.

After wasting a day in Ambience we went back to the Vodafone shop to ask why our sims were still not activated even after 48 hours. The person we asked just wanted the phone numbers then disappeared for about 5 minutes, then came out and had a quiet and long discussion with the cashier, and then a message appears on the phone saying welcome to Vodafone India... Well. I suspect I know who the problem was... But hooray! mobile internets! Success!

Then it was back to wasting more time at Ambience when Drew got an email about the cameras. My camera would cost $170 to fix, and take who knows how long to get the parts. Drews camera would take who knows how long to get parts, and then another who knows how long to actually repair (and that may not actually fix the problem). Not wanting to hang around Delhi for that long we aborted the camera repair and went on a mission to collect them from Gorgaon.

The highway out to Gorgaon. 
We got a taxi out to Gorgaon after stopping a few taxis who either wanted to charge double the price for going one way or didn't want to take us. One driver stopped and actually offered to use the meter. How rare. He probably dodged it up though. On the way out there he told us to drive in India you need three things: Good brakes, a good horn, and good luck. 

Once at Canon, after signing into the office, signing the satisfaction with the non-repairs form, and then completing the survey, and then signing the receipt, and then waiting for the actual receipt, and then signing out of the office we had the broken cameras again! More Indian Efficiency!

On this taxi ride we went for a loop back past a motorbike shop I'd found to see if I could get some replacement gloves that the dog had gnawed on and tore up more than they already were. We got to High Note Performance who stocked the Rev'it gloves I was after (perforated leather gloves for summer!). The shop has only been open for a few months but I have no idea how they'll survive. They try to charge the same price as what you would get when ordering from US or UK. But it's a very small market they're selling to, and most people here just don't ride with any protection anyway.

After I got my new gloves we asked the taxi driver to take us to Ambience Mall again, but as I was looking at my rapidly going flat phone I noticed he was heading south which was the wrong direction. I figured he knew better than us and maybe would turn around when he could. But I was wrong. We did end up at an Ambience Mall, but not the one we wanted. We informed him of the one we actually wanted to go to. To get there he had to get some more gas though. And curiously in India there are not allowed to be any passengers in the car when filling up with gas. And it's filled from under the bonnet. So we get to stand around the car looking at the gas going in with nothing between us and the gas except a small barrier of air for fire protection. Strange system.

And then I started to think about my phone. How it was so slow, and how the battery was going flat after what I thought was light use (it would go flat in my pocket after 4 hours of riding), and how it was going to cost $170 to fix my camera, and how I could have a new phone with a better camera in it that I would be carrying around with me all the time. So I bought a HTC One V which was just released here in India. I think I got a good price at 17000Rs with an 8gb memory card. It's cheaper online in India by  about $10, but it's slightly cheaper than the online price in Australia.

Still missing an Oil Filter we asked around and found out about the car market and Khan Market. So we headed out there to have a look at the most expensive retail realestate in India. But there's nothing special there either. There's a few restaurants, Subway, McDonalds, and lots of places that overcharge for what they have to pay for the stupidly high rent. The car market was small but they had places doing reupholstery, tyre changing, servicing and some small shops selling parts and accessories. Nothing that I could use though. One of the shops recommended I go try look at Karol Barg for motorbike parts. So we headed out that way!

On the way we stopped at India Gate! The only sight seeing stop in Delhi...

Looking up towards the presidential palace (I think)

India Gate!

The flags near it.


More India Gate! On all the bricks are the names of people. 

The army of touts. From these people you can get your photo taken, masala tea, or your name spelt out on a wristband. These guys are persistant to. A lot of tourists must change their mind after saying no...

More Guarding.

More poeple wanting to take our photo for money. I took a photo and demanded money but didn't get any :(
Karol Barg was a ride away on the Metro, a fun experience... Everyone rushes the doors to get in or out as soon as the train stops, and then they all stand around awkwardly while the doors remain open for another 30 seconds after everyone is on or off. Public transport and driving a vehicle are the only times you see an Indian move quickly.

But Karol Barg was another waste of time. Lots and lots of stuff there if you have a local bike but nothing that I actually needed. I've just learnt there was a shop selling only carburettor jets that I could have used though.

After many more McDonalds meals it was time to leave Delhi. We planned to go south west towards Jaipur, but first we would go the short way south east to the formula 1 track to see what we could see there. But the short way there was so full of traffic that it took a lot longer to get there than planned. The track is built in the middle of nowhere, there's a few hotels in a big industrial suburb nearby but nothing special out here. There are huge amounts of apartment buildings going up but again, there's still nothing out here but dirt and sun.

As close as we could get.

The view around the track... There's a brand new expressway to Agra just on the right that is not open yet.
After being denied entry we attempted to leave this patch of desolate land and head further south where there was meant to be a road and a way to cross the river back towards Jaipur. But just south of the track the roads all turn to dirt or went off in opposite directions and no one seemed to have a clue what was south. We went back to following the GPS which was directing us back through Delhi and onto the road out to Gorgaon. In between going out to the track and coming back however the traffic in Delhi just got insane. Cars wedged into every space possible, no real progress anywhere and my bike was running very badly and stalling at every chance it could. I had to pull over to let it and myself cool down for a bit then we called Jeremy and asked if it was OK to stay another night since we were going right past the house anyway. And it was! So we stayed the night, but in the morning I objected to travelling in the heat again if we left at 11am because I was dying from it the day before.  So we stayed yet another night (more mcdonalds inserted) and then headed out at 7am the next day when it was about 30 degrees rather than 40.

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