13/11/16 Diu to Bhavnagar via Alang, 230kms.
A bit more adventure then we bargain for.
Sunday, 13th of November saw us ride 230kms from Diu to Bhavnagar. The day started out pleasant enough, the staff at Hoka Villas provided us with a nice breakfast & we were on the road by 9.30am. After a quick refuelling stop in Diu City we crossed a fairly new long bridge back to the mainland.
As usual it was challenging to ride through the city on the mainland side of Diu, even though it was Sunday it was still very busy. We noticed long lines at the Banks (which were open) as people tried to exchange their now obsolete large denomination Indian Rupees.
Jenny & I found ourselves on the National Highway fighting for road space with the usual array of vehicles & animals. Trucks, Buses, Tuk Tuks, fast Cars, Bikes, Cows, Goats, Water Buffalo & Dogs. Our average speed would have been about 50kms to 60km/h on the National Highway & super slow through the towns.
Meanwhile out on the National Highway you need to keep your eyes open for numerous pot holes, looks like I’m about to hit this one dead centre…ouch !
While on the highway we had a quick break & when we went to restart Jenny’s Royal Enfield Bullet it wouldn’t start, it seemed to be an issue with the starter motor. I rocked it back and forward in gear to get the fly wheel into a different position. After repeated attempts it finally turned over & fired up.
At Mahuva about 60kms further along we stopped to try and get some phone credit. While Jen was in the shop a large crowd gathered around, all wanting “selfies”. Personally I’m starting to find it annoying but put on a big grin & try to be accommodating. Jenny returned unsuccessful after her phone credit mission. The crowd now numbered at least 40 men. They were all friendly enough but it’s a bit intimidating. So it was time to make our escape. Forgetting to turn on my intercom I fire up Himo (the RE Himalayan 400cc small capacity adventure touring bike) & away I go. A quick mirror check reveals no Jenny behind me just a big crowd back in the distance.
Turning on my intercom I ask my very stressed sounding wife “what’s the hold up” ?
Jenny replies “my bike won’t start”, so I whip around & quickly head back to rescue her.
Now picture this in your mind, it’s 37C, hot humid day, we are in our full riding gear, even though for an Australian I’m only average height at 178cms I’m a full head taller then the 40 to 50 Indian men surrounding us. With sweat pissing off me I jump on Jen’s RE Bullet which fortunately comes with a hefty kick starter. Now I haven’t kick started any bike in over 25 years. Under pressure & with the eyes of a large audience watching, my mind is racing how do you kick start a bike again ???
Ignition on, Isolator off, gear selector in neutral, tiny bit of throttle, isn’t there some decompression lever thingy I have to turn ??? Can’t see anything obvious. So here it goes, one big kick with my right leg (thank goodness I don’t have a knee problem) & nothing, I try again & again. Now I’m getting frustrated, on about attempt number 6 the 500cc single cylinder motor barks into life….thanks for that.
Saying goodbye to the happy, clapping crowd we mount the bikes & get out of town after another hour or so we stop for food at a Hotel/Truck Stop run by Men of the Muslim Faith, it was a nice lunch with ok toilets & clean premises, the men were friendly. Then the moment of truth, it’s time to leave, will the Bullet start ? It had been sitting in the shade cooling down for about 40 minutes & it fires up immediately. Sticky starter motor solenoid when the motor is hot ???
Temple of Talaja near Trapaj, then we stopped nearby for lunch.
Next we found ourselves on single lane bitumen road with heaps of road works being done, mainly by women, by hand to the shoulders of the road. They were using material similar to railway line blue metal ballast & about the same size. The stuff was everywhere so for the next 5 kilometres we had fun keeping upright.
Ok if you have read up to this point here is the real SAGA FOR OUR DAY.
Alang’s infamous Ship Breaking Yard, you may have seen documentaries on TV about it. I do recall 60 Minutes doing one article which showed it as dangerous, dirty, underpaid, polluting work. I had checked on Google and there was no mention of access restrictions but little did I know.
Being on our own bikes meant we somehow crossed past the Security Gate unnoticed, personally I didn’t even see it. Later I checked our GoPro footage and the Security Gate didn’t even appear to have a Guard on duty, was he asleep ? We do stand out like dogs balls in our gear on the bikes.
Once in the Ship Breaking Yard, which outwardly just appears to be part of a town, we could glimpse some ships in various states of deconstruction. They generally were behind large solid steel gated compounds. We pulled up at one compound and asked a worker if we could take a photo. He indicated that it was not allowed & that we should go. In an effort to avoid any hassles I put the Nikon camera away & we started to prepare to head back.
Next thing you know a well dressed man (some sort of Manager ?) with a Security Guard had us bailed up & demanded we go with them on our bikes to the Office, he was talking about Fines, Trespassing etc. Jenny went on the attack when the Guard dressed on a khaki uniform said he was a policeman, she demanded to see his ID, he said that Sunday’s are casual dress days ? They had split us up & there was about 20 metres between us, we already had our helmets on and they seemed unaware that we were still communicating through our helmet intercoms. As they had pulled up I had discreetly removed the GoPro from my helmet and chucked it in my bag.
Our initial plan of attack was to follow them both on their little Honda Hero 125cc get back towards where we thought the Gate was & just keep going, we already had a route plotted for Bhavnagar . That plan was to never happen as when Jenny attempted to start her bike, click and nothing !
I tried to kick start it again, no joy, they tried to kick start it… we tried to push start it, but it just wouldn’t fire up. They made me push it to a nearby “mechanic” I had my doubts this bloke knew anything more then me, they said the battery was dead, I said the headlight looks pretty bright, they said we’d run it out of oil & stuffed the motor, so I put in 200ml of oil & you could see it in the sight glass. (The bike has been using about 100ml of oil every 100kms so every day before departure I top it up). Jenny had ridden the RE Himalayan over to the “mechanic”, she rang Lalli in Delhi for some advice while I kept the others busy.
By now yet another major crowd had formed, guessing late Sunday arvo’s in downtown Alang Breaking up Ships “R” Us town is pretty boring. I noticed the mechanic, Mr Rent-a-Cop & the Manager Man were getting pretty tired of annoying team wiljen after over an hour of dealing with us and the busted Bullet. So the Manager Man had two workers push the RE Bullet, using the method of a foot on the rear rack while riding a Honda Hero & one worker steering the RE Bullet. Jen & I followed on the RE Himalayan along with the Manager & Guard on their little Bike.
We were deposited just outside the Guard House & told to sort ourselves out, I thanked them for their assistance & apologised for causing any inconvenience. I pushed the RE Bullet about 200mtrs away from the Guard House. Without the pressure & threats from the local law & with the smell of petrol from the flooded carburetor starting to dissipate I went through the kick start routine, one more time, yet again there were heaps of onlookers. After about 10 big kicks it fired up, so Jenny & I got the hell out of dodge.
NB: We were obviously in the wrong here & I accept that, but it wasn’t clear that we shouldn’t be there, looking through 12 minutes of GoPro footage & there is only one small obscure stop sign near the Guard House. Even now in the tourist brochure at our current nice Hotel they say that Alang Ship Breaking Yard is a local tourist sight.
So I guess we were either getting scammed, or were just accidental travellers in the wrong place. Or are they hiding poor work practices from prying eyes. I aren’t sure, just glad we got out of there in one piece.
Off Beat Travelling photos of Sitakund Ship Breaking Yard in Bangladesh, 2015, not Alang but similar. Photos courtesy of Bart van Eijden. Check out his site sometime, it looks pretty interesting. http://www.offbeattravelling.com
We had another 50kms to Bhavnagar on slow 30 to 40km/h secondary roads & since our day had become so crap with all the hold ups & set backs it meant we had to ride the last hour in the dark into a city of 200000 people. Riding Indian roads during the day is bad enough, at night it can be horrifying. Once into Bhavnagar we stopped at the first Hotel we saw called the Hotel Sankelp, it’s a cheapy at 1000IR ($20AUD) but way better then riding at night. Their machine wouldn’t accept my credit card, which is a reoccurring problem in Gujarat. So I handed over a 2.5cm bundle of 10 Rupee notes which equals 1000IR. Sorry there’s a currency crisis I mumbled to the Hotel Manager.
Dinner was vegetarian just down the road at 8.30pm. Later Jenny refused to have a shower, she also voweled not to go anywhere near the toilet of our room. Can’t say I blamed her. Tomorrow we hunt for the local Royal Enfield dealership & relocate to much nicer accommodation.
Our emergency cheap room for the night, only $20 but no way we’ll stay here a second night.