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Cafenet: Sun 16:30

Sunday, 12 December, 2010 16:30

Currently in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, IN

Busy busy.


Friday night it's an autorickshaw trip 7km across town to the chosen restaurant where I meet Gokulnath and Gopi and eventually JP fights his way through the traffic. Every one seems very well and even speak positively about their time at FTEL! :-) Gokulnath was looking very smart and Gopi was sporting a sharp goatee to suit his role as architect. Only JP looked unchanged. Identical in fact to his brother who works in the same office confusing everybody especially when they are trading places in Finland next week (a 50C temperature difference). I understand you can identify JP by the grey hairs...

I casually mention that I'd not had a samosa in my time in India as they never appear on menus. Aha, says Gokul, that's because they're on the ever present hidden menu. He asks. They don't have samosas. I little later it turns out they don't do tea, either.


JP is coming to pick me up then phones in to say he's stuck, I'll have to meet him halfway. Another trip across town. We then perform the ritual of asking at every vaguely hardware related store about stainless steel bolts and are sent onto the next shop. This is a painful process as periodically we have to shift the car which is a palaver in Chennai traffic.

We give up after a couple of hours and head back to JP's for some lunch where Mrs JP provides samosas (hurray!) and huge bowls of delicious food and J junior provides all the talk barring a brief period when his mouth was full ("I have the white rice with basmati because it tastes nice"). We then chased down cheap flights from Delhi to London. We're looking at R45,000 (GBP650). What? After some messing about we try the London-Delhi flights, R31,000 (GBP450). That's more the figure I was expecting. It looks like the airlines screw you over depending on which location you start from. Eventually, we find a Gulf Air flight for a bargainous GBP530. Sigh.

Times getting on ("It changes from am to pm at 5 o'clock" we're told) and in the meanwhile, DJ has been chasing around all over then been directed to JP's then got stuck in traffic so we head out to meet him. DJ too is in fine fettle and engaged to be married in March to Usha from some very pretty argicultural land in the NE of the state. DJ is then going to drag her into the hell that is Chennai. What a gent!

He has however, phoned more hardware people somewhere else in town and we head there incredibly slowly. I was wondering what sort of carnage DJ might cause on the roads given his history of British driving tests and how many roundabouts needed repair but we were perfectly safe and slow. The shops shuffled us back and forth. We get a consistent name, "Modern Tools" and split up. DJ to rescue his car from the traffic jam it is enhancing and I to the shop. They don't do stainless steel but do do tempered steel which they promise is very tough. My metallurgy is a little on the light side but I buy six as they're only R9 each. [As I type it has been suggested they are not fit for purpose.]

I head back to the anointed rendezvous and wait for DJ. A car edges out of the flow and stops very slowly at the road junction before. It then starts up again very slowly and edges round the corner. I have a hunch this is DJ.

That's us done shopping for the day so we head into the adjacent hotel and down to the characterless White Bar for a beer and a chin-wag. Well, what we can muster over the dance music being blasted out.

DJ drops me off near to the restaurant from last night -- if it sounds unreasonable the guys live a long way out of Chennai, their commutes are at around 14kph for an hour or more and the hotels are all north of here, another half hour at least. So another autorickshaw, this time keeping out of the way of the Chief Minister's convoy -- DJ had spotted all the extra police lining the route and predicted a convoy was due through soon and when we stopped we were berated by the police and told to hurry up. Not hugely secure but maybe the police aren't there for protection but just to ease the traffic for the CM.

When I get back there's a flyer for 3 girls 1 bike looking for someone heading south. I fire off an SMS.


I have a reply from 3 girls and having walked around most of Triplicane finally meet up with them in the opposite direction to their instructions. There's two American girls riding an Enfield around that they bought off some French guys, I think. They've been up in the north and suffered the bad roads as well as some abusive behaviour from the locals and finally were forced off the road and into a tree. Their bike was being repaired when they set off to the Andamans for a month -- as you do -- and met the third. They're all just back with a born-again rider who's a bit nervous about having a pillion. I explain my timescales -- I ride a bit further than the girls would although they've done their 400km stints -- and after assessing the logistics (an enormous backpack) it looks like I've a passenger for the run down the coast.

I retension the chain, again and fiddle and faff. My spray can of chain lube has run out so following the rather topical question of "what to use to lube the chain when your chain lube runs out" on the HUBB I pull out my litre of spare engine oil. I'm wondering how to get oil from the bottle to the chain without simply pouring it everywhere when my auto-rickshaw man who's been stepping in to help here and there (he's obviously got no work to do) grabs it off me and dunks his finger in and starts wiping it over the chain. Fair enough. I did give him a big tip on Friday night (after he'd moaned about being hungry and muttering something about his children) so maybe he feels he should be helping out. Anyway, using my finger isn't what I was thinking of. It would probably cause no-one any surprise to know that I hadn't thought of any practical means of transferring oil from the bottle to the chain but was to all intents and purposes standing there looking stupid.

I've checked in with the support team and we've agreed to send the drive kit (and hopefully some genuine stainless steel bolts) to Trivandrum in Kerala, just 100km round the tip. It should arrive Thu or Fri. That's about 1000km and how far the chain has to last. I'm not hugely confident but have informed my passenger.

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