The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
OCTOBER 10, 2018
Chitwan to Lucknow
Another early start, another border day and another incredible drive through rural India. We left the hills behind once and for all and we also got to savour the final hairpin of the Himalayan Challenge.
Despite the hot and dusty reputation of the Indian Plains it was heavy fog that greeted us as we opened the curtains this morning and by mid morning the dampness had turned into another downpour but at least the rain kept dust down.
The first Passage Control was at at Bardaghat after 100km and saw Tony Jones and Jamie Turner stationed outside the Tara Hotel, a very agreeable chai house which was also dishing out that popular breakfast staple of masala dosas to the hungry local drivers. As we arrived boxes of live chickens were being traded and as we left, boxes of dead chickens were being strapped to the back of the buyers motorcycles.
The road surface was quite rough in places and once or twice we imagined ourselves back on the road to Rishikesh but with the right line and some careful use of the throttle good progress was made.
Just before the border, John Spiller sat with his check sheet and kettle prepping the crews for what to expect in the border area.
The Sonauli frontier is the main crossing point between Nepal and India and with the former being a landlocked country that relies heavily on road transport the area is often very congested and so it was today.
So, exactly as the Clerk of the Course had promised, the border experience was typically ‘authentic’. Busy, noisy and dusty although this time the challenge was actually getting out of Nepal. Passports were checked, and double checked, and the carnets scrutinised to the ’nth degree. Given this therefore, there was plenty of time for the crews to fully take in the unique ambiance of our surroundings.
Sadly, Jonathan and Freddie Turner’s Bentley arrived in the midst of this madness on the end of a row rope courtesy of Drs Delle Grimsmo and Bushan Lal. The likely problem was a blown clutch so the crew settled in to wait for some mechanical assistance.
The ‘India in’ part of the border actually flowed quite easily, despite our worst fears, and once we were out of the border area, the character of the road changed completely. For mile after mile, through town after town, the amazing sights of small town India revealed itself to us in a succession of noisy, colourful and enthusiastic scenes.
Today, Hindus are celebrating the festival of Chandra Darshan when statues of the Goddess Durga are driven around the locality in open trailers, and devotees follow behind chanting and singing her praises.
The final passage control in Basti then sent the rally on its way down the fast and smooth expressway for the final 200km into the very cosmopolitan Lucknow and the night halt at the ever so luxurious Vivanta by Taj, hotel.
Waiting for us when we arrived, were members of the Lucknow based Oudh Heritage Car Club and they generously presented each of the crews with a commemorative gift.
With no timing today, Mike Velasco and Peter St George might just have started dreaming that this could be the moment for their long awaited maiden win, but other crews have lost it all on the last day before, so it’s possible that they’ll be sleeping with their fingers well and truly crossed.
Tomorrow we have the triumphant arrival into Agra where the Times of India is waiting for interviews and photographs. We’re sure they’ll get quite a story.