Containers were loaded at the Tilbury Docks on Friday 18th July and have been inspected, sealed and sent aboard the container ship, Venezia, with an estimated transit time of 29-35 days. As usual with officialdom there seems to be a multitude of what appear to be superfluous pieces of paper to organise. One of the rather frustrating pieces of Indian bureaucracy is their penchant for paper; I can only assume it is a residue of colonial times. I fly to Mumbai well in advance of our start date to meet and encourage the local authorities to swiftly process the temporary importation of vehicles.
The Jingers Jaunts robust Land-Rover Defender which we used to great effect in Australia has been further updated to enable better support of our clients. It has been refitted in the load-space to allow a wider range of mechanical tools to be carried and its ability to morph into an ambulance has been improved with a much enhanced medical section. It left for Mumbai on July 16th, having already travelled to a port elsewhere in New Zealand because the docks here were heavily damaged in the earthquakes.
All hotels are booked, the details of some of our excursions are being finalised and Lally is managing the administrative aspects of all vehicle documents. I am working on details of how GPS will help everyone find a correct route through the chaotic maze of city streets; however, we shall also need to use a ‘Tulip’ roadbook for some sections.
I am very happy to report that the mountain road over Umba La is currently open. We surveyed nine tenths of it last year but were prevented from crossing the final ridge by landslides. It is a harsh, sometimes narrow, mountain track climbing to over 16,000ft but it’s operational again for those wanting to try a serious mountain road with some BIG drops and beautiful scenery.
Our welcome dinner is scheduled for the evening of 11 September at one of the pre-eminent restaurants in Mumbai. Of course, the evening will be an Indian affair but we have asked for the spice-levels to be in tune with a western diet. From there we will push north into the deserts of Rajasthan staying in palaces and forts where service and our comfort are assured.