Munnar at last! And, the elusive Eugene. .

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Monday, May 8, 2006

Up and over the mountains, the 48 km to munnar took half a day. In some places the air got actually chilly, and i had to put on a jacket to ward off the cold.
The sky threatened rain, though I only saw a couple of drops.

arriving in Munnar, I saw another typical Indian town, lined with shops, signs everywhere, and went straight up the side road to the section of town where they fix all things mechanical. There is a sort of loose districting of these towns, there will be a bazaar selling household goods, and a carpentry/furniture building/selling area, an area for banks, and of course, my favorite, the "gearhead" area.
Asking at many shacks the same question, "Eugene, mechanic, where?" I got an answer from a fellow at a two-wheeler repair shop. "one kilometer, in old Munnar. . "
I followed the road, and of course "old munnar" is about the same as "new" munnar, so I found a bus repair garage, asking the same thing. The man pointed off in a direction, telling me to go right at some point, so I headed back the way I came.
Eventually I stopped at the gate of a factory, some sort of metalworks, and the security guard knew Eugene. "Go back, take first right, then down the hill. . " I did this, and managed to see an old church of stone, and the gates to a tea plantation, but of course no Eugene. . Turns out the "right" that the man referred to was actually more of a u-turn into a small street barely large enough to fit an automobile. Then I had to turn right again, and, scanning the small houses, I saw one with a tin-roofed addition on the side, and a honda in parts under it.
A young girl with very good english came out, I asked about Eugene, and she brought out a chair, and bade me wait, while a small boy ran off and around the neighborhood. After a time, a man with long hair and a beard and a greasy shirt, with the wrinkled hands of a mechanic appeared in the drive. This was the famous Eugene, of whom three separate "enfield riders" (we are, of course a bit of a tribe here) in three separate locations told me of. The Man, the Myth, the Legend, standing before me. Turns out that he remembered the Englishman who had spoken so highly of him, and also my old friend Omar, the Israeli hippy guy whose red bike I almost bought before I found Rocinante.
On a side note, Eugene laughed when I told him this, because Omar had been through there with that bike, and it needed a complete gearbox rebuild, which took three days. .

We shared chai, and Eugene gave me the time of 1 pm the next day to come back for the repairs. It was growing late, and I needed to look for accomodation. I came to many places, and most of them wanted too much money, and wouldn't come down in price, so finally, driving back through New Munnar section, I saw "hotel krishna," and decided to check rates. The sign said 100 for a single, but when the man came down, he said that all the singles were taken, and there were only doubles with attached for 250. . I inquired about who might have a single, and he pointed down a dingy and dark alley, which I followed to the river. .
Seeing nothing that looked like a reception area, I backtracked a bit, and went up the stairs, finally finding Hotel Ashka (sp?) and he did have a single. 85 rupees. Perfect. I saw the room, and it was simple, enough room for a narrow bed and small table. Also with shared bath, indian style. Not too clean, but I have gone native now, and my standards are not very high.
I actually had quite a good sleep, rising early to go into the bazaar to look around and have a dosa. No dosa at the dhaba (called a "hotel, really a restaurant, so don't be confused if you come here) but he did do me a nice Puri Baji, a sort of masala breakfast.
Also I must mention the COFFEE!! here, it is locally grown and brewed. Holy crap, that coffee was the best I have had in months. . .

Near the "hotel" and underneath the lodge was an automotive parts place. I asked about an Enfield air filter, and they had it! Amazing. I had asked everywhere in south India, and did never find one. Of course, they did not have a throttle cable, which I do not need at the moment, but want for a spare. .

The time came to go see Eugene, and arriving at his house, he hopped on the back so we could go and get the chain and sprocket set I so desperately needed. Back to the same shop, Munnar Automotive, strangely enough again, and almost a thousand rupees later, I had all the parts I needed. A dear price, but if my chain broke or sproket stripped in the wilds of rajastan, this could be a slight problem. Six teeth from the back sprocket were broken already, and others were very worn. A result of the previous owner running the chain much too loose and under too much load, and also not cleaning it properly.
Eugene worked well into the night, and at about 10:30 with much chai and cigarettes between us, he finally had her all back together. Watching him work to take off the magneto, the drive gears and timing chain, and the rest, I was glad I had him do it, and not tried to do it myself. It is nice to watch a master at work as well.
We talked much while he worked, and he is a good man, also a good christian. Kerala seems full of christians. At the age of 40, he looked slim and healthy, his hair and beard making him look something like a Keralan Greg Allman, or some such other 70's rock star.
The rest of the work I wanted him to do, steering column adjustment, carb clean, gear box clean, would have to wait for the morning. Off I went back to my hotel, that annoying though not-yet-dangerous sound of worn sprockets gone, Rocinante restored to good health.
The next morning I arrived at 10:30, and Eugene was waiting, shop cleaned and tools in hand. I also took out my reasonably comprehensive tool kit and did the minor adjustments to the front brake, greasing fittings, and for the morning and part of the afternoon we worked together, until Rocinante was pronounced with a clean bill of health by the "doctor. . "
Eugene and I then talked, drinking chai, and he told me about the big tea plantations deforesting all the mountainsides, taking and burning all the trees he used to play among as a small boy. He led me up the hill, showed me a few remaining trees, and also the housing for the tea workers, dirty, used up, more like slave quarters than anything. Eugene's eyes showed nostalgia, and no small amount of sadness for the once-forested beauty of his childhood home, now slashed, burned, and gone forever under the dark cloak of the TATA tea company. .
On the way back down, we met his sister, who was out washing the daily pots and pans, and the nephew climbed a tree to get us some fruit. The taste was slightly bitter, the fruit from the outside looked a little like a green pomegranate, but had an apple like texture and taste. There were many seeds inside, and none knew the English name for it. It has ayruvedic properties as well, apparently, as Eugene said it helps to aid digestion. Perhaps it has worked, as I have been quite regular as of late.

The time came to talk price for the labor. . Eugene gave me a price of 150 rupees. He knew I am not a rich man here in India, and I think he adjusted accordingly. I gave him 200. After fond farewells, and a handshake that turned into a hug, I drove off into the night, having found another friend and kindred soul in the wilds of Kerala.

The next day was the day before elections, and I had been told that the street demonstrations sometimes turn violent, so after waking to the sound of army helicopters circling the town and going down through men in light green uniforms to get my coffee, I headed out toward the coast.
Somewhere past Kochi on the coast I found a lodge with attached restaurant and even a men's bar inside. Luxurious, and slightly expensive, but it was nice to have a cold beer and watch some american movies on the HBO.
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purpleboy on

I'm soo... Jealous!
Sounds like you're having an interesting journey! We'er gearing up to head to the Gathering. Colorado! Later. - Rick

c hill on

I cant believe you only gave him 50 rupees extra after all that. Ive seen the man work
Pretty mean

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