“I hate my bike!” Mass says as he glances over at the gate of the guesthouse as we walk up to the balcony for breakfast.
We’re into the 2nd week and Mass is now the proud owner of a Yamaha Enticer which we picked up a couple of days ago. The bike looks great! It looks like a Harley! But at the moment that’s the only comfort it’s bringing Mass at the moment!
There were a few little problems which the owner told us about when Mass was making the deal, but on what was one of the most intense and nervous rides back to our guesthouse that night the few ‘little issues’ seemed to be piling up!……the electrics didn’t work, the indicators, full beam and brake lights were out, the bike had been hot wired which meant that the only way to shut off the engine was to deliberately stall, the wiring job seemed to need a check (loose cables), the wing mirrors had been removed, and (what causing the majority of Mass’ pain) the bike could only work on a (very specific) kick-start which only the owner (and fortunately, the guy at our hostel) could work consistently!
Adding to the troubles, the previous owner had gone AWOL as soon as the money had changed hands along with a few promises of a proper paper transfer and a trip to pick up a few things for the bike that he had left with a nearby garage.
“Do you think that he’d just take the bike and give me some of the money back for it?” Mass sighs and asks before we order coffees, pancakes and toast.
The old hostel dog, who we have affectionately named ‘woof-burger’, slowly slinks over to our table in its usual weird and apologetic posture….head hanging down, eyes up….looking for a morning pet.
“Do you think he’ll even pick up the phone again?”
We finish up and head an hour South to Panjim, the Capital city of Goa. My plan for the day is to set up a few appointments for bike viewings an to buy a bike, Mass’ plan was to try to track the previous owner down and/or to get a few repairs done to his bike.
A quick lassi drink, a few phone calls later, and I’ve got myself a few viewings. Me and Mass part ways after a bizarre conversation with a guy who sits down to chat with us, who explains to us that he could run faster than Kurt Cobain.
I arrive at my first bike appointment, a tuk-tuk ride away in some small dusty town over the river. A young guy pulls up on a bright red Pulsar bike and I get on the back. The guy seems really friendly and the bike looks like it’s in great condition. We chat while we look for a side street for me to try it out on.
Now, here is where I make my first confession (here, not to the guy)! I’ve never ridden a motorbike before! I’ve ridden a few scooters, but have never been on 2 wheels with a clutch and gears.
I had the logic, based on checking out Mass’ bike and I’ve been driving a car since my early twenties…..but it’s just dawning on my now I’m about to try it for the first time with a bit of pressure of an audience! Not wanting to give the game away, I take the keys, start the bike….stall. I start it again…..stall! I can’t get the biting point on this thing!
“Have you ridden a motorbike before?”, the guys asks me.
“Err…….Not for a long time”, I say trying to save the last scrap of my poker-face. “It’s a 150cc right?”
“No man! It’s 250cc! It’s a sports bike!”
Ok! This kind of makes up my mind that the bike isn’t for me. Apart from wanting working electrics (after the ride back with Mass the night before), I wanted something with a pretty small engine for my first ever bike…..Slow and steady :-)
After an eventual slow successful ride back and forth, I tell the guy I’m looking for something with a slightly smaller engine and make my way to viewing number 2.
15 minutes later, I meet Roshan, a local from Goa who had recently switched jobs and was relocating to Chennai. He shows me his Honda Passion Pro…it’s not the best looking bike, it’s a bit scratched up, but everything seems to be working and I can get the biting point on this without much trouble and move it around. That works enough for me and we shake hands, make the deal and agree to meet up the next day in order to get the paperwork signed over.
A few more days in Goa and we were ready to go. In contrast to the guy who sold Mass his Bike, Roshan was the complete opposite! He helped out with the paper transfers, the insurance, and even showing us to shops for good helmets and garages. It was funny that, while Mass couldn’t get hold of his guy for love nor money, Roshan was sending me just general messages not even relating to the bike…..‘How’s it going’ or ‘Check out this sunset pic’ :-)
And so, just over a week and a half, we were ready to pack our bags, have 1 final amazing tandoori chicken form the local restaurant and start our steady journey North to Delhi!
The first day’s driving was glorious! We started out small, only wanting to drive around 100-150km, and we were stopping to check on each other and take a small break every hour or so. It took a few hours longer then the journey between the towns required……but with the sunshine, the quiet country roads, and the beautiful town, and mountainside views…..it wasn’t the worst route to take your time on!
Completely unplanned, our next couple of days driving also gave us a few more baby steps for the journey. Day 2 was a long, and pretty boring slog up to Pune, and the first time we were on one of the national highways.
They felt a lot safer than both of us were expecting….but there were the odd few things to get used to, such as there is no real concept of the slow and fast lanes…..people just seem to pick a lane and everyone will overtake or undertake as appropriate.
Also…if someone really wants to get past you, the lanes on the road seem to mean less and less…..3 marked lanes can turn into 5 side by side vehicles if some want to get ahead of the others!
We made a lot of ground this day but agreed later that night that we’d take the ‘route-less-travelled’ and stay off the highway wherever possible for the rest of the trip. To take a quote from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ (which I re-read, inspired by this trip):
“We have learned how to spot the good ones on a map, for example. If the line wiggles, that’s good. That means hills. If it appears to be the main route from a town to a city, that’s bad.”
“The best ones always connect nowhere with nowhere and have an alternate that gets you there quicker.”
The third day driving, from Pune to Karegaon, gave us our first taste of driving at night! Before we’d set off we’d both agreed beforehand that we would only drive in daylight hours but we just got caught out a bit later than expected with no noticeable guesthouses around.
This was an experience which definitely re-affirmed our decision! Apart from the drop in temperature which made driving on a bike a far less pleasant experience. The level of driving on the roads just seemed to plummet….more noise, more vehicles, more aggression….for some reason it felt like because of the lack of visibility everyone just started to freak out a bit more! It wasn’t fun! And with Mass’ electrics still a bit dodgey and the roads not being in the best condition…we were so grateful to finally find a place to stop for the night!
And so, come the end of our 2nd week, we our well on our way :-) See below for the awesome video blogs Mass has put together.