“I love my bike!”, Mass says as we are walking out of the guesthouse over to the 2 motorbikes, about to start our usual morning ritual of strapping up our backpacks and getting the engines warm enough to start……“No….I think I’m in love with my bike….that sounds better……”
We’re fully into the bike trip now and getting used to bouncing around from town to town each day. Mass’ bike is looking better than ever. The electrics and lights are now fixed, there is a new, shiny set of wing mirrors attached to the front bar, and (most importantly) Mass is now able to kick-start the thing in 1 or 2 attempts. The practice he’s had during the pain of the first week is coming in handy for me as well….. there are a few mornings where my engine is putting up a fight and Mass can now get mine going just as easily.
I’m definitely not in love with my bike…..however I am in love with the fact that it is doing it’s job and getting me around this massive and beautiful country! :-)
We start loading up the bikes, and a crowd starts to form around the 2 of us. The hotel staff, a few other guests, and a few passers-by make up the group of around 10 or so people who are standing in a small circle around us as we are both trying to kick-start our bikes to life.
It was weird the first few times it started happening, and to be honest it’s still a bit strange…..we’re really not doing anything exciting!….just starting up a bike, and judging by the number of bikes on the roads here, it’s definitely something that’s been seen before!
The reason for all the attention, as arrogant as it sounds, is the 2 of us!
Before setting out on this trip, I don’t think we realized how untouched by tourists and travelers some of these towns would be….some have no main transport links; no airports, train or bus stops. They are accessible only if you have your own vehicle…..which means that every time we stop……we seem to get a crowd!
Getting the bikes ready in the morning? Small crowd. Stopping at a garage? small crowd. Stop for lunch? for cash? for petrol? for a minute break? crowd!
Even if you pull up to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere just to take 5, before long another bike has stopped to ask you what you’re doing? where are you going? is that bike from Goa? Is that a camera? Do you need any help? and another bike shortly after that….and the number of people keep growing until you say your goodbyes and pull away!
The guy to the left in the photo above had a small shop in the nearby town of Kannad, and the guy in the white shirt, 3 from the right, was a professor in the nearby university, the rest are students. I had only pulled over for a few minutes waiting for Mass to circle around and get some petrol before we headed out for the day.
Everyone was very friendly and curious, and I felt bad that I couldn’t take up the shop owners invitation of driving back for him to show me his shop and offer us some food. There were many offers like this, friendly people who wanted to invite you for food, for tea…..or just wanted to spend 10 minutes to practice their English.
The 2 guys below, poked their head out of a window while we were starting up for the morning in Bhusawal and invited us in for a cup of tea. They asked what we were up too and where we were going and got very concerned for our safety when we told them we were planning on making it up to Delhi! Our host’s face changed and he told us that he had lost his wife in a bike accident, and his son was in jail from being on the other end of another……..“be careful!” he warned us again and again…….“helmets! drive only in the light!”
Some of the funnier ones, would be the requests for photos with us……..“Selfie?”, “Selfie?” Sure…but then they wanted the picture taken with our camera…and they didn’t ask us for some way of getting it back to them…..just wanting a photo with them in it…..just to be kept by us :-)
We were looking for water one morning and a 50-year old guy saw we were struggling to find the right store. He came to our rescue, and after we’d purchased beers and snacks wanted a quick photo before we headed back. Arm around him, smile, get ready for the photo?…..no, no, no, he pushed me back slightly……he wasn’t ready yet! (How dare I?). Comb out, a few stokes over his hair, sweater off, a few pumps of the arms to look good for the photo….ready!……..followed by a massive man-hug :-)
Another day, we take a short stop-off at a quite roadside tent to get a sugar-cane juice. The old guy working the cane-crushing machine isn’t the talkative type….poker-faced all the way, and doesn’t even break a smile as he hand’s us our second round of drinks. Getting ready to set off again and a younger man comes from the fields to the back of the tent. He can speak very little English but seems very adamant that we don’t head off just yet and to follow him instead.
We do, and he wants to just take the time to show us his farm and fields. The sugar cane for juice that we just drank is grown in one of these fields and his father runs the roadside stall as a small side business.
We walk from field to field….as he points and hands us various things……“This flower…look!” and points at a cauliflower growing in the ground. “Tomato”, he says as we walk through another field. Some of the workers wave at us from afar…we wave back.
I see a cow and stop to take a photo (as if I haven’t taken enough of cows in India already!). “Ahh……”, the man says, “God!…….This is God!”
One morning at the Petrol Station about to ride out from Chalisgaon, Mass goes to the pumps and I, already having a full tank, just move my bike to the exit. 10 seconds later there are about 30 people around me. A wedding parade is moving up the road and I’m invited to dance for a bit. I do…..but not to anywhere near the level of this guy!
I spot Mass who has also been dragged in after filling up. The atmosphere is incredible…so much music and colour. Everyone has a smile on their face!
“Let’s head back”, Mass says after a few minutes, “I think we’re stealing the show!”
He’s not wrong! The groom is looking immaculate in his white suit, straddling a white horse draped in coloured silk….but the majority of faces were tracking us as we made our way back through the crowds to the bikes.
I’m writing all of the above and going through the photo’s with a smile on my face. It was an amazing trip and all the little experiences like the above made up a big part of it…..but…..not wanting to fall into the trap of blogging about everything with rose-tinted spectacles, I’ve got to be honest…..there were some times where the last thing you wanted was the attention. Sometimes we just wanted to wake up and start the bikes without a crowd….sometimes I just wanted to eat my 2 slices of toast for breakfast without the manager and 3 staff less than a foot away from the table….not talking, just watching…. :-)
Sometimes it was a bit dangerous too, if it was happening during a ride. We would sometimes get cars and other bikes pulling over close by, riding alongside…. sometimes to try to chat, other-times just for a look :-)
On this particular morning, a few of the guys in this morning’s crowd are chatting between them with the odd hand gesture in our direction. They are conversing in Hindi with the occasional word we can understand, ‘Goa’ is a common one as our bikes both have Goa number plates……‘Camera’ is another one :-) Mass’ helmet has a go-pro mount which attracts a lot of attention and has almost caused a few bumps on the road already.
We start our bikes and head out. Speaking of attention, and cameras…there is one final reason that we sometimes wanted a low profile. Mass had brought a drone camera along for the trip. Bikes? Open Indian roads and countryside? Perfect for some awesome drone footage right?
Well…yeah….apart from the small issue that they were made illegal to operate without a permit a couple of months earlier :-( We still wanted a few shots but if we were going to get it, it involved getting as far away from the roadside as possible and keeping our heads down :-)
It may have been a bit over the top (sometimes one of us would be on lookout while the drone was in the air…sometimes I’d find Mass hiding under a tree with the drone remote)……but the last thing we wanted was to be seeing the inside of an Indian police station this week.
….as it turned out, it would be the week after we saw our first Indian police station (Cliffhanger…..boom!) :-)
To round off the post, a few other pics from week 50 :-)