Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Motorcycle Diaries

Day 1 – The Countryside

Alpesh came at around 9:30 AM and informed me that he mailed Pradip, fondly called Bapu, for more details. When he checked his emails, a certain mail from Pradip popped up. It contained the contact details of his father, who is a forest officer. When we contacted his father, we got more than what we ever hoped for. He arranged a stay for us in a forest department guesthouse, provided contact numbers of the people there, gave us the directions and highways we should take and places to visit. In matter of a few minutes the whole thing was set up. I am sure I would have not thought of that much had I been given a choice of fulfilling a wish. Extremely happy about the turnaround, we stepped out of house to find a good travel book and a map in case the need arises. That was my first encounter with Royal Enfield Thunderbird. That was some bike!

When we started packing, Alpesh suggested that we should put our entire luggage in one backpack. I thought it was not possible since I had only necessary things in my bag and it had no room for anything more. But then I started pulling out things which suddenly seemed totally unnecessary and out of place. It felt as if I was getting rid the burden off my shoulders. It lost half of its weight in seconds. That way we made only one backpack for both of us. After a nice homemade Kathiawadi food for lunch, we were all set to hit the road.

Off we were on the road. Instantly we realized that we had one problem. With helmet on the head, and heavy wind blowing in the face, it was very difficult to talk to each other. We had to holler to make any sense. We pulled off after only 26 kilometers, rather unwillingly, just before the start of NH-59 which goes directly to
Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Since talking required hard effort, we thought why not to keep our tongues busy by chewing something. I tightened the belts of the backpack around my chest and stomach. I felt as if some octopus had monstrous grip around my body! There was no point complaining though – we had a long way to go and that was what I wanted.

The main advantage of going on bike, especially in countries like India, is the countryside you get to see. And if you are a pillion rider, you are in for a pleasant treat. Stripped from worrying about the road and the other vehicles, you can just look on the both sides of the roads and marvel at the sights the country offers. There were huge banyan trees with thick dangling roots. At some places the trees were so dense that you could actually play Tarzan act for a long distance. The temples are ubiquitous in India and are easy to locate with the flags on top of them. Then there was cricket –the game we play -which is as ubiquitous as temples, if not more. Wherever there is enough space for 22 yards, we have kids aspiring to be a Sachin Tendulkar one day fighting for their turn to have a go. Gujarat is a dry land and there is not much farming after the monsoon season. Farms are barren at this time, with only the leftover grass of the crop spread in small heaps. People sometimes cover their huts or houses with the grass, which gives impression as if they are made of grass. The highways in India are not actually made only for the vehicles - stray cows and dogs have equal rights over them and the poor pedestrians also. They even do not mind getting run over. They just refuse to listen to the horn and move away.

We took our next break at Godhra after 220 kilometers of drive. The light was fading away quickly and we had still some distance to cover. On top of that, we were supposed to go thru the forest so we did not waste much time in Godhra. Some time was wasted at a railway crossing going further. I also dropped the map after that and we had to turn back to fetch it. As the evening sets in, the wind got chilly. We were in the sanctuary now. By the time we reached Devgadh Baria, it was completely dark. Our destination, Devdi guesthouse, was still far away. The cold was treacherous now and I pulled out my sweater to save myself from freezing. That was first time in more than a year that I used it. Alpesh covered himself fully from top to bottom. We were very slow because of the winding roads and the cold. At 7:45 PM, we pulled off in Devdi Guesthouse with the sigh of relief and satisfaction of job well done.

We were obviously very hungry and the food was ready, so instead of going to our room, we headed for the dinner. We got traditional food of the place – the maize rotla, rice and kadhi. It was simple but very tasty. The guesthouse was newly built and we were the first occupants of the room. It had only basic amenities you require in places like these. It was time for friends’ talk. We hadn’t talked much during the day and we made amends for that in the evening. We talked about whatever we could think of – Chance, Coincidence, Luck, Success, Women, Love, Living in Present and Life. And when we were silent, we talked more.

To Be Continued...

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