It really is difficult to know where to start. How do you condense 17 years of being passionate about everything automotive into a short introduction to set the context before you embark on a 15+ post travelogue of sorts? How do you explain spending all your time poring through automobile magazines when you visit your favourite uncle’s place as a teenager? How do you explain the lessons you have learnt over roughly over 75,000 kms of biking on Indian roads in over a decade? How do you explain the massive mound of automobile magazines that has piled up under your bed when most guys your age spend it on what they deem to be more worthwhile things instead?
How do you explain becoming more aware of biker safety as you get older and investing a good amount of your hard earned money into riding gear as your friends keep asking you why you are wasting your money on useless stuff? How do you explain the unbridled joy on the faces of little kids as they see a group of gear clad bikers rumble their way through a sleepy little village somewhere on the outskirts of Bangalore? How do you explain the mystical allure of imagining yourself on the highest motor able pass in the world? How do you explain planning a holiday where you will physically and mentally push yourself to the limit and beyond instead of sitting on a hammock sipping an iced tea on a warm pleasant evening as you watch the sun go down on an empty beach?
How do you explain planning to do a Bangalore to Leh trip and back a few years ago and then having to give it up because circumstances dictated that giving it up was the responsible and right thing to do despite every fiber in your body itching to make it to the mountains? How do you explain being sitting behind a laptop and reading about the adventures, trials and tribulations that fellow bikers endured as they made their way across the unforgiving terrain that beckons Indian bikers? How do you explain having a dream but being unable to live it year after year after year?
“Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true,
Or is it something worse?”
The River : Bruce Springsteen
Before I proceed with the rest of the story, I must mention that there are a few disclaimers that you need to be aware of. While my posts closely follow what actually transpired, they may not be 100% accurate down to the last full stop. A writer is permitted certain creative liberties and I might have spiced things up in certain portions and I might have toned things down in others. Of course, Im not going to tell you where! This hasn’t been done with the intention of maligning anyone or bending the facts or stretching the truth but to make the narrative more interesting for you, the reader. Names haven’t been taken as a token of respect except where necessary. Now with that out of the way, let’s get on with my never ending story of what is certainly not a once in a lifetime adventure.
My friend and boss (don’t you wish you were as lucky as me?) has been known to take one major holiday a year to get away from all the madness of the world (and his team some unfairly suggest) and this year he came up with the idea of doing a Himalayan biking trip with a twist. Now a lot of my friends have done the trip the old fashioned way – put your bike on a train and head to the capital of India, Delhi, from where you bike all the way to Manali (a distance of 543.5 kms Mr Googlay tells me) which effectively acts as a starting point for your trip.
Now there were certain logistic difficulties to following the tried and tested route, primary being the lack of a bike on my boss’s part and the beating that my Japanese 150cc mini sports bike would have to take and my inability to fix anything on my bike by myself if something were to go wrong. Hence the twist.
My boss found a group Royal Moto Touring that organizes guided trips starting from Manali all the way to Leh and back over a period of 11 days. Seeing as my boss was making the trip with me, getting leave wouldn’t be a problem. Him convincing his boss that the two of us would be out of sight and more importantly, out of mobile range for 11 days, was his problem and one that I was glad that I wouldn’t have to encounter. There didn’t seem to be any bad reviews for the group and I realized it was this year or never and we decided to go ahead and make the bookings. A week or so later we found out that a distant colleague of ours (when you are in a company that has a 140,000 consultants, you get to have distant colleagues) had also booked a slot for the same trip so it looked like a case of Threes Company.
Strangely though there was a sense of detachment to the whole trip that seemed to grow as the date drew nearer. Was it a case of disillusionment that had grown over the years with me missing out each time? Was it that tiny seed of uncertainty that said that after all the hype and the travelogues and the hour long stories that I'd heard, the actual biking trip would be a damp squib? Was it that the corporate world had finally converted me into another brick in the wall and that something I have yearned for so long had quietly turned into another meaningless leaf I chased against the wind?
How many people are there on your trip?
Where all are you going?
How’s the weather now?
Have you bought all the stuff you need?
Where all will you have (mobile) range on your trip?
Just some of the questions that I heard from friends, well wishers and my family before the trip. Questions I didn’t have answers to because I seemingly didn’t care. More than once I stopped and asked myself, “Do I really want to go on this trip?” I didn't know the answer, to be honest.
The Day Before I Leave For Delhi
I had a ton of work to complete before I left and worst of all I had a day flight to Delhi on Friday which meant that I was not reachable for a couple of hours on the day of a submission. I realized that I didn’t even have the right suitcases to pack my stuff and I messaged my friends about borrowing one of their mid sized suitcases for the trip. The good thing about this trip was that you could bring all the stuff you wanted and they had a back up van to carry your bags so for the first time ever I could afford to over pack for a biking trip. There's always a first time for everything.
The lack of sleep from all the work had noticeably taken a toll on me and my friends were worried about my safety on the trip and wanted me to promise to be very careful. Of course this had nothing to do with the fact that I had borrowed a very nice and very red suitcase of theirs (this is the part of the story where I disclose that the friends were women which explains the very red colour of the suitcase) that they wanted to be returned in mint condition. Nothing at all.
Click here for Day 0 - Bangalore to Delhi