Monday, July 28, 2008

You will like some & don’t like some (5)…

From Imphal to Silchar
Imphal is the Capital of Manipur & Silchar is situated in the south of Assam; Silchar is also strategically located & is easy to connect to Manipur, Mizoram & Tripura. (Look at a India Map to know more)

I am not sure if I have written anything about this route before; but can never forget the kind of experience I had in this stretch. It’s the only connecting road between these two cities. NH 53 runs between them & a little over 200kms is the distance.

If you think “Oh, that’s not much of a distance to cover, 4 hours of riding & it would be done”. You are so wrong my friend! The starting few kms from Imphal, leading into the ‘black mountain’ (If I recollect correctly, it was called Kala Pathar) is beautiful; It was a blessing, but only for a few kms & after which your worst nightmare comes to reality. It had rained the previous day & was raining the day I rode. So, the roads were filled with water; difficult to negotiate a pothole; bcos you wouldn’t know the depth of it & where there are mud patches bcos of landslide, that portion of road would be slushy & slippery.

This is a difficult write up for me bcos I am not able to write my emotions; if could sum it up, at one point I was so frustrated that I wanted to take the money & identification from my baggage & push the bike off the mountain, end the misery, get a lift to the nearest town/village, go to the nearest airport & come home! This thought crossed my mind a couple of times during this stretch.

I am going to be cutting this short; I couldn’t complete this ride in a day; took refuge in an Army Camp. Got up next day morning & rode on to Silchar! Got myself into a hotel; ate, took a bath & slept like hell. These 2 days have been one of the most difficult days in my ride.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Crazy Pic

This is def is the craziest pic i am involved with!
Venue: Rangashankara
Date: 29th June 08
Occassion: Doubles, Triples & Quadraples - Nobody Stays Single.
From left: Madhurima, Alice, Heena, Nitin, Me & Sumit.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You will like some & don’t like some (4)…

My 1st Escort!
Any sign board which reads “Vehicle drivers be alert! Vehicle lifters can away vehicles using drugs & pistols!!” on a red background is def not a great sign to read in no-mans land! The stretch between Jorhat & Nagaland border is where I came across this sign board. Shall I say, I wasn’t nervous, but def was on the look out for any kinda trouble. 40-50 kms from the Naga border, I saw few jeeps & buses lined up; I see a check post & the traffic had been halted. Upon enquiry at the gate, I was told that I had to wait to catch an escort of army jeeps to take me from here to the border of Nagaland. The sad part was that I had missed the one in the afternoon & had to wait for another 3 hours for the next one.

The 2 jeeps had some devotees in them; 10 mins later the guard let the 2 jeeps go with another jeep carrying armed jawans to some temple (15kms away, off the main road) in between. He suggested that I could go with them & then head off towards Nagaland all by myself. I thought this would be good instead of a wait for 3 hours. So I took off behind the jeep with devotees. In some time he exited the Main road & headed towards the temple. I followed him throughout & then stopped in front of the temple to ask the jawans if it was ok for me to continue; for my bad luck they suggested otherwise & asked me to get back to the check post. I was so pissed at the sentry back at the check post. I followed theses guys back; couple of kms later, far away we could see 2 massive army vans going towards the border, the guy sitting at the back of the jeep shouted at me & showed me the oncoming vans & hinted at me to follow them.

Without thinking much, I slowed down; waited for the vans to pass me & I immediately turned around (towards Nagaland) & followed them. There was no way I wanted to be left out at the back, so I overtook the 2nd van & got myself comfortable between them. For the next “howmanysoever” kms I had my own unofficial escort taking me towards the border. We reached the Naga border at the same time & they went through; & I was asked to stop for a regular check for identification & ILP.

It was awesome 45 min ride; riding stuck in between the 2 army vans & also tried to do some stunt taking a picture in one hand. Ask me for the snap.

Friday, July 04, 2008

You will like some & don’t like some (3)…

Entering into Assam
I was specifically told not to enter into Assam borders after 5pm. A caring shopkeeper, where I stopped for chai, informed me about this. It was 2pm. He suggested me to stay back in Alipur Duar (bordering to Assam) for the night. Next day morning, left early. Was stopped at the border for checking. After the initial round of checking my bags & I was also asked for identification papers; I obliged. I was told to stop on the bridge ahead to speak to a higher officer & only then proceed. About a km later, I was again stopped by the police. An officer with 2 stars on his shoulder (Mr. Hazarika) was inside his white gypsy. He refused to let me through, bcos a bundh was called for from the ALFA/ULFA (whoever) in the 1st 3 districts. Ohh, mind you, that if someone had to go through Assam, this was the only entry point & exist as well.

He told me some scary stuff; you will get looted, you would be injured, you will go missing….blah blah…. I don’t have anything to go back to & I had no choice (bcos this bundh was for 3 days) but to go ahead, I said. & there was no way I would wait for 3 days doing nothing. I convinced him I will be careful, & I will not stop anywhere in between. After about 30 mins, he gave me his mobile no & asked me to call him if I had any problems mid way.

There was no soul on the road, except few children playing around. All the trucks were lined up on both sides of the border, with the driver & the cleaner sleeping under the shade of the truck. I have to admit, apart from all the heroism I displayed in front of him, I was scared. I didn’t stop anywhere. I only did when I saw few policemen on the roads or under a tree taking shelter. I would do some gossip for 5 mins, drink water & then move on. By lunch time I was through the problem area & into the safe zone. Took a good break & then proceeded towards Guwahati.

Baskin Robbins
I wanted to celebrate my entry into North East. But didn’t know how, where & when. I left the thought alone. 3 days in Assam, I left for Arunachal Pradesh. Didn’t go the usual way, but took a shortcut. It was very scenic. Entered the city of Itanagar, filled up Gas & took a picture for my record & when I was returning back to Assam (due to heavy rains, I couldn’t continue my ride through AP & then into the Northern Assam to hit Teju; the rain had washed away the NH on Dhemaji), much within the city limits, I saw BR. I immediately stopped, parked the bike. I was looking so dirty & out of sync with the rest of the world; I was also stinking, wearing my Capri’s, red t-shirt, leather jacket, short hair with a beard.

After contemplating much of what to eat, I settled down with a Banana Split with Rum ice-cream & pineapple topping. Yum it was! That was my celebration!

Tough Decisions
I was in a lot of pain with my left hand. The cause is very simple. Overuse the hand bcos of use for clutch in a bike. It took a lot of effort to ride; then specialised in riding the bike using only my right hand (not advisable) at long stretches. By the time I reached Tinsukia, it was way too much for me to handle; the choice was to either continue in pain OR turn around so that I could keep a check on it & also seek medical help & also rest. My goal to reach the eastern most point of India remained a dream; I turned around from Tinsukia & headed to Jorhat & then towards Nagaland & then the rest of North East. This one is yet to be achieved!!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

You will like some & don’t like some (2)....

My 1st accident
Very hard to forget your 1st accident isn’t it! This was not the 1st for me per say, but def 1st one the ride. Happened when I was crossing into Orissa, in the Sambhalpur forest range. Riding through the swarm of flies (those thin ones with 2 wings, & comes into existence imdtly after the rains). God only knows how many hundreds I killed that day. Fatigue catching up with me & me dozing off, resulting in me going off the road, losing my balance, crashed hard on the tarmac. Mind you, anything could have happened here, but as they say, I survived!! Had some severe pain in the chest (only later I realized that I had a hair line fracture on my left rib, 6th one from top) & my left abdomen (near to the waist). Picked up my bike, & continued on to Bhubaneswar, to get it fixed & continue my journey.

Stay in Kolkata
I think I brought in the rains. It poured & poured in this city as soon as I arrived. Had to extend my stay for 2 days’ just bcos of the rains. Stayed for a day with a common friend (Partha) & then more or less in Heena’s place. Couldn’t venture too much out to find a budget hotel, so ended up staying in the rooms of Laxmi Narayan Temple (on Sarat Bose Road). This was some experience; this wasn’t free but paid through my nose to stay there. Bcos of heavy rains, bike couldn’t get serviced; the service shop was closed out for 2 days. I was only getting frustrated; but I think I survived this city bcos of Heena. When we did find a budget hotel near by, we moved my stuff from her place to here. When the housekeeping was changing the sheets & one of them was spraying room freshener, I realized that he thought we were a couple; both of us couldn’t help but laugh out.

Both Heena & I had fun; found happiness in finding a dry spot on the half drowned city; hot idlli & vadas (in Bhupendra Mansion, near Lake Market) in the rains; couldn’t go to movie bcos of, fear of losing the car in the water filled parking space; trying to find a Chinese eating joint; realizing that this 5 foot woman drives like crazy (worst than me infact); me hearing for the 1st time that there exists an apple drink called “Gold Coin” (which she gets high on!!) & to top this off, on the day i left Kal, getting to drink hot tea early in the morning in mud cups & then bidding her Gud Bye!! Downside were the rains & delay; upside was that I made a new friend!

Tea Gardens
Just about when I was to reach Siliguri, this vast green expanse was thrown at me! I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Tea Gardens on both sides of the road. Encountered tea gardens throughout my ride in Assam & parts of WB. I can’t explain, but there’s some thrill in riding between them. The cool breeze, that peculiar smell in the air, endless rows of tea plants, workers busy picking up the tea leaves….. Something in it! It’s a happy feeling. I am a “tea person” as well, so explains my write up.

You will like some & don’t like some…..

During those 115 days of riding I did last year, there have been some events which are embedded in my mind; & will be for a long time to come. As I am not writing a full fledged write up on the ride itself, I thought this would be good enough to give anyone a glimpse of how it was riding solo… I am not sure if all the events will be on a single post, but do keep a track, if it is split.

A River Bath.
It was a very hot day. Sun was blazing down like crazy. I was on my way to Hyderabad, knowing very well that I will not make it by the end of the day. I knew I would have to take a stop in between somewhere, I didn’t know where that “somewhere” was. Bike was also getting used to riding for long distances, even though I had done couple of practice runs on it. Either that or I assume that there was something wrong in the way I rode; (later in the night, I found out that there was some drops of water in the carburetor, got it fixed from a local mechanic).

So, I did not push the bike at all. A little later, after I entered the Andhra border, I was riding over a bridge, down below was Krishna River. When I turned around, I saw a pathway to go down to the bank of the river, where there was a temple. Went down, parked the bike where I could keep an eye on it. Pulled out my gamchha & soap; dived in the water. I don’t know how to swim, but who cares! This was the point in where I knew how the rest of my solo ride would be. Free, independent (even though I was under a lot of external forces which could affect me) & may I say wild! (may I add, that’s how I was, did what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it & cared 2 hoots of what people would think about, & what people are we talking about, I was a Stranger everywhere I went) Spent 30mins in water, got out of it, got ready & back on the road.

Meeting the Godavari
I have wrote about this in my earlier blogs written on the ride, under the heading Hyderabad to Raipur. It def was one of the scariest moments in the ride. I have to admit, I for sometime didn’t know what hit me; bcos lot of things happened at the same time. Bike getting stuck, rains, fatigue, no human contact around, didn’t know the language, bike was acting funny, I fell down, the left footrest twisted…. At the end of the day, stayed at a “so called hotel” for 100/night; ate the worst “rasam rice” of my life; lying on the bed I was only happy that I was alive. This day will be remembered for ever!!

Crossing the borders of AP & Chhattisgarh
To explain in few words, the border from where I entered Chhattisgarh was more like a fortress than just a crossing. Armed men everywhere, fully loaded guns-big ones, thorough check of my bike & its contents, every half a km on the highway, there’s a group of jawans walking the road – guarding it from extremists. The refugee camps I came across, people living in them, BSF guarding them; imaging living like a refugee in your own state. I still get a chill thinking about crossing over into Chhattisgarh after my ordeal with the Godavari.