Day 1: The Bandh

Disclaimer: I have tried to recreate the events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them. The below-expressed views, opinions or analogies are personal and may not be in line with the widespread conceptions. Please go to Motorcycle Diaries -> India: Ocean To Mountains (or Click here) to check out the previous events.

Date: 30th July, 2016; Route: Bangalore – Hubli/Dharwad – Goa

 

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal – Henry Ford

It was already D-Day when I went to bed. I had no idea when I slept, the alarm rang at 4AM and I jumped out of my bed and got ready in an hour. I loaded my luggage in 15 minutes and we were all set to ride at 5:15 AM.  I stepped back to take a look at my motorcycle, it looked like a mini truck. As we were riding out of Bangalore, for the first few kilometers, I thought there was an issue with the wheel alignment. My handle was shivering, I felt a bit shaky (Naah, I was not nervous).  I had a bit of trouble dealing with the size of the luggage.

We stopped for breakfast at 8:30 AM, it was a bit cloudy but that’s the normal Bangalore climate. We had some good coffee and idly. Everything was looking just perfect. Then I started noticing, people over there, including the dogs were staring at me like I landed straight from Mars. Before starting our trip we had checked the weather report for the week on the routes which we were supposed to take – and the report clearly said “Thunder Storm”. It may sound adventures but I hate rain when I ride – your disc brakes go smooth, the traction reduces and the chances to taste the ground just increases exponentially, it’s just risky. Surprisingly it didn’t rain in the morning.

But everything changed by 12 PM. The weather report turned out to be right. We were drenched in rain (and it was not like, oh yeah, I am wet; it’s WTF, I am wet). Oh, and there was a state event which was happening on the same day – it was the Karnataka Bandh. We were able to see the impact of the general strike when we reached Hubli. All the public services and private establishments were barred. Since the road was all jammed, even ambulances had a tough time to pass along. I knew about the strike the day before but I never imagined that it would be that severe.

I parked my motorcycle and started talking to people who were affected by the strike. The situation was really bad; we were not able to find anything to eat. We rode backward so that at least we won’t starve to death. After a couple of kilometers, I spotted a Dhaba. It was in the middle of a barren muddy land. Though it was closed, I just decided to park my motorcycle and check in. And since it’s India, even though it says “closed”, it’s actually not; there is always a functional backdoor. I asked few of the guys around if I can get something to eat, anything, I was dying of hunger, I could eat a goat all by myself (I would have said cow, but that would become controversial, so I satisfied myself with goat). One of the guys told me to go behind the wall. I looked at him, top to bottom, just to ensure the guy didn’t have any other intentions or a change of orientation (FYI, I am straight as an iron rod). I just went behind the wall, the place looked like shit, I don’t wanna say literally but I can’t deny. I saw a guy and he was selling some vegetable rice as if he was trading cocaine. And as I was buying some cocaine, sorry rice, a guy called me from behind, he asked if the motorcycle parked outside belonged to me. I said yes, and he said, in a very relaxed tone “your bike has fallen; it fell down like a fat boy who can’t balance himself” and the guy had a smirk on his face (that sadist bastard). My heart stopped for a moment, I just ran towards my motorcycle. My baby was not able to withstand the muddy land, she tripped. She had balanced herself on the crash guard and the luggage, petrol was leaking, we lifted the motorcycle. I started inspecting, there were no mechanical issues. Fortunately or unfortunately, only my headlight’s top was bent and I could live with it.

By the time we had our lunch, we saw that the people guarding the road had a fight among themselves and the traffic started moving and we started riding along too. After a couple of kilometers, there was another roadblock due to the same reason. This time, the road was on fire, literally on fire. People were drunk and shouting. None of the automobiles were allowed to cross Hubli. Tankers were used to block the road. We had no choice but to halt over there till the mob clears the road and allow us to pass. Since we were riding, we managed to park our vehicle at the start of the traffic jam.

The mob started gathering around me. People were curious to see a guy dressed like an astronaut and Bullet obviously commands the attention of kids, old and middle aged gentlemen.  Though I was a bit scared, I acted as if everything was normal. (I just went and stood behind the luggage where my toolbox, hammer to be precise, was easily accessible, no Bollywood sequence intended here)

Then one fine gentleman asked me where I was riding to? I said “Ladakh”. And I have no idea, what crossed his mind, he asked me if I am an army officer. I was about to laugh at that question but I went mute for a couple of seconds, and started thinking of all the advantages I can get if I lied (everybody respects Indian Army) and I said “Yes”. And as expected, the mob suddenly started to disperse. In the meantime, I got to talk to some nice guys; they were surprised when I said that we are traveling to Ladakh from Bangalore. One of the guys eagerly asked, “Is it in India?” Few of them were not even aware that such a place exists in India.

Anyway, the mob started allowing the vehicles to move after 5 PM. And the road after Hubli was just awesome. We could see greenery on both sides but then it started raining heavily. Since there are no street lights or the road markings on the ghat section, on the way to Goa, the visibility was somewhere around 5 meters. I generally don’t prefer to ride after sunset but we didn’t have a choice, we had to ride past the Western Ghats to find a place to stay. Since the accommodations in our trip were unplanned, the idea was to find a shelter after the sunset. But in this case, we were way past sunset; it was dark and raining, we somehow reached Goa by 9:30 pm; we sought a room and checked in. Unpacked our luggage and headed straight towards a restaurant. And I just ordered the biggest meal of my day – 6 chapattis + 3 curries + 2 bottles of mineral water.

I would say, we were off to a really bad start but definitely a memorable one.

To be continued – Day 2: Song of Rain (Click here)

 

P.S. You might be thinking why I am publishing it now and not on July 30th! I wasn’t online for those 30 days 😀 And for the first time, I didn’t use my earphones during my ride.

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