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Day 3 – Photo time (Gokarna to Shimoga)

IMG_1761 Today we start off with a short stretch of highway, which by Indian standards is very quiet, we then take some beautiful winding roads up the mountains stopping for lunch at India’s highest waterfall: Jog Falls. Once refreshed, we crack on to Shimoga which sees no tourists whatsoever so we see a city totally unaffected by tourism. Totally refreshing and amazing and possibly the only place on earth where the owner of the petrol station invites you in for a coffee! 

I pulled out of Om Beach at 8am after several clothing changes after spilling curry all over myself at breakfast! Yes, curry does seem to be standard fare for breakfast here!

IMG_1776 As we were leaving the town, a beautiful young photographer ran up to me and asked for a lift so that she could take photos of the bikes. She ended up on the back of my bike for the entire day. We would take photos of all the bikes going past and then scream up to the front of the pack and take more photos. Being an amateur photographer myself, this was so much fun because I got to see India through a professionals ‘lens’ so to speak.

Today’s riding was fast and furious with the most amazing corners and bends to throw the Bullet into. I am falling in love with my Enfield Bullet. It is an amazing machine. The design is from 1930 and it remains only in production in India. IMG_1761

Watching the mechanics fix the bike is hilarious. They kick it, hammer it, bash it and tape it up – all to coax the bike into completing the day. Then they get up the following morning at 3am to continue ‘fixing’ the bikes and getting them ready for the day’s riding ahead. These men are heroes as much as the Bullet is a hero. 

IMG_1848 Today we passed India’s highest waterfall and were swamped by school kids on tour. These kids are the most inquisitive and loving children I have ever met. They asked for our autographs and all wanted to know where we were from. Adorable…

I had my first Thali today – an Indian curry like meal. Delicious.  My ass is beginning to ache from all the hours in the saddle.

I finished last today. Enduro India is not a race and it was great to take the time to see India rather than just blast through.

Adele had her first accident today. As she was driving into a town, a scooter did a U-turn right in front of her, forcing her to slam on her brakes. She locked up the front wheel and dropped the bike, leaving 16 metres of skid on the road as she slid to a halt. Fortunately, her protective gear kept her relatively uninjured and she managed to get up with only a big black bruise on her ass and a swollen knee. Her bike sustained a shmangled headlight and took the whole clutch cable off with her helmet taking alot of the tar with it. Mechanics were on the scene within minutes to give her a new bike! She got straight back on the bike and rode home. She is fine and a little shaken up, but learning her limits on her Bullet. The film crew on the trip (making a movie of the trip narrated by Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor) love Adele because she is a brand new rider doing this Enduro and were interviewing her even before the dust settled on the road. This would be the first of many many interviews…

I am so proud of the way she handled it. No tears, just fearce anger at the guy who made her crash and who drove off! I call it a miss and run…

Tomorrow promises to be even bumpier, so I am preparing myself mentally for the ass breaking ride! Till then – may The Force be with us.

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Leaving Palolem Beach, GoaToday was longer than yesterday and more demanding too. Quite simply, mindblowing riding. Tonight’s stop is in a truly secret cove, overlooking the Arabian sea.

Adele and have been waking at 5am each morning to meditate, swim and watch the sun rise. This morning was no different and the sunrise was spectacular from my vantage point floating in the warm Indian ocean.

At 8am, we all pulled out of the bike park and began our 210km journey towards Om Beach, a famous beach named because it looks like an Om symbol when viewed from the air. We began with some fast open road riding, but quickly we found ourselves flying through spectacular country lanes on roads that most tourists will never see. I could tell by the bewildered looks on the local’s faces as we rode past that western people were definately not an everyday sight. Their faces looked like they had just seen a spaceship land an aliens emerge from it! Funny…

IMG_1639 Today, I chose not to ride with Adele. I sensed that she needed to find her feet on her own and build her confidence as a rider without feeling self conscious about having me around. This proved to be a good move for me too because Frazer and I rode at the front of the pack, tearing up the Indian countryside with our Royal Enfield Bullets.

Lake sceneAt midday, we found ourselves riding the most gruelling mountain pass on a dirt road. This stretch tested my skills as a rider and there were times where my wheels were spinning in wet mud and I thought I was goind to taste some dirt. I barely managed to stay upright and then my thoughts turned to Adele…I have been riding motorcycles for 17 years. Adele has been riding for 3 weeks! How on earth was she going to make it over this mountain pass in one piece? Massive boulders needed to be negotiated and the stones would give way as you ride over them. Today was trecherous as several bikers came off with a few landing in hospital with punctured lungs and some aweful injuries.

The next piece of riding tested our focus even more. I call it the Highway To Hell. As we left the beauty of the mountains, we emerged onto a highway that surely was not designed for motorcycles. The road was literally falling to pieces and inhabited solely by huge trucks, busses and lorries all looking to kill someone. Warren our inhouse moto GP expert almost legged it straight back to his home country saying that it was possibly the most dangerous roads he had ever encountered in his life.

Indian TrafficRegularly, these slow brutes will overtake each other on a blind rise almost taunting death with their courageous stupidity. Several times today I thought I was going to be flattened as I turned a bend only to be faced with 2 enormous trucks bearing down on me, taking up the entire highway. The only option is to ride into the ditch on the  side of the road or face imminent death! I am not exaggerating… Indian road rules read something like this… The bigger you are, the better as you have right of way.

As a motorcyclist on a freeway inhabited with monster trucks, this felt like playing an arcade game where I was on my last life before game over!

IMG_1626Anyway, Fraser and I made it to out hotel in 1 piece and I waited for Adele, feeling concered that she was either no longer alive or would definately want to go home after such a gruelling 10 hours in the saddle. She pulled in with a smile so wide, it lit up India. She had absolutely LOVED the day and had been hanging out with some sort of gang of girl power (2 other girls) – they arrived with one of them shouting ‘can I hear a HOO-HAH’ with them responding in some GI Jane coded chorus ‘HOO-HAH’. I suddenly realised that my work was done and some sort of marine core girl thing had taken over. I at this point sincerely hoped that no shaving of heads or additional tattoos were going to appear but Adele is clearly elated and addicted to this biking thing.

All is well in Om Beach, Gokarna and at 7pm I am asleep…See you tomorrow…

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Adele gets ready to rollToday is designed to break us all in gently, this rally sees us tackle a beautiful  and demanding stretch of the Western Ghat mountain range on our way to Palolem, our first night’s destination. Palolem is one of India’s most beautiful beach resorts. During the riding we encountered mountains every bit as spectacular as the Himalayas, jus with lots and lots of forest and no snow peaks, due to the reduced altitude.

Having watched the sun rise while floating in the most fantastically warm Adriatic sea, Adele and I were ready to rumble. Bearing in mind that Adele only passed her bike test 3 weeks ago, nobody could blame her for being nervous. However, in true style, she pulled out the bike lot with the 150 of us flawlessly, and has been riding like a champion ever since!

Today we rode 180km in 8 hours. For the first 2 hours, we were negotiating Indian traffic for the first time. There seem to be no traffic rules here. All you need to know in order to pass your driving test is how to use your horn! Seriously though, without a horn, I would have been in an accident within 10 minutes of hitting the road!

Here are some IDEAS about what to expect in Indian traffic. Around any corner could be one of a few possible options:

  1. Car overtaking car overtaking lorry
  2. Lorry overtaking car overtaking tuk-tuk
  3. Lorry overtaking cow overtaking goat lying in middle of road
  4. Tuk-Tuk overtaking dog avoiding bullfight in middle of road
  5. Motorcyclist overtaking lorry overtaking Tuk-tuk overtaking car which has stalled in middle of road
  6. Herd of goats/sheep/cows/dogs/people/procession or festival of some sort
  7. Lorry overtaking lorry overtaking lorry overtaking lorry etc. (you get the picture)
  8. Combination of any of the above – i.e. use your imagination

The day’s ride was a ‘gentle’ introduction to Indian roads with the odd dirt road section. The Indian roads are in terrible condition with potholes everywhere. In my mind, even riding on the tar roads here qualifies as offroad riding…

The day ended with a spectacular surprise as we pulled in Palolem Beach, where we spent the night in a beach hut. Mindblowingly beautiful. We spent the evening getting to know just some of the enormous legendary characters on the trip: Kev, Alex, Toby, Dave, Tim, Rachel, Joe, Colin, Vicky etc…

Palolem Beach sunset IMG_1591 IMG_1566 IMG_1553 Elephant IMG_1542 IMG_1521

We have arrived!

ARRIVAL

After a long journey from Heathrow, we arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 3am for a 3 hour layover before we caught another plane to Goa. Imagine 40 bikers in an airport bar, having just met each other for the first time at 3am. The party that ensued was fun.

The beach at GoaAs we landed in Goa, India at 8am, I was struck by the humidity and heat. It’s going to be hot as Africa here.

Arriving at Goa airport, we clambered into a bus, after being chased by ‘porters’, who hijack your trolley and push it for you. Of course, this is not a random act of kindness. A tip is always required. So far, I have been in this amazing country for 2 hours and have been asked to buy something at least 10 times already… I am practicing saying NO firmly so that people get it! It’s kinda fun!

Blessing the Bullets ritualWe arrived at our resort hotel in Goa to be met by a group of smiling faces and bearing gifts of floral wreaths. Our hotel is one minute from the beach. Opposite the hotel are 140 gleaming new Royal Enfield motorcycles lined up, each one numbered and with our name on it! What a joyous sight. These bikes are a 1950’s design, but still in production only in India.

Adele participated in an ritual ceremony blessing the bikes for our trip. She has been loving the shopping here. Everything is dirt cheap.

Frazer, Adele and me at our first dinner. Curry!We had an orientation evening with great Indian curry for dinner and then we flopped into bed, jetlagged and excited.

Tomorrow, we learn to ride our Royal Enfield Bullets…

With love from India,

Bruce

150 Bullets

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