Published: January 3rd 2011January 3rd 2011
I’d met one of the guys through a local kid’s library foundation where, like most foreigners in town, I too had been roped in to read a story or two to the kids. My friend (and librarian) Sharon had sent me some Australian story books in the post from Australia, including “Possum Magic”. These books then became donations to the library.
I do digress. This guy’s mates were Royal Enfield motorbike owners and they wanted to form a club. Cautiously I agreed to meet for coffee one night to discuss this proposition. About 5 turned up to the meeting within the hour (maybe Indian time is the origin of the term ‘within the appointed hour’?, although often things can be later than one hour).
That meeting led to my first ride with Jagjit the next day (see blog entitled “Easy riding with Jagjit”). We then all (well, some and some new ones) met again a couple of weeks later to plan a real trip.
So, a three day Enfield motorbike trip was on. I received the following text message the day before from Ani, a 24 year old lawyer, and the main guy behind the ‘club’ idea:
<<Briefing note on trip. Compulsory helmet even for pillion riders, make sure your machine has a tank full of fuel or minimum for running a 300klm distance, carry a spare sparkplug, pls bring ur own backpacks or bags – don’t request ur fellow biker to carry ur luggages. Don’t think alcohol consumption is permitted while riding or simply, no one is allowed to drive when alcohol is in body. Yes we will return the next day as distance is not that far for three days.>>
Eight of us were to meet at 6.30am on the road out of town. Six showed by 6.45am, which is a good result considering the form of many appointed meetings in my experience in India. However, I had badgered on at our planning meeting about being on time, and maybe as ‘elder’ of the group (they were all under 30), I got to them?.
One pillion rider, (Ani’s as it turned out) had no helmet. I asked him about this and he said he had not had time to find one, and that his own had been on loan to friend.
Half an hour down the road I was motioned by Jagjit,
aged 27, to pull into a service station because Lalit, aged 24, needed to fill up with gas.
At a subsequent chai stop, I was just curious to ask how many had packed a spare sparkplug. Noone had. Actually, I was a bit bemused that a ‘spark plug’ had been specified. I would have thought that just as essential for a bike trip could have been a spare clutch cable, perhaps a spare chain link, or any number of other spare parts. But I guess you won’t get too far without spark.
After many more stops and an unscheduled diversion to the Maa Tarina Mandir, which added about 90 minutes onto the journey, we arrived at Tatapani. Tatapani means ‘hot water’, and this place (among a few in Orissa) has a natural volcanic hot spring which has been turned into a Hindu shrine cum temple. There were separate bathing areas for women and men behind the temple. There was nowhere to put your clothes though (just a small issue of missing infrastructure which left me gobsmacked given the volume of pilgrims visiting the place). In any case, soaking in the very warm water was a pleasant answer to
eight hours riding my bike that day.
Ani had booked us into our accommodation. I had asked him during the week before about this, as I was not into staying at an expensive place. He assured me not to worry. It turned out that we were to stay in the Tatapani government run resort. The quality of the rooms was very poor. The price was Rs 2,000 a night for one room. We had two rooms booked for six guys, so not too bad, but much more than I would have usually paid. I had been up the road about 30 klms on another trip and stayed at the Tibetan guest house (Chandagirri – see blog titled “A piece of Tibet in Orissa”), and those excellent and clean rooms were Rs 450 a night. This place had lots of non-required gadgets around (like an air conditioner and fan). But it was the middle of winter, we were in the hills, and there was not even a decent blanket for warmth. Anyway – I do digress again.
The ‘lads’ declared it was time to party. In India this means men drink alcohol and get a bit tanked, telling jokes
Hitching a ride
Jagjit had run out of petrol - what to do?
and at some point disclosing personal secret men’s business. Just like lads anywhere I guess. I went to bed and tried not to freeze. I vaguely heard Jagjit, my room-mate, come and go a few times. At 5am I discovered Jagjit and Ani just pulling up on Ani’s bike. With alcohol in their bodies, they had riden about 40klms up the road, and back, leaving at 2am, and having had no sleep.
Next morning we had another soak in the hot springs. I was relieved that we were going to leave in plenty of time so as to not have to brave the National Highway in the dark. We stopped for breakfast after two hours ride. I was requested to take Lalit’s bag, which to this point had been carried by Lalit’s pillion Parida, and strap it onto my luggage rack.
Some time later I had gotten myself to the lead of the pack, when the others behind me decided to stop for lunch. Then they let me know by text message. I was pretty mad about this and after mucking around I just carried on back home alone. They said they were just 5 klms back, and
Jagjit's carburetor fine tuning
I had gone back 15 without finding them. That was because they changed venue after telling me the place they would be.
On the way back, I thought how it’s always a good thing, when making rules for any event, to have a chance to road test them first.
There are more photos below