India never ceases to amaze you in ways one could never predict. We spent two days riding in on-off torrential monsoon downpours, after six hours in the wet stuff on day one we were soaked to the bone. Being checked into a swanky hotel through the service lift because the management thought we looked like hobos was our reward! This was Mangalore – a city which Lonely Planet reliably informed us had a manageable population of a mere 300,000 – on arrival, after fighting half an hour into the city cold, wet and grumpy, we discovered the population was 2.5 million!
Leaving Mangalore the next day we felt excited to be back on the twisting roads, three days from our final destination. After fifteen kilometres of beautiful riding the rain started again in earnest – when it starts you get soaked right through in only a few minutes and it gets pretty miserable. We were only setting out to cover 100k’s that day but we were here for fun and after the previous days tribulations – no way were we getting drenched again. So, we pulled over at a tiny group of shacks by the side of the road. To
this day I have no idea if this collection of people, tin and cows in the hills has a name – but the people there were brilliant.
As soon as we pulled up and put our bikes under some form of covering to protect the baggage we were swamped by a group of local men asking about the bikes, where had we come from, where were we going, and most of all; why had we stopped for just a little rain?... We really felt like Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on their Long Way Down trip. We were celebrities for a while!
Taking passports, wallets and cameras out of the bag we took the chance of walking back to no bikes and headed into a ramshackle building that claimed to serve food and drinks. We ordered the ubiquitous massala, paratha and coffee. That’s right foodies – massala was not invented in Birmingham as some snobs would have you believe – it exists in the tiniest back-villages of the Indian countryside and is just as red as it is in the Raj Curry House on Brick Lane on a Friday night, only it tastes better.
For 50p we
drank black coffee and dipped fresh paratha in spicy red sauce – taking it in turns to check on the bikes. We needn’t have bothered as we had twenty security guards watching over them!
After three hours of reading and being full of coffee and paratha we decided that we couldn’t do it all day and that we would have to just brave it and get on with it – finding a hotel on the way through. We hoped the rain would stop the next day and we could bang out some more kilometres in the sun.
On returning to the bikes and chatting in Pigeon Indian/English to the guys they got the idea that we weren’t too chuffed about all our stuff getting soaked again. What happened next was brilliant. Two guys who were wearing rag tag clothes and tatty shoes had an animated chat and then one of them signalled for me to follow him. He led me round the back of the shacks into a row of more wooden shacks; I must admit to feeling slightly apprehensive but put my faith in this smiling old Indian fellow and followed through the puddles and dirt to
his mate’s makeshift shop. At this point the poor old man with tatty shoes pulled out 20 rupees from his pocket, gave it to his mate and exchanged it for three meters of new clear plastic – refusing my offered re-imbursement he veritably jogged back to the bikes looking proud as punch. Between the 10 of us we waterproofed our luggage – told ourselves to man up and get wet and got ready for the road. All the boys in the middle of nowhere with tatty shoes wanted in return was a photo of us all together, and a couple of smokes. They became legends. 10 minutes into the ride and 5 kilometres down the road, it stopped raining, and never rained again while were in India. Excellent.
Tot: 1.975s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 19; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0302s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb