God damn I could use a few more hours of sleep, but then it’ll be too hot to ride, but then I’ll at least be able to open my eyes, but then you’ll enter Mumbai in rush hour, but then..
Thoughts never shut up, so you get up, put your gear on, strap on the luggage, and get the fuck out of there.
I always enjoy that feeling of not wanting to leave a place, but being forced to by the mystery of the places to come. In normal human existence, most circumstances either go from good to bad, or bad to good. It’s rare, and quite beautiful, to go from good to good.
After the few hours of shuteye that I got, it was time to take a bath, put on the lenses, and get going. Thanks to the midnight excursion deathrides that I had with Anis, I knew which way to get out. Google Maps is great, but I hate taking my eyes off the road, so as much as possible, I try to stay away from using my phone for directions.
This is India, there’s someone everywhere to ask which way to go.
Like a true creative genius, Anis’s night had just started at 7 in the morning. I had planned to piss off by 6, but there was no way in hell I could get up by 5. He somehow mustered up the strength to bid me goodbye, and off we go.
But wait, luggage.
This is the only reason why I would not prefer soft luggage over panniers. Hard luggage sucks in most departments, weight, flexibility, repairability, but every time after a super long ride or a super short sleep when I have to fiddle with the straps to get that fucking thing in there, I wish I had paid the money for the big boys.
That feeling quickly goes away as soon as you hit the open road.
Waiting to ride, especially when you are all geared up and shit, is probably one of the worst feelings ever. Impatience gets the better of you, and it’s so difficult to not just carelessly fix everything up and let it fall when you inevitably hit that unmarked speedbreaker at 140 kmph.
A lot of people believe that riding a motorcycle is for little shits who can’t wait for the traffic or the tolls or the trucks. It’s true to a certain extent, but believe me when I say this, riding a motorcycle teaches you the virtues of patience like nothing else. For the simplest demonstration of this fact, take your bike to the nearest track and try to put in a fast lap. You’ll see.
Anyway, where were we, ah yes, the familiar sight of Dehu Road. It’s another one of those brilliant feelings to go on a road you know, especially when you know it’s a beautiful road. Lonavala and Khandala might be excruciatingly overrated places, but the roads that go through them are pretty sexy.
And it was the perfect time to be there.
There was barely any traffic, the Sun wasn’t up yet, there was a chilled breeze running that froze my balls every time I opened up my legs, and I was on a Duke 390, a corner lover.
I’ve been on the old highway many times, this one was special in more ways than one. Generally it starts out interesting, and then it gradually keeps getting crappy as you hit the traffic, and by the time you cross Lonavala you are just tired and frustrated. This time though, I didn’t want it to end.
I was hungry though, so parked up at Kamat’s and put some food in ma belly. The owner of the place had brought his two dogs in, that kind with short stubby legs and fat bellies that scrape the ground every time they walk. They seemed to be in a bad mood, and tried to chase away all the prospective customers coming in. Good thing the little doggies could barely walk, let alone run. Every time they tried scaring someone by lunging towards them, everyone laughed. You could see the look of disappointment in their eyes.
The outskirts of Mumbai came in quick, and it’s a pretty boring but dangerous stretch. The roads there are perpetually under construction, and it’s nearly impossible to pass through without impaling yourself on one of the iron rods sticking out from left right and center. I had nothing much in the name of a plan, just wanted to see my stuff, pack some of it, keep it ready for when I return in a day, and then find a bed to sleep in. The bed part was easy, I just asked the dudes in LOST and got multiple invitations. Shreyas was the lucky guy this time.
My bike was in extremely bad shape, chain set was completely gone, forks were leaking, and the whole thing just felt like a random combination of parts that wanted to tear itself apart. What better place to be then, except KTM Seawoods?
KTM Seawoods is THE best service center that I’ve come across till date. It may not have its formal glory now, but back in the day it was just plain brilliant. The mechanics were the best of the best, the manager knew how to handle everyone, parts were always available, and every time you took your bike back from there it felt good as new. It was that kinda of place where you know once you are in, you are sorted. The mechanic kept coming into the customer area to tell me this needed replacement and that needed changed, and I kept telling him to do what he thought was best. KTM parts are extremely cheap. They may not last very long, but they make up for that by being insanely easy on the pocket.
My time at the KTM service center was spent mostly talking to strangers, who got interested in my bike after looking at those 2 giant spots on both wheels. I told them I’d bent both of them on the Bhutan ride, and they instantly recognized me as the guy from LOST. There are far too many riding groups in the country, some like DARK are known just for raping bikes, some like Naked Wolves are known for big groups going to new places. It feels nice to associated with bunch of people who are known for travel.
All said and done, it was time to get going. But where?
A school friend of mine stayed pretty close to my old place in Navi Mumbai, and I randomly found on FB that it was her birthday that day. Great then, problem solved. Called her up, asked her to ditch office and come back. Spent the waiting time eating ice cream at Baskin Robins, and an hour or so later the party began.
Well, not really.
I’m not exactly what you’d call a people person. I prefer not to speak at most times, and I tend to do weird things at inappropriate times that sometimes create big problems. The friend came in, and we met up at a CCD. Unfortunately the AC in the CCD was bust, so we headed onto her flat. She lived in a tiny 1bhk with a washroom the size of a matchbox, but like with all girls, it was comfortable as fuck, with a nice home feel to it. I used to live in a huge 2bhk close to her flat, and even though I made fun of how much stupid stuff she had, secretly I wanted to live in there.
Her flat smelt of luxury, mine smelt of bed bugs and dirty laundry.
I’m also not what you’d call a drug dealer. I like to think that I am, because I once went into a dark alley and scored some weed, but I have no fucking clue how to roll a joint or really anything else that goes with the job of being a dealer.
The last time I’d met her, I’d given her a stash of weed from mine. I’d spent some 3 fucking hours removing tobacco from a whole pack of Milds, then “processing” the Ganja by trying to cut it into little pieces with a scissor, and filling it up into the empty cigarettes. I was pretty proud of the end result, apart from the fact that when you tried to smoke the bloody things, the cigarette burned out in seconds, and the weed inside just fell cold into your lap.
She had tried too, and failed, so there was some of it still left. Between the 2 geniuses that we were, it was decided that we shall clear out the remaining cigarettes, get the stuff together, and then roll it up into a joint with a piece of paper from a notebook that we found lying around.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
As expected, it was a disaster of epic proportions. Not only did nothing burn, but whatever did burn burnt so quick we had a mini fire disaster on the bed. The smoke that came in was basically just smoldering horse shit, and the weed happily fell out into our laps again. The whole place was filled up with smoke, and not the good kind.
Fuck this shit.
In hindsight, it was not such a bad thing to happen. Birthdays are best celebrated not smashed to bits, especially when you have friends coming over.
After the failure of our expert plan, we were left sitting in there, with no ideas as to what we should do next. I’m a rather uninteresting guy as guys go. I’m not a foodie, so you can’t really take me to some restaurant and expect to have a good time. I’m not into politics, or talking, so I normally just stare at walls and creep the fuck out of everyone. I don’t drink either, so that’s not an option. Some luck kicked in, and she got a call from some friends that they were coming over and we all should have dinner together.
While all of this drama was going on, it was getting dark. Plans were being made with the LOST people about a night out, and I was still stuck in the flat. Finally got to the restaurant, and it was a dry day thanks to some local elections, so no excitement of getting oneself drunk either.
Fuck you elections, fuck you straight in both those Es and also that O.
Every time the conversation gets dull, I invariably end up talking about the rides that I’ve done, Ladakh, Bhutan, the shazaam. It’s not dull talk, but it’s not for everyone. People who are not into travel or adventure don’t really see the point in some guy riding 7500 kms to a different country. Get a fucking plane like everyone else you moron.
You can see it in their eyes, they are fascinated, they enjoy your tales, but deep down they can’t help but think what an idiot this person is.
The friends came in finally, and they were nice people. The lady seemed interested in my repetitive tales of bravery over the road, the guy mostly only cared when the word Royal Enfield was mentioned. The food sucked, and I kept pushing them to eat like pigs so we could get back to her flat where I could pick up my luggage, put on my gear and get going to Powai where everyone was waiting for me.
Where’s that motherfucking bill.
Finally some 8 in the night we made it back to her place. I had already taken so much abuse from the LOST people, and I knew they’ll just murder me if I didn’t show up in the next 10 minutes. This meant no time to put on the pants.
So off I went, jacket, helmet, gloves, boots, and chaddi.
The only good thing about Mumbai traffic is that the people are nice. I guess they have to be, there’s simply no space in there to behave like a moron. You fuck up, you create a billion kilometer jam behind you, and the mob comes and rapes you in the ass, no questions asked. Thanks to this rapey vibe, I quickly made it to Dunkin Donuts, where the fuckers were all on their bikes, ready to get going without me. After the customary shower of abuses, it was decided we shall go to a new place for dinner.
It’s always great meeting old friends, especially the biker kind. There are many different kinds of people in this world, and the reason bikers are interesting is because they are fucking insane. Stupidity is the easiest way to have fun, and there’s no one more stupider than a guy who decides to cross countries on a motorcycle and expects to have a good time.
Dinner and talks done, I dragged my dead body back to Shrey’s duplex apartment. It was a pretty nice place, but some renovation work was going on, and there was water shortage. And it was humid, like a bunch of angry dogs were breathing straight down my throat.
Air conditioning to the rescue.
It was a good nights sleep, the kind where you have no idea what happened before, after, or in between while you slept. Tomorrow was going to be a long day, war was coming, war against Mumbai traffic and Mumbai weather.