I’d like to be a better person. I’d like to be more positive, to be able to see the good in everything, no matter how moronic. Many of the articles on RiderZone are pure rants about shit that pisses me off. I’d like to write more about the beauty of travel and the blissful experiences I have had on the way.
That shit will have to wait.
So after trying my best to incite hate for the India Bike Week and proclaiming time and again that I’ll never go there again, I did. In my defense, everybody I wanted to meet was going there, which left me with no choice but to do the same. I even tried to stay outside the gate and never enter the venue, but then I got free tickets thanks to PowerDrift.
Free stuff kicks ass.
Today I’ll try and share my experience of India Bike Week 2015, where I spent most of 20 and 21st February. I’ll try my best to remain observational, to be as objective as possible, and to give you an authentic view of the festival from my vantage point without bias. But I think we all know that’s not gonna happen.
India Bike Week 2015: The entry
So there I was, standing outside the gates, eating the dust blown up by asshole Harley riders with downward facing exhausts and retarded right wrists. I had decided not to go in unless one of the following criterion was satisfied:
- a. I get free tickets to barge in
- b. I steal the pass from somebody’s dead body
I was looking around for any rotting corpses near the entry, when I bumped into Varun from PowerDrift. Long story short, I won a festival pass for both days, something that’d cost me 3000 bucks if I hadn’t been this lucky. Great success!
There were a lot of counters designated for different kinds of tickets. As expected, there was a whole bunch of them dedicated for HOGs, all completely empty. I went into one and asked if they could help me redeem this pass, they pointed me to a different counter where I could see about 10 people already lined up and waiting.
Stood in line, waited for 15 minutes before I got there. Gave them the pass, and they gave me a paper to fill out. Did that in 10 seconds, and then waited another 15 minutes. Why? Because fuck you that’s why. The dude at the counter looked high on LSD, I kept asking him to look at my paper, he kept looking around at random people with a blank expression, stoned out of his mind.
Finally shouted at him, and that seemed to work. 10 more minutes of checking and re-checking later, I had the blue band around my wrist. I’m not complaining! I got the fucking thing for free, so half an hour spent in line is no big deal. However, I would’ve definitely preferred if the counter guy hadn’t spent the last night snorting cocaine out of random buttholes.
IBW 2015: The food
The last time I went there, I was very critical of the food. Overpriced, tasteless, and above all, scarce, it was a nightmare to spend time over there without dying of thirst or starvation. This time, it was worse. But to understand the whole story, let me give you a background of what happened the night before.
I reached Goa on 19th and literally forced my way into staying at my friend Gavin’s guest house in Benaulim. I’ve spent the last 2 years being in a constant state of bankruptcy, I really couldn’t afford staying in a hotel now that I’m an unemployed blogger.
This was my first time meeting Gavin, I had only heard legendary stories about him and his rides. He’s the guy who completed his SaddleSore run at the age of 51. He’s the guy who did a 7000km Pune – Kashmir – Pune ride on his Ninja 650 without a single spot of bother. He was my host, and he took me out for dinner and drinks.
I don’t drink. I have tried them all, but I never understood the point. The world doesn’t seem better to me when I’m drunk, which I assume is the reason everybody else does it. I think people find it hard to cope up with the stupidity running wild all around them, and alcohol helps them forget it for a while. What helps me is writing, and I’m glad it does.
So there we were, sitting by the sea, munching on Cheese Paranthas and Paneer Chilly. Gavin asked me if I’d like to try some Urak, which is an authentic Goan spirit. I said sure, why the fuck not? He made me a glass with some water, lemon and salt. I drank up, it was nice, didn’t taste like rotting rat vagina as most other drinks do.
So I had another one. And another.
Urak is just 5% alcohol, so I can’t say I was tipsy. My head was buzzing though, and I was having trouble finding good use for my hands. We were talking the whole time, I listening to his incredible stories like a child at bedtime. No matter how drunk or stoned I am, I always manage to have meaningful conversations with people, although I may or may not remember them afterwards.
It was around midnight, the restaurant people wanted us to fuck off. I could’ve stayed much longer, because this is what the essence of travel is for me. Meeting new people, talking to them, trying to touch their soul is what defines the experience in my opinion. Gavin dropped me back home, I collapsed and slept instantly.
I was woken up at 6 by a thunderstorm in my stomach.
Maybe it was the Urak, maybe it was the shitloads of cheese I had with it, but my stomach was a raging ball of fire. I was staying alone in a fucking mansion which could’ve easily swallowed 20 people. There was no network, nobody around. I walked up and down the entire house trying to calm down the storm in my bowels. Took a Hajmola, drank some water, nothing helped.
2 hours of trying to not throw up ended with an hour of doing that. I spent 8 am to 9 am puking away like a teenage girl at her prom, with the difference that there was nobody to hold my hair back as I regurgitated last night’s intake. I hate vomiting, it’s a very energy sapping process. My legs were shaking, I was dizzy, but I was glad it was over with. There was only 1 problem though.
I was supposed to get going by 10 am.
The caretaker of the guest house knocked on the door at precisely 10. I pulled myself out of the bed, told him to come back later, and then went to sleep again. Woke up somewhere around 1 in the afternoon, dressed up, called Gavin to send the caretaker again and finally left for Vagator by 3.
I was weak, starving, dehydrated, and with a 50km ride to IBW ahead of me. Made it there somehow, spent the next hour or so in getting in as you’ve seen above, and then found myself trapped in the searing heat of an open and dusty venue.
Fuck I need some water.
Went straight to a food stall where I could see some water bottles, asked him to give me one. He said you’ll have to get tokens first. I said fine. Went to the token guy and the following conversation ensued:
Me: How much is a water bottle for?
Token guy: 50 rupees.
Me: Fuck it, give me a token for one.
Token guy: No sir I can’t give you a token for 50 bucks.
Me: Why not?
Token guy: You have to buy minimum 500 rupee of tokens.
Me: What? Why?
Token guy: Aisa hi hai sir.
It took me a while to digest what just happened.
To get a 20 rupee bottle of water for 50 rupees, I would need to first spend 500 rupees.
Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t eat anything, so the rest of the 450 bucks would be completely useless for me. I controlled my anger, and walked away. Tried my best to loan some water from someone, but it somehow didn’t work out. Everybody was either too busy, or too arrogant, or too much in a hurry. After an hour of walking around and nearly passing out, went back to the token guy.
Me: Give me tokens.
Token guy: Sir you have to buy minimum of 500 rupee….
Me: I know that dammit, just fucking give them to me.
Token guy: Here you go.
I really wanted to punch in that silly grin on that guy’s face. I’m not sure if it was the satisfaction of conning a helpless chap, or just the fun of watching random people bend over and take it all in, but in that moment that guy was the epitome of evil for me.
IBW didn’t allow any food or drinks to be brought from outside. What you got inside was grossly overpriced. I knew that, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that you’d be forced to spend an arbitrary amount of money to get shitty, dusty, seasoned-with-sweat food that you never wanted in the first place.
I ended up having a 150 rupee mango shake, a 150 rupee fruit plate, and a 100 rupee Banana Shake. Again, I’m not complaining! I knew I’d be ripped off, I knew I should’ve eaten out beforehand, and I knew I should’ve carried my own supplies. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen this level of sophistication at what can only be described as an obvious attempt to shove a hand up somebody’s anus and pull out as much money as possible.
IBW 2015: The Big Trip Cinema
I randomly walked around the venue trying to find something interesting. A bunch of drunk Harley riders were punching each other in one corner, a lady standing on the roof of a bus was shouting some illegible words into a very loud set of speakers, and of course a bunch of “bikers” were trying their best to find out how long they have to redline their bikes before the engine explodes.
Saw the 3 new bikes Benelli had showcased, neither of which excited me much. The 250cc Blackster cruiser has probably the ugliest front of any motorcycle ever produced, which’ll need to be covered with a paper bag at all times. The 250cc street bike was OK, looked a lot like the FZ. The 1130 Trek Amazona adventure bike looked just like the TNT 1130 with a big windshield and spoked wheels. Benelli is yet to actually sell something, not to mention the fact that they’ve skipped on ABS on their entire range of bikes. No ABS = No thank you.
Finally found myself in the left corner of the venue, where there was a small tent and a white Ural motorcycle with sidecar parked at front. Saw Jay Kannaiyan sitting outside, shook hands with him and went in. There was a small stage, with a small screen, with small speakers on the sides. Ace Cafe London’s manager was talking about the enterprise, and I sat down on one of the mattresses strewn around randomly.
That’s where I sat till the festival ended.
This MTM organised event was like a dream come true for me. Met Bhardwaj Dayala, Santosh Kumar, Frank Voellm, Grant and Susan Johnson, and heard some astonishing stories of insanity and trust. Here are some of the people who I listened to:
- Avinash Thadani: Brilliant bloke, loved the way he expressed his emotions and his connection to Che Guevara. His incredible journey through South America was really inspiring, not only because of the problems he had to face along the way, but also because of the childish fun he had no matter how tough it got.
- Sushant Shetty: He’s the guy who rode his Hayabusa from Britain to Banglore in a record time. I liked his presentation, but never really connected with him. His entire trip seemed to be about 2 things, speed and beer. He talked about popping a wheelie at 290 and getting speed tickets and stuff, none of which really sounded like “travel” to me.
- Kedar: Nice chap! Liked the simplicity of his presentation, and the way he spoke of that wordless connection that people across the world have. He rode his Royal Enfield through Europe, and is now planning to go on an RTW trip. His story never got boring, no matter how broken his English did.
- Sangeetha Jairam: Came as a real surprise to me, and to a lot of others! A housewife and a yoga instructor, Sangeetha has ridden through most of India, Sri Lanka, south-east and central Asia. She had a very different view of her travels, something that I can’t really explain in words. A really inspiring story, although it may make you slightly jealous of her achievements.
- Sheonagh and Pat: What a fun little couple! These ladies have ridden their way through almost the entire world, and in style! Watching them talk was like watching 2 childhood friends argue about whose mom makes better food, they complemented each other in an excellent, almost synaptic way.
- Deepak Thimmoji: A simple guy with a beautiful story! I entered his presentation a little late, and he was playing a movie that he created. It was pretty kick-ass, and I thought he was the one narrating behind with his professionally awesome voice. Then he took the stage and spoke in heavily accented English! Lovely to watch him talk.
- Hubert Kriegal: Crazy doesn’t even begin to describe this guy. He’s been riding in an Ural sidecar for more than a decade now, all without a schedule or a sponsor. A very practical guy, it was easy to sense the no-nonsense approach that he lives by. Why did he chose the Ural? Because it has 2 wheel drive, and he isn’t macho enough to drop a big bike and then pick it up!
- Frank Voellm: I’ve been friends with Frank on Facebook since quite a while now. Been following his journey through India on a Duke 390, but didn’t know he was a Ninja traveler since 2 decades! He rode his big BMW all through North and South Americas, getting his liver burst and a heart attack on the way. Exceptional photographer, funny, and a great storyteller!
It was beautiful. It was like in the middle of a war zone, there was a small corner where people were speaking of love and respect and universal brotherhood. On many occasions the music outside got too loud. Even more frequently, some dick sneeze would rev his stupid bike like the dick sneeze he is and I had trouble hearing the speakers on the stage. All I got was a small tent with a few fans and some dusty cots, but I had the time of my life.
Which reminds me that I need to go to MTM. Motorcycle Travelers Meet is an event dedicated to such people. Think of it as IBW without all the bullshit and the showoff. I couldn’t go to the first MTM because I had ridden back from Bangalore just the week before, so I couldn’t really run there again. The second time I couldn’t go because I had no money, even though it happened just 100 kms away from me. That’s the place to be if you are a tourer.
I hope you saw that I’m not complaining! Because this was the most awesome thing that happened those 2 days. I would have loved if the MTM arena was bigger, and had AC like the seller’s area, and people would just leave me alone instead of shoving their music and their exhausts down my throat, but I’m happy with what I got.
India Bike Week 2015: The random things
I think if I’m being critical of something, I should also provide some ways to improve it, for no particular reason. I don’t expect IBW people to apply that in their next iteration, but it makes me feel better that I tried. I’m not complaining! but here are a few ways I think India Bike Week 2016 could be far better:
1. Red Carpet: I don’t know how profitable the entire festival thing is, but I’m certain they can definitely afford to lay a red carpet at the entry and through the central path that bikes take to reach the parking inside. It would not only look cool, and make the ride in much less slippery, it would also drastically reduce the amount of dust in the air.
2. Less music: There was that Red Bull bus, then that big stage with DJ, then that other big stage with something, then that small stage with live music, and then some random dude shouting something into a microphone every 2 seconds. I know people come to IBW to drink, dance and do drugs, but won’t it be better to let them concentrate around 1 or 2 stages rather than scatter like flies all over the fucking place? It’ll give the live musicians a bigger audience as well, which some of them definitely deserved.
3. Bigger MTM: Like I said before, it would be awesome if the seller’s market AC booth could be exchanged with the MTM Big Trip Cinema tent. Buyers don’t need the peace and quiet of a closed off area, they don’t sit there for hours. People listening to the world trip stories would be completely at home there. No need for any chairs or shit, just plain carpet would also do. If the MTM people get that area separated from the rest, I don’t care how many music stalls or loud bikers are there, you could have a fucking riot going on outside for all I care.
4. More veg food: I know it’s hard to believe, but there are still people out there who don’t enjoy munching on dead animals. Like last time, eatable veg items were hard to find at the event. You can have your weird foreign cuisines, and sautéed donkey balls on a stick, but please keep a little simple something for the herbivores. Good thing water was available though, unlike 2014 where I was asked to gulp some beer instead.
Would I go again?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. There’s far too much dick-waving for me there, although it is the perfect place to meet people you only speak with on social media. Like I got to talk to Amrit Mishra, Sapna and Sukesh from TBG, Gaurav and Ashish from RevZ, Al Brad from FindingTheFreedom, Ogden Fernandes from OggyF, and Sigmund and Sharvari from MotoReels. I obviously prefer meeting them at other places where I don’t have to shout into their ears to be heard, but you gotta make do with what you get.
There’s a very specific set of people who find themselves at home at such events, and I’m not one of them. This in no way means that I’m better than them, but just that different things make different people tick. There’s still a long way to go before IBW can even remotely come close to what Sturgis stands for, but I’m not complaining!