I like long rides. This time, I decided to make it really long, before I kiss my Enfield a goodbye(at least for the next 2 years). In retrospect, it also looks like the trip had great timing, now that petrol costs a little more than it takes to feed a Sudanese village. On the brighter side, self-immolating farmers in AP are not going to afford it anymore.
It took an email and about 10 minutes to convince Swarnesh to join my trip to Nepal. We set off from Hyderabad on a Friday afternoon. Since Nepal was not baaju Secunderabad, nor was it reachable by going seedha (aur dead end mein right), I was armed with a basic map which showed some towns along the highway where we could potentially crash, en route.
Ilayaraja, Rahman, Steely Dan, Metallica and some Classic rock artists were forced to give me company - helps me not hearing the guys honking behind and also gives me the only opportunity to sing out loud with a non-critical audience. As I kicked the engine on from office, I took a nice look at the Kilometer reading and wondered how far the 2nd digit was gonna advance. The ride till the city limits was amusing to the people around, I guess. 2 idiots clad in black from top to bottom wearing thick jackets when it is 42 degrees celsius. One of them had confirmed I was an idiot when he asked me where I was going and I told him Nepal. He was like "Nepal? Kya bol rahe ho aap? Bike se?" - Me: "haan bhayya bahuth accha bike hai" Him: "Haan woh toh hai..lekin.."*scratches head and waves goodbye*
NH7 - the better part of it.
I hadn't yet realized the journey was going to be more fun than just reaching/exploring Nepal. Stops at random Dhabas, villages, chai shops for samose, chai, lassi, roti daal, chicken curry pretty much made my trip.
For the first night, after riding through some rain and covering 500+ kms, we landed up in Nagpur and crashed there after hogging dry chicken and beers. The hotel owner was convinced we are advertising "Googall"by biking through India. We rode towards Bhedaghat the next day, leaving Maharashtra and entering Madhya Pradesh - a state I would go to just for the lassi.
Bhedaghat was a gifted place - fantastic waterfalls and the marble rocks. Since Marble rocks had boats that carried half of MP in one ride, we decided to take a boat for ourself by paying some extra. The boatman was an interesting guy using puns and phrases to describe the rock formations, doing justice to the extra buck, we paid.
This place also served as a holy destination for hindu worshippers.
Marble rocks and the lake
Other than this beautiful waterfalls,
there are 3 reasons I remember Bhedaghat for:
a) The lucky coconuts: Coconuts are sold right outside the waterfalls area with the incentive that if people wish for something and throw the coconut in, the wish would come true. A fisherman stands next to where the whirlpool is that would send any object, including coconuts, to pass through it. He picks up all the coconuts and sells it back to the shops outside. #EpicWin!
b) A dive in time saves nine: As we were boating though the marble rocks, a kid positioned himself on one of the rock cliffs pretending to jump. I obviously screamed for him to stop, so I can click a photo. I did, as he jumped, and the next thing I know he surfaces near by boat asking me money for the picture. I gave him money and he swam back, walked up to the cliff and waited for his next customer (read idiot) Show me the money
c) Chanced upon the board and I expected a room filled with gulab jamuns:
We rode towards Benares, leaving MP and into UP. I wondered if UP lorry drivers sat at Dhabas and discussed how many people they killed that day. Most of the near death accidents for me happened there. Heck - even the cattle on the road were on a mission to kill or get killed. Benares was probably the only place I could have just pani pooris for dinner. And I did.
The next day was about leaving India and entering Nepal via the Sunauli border. After another 500 kms, we stopped at the last Indian town to have chai and xerox the documents required for crossing the border. Around 9 pm, we rode through an arch that read "Welcome to Nepal" - Swarnesh and I hi-fived and proceeded to get our entry permits. We had Nepali beers and Nepali sutta and crashed right across the border.
Nepali roads (Swarnesh in the reflection)
The ride on mountains with a heavy downpour made it fun but slower. After a puncture and its fix...
Nepali kids who were excited about our puncture
...we reached Pokhara - a spectacular location. Another boatman with a brilliant idea - if we go to the waters at 4 30 am, he promised us the best view of the Himalayan range from Pokhara with a reflection on the lake. Pokhara also has superb eat outs encircling the lake.
My fav pic from the trip
The next day, we rode to Kathmandu, another very interesting place. I am just gonna leave readers now with some pictures since the post is already quite ....yaawwwnn
Paragliding at Sarangkot
A buddhist temple atop ~200 steps
Many more punctures, lassis, chais, suttas, beers, conversations with people, dhabas, quick peeks at IPL scores on mini-television sets later...
A boy from MP rolling tobacco (He tells me he also goes to school)
...we reached Hyderabad on the 11th day. As I slept, I wished I never stop riding...As I woke up, I remembered I had a job and got to work. Sigh.
Found this on the notice board at a harley rental in Nevada:
You don't stop riding because you become old - You get old because you stop riding
Not much of a quotes guy since I always have my own crap to give - But here are the last lines from one of my all time favorite movies....
You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don't ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older... some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you'll realize it's just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it's only one or two things. With me, I think it's one.
-The Hurt Locker
And with that, he returns to the roads of the war torn country with his bomb-proof suit on...
What happens whenever I read these lines:
1) Reminds me that sometimes, it's important you know what you really wanna do... 2) ...and sometimes you have no fucking clue what it is.
*Goes back to his coffee, Internet and a motorcycle ride....*
This post ain't named so cuz it's a sequence of the previous post, but when SRK names a movie Don2 with no relevance to the first one, so can I...
With each step, bus journey, matatu ride and a random conversation with an African , you come to realize that you're in a different continent and all the travel is quite fatal to prejudice. As any other travel experience, you will be baffled at the diversity of the people - Nigeria alone has 510 live languages with 250 ethnic groups. And within Kenya, there are 42 different tribes with several thousand different clans who do not speak the same language. And overall, I've never seen a race of people who've got a better sense of humor than the Africans.
Some random observations and #TIA moments (in no particular order, just like my room)
- A guy at the Maasai market guy saw my t-shirt (that read "Being Human") and chased me yelling "Hey brotha, if you really wanna be human, why don't you give me some cash?" - I figured Karma is a bitch, given that Salman Khan killed the "Black Buck". Just saying...
- As I heard about the reversed dowry system in most parts of Africa, I could not stop but imagine a Reddy daddy with 2 kids, a girl and a boy where the son marries an African woman and the daughter, a Telugu boy. Jokes apart, I would love to see that happen.
- Everyday, as I walked back from work, I would notice a cool gang of friends chatting with each other, sitting on their motorcycles. Only when one of them approached me and asked if he could drop me, did I realize that they were actually "transport". The "boda-boda" is an insanely phenomenal system in East Africa where people drop other people on a motorcycle or a bicycle for a fee. Legend has it that when a machaan was approached by a boda-boda, he told him poda-poda. And yes, the name stuck.
- And everyday, as I walked back from work, I would also notice a cool gang of women at the crossroads, waiting to get into new cars, everyday. You get the drift. But unlike in (most parts of)India, women in Nairobi choose to do it themselves for an extra buck. Although some things like an extra dash of lipstick, high heeled boots and gawdy dressing remains consistently the same.
- Modern day African women change their hairstyles every week. Got my bubble burst once when a random chick said hi to me and then I realize I failed to recognize my own colleague. Accra, Ghana has more salons/sq km than any other place in the world. Speaking of Accra and shops, they have phrases as names of their shops and it always is, in praise of the Lord.
- Safaris don't get any better anywhere else - waking up to see zebras and wildebeests a few metres outside your tent and chasing down a cheetah chasing its prey were probably the best parts of my trip.
- During the safari, we went deep inside the wild in search of lions and we ended up seeing a Maasai dude chilling with his cattle, unarmed. Take that superheroes! Maasai tribes kill lions but live in fear of termites. They literally, scale new heights, in securing more girlfriends by jumping as high as they can.
- Africans are the best dancers. Ever. A personal must-do recommendation is to walk into a bar and witness Africans dance for Shakira's waka waka song. The speed at which women can shake their butt, rivals the hummingbird's wing flap. Interestingly, slow reggae dance is also amazing to look at. Overall, I think they are the most uninhibited and awesome dancers.
- If you thought the movie Madagascar was funny, you should read the story of a former DJ who organized a coup there to became the president of Madagascar. Can you imagine that happening in India?
- India will look like a reasonably honest country with not so many issues, if you end up here > Nigerian cops will simply stop cars and ask for money, without a reason > When asked why I was being charged for an extra $30 for my visa to Ghana, the woman simply said "Do you wanna go to Ghana or not?"
Weddings, food, religious practices, clothing and many other aspects are mind blowingly different and unique out here. Guess there is only so much I can recollect today...Can't wait for Tanzania feb '12.
The final pain of a mother's yell
the end of a hiccup you can't tell
The final seconds of the exam,
the confession of a friend's sham
Scraped knees, broken chin,
those wounds on the skin
Gone with the wind...
The final vision of the breathless,
as the mortuary's ajar door passes
The untasted drops of the vintage,
as the glass shatters on the floorage
The last rice that nourished the departed
the last ice that unfulfilled the besotted
Gone with the wind...
The final step of the vagabond,
the last sex with the blonde
That final puff of the last cigarette,
those promises that you unkept
The end of an indulgence,
the beginning of temptation
Gone with the returning wind...
My 2 paisas: Humans have always known to deal well with things that they know have ended. They could end so well or end so bad, but that doesn't matter. What bothers mankind are those things that can be had or done again, for one last time. That last time, which comes again, and again...and again. Aaah those evil returning winds
I definitely did not feel like the white guy when the Kenyan immigration officer reduced my visa from 3 months to a month. Wonder what the Patels did to Africa. Surds, though stick to their culture of driving gypsies in any part of the world.
The city's cost of living is freaking high. Given my limited per diem....
60 Rs. for a bottle of water (Strategy: Camel up and drink water from the office) 100 Rs for toothpaste (Strategy: Squeeze tube mildly from bottom and flatten slowly as you go up) 200 Rs. for a beer (Strategy: No compromise on beers) 120 Rs. for a small hand sanitizer (Strategy: Who the fuck wants a sanitizer. Use jeans pant to rub)
Nairobi is a very interesting city with 50% of their population living in slums and earning less than 40 Rs. a day. If that wasn't enough, they occupy only about 5% of the area thanks to deforestation and urban settlements.
Crime is inevitable in this city. Although one dude was polite in letting me know that I need to give him my bag. He gave up after following me for a few steps. Hordes of people come physically close and ask(beg) you for soda, cash or whatever you have. I do not quite blame them. The police is corrupt (more than in India) and a cop stopped my van and asked my driver for money. A beggar with uniform and authority. Period. My driver simply said he has no cash and drove ahead.
My service apartment is comfortable with one exception. No a/c or fan and the room temperature is what I get to live with. Bright spot: Shereen looks hot and attractive (one of the 3 caretakers of the apartments, on rotation basis).
The city is crazy about football. About 500 people filled the streets and screamed their lungs out in the center of the city[Video link]. Kenyan beer tastes good. The toilets have no separation. In India, I wouldn't hesitate to open my fly out, but here, I prefer using the enclosed loos, given the certain projected inferiority complex - thanks to Russel Peters and others.