If you are the kind of person who thinks that there is a special bike to experience motorcycling in different ways, if you feel that trying new things where they were originally conceived is the best way of getting to know them, if you believe that there are still places to have real adventures… you can’t miss this trip, the perfect match between a motorbike and its natural environment: Riding a Royal Enfield in India, a trip to Costal Ride I will never forget.
When I left Madrid, I knew I just had twenty minutes to go from the arrival terminal to the one where the plane to Bombay would depart, but destiny played a trick on me and my flight was delayed. As I only had those twenty minutes to ‘literally’ cross Heathrow airport, and the train connecting terminals was not fast enough, I lost my next flight.
I spent the night in one of those hotels where air companies usually take stranded passengers, as I had to take an early flight to Bombay the following morning. Twelve ours later, at three in the morning, I was already sleeping in a comfortable Indian bed . After a four-hour sleep I found myself sitting at a table, having breakfast together with nine unknown people to me: the Riders who had been invited by Royal Enfield to the Costal Ride, a trip along the coastline of the Arabian Sea from Bombay to Goa, which would end with the great celebration for the followers of the Indian brand: the RiderMania 2015.
Day 1: Bombay – Guaahar, 275 km
Still feeling very tired and under the effects of the jet lag, I was given the keys to a Classic Royal Enfield by its representative, who was also coming with us. To my surprise, it was just the same motorbike I had ridden a couple of days before in Madrid.
-Alicia, this is your bike. Do mind going for a short ride before we leave?
-Of course not! Do you want to see if I can ride?
As I said this, I though: ‘God, they don’t trust me. They don’t know if I’ll be able to ride this bike’
The worst thing was that I usually find it very difficult to manoeuvre in neutral so I felt they were not very much convinced of my abilities after the short ride round the hotel parking.
After listening- though it didn’t imply I understood- to our road leader’s instructions, we set off. I just tried to concentrate on the traffic of this big city, Bombay, where people drive on the left. I was very careful every time a roundabout came up or when I had to turn. All this plus the chaotic driving of this country, my fear of getting lost -as I didn’t have my beloved GPS-, and the fact that I was very tired made me feel like this trip was the beginning of a real adventure instead of a simple ride southwards.
An hour had passed when we left Bombay for good, along the disorganised highways, confusing traffic, and impatient drivers who were constantly honking the horn to show what they were going to do next. I didn’t get lost, and even though we didn’t know each other, each and every rider was attentive to the rear mirror to find the reflexion of the other rider. I felt protected.
Little by little the lanes became narrower and closer to the sea. We rode across colourful towns, with cows and rubbish at every side of the street. I had never felt indifferent in India, and this time, my fifth in this country, was not going to be the exception. I was going to have the opportunity of meeting native people, something I had never experienced before.
A challenge, an extra adventure. A plus to this trip.
A beautiful winding road across the mountains was the perfect landscape to relax and enjoy the Classic, that I rode with expertise by now. Average speed in this kind of roads is not high as the speed limit is 80 km/h. I realised I felt part of the group, of this special group. I didn’t fall behind, I didn’t get lost. A delicious path that ran up and down the mountains twisting and turning while crossing the mountain pass that made us fell even closer.
We stopped for a drink. Laughter and positive energy filled the place. I took out my Spanish fan, which became the centre of the conversation for a while. Parakram, one of the members of the organisation and the one in charge of closing the group while riding, is my first contact during this trip, and the one who would help me get to know the others. A totally open man, in control of his work, always attentive to all of us all the time, a nice and funny person, decisive and with a strong personality.
Our first day was coming to an end in a little sea town. I hadn’t eaten anything during the trip, I was starving and while they asked for something to eat, Vibrant offered himself to come with me to the town centre to buy a 3G card. I wanted to get through to my people. He would become another great mate during this trip. We walked for about a kilometre talking about politics and religion in India. A nice blister would appeared as a consequence of this interesting walk with my comfortable flip-flops, an inexpensive and unexpected souvenir.
When we were back to the hotel, it was dark already. Everybody was at the beach ready to have dinner. I needed a shower and a good rest, it was not seven pm for me. As I was really tired, I declined the invitation and it took me a second to be in the arms of Morpheus. It turned up to be a great advantage for me: I was the first one to wake up, so I went for a walk and got ready calmly.
Day 2: Gubagar – Ambolgad, 140 km
My bag was ready next to my bike, my helmet: spick and span and my riding gear: on. I realised I was doing everything in a hurry and this ride had been conceived to enjoy every minute, every kilometre and to take it easy. I changed the chip of head and I turned on the ‘trip’ version of myself. The beautiful landscape, the green mountains and the gold fields of wheat from the previous day were all coming back to my mind now. The colours of women’s dresses. The smells of India. I was day dreaming.
While I was enjoying the lovely palm trees outside my room, the riders started getting ready. Parakram looked after me, he wanted to know if I had been able to sleep. The motorbikes were checked every morning by the mechanics who were also driving with us, and who were in charge of carrying our luggage from one place to the next. The route was magnificent, riding along the coast, full of green patches of tall palm trees and tropical forest.
We crossed one of the first wide rivers of this area in a small ferry. Despite the few kilometres planned for today, the beauty of the trip would only come to an end at dusk. After the ride and the lovely photos we took, the prize was an idilic place by the sea to spend the night: a beautiful house in a deserted beach.
‘Tonight I’ll join whatever plan there is, I won’t let this opportunity pass by, I want to meet these guys from the Costal Ride’, I thought. I felt strong enough and relaxed. The night came and found us looking at the sea, with some bottles of bear and some snacks, fused into a simple brotherhood. We shared details of our lives, we laughed and remembered the anecdotes and vibrated again with the photos of the day.
Day 3: Ambolgad – Malvan, 110 km
Again I was almost the first one to be out and about. Sheikh, a famous blogger who was travelling with us is also ready. He did not talk much, but he was very kind. I must say that everyone, without exception, was really well-educated and polite.
We left our bikes on one side of the route and went for a walk with an improvised local tourist guide to a cliff from which we could enjoy the seven kilometres of unspoilt beach
In front of us the splendid Arabian Sea, cristal water and the heat… that invited to sunbathe. These minutes staring into the distance brought back the feeling I had some time before: I felt so lucky to be there at that very moment.
Jaskhirat helped me with my bike which was in a complicated place. He manoeuvred it as if it were a bicycle. As I looked astonishingly at him, so he told me his family had always had Royal Enfield motorbikes, he was born among them. Every person of the group had an interesting background. I felt really helpless and frustrated because I couldn’t speak English better, I would have liked to ask them hundreds, thousands of questions more.
We set off again. We crossed two big rivers, which ran into the sea at our wharf. While we were waiting for incoming cars to leave the ferry and prepared ourselves to board, we took pictures as invisible connections started growing between the members of this event. ‘The magic of motorbikes’,I thought. ‘It will always be like this, beyond the fact that the only thing we may have in common might be this love for bikes.’
Paradise was waiting for us at the end of the route today, sand under our feet. We felt more relaxed and comfortable with the group, so we stopped to take great pics, we overtook each other, we enjoyed every meter ridden. I felt one of them, I loved that feeling of being there, of being part of this incredible group. That was the funniest night of the trip. Food, sweet Indian ron shots and big dozes of beer. The incomparable Parakram made us burst into laughter and everyone joined in and enjoyed it.
Day 4: Malvan – Vagator, 105 km.
Back on the road, just a few kilometres away from the RiderMania. The Royal Enfield is a perfect motorbike for this kind of trips, ideal for the irregular routes of India, its engine works perfectly well at low revolutions, you can be riding it in forth gear and brake suddenly without coming to a full stop. It speeds up again and that particular sound of the exhaust pipe I will never forget, comes back. It is rustic, without electronics or ABS, this bike is an authentic experience. In addition, the position of the handlebar, allowing a straight back, and a comfortable seat help soften the effects of the irregular streets. What’s more, the big wheels make it perfect to overcome any kind of road.
Vikram and his inseparable friend, Shirker, a great designer of mandalas and oneiric scenes, were always look out for me. It was just one afternoon, after the ride, when he showed his work to me.
Trousers were all stuck as we were close to the coast, I sweated and accepted willingly every cup of boiling tea we took along the trip. Everybody was looking after the others, nobody got lost. Nobody complained about a stop, on the contrary, we took advantage of it and took photos, smoked, uploaded info to Instagram and shared the incredible feeling of freedom a trip to India with a Royal Enfield provided.
When we took the last ferry, we saw more Royal Enfields, a good sign to confirm we were closer and closer to the great RiderMania festival. In a few hours we would be enjoying the big party that unites motorcyclists who love these beautiful ‘machines’ which started back in 1900’s.
The Costal Ride is finish, but the Rider Mania, to be continued.
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