It was 1982 and India was to host the 9th Asian Games in Delhi from 19Nov82 to 04Dec82.
Five of us close friends were sitting together on a fine October evening and suddenly there was a bright spark that got us going. I suggested an All India Road trip on our Yezdis (the motorcycle of the 80’s). True to all our actions or reactions those days all responded positively and decided to go for it and attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Delhi. But we would reach Delhi via a circuitous route.
So 3 Yezdis and five friends, all (except the Yezdis) in late 20s started to prepare ourselves and the bikes for the Perfect Road Trip. Those days there was no Internet, no Google maps, no Mobile phones, no Ladakhi carriers. So as part of our preparation we went ahead and bought paper maps of India, backpacks, sleeping bags and some spares for the bikes. The bikes were serviced and we were ready. We had a rough route planned out and had not decided on which places to stay. None of us wished to ride in the dark so it was decided that whichever place we reach at dusk, we would look for a motel and spend the night. This again brought to fore of our motto of the Journey being as important as the destination. Our pattern for the ride was to set out early and ride a hundred kilometres without a major break and then have our breakfast. Let me remind you that there were no six lane highways. Most of the roads were single lane or two laned and our bikes would cruise on 60kms per hour. Our top speed would be in the range of 80-85kms per hour. Anything more would have the bikes vibrating that would leave our shoulders and backs shaken up. Post breakfast we would get back on the road and ride leisurely till we found a decent dhaba for lunch. Have our lunch sitting on the cots laid out and then lie down till the day temperature dropped to a comfortable level as we all know how terrible the October heat is. Then ride till dusk, find a motel and check in.
Once we checked into the Motel we would inquire about places worth visiting with the locals (receptionist, waiters and others) and then decide how long to stay there. If there was nothing worth our while, we would start riding early next morning.
Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of the ride as those days there were no digital cameras and had taken photographs on film and printed on paper. The infamous 2005 July deluge in Mumbai due to a cloudburst swept away all these beautiful memories. However, it being a Perfect Road Trip, we do remember all the beautiful moments of the trip very vividly and don’t need any photographs to remind us. Will try to describe those moments as vividly as possible for you to visualise and be part of our journey.
We had an amazing start to the first day of our epic ride.
One of the motorcycles developed a snag and our departure was delayed by a couple of hours. We did not particularly mind it though and consoled ourselves saying ‘Panvati nikal gayi’ (Bad luck has had its day) and we will have a great ride ahead. At dusk we realised we were in the middle of nowhere and would have to ride at least for an hour more till we encounter civilisation. All of a sudden the headlight of one of the bikes blew and so we placed him in the centre of our formation so he could follow and use the light from the bike behind. In another 10 minutes my headlight blew and I was the rear guard. No we did not have spare bulbs, only cables. As if on cue the leading bike too rode into the dark without lights! Trust our luck. We were wondering what to do when we saw an Ambassador car coming in from a distance. We decided to follow it, till some place where we could find some place to crash out for the night, and off we charged behind the Ambassador. The car driver must have got scared seeing 3 bikes without lights chasing him in the dark and started speeding. We too kept up the speed as we did not wish to lose him. After a few kilometres of the chase we saw him turn into a petrol pump and we too followed him so we could thank him for leading us. The look on his face was priceless as we told him what the chase was all about and thanked him. He smiled sheepishly, wiped the sweat off as we bid him goodbye. Hardly a hundred metres away was a dhaba. We thanked our stars (plenty of them on a dark night), had our dinner and crashed out on the cots.
Then there was this afternoon when we were riding through a forested area in Kerala and one of the bikes had a flat tyre. So we got the wheel off and 2 riders went off in search of a puncture repair shop. By the time they got back an ex Indian Army soldier befriended us and took us home which was nearby and treated us to a delicious meal! He said he was proud to see youngsters riding around the country to learn about its people. This was just the beginning of a series of events which proved the hospitable nature of our countrymen.
This road trip was an eye-opener for us that revealed to us not only the beauty of our country but also the wonderful nature of our people and the term ‘Athithi Deva Bhavo’ (Guest is God).
This was The Perfect Road Trip for me and my friends.