It came through a fog, droning, haunting, somehow very familiar, yet completely unknown to me, melodic, dreamy…a sitar, a tabla…in my bedroom? As consciousness came to me, I realized what it was. My alarm. The one I use for gentle awakenings, the awakenings that you know the night before are going to hurt. Like this one, 4:10 am…time to get up; today we are off on another bike adventure.
This, dear friends, is a major drawback of living in New Delhi. If one is leaving the city, one must do so in the dead of night, or face the traffic consequences that can easily add two hours to your journey. Get up, get out, and get on that outer ring road before the birds start singing. If the travel gods are smiling, you will be on the far side of Noida to watch the sun rise, having slipped the fatal strangle hold of Delhi’s traffic noose. Having the saddlebags at the front door ready to roll and the fact that Mrs. R can wake up and mobilize as fast as any man I have ever met are two major pluses. I skipped the coffee, wanting to remain is sleep mode as long as possible and we headed out.
November 25, 2016, 4:40 am, I wheeled Mina (My Royal Enfield Classic 500) out onto road 201 in the cold and dark with The Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary fixed firmly in our sights. We got to the Greater Noida Expressway without incident (well, one, but I won’t mention it as it will surely spark a disagreement between pilot and navigator). We paused to watch the sun come up; it truly was something to behold. As we pulled in to have a coffee and parantha at a road side Dhaba, I realized why. It was a clean sunrise. Sun rises in Delhi are a little muddy to say the least. This one was crisp and fresh.
The Yamuna expressway was as expected, footloose and fancy free and we made some good time. As we cut through the sharp mid morning air, clear blue sky hovered above, smooth grey tarmac rolled by below. All was as it should be; the distant hum of the bikes short barrel pipes, The Beatles in my ear buds and the comforting warmth of my princess bride huddled up and using me as a wind screen. I did pull over once to share my thoughts on the government’s expressions of speed control. Other than that, it was a clean sail to Mathura.
This is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and on a Saturday morning, was filled to capacity with all the excitement and congestion one would expect. Mrs. R and I have rolled through countless hamlets, boroughs and villages astride our Mina with her short pipes rumbling like a mechanical menace growling out some guttural warning of an eminent and foreboding storm. We have become somewhat accustomed to the stares, the unsure smiles and the tentative waves. The boundless curiosity and occasional “Namaste Sir” shouted from the slack jawed crowd as the leather clad outlaws ride through their town on an iron horse. It may sound a little over the top, but if it’s ringing in your ears like a Hollywood (or Bollywood) movie, then try it some time. But of all these cities and towns, we have not encountered anything like this. The streets were alive with every manner of beast and brute, living and motorized. Busses, trucks, vans, cars, tri wheeled delivery carts, tuk tuks, motorcycles, scooters, rickshaws, bicycles and every imaginable size and style of wagon or cart pulled by donkeys, horses, camels, water buffalo and other people, people walking, people running, people standing…people people, people, dogs, cats, pigs, goats, chickens …all moving at odds with one another.
The air was filled with the din of beeps and honks, the mystical hum of Hindi music swirling around us, wafting sandalwood incense prevalent in the air. A beautiful mess. We entered cautiously, like wading into an unknown river for a swim and soon we were caught in the current and rapidly heading down stream. Bob, weave and parry, dodge, juke and stutter. Like a cork in a street gutter during a heavy rain we were swept along. It was bloody brilliant, magic, one of the most exhilarating and fascinating rides of my life despite it only lasting all of ten minutes. When at last we emerged from the other side of the melee, we stopped at a roadside flower wala (and were immediately mobbed by competing factions of the marigold mafia) to purchase Mina her ring of Tagetes. This has become a bit of a tradition for us on longer road trips and like any spoilt child, she expects rather than appreciate the gesture. In order to avoid a turf war we ended up, or rather Mina ended up with two phool malas and we began our final push towards Bharatpur.
TO BE CONTINUED…….