Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The bike ride would finally commence. On Day 3. Sky was overcast. Started a little late than the scheduled time - a ritual that would last for the rest of the trip.

First hurdle: How the hell should I get out of the city limits and hit the highway?
The night before, I check Google Maps for Lajpat Nagar, Delhi to Ambala, and it gave a confusing route, completely different from Nokia maps. Called up few friends if they knew the route. Thankfully, one friend's driver directed me to the correct route. It lined up with Nokia Maps. Impressed with Nokia Maps' pin perfect location.

I had tied my backpack on the tank using bungee cords. Squeezed my mobile underneath the bungee cords and kept riding looking at the map till I hit the famous Grand Trunk Road, also known as NH1. It was nearing noon by the time I hit the highway.

Grand Trunk Road
Once the city traffic reduced and the road cleared, I opened the throttle. So did the clouds. I was well inside Haryana by this time. Stopped by at a tea/pan shop. It was situated right outside a factory and hence catered to the factory workers. I stopped there especially because there was shelter as well as plastic chairs where I can sit, take off my shoes and wear my rain pants. I also untied my luggage and covered it with the huge plastic bags I got with me. By this time, I was the center of attraction for all the workers who were enjoying their afternoon hot cuppa with a beedi. In fact, due to my biker attire, they were more amused than anything. I now exactly know how Mr. New-Animal-In-The-Zoo would be feeling when surrounded by the school kids on picnic.

One curious onlooker asked me which bike it was. I said, "Yamaha." Believe me when I say this, the way a Haryanvi villager pronounces a Japanese word like Yamaha, for the listener, it's an experience in itself. Though I heard him, it's still impossible for me to imitate that pronunciation. I love my bike and I love Yamaha. When he said "Yamaha" and the way he said it, for few seconds I didn't know whether to laugh my hearts out or shoot myself. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in a state of trauma for next few hours. Nevertheless, by the time I got ready with rain pants and had covered my luggage in sheets, rain had nearly stopped. Took a couple of sips of water from the water bottle and I marched on.

Arrggh! Call police, fire brigade, FBI, CIA, someone. There's a red bug in front of my eyes.
Just a little ahead, this red bugger somehow managed to get inside my helmet from the minor gap between the visor and the helmet. There I was riding down a six-lane highway at a speed of 85kmph with this red bug just millimeters away from my eye. I some how managed to keep calm and stop my bike at the side of the road. Took my helmet off making sure I don't scare this bug and it doesn't punch my eye or something. Averted a fatality. Phew!
My POV inside the helmet when the bug was millimeters in front of my eyes.
About 50-60 kms. before of Ambala, I stopped by for fuel. Looking at all the luggage on the bike, the petrol pump attendant started asking me about my trip. Then he told me that he too loves traveling that he had applied to the Indian Govt. for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra and that he was one of the lucky few to get selected. We had a good 20-30 min. long chat he told me all about his trip. He took out a piece of paper from his pocket and showed me the entire breakup of the cost involved. The entire trip cost close to Rs. 1,50,000 (Rs. 1,25,000 approx - official fees and another 25k personal expenditure). It doesn't happen everyone that you start chatting up with a petrol pump attendant and he excitedly tells you about his upcoming vacation. Apparently, every year, thousands of people apply to go to Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra but only a 1000 odd people chosen randomly  by the Indian Government (almost like a jackpot) makes it. But it's not that easy. After you hit the jackpot, one needs to go through a series of tests, 27 to be precise, and only once you pass of these medical tests, you're given the green flag. Yes, that petrol pump guy told me all this. So you see, doesn't matter if you're an Engineer from a big city like Mumbai; someone working at the petrol pump in a small will know something that you may not. As they say, you can learn something new from every person you meet.

 For a petrol pump attendant, Rs. 1.5 lakh is a huge sum to spend for a trip, yet he somehow managed to gather that amount and spend it, that's truly commendable. When you meet people like him, you realize that everybody - rich or poor, big or small, have big dreams; everbody wants to travel, seeing the world and experience new things in life; some go the distance, some only let it be a dream while for some bad luck beats down their dreams to dust. He was one of the dozens of interesting people I met on this trip.

Soon, I entered Ambala, and without much of an issue I reached the destination - a family friend's house. Though I met them for the first time, their hospitatlity was amazing. Soon after I reached, the got for me a ton of stuff which they categorise as "light snacks". This included stuffed paratha, sandwiches, cream rolls, chi. popcorn, cheese cutlet and few other things. As if that wasn't enough, had rajma-chawal, among othe things, for dinner.

After that heavy meal, retired to my room with the knowledge that this was the last time I would be sleeping in company of family/friends, and that for next few weeks, my every night would be a check in/check out affair. 

Ambala Cant. was barely 2-3 km. away from their house. As I lay in bed, I could hear the sweet sound of MiGs and Sukhois taking off from the nearby air base. I was too tired since this was my first long distance bike ride in more than 6 months tut the sound of the fighter jets was too captivating. As if it were a sweet lullaby, I slowly drifted asleep. Poetic, isn't it!

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