I spent a couple of hours taking the front fairing and light cluster apart to get to the mounting and try to glue it back together with Araldite. I wasn’t confident it would hold but I wanted to get moving, it’s over 600 km of Indian roads to Goa. While attempting to put the front plastics back together Hamza turns up on a hugely customised Enfield Bullet which he has built himself. It’s amazing how bikes attract other bikers. Hamza is really friendly; he works at the hotel but runs his own workshop customising peoples’ bikes. Hamza helps me put the fairings back together and gives me a link to his MeanGreenCustoms Facebook page. If you’re interested in some cool custom bikes you should have a look at his Instagram photos: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/meangreencustoms/
In less than an hour of leaving Mumbai the Araldite gives way and the screen mounts make another bid for freedom (to be fair I hadn’t given the glue long enough to set). The screen collapses, I can’t see the sat-nav and the front brake reservoir (mounted on the handlebar) keeps catching on the screen when I turn left. I wonder if I can get to Goa by only turning right? A better solution for now is to jam a water bottle between the screen and the back of the instrument cluster to keep the screen up. It’s not pretty but it’ll do until I get to a beach hut.
Indian roads, and their infamous users are just as bad as their reputation, if not worse. The combination of slow overloaded trucks being overtaken by impatient cars and vans on blind bends without any care for the oncoming traffic as the trucks swerve around even slower moving cows, ox-carts, tuc-tucs, bicycles, and mopeds who are all competing for the “how many people, animals and goods can we load onto our chosen mode of transport” award. A family of four and a live goat on a 50cc moped was a front-runner, as were the two workman on a scooter with a stepladder held perpendicular to their intended direction of travel, it looked like something from a Harold Lloyd film.
Roadworks have no warnings and no cordons so it would be entirely possible to drive straight down the hole being dug. It was in a huge traffic jam leading to one of these death-trap holes (at least your already in your grave should you fall in) that Brett showed up. There was me, chugging through the sweaty traffic at walking pace, trying not to be knocked off by every other vehicle who wanted to share my tiny patch of tarmac when I heard a “hello mate” to my right. I looked over and there was a big affable Aussie on a very dirty and well-used KTM 690 (the little brother of my KTM 1190). What are the chances? How many crazy fools are riding adventure bikes around India? Loads by all accounts. It turns out that Brett is going to Goa too, and he can actually see his sat-nav as his screen isn’t collapsing so he led the way forward. Once we had stopped for a drink it transpired that Brett was on his way to Agonda Beach in South Goa to hook up with two Swiss guys who he hadn’t actually met, but another Swiss rider who he met in Iran a few weeks ago had told him that they were holed up on a chilled-out beach in Goa waiting for the New Year before heading to Delhi to get visas for Myanmar (Burma). Sounds good, Myanmar was always going to be my sticking point as to how to get across, I knew I needed a government official guide which could cost thousands of dollars, but with 5 or 6 of us we have much more chance of success and a share of costs.
By 6pm on Christmas Eve the traffic was so bad it became obvious that we weren’t going to make it to Goa today we were averaging less than 50kph and still had over 300km to go. Riding at night is a big no-no in India if you value your life. The traffic continues to behave as it does during the day, but most mopeds and trucks don’t have lights, or chose to not use them, it obviously spoils the fun if you can actually see the various crazy hazards of holes and herdsman. We stopped at an overpriced motel (£12 each), ate a remarkably spicy tikka masala and talked bikes, routes, how we got here and where we’re going next. It turns out that, after living in London for a decade, Brett has done the route that I had initially dreamed of following. He had ridden through Europe to Turkey, spent weeks trying to get a visa for Iran, got in on his Australian passport, then went through the ‘Stans (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc) crossed the border into China on the back of a friendly pick-up truck in the snow having crashed on ice and bust his ankle. It then cost him £1200 to be escorted across China by an official government guide for one week to reach the Pakistan border. Again, he got into Pakistan on his Australian passport in the very North before crossing into India near Lahore. I am super-jealous that he managed to get to India by road but it probably would not have been possible for me anyway. My bike Carnet had refused to cover Pakistan or Iran. British passports cause much more problems in the middle East, I wish I could get Swiss nationality!
The meandering country roads which wind up and down mountains between the inland highway and the West coast are amazing. Over 100km of switchback corners, stunning views of palm-tree forests which stretch to the horizon and monkeys (I’m starting to sound like a bad TV travel show). We arrived in Agonda Beach in time for lunch on Christmas day; grilled Kingfish steaks with minted yoghurt salad and rice. Amazing. The two Swiss guys come to meet us. Phillipe from Zurich is over 6’4” with crazy wiry hair, a beard and huge hands, he’s like a big friendly Swiss bear. David, from Bern, is nearly half the size of Phil, and probably nearly half our age too. Both really friendly and, as ever for the Swiss, speaking almost immaculate English. The Swiss particularly always put the English-speaking world to shame. Big Phil and Lil’ Dave jump in and out of English, German, Schweizerdeutsch, and French with sickening ease. We all relax over beer and talk about more bikes and plans. The Roadhouse is a cool street-market style shack “restaurant” just inland from our beach huts run by some Nepalese dudes who look like there all on amphetamines (they probably are). Brett decides that Christmas dinner for all of us is on him, including the buckets of Mojito. He’s crazy, but very generous. It’s become a very Happy Christmas!