The God of Optimistic Motorcycle Mechanics – A Journey Through India
We love featuring posts by some of our travel blogging friends, and this story is a great one sent over by Robb of Orient Excess. We love great travel stories that give us a first hand look at an experience, moment or feeling we come across along the road. Sometimes the strangest of things can happen to us on the road. Things so strange we are left wondering years later if they even happened at all or if they were just a mirage on our over active travel happy minds. Robb set out on an amazing 18 month solo motorcycle adventure across India, and this is one of the more unique experiences he had along the way. You can follow along on the adventures of Orient Excess on their Facebook and Twitter.
Wednesday January 19, Udaipur, Rajasthan.
For the benefit of anyone bored enough to still be reading my blog, today I’m going to begin with a story. Of sorts.
About a hundred miles into the journey from Pushkar to Udaipur the bike came over all Indian again and refused to budge. Much cursing and kicking ensued but to no avail, each time it just spluttered and died. The road I was sat moribund on was devoid of traffic, pedestrians, buildings or even the omnipresent cows so this fix really was just up to me. Except that apparently, it wasn’t.
His face was lined with years and wisdom to a degree that only elderly Indians seem able to accomplish, he looked like Gandhi, Gandalf and God all rolled into one.
After about 10 minutes of fruitless tinkering I realized that I had an audience. An old guy decked out in ragged robes and turban had approached unnoticed and was now standing 5 feet or so behind me watching intently, yet silently. His face was lined with years and wisdom to a degree that only elderly Indians seem able to accomplish, he looked like Gandhi, Gandalf and God all rolled into one. I said my ‘Namaste’s but he didn’t so much as blink or acknowledge me in any way. Not particularly unusual out here so I went back to my work but another two or three minutes later he approached, pointed a gnarly finger at where the throttle cable links to the carburetor and said in surprisingly clear English “this part is the problem”.
I looked closely at where he’d pointed and checked the throttle mechanism but I couldn’t see anything wrong with it, and I told him as much. And that’s when he said the most cryptic words conceivable; “you do not have to SEE it; you should FEEL it. This part is wrong.”
More for his benefit than mine I turned back to the bike and gave the apparent ‘problem area’ a closer examination. This took no more than twenty or thirty seconds but when I looked over my shoulder again he’d vanished like an apparition. He was nowhere along the road and indeed, nowhere in sight.
Frustrated by my own lack of success and (I admit) a little spooked, I figured what’s the harm, so off came the cable and the carb and a detailed examination was undertaken but again I could see no fault. Nonetheless, I dutifully cleaned the whole mechanism with petrol, tightened loose screws, bolted the whole thing back in place and gave the kick start one monumental welly.
About 20 minutes later I’d traced the problem to the condenser beneath the seat that had been bounced out of it’s housing and disconnected. The opposite end of the bike from where our grand old sage had pointed.
“As crashes go it wasn’t a bad one at all, once I’d checked the Bullet over and pulled a dozen thorns out of my arse we were underway again..”
It is often said that India is a land of many gods (330 million traditionally), it seems that on this particular day I met the God of Optimistic Motorcycle Mechanics. Long may he prosper.
To add a little more spice, I also had my first proper crash on this journey. Not my fault. I just innocently turned a corner and was unexpectedly given about 0.7 seconds to decide whether I’d rather collide with a bus at 60 kmph, the tractor he was overtaking, or a large spiky bush. I chose the bush. Quite wisely I think. As crashes go it wasn’t a bad one at all, once I’d checked the Bullet over and pulled a dozen thorns out of my arse we were underway again in about 5 minutes, I seriously doubt the tractor would have been so gentle. Come to think of it, nor would my French pillion passenger if she’d still been on the back for this leg of the journey. Silver linings and all that.
I am aware by the way that traffic conditions have proven to be my main topic of conversation but I honestly challenge any one of you to come and ride a motorbike in India for several thousand kilometers as I have, then not talk about the traffic when you get home. Anyway, permit me this last indulgence;
India has no drunk driving laws. Certainly none that are enforced anyway, so anyone wishing to drink 14 bottles of Kingfisher then hop behind the wheel is more than welcome to do so. Not that I’d do such a thing but I like very much that that’s my decision, not the government’s. The downside of all this freedom however is the startling number of car, bus (!) and lorry drivers who seem more than happy to exercise their right to drink 14 bottles of Kingfisher and clamber aboard their rusty deathtraps. This leads to some interesting inner dialogue eg. ‘What’s around this next blind corner I wonder? Is it a wide empty road with gorgeous scenery on all sides? Is it a herd of cows? Or is it perhaps a 45 ton articulated lorry, travelling at 70 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road and being driven by George Best’s Hindu uncle?
I’m going to be a gibbering wreck when I finally fly out of Delhi in 10 weeks time.
I suppose I should say something about this place then. It’s called Udaipur, it’s the southernmost city in Rajasthan, it has a population of about 400,000 and it consists mainly of lakes, palaces, and lake palaces. If you want to know any more, try Wikipedia. Or just go watch Octopussy, half of it was filmed here.
I’m Robb Hughes, a 31 year old reformed hippy and general purpose drunken adventurer. At 27 I embarked on my first travel expedition, a one-man, 18 month long motorcycle tour of India and South East Asia.On this, my second voyage I have been strong armed by my French girlfriend and travel partner Miss Marie-Carmen into maintaining a more modern online travel blog, with articles written by myself, and photography and general curating handled by my good lady. The Orient Excess – the saga of two clueless Europeans who quit their jobs, sold up their home and gave away all possessions to go exploring Asia on a decrepit old motorcycle called Desmond.