When it rains, it pours.
It was the onset of summer. After a hyperactive month in Varanasi, it was time to leave for the mountains via Delhi. Early morning, I sneaked out of my hostel’s dormitory, tied my backpack to my motorcycle, and off I went. Riding alongside the rising sun is one of my favourite pleasures.
The plan was to halt overnight at Kanpur or somewhere near the highway. A maximum of 5-6 hours a day on the bike is what I prefer. Anything more and the lower back engine screams with pain. Not to forget avoiding the city sun. An invitation to the occasional migraine is never on my list.
15 months on the road: My experience!
After riding for about a couple of hours, having navigated several diversions and having munched on a snack somewhere in between, it was at the bypass of a town when a couple of local guys on a motorbike pointed me out the flat rear tyre. It was indeed. I wondered at my negligence, having failed to notice it. The Good Samaritan also escorted me to a repair shop, a few hundred metres away. As it turned out, the guy himself was the mechanic.
The day was getting hotter and while the rubbers were getting inflated, I realized that I had fallen prey to the classic puncture tyre scam; not that I could do anything about it.
Alteration in plan
It was the end of March and the scorching sun showed no mercy. The roads got better and it must have been around 1pm when I reached Kanpur bypass which seemed more like the main market. The hustle and bustle around was too much to handle and I thought it’d be best to resume the ride and find a place on the highway itself. Hence I continued for about an hour or so until I could not.
The harsh Sun
The minor headache that accompanied me for the last hour had now graduated into a major. It was time for lunch. A huge bowl of chilled raita was gulped down along with a couple of rotis at a roadside dhaba. That didn’t work. My body was dehydrated. I took a pill for the headache and sipped another couple of bottled fluids.
The heat had sucked up all my energy. It had been unbearably hot. I talked to the owner and slept on the chair with my head resting on the table-top where I just had food. As the sun cooled down, I felt better and got ready to leave. A hostel at Agra had to be the stop for the day.
The tech failure
The next few hours on the road were tiring yet beautiful. The Sun was prepared to set while the scenery opened up. I watched the birds sitting on the power transmission lines and I wondered. It was dusk when I finally stopped for a tea break. Soon, I could see the Agra-Lucknow expressway online which I had to join. The highway diverged into multiple criss-crossed lanes and loops and as it is with the Google maps on such roads, it failed. The expressway was missed. The only way to join back was an extension of half an hour on some old route, the locals advised. So it was.
One of my favourite places to be: Pushkar Mela
Human negligence and adaptation
In between all this drama, I never realized about the shrinking fuel in the tank, which was now limited to reserve. That meant around 70km. The road grew dark. My back was hurting. No petrol pump anywhere around. No need to press the panic button too. I had to get back on the main route.
I somehow managed to find my way back to the expressway but the fuel level was now alarming. The next petrol pump was about an hour away, the last 10 minutes being a little off route the expressway. I accelerated at full speed and switched the engine off to cover more distance. And continued in the same way till I got off from the expressway and finally reached the designated point of the petrol pump as directed by Google maps.
I got off my bike and stood in astonishment. The day didnt want to end.
Fate and second tech failure
I was now staring at a dark and deserted area with no sight of a human, forget the petrol pump. Just when I most needed it, Google maps had once again deceived me. I felt scared. I could be stuck anytime now. There wasn’t any network too. I started to retrace when I spotted a village nearby. That was my only option. A little area with around 20 huts; startled eyes all looking at me. They guided me to the fuel station which was a couple of kilometres away. I thanked them and left until I finally found oil. It was time to inhale a moment of respite.
One last adventure
It was the last hour of the ride and I continued with a broken back. This was one of my longest and most tiring days on the road. The thought of a bed to stretch my limbs kept me going. It was about 2200 hours when I reached my final destination.
As it turned out, the hostel I had booked did not exist.
A new hostel and owner had taken over the place while the manager demanded double the tariff it was booked for and was totally apologetic about it. A verbal fight followed. In the end, I had to give in. Red hot, I babbled in anger; headed to the closest restaurant and munched on some food.
I returned to the hostel and stood on the terrace and stared as cars and pedestrians went by. I smiled. A wry smile that indicated no dejection, frustration or satisfaction.
I came back to a chilled dorm room. That was perhaps the need of the hour. It was too cold for me though. But I had to get some sleep and start afresh. The next day promised an early morning ride to Delhi if I were to avoid the heat and the traffic of the capital.
Also read: The longest night of my life