I am not a travel planner. I have never bought a Lonely Planet book, and have never gotten tickets in advance. I stop where I like, and chat to locals and other backpackers for the inside scoop. It’s led to many discoveries and happy accidents that otherwise would have left for a normal trip. And I don’t do normal.
The one thing on this trip that did have a plan was the Royal Enfield. We were to find one in Mumbai and travel along India and Nepal with her. Other than that, it was all up to fate.
We soon realized that the one thing Chris has been dreaming of for years may not become a reality. We couldn’t find a second-hand bike. In times like these, when the one and only part of the planned trip goes awry, it’s easy to get bummed.
Granted, it was a Sunday. And living in Greece, we should know that everything is closed on a Sunday. But Monday didn’t seem too bright either.
Monday morning, we went back to the Royal Enfield workshop. No luck. Another garage. No luck. Asked all the locals with an Enfield. No luck. Defeated, we retreated to a cafe to lick our wounds. I looked up alternative transportation methods. Chris found the Indian Craigslist.
Four messages later, Chris had gotten an appointment to see a bike. We raced home, got presentable, and found our way to Nelson.
We rocked up and, not only was she in great condition, but she was a Bullet. The exact model of bike Chris wanted. She’s loved, she’s photogenic, and she’s comfortable. She just needed a rack to strap our backpacks to. Chris didn’t fall in love with me at first sight, but he did with this bike.
Nelson, with his “eat, sleep, ride” t-shirt, is the guy you want to be friends with. We had never met before, but he immediately felt like an old friend. The same way international school kids seem to have common ground, the biker community is the same . He even took Chris’ incessant whining in stride and calmly explained that there’s no possible way to be on the road by the next morning. The racks can’t be fitted that quickly.
We had a bike.
In celebration, we got my favorite food from the local street vendor: chicken tikka skewers, dumplings, and lassi. I know I know, don’t eat the street food. Wrong.
My tikka man is the exception. His stall is a metal fold-up table with a red tablecloth You pick which stick you want, and he charcoal grills it right then and there. It’s served in two bundles of newspaper; one with the chicken, and one with mint, raw red onions, fresh lemon wedges, and cilantro lemon sauce. It’s the best thing you’ll ever eat. We got four skewers. Next to him, are Indian steamed gyoza with a citrus chili sauce (we Asians love our sauces). Six of those. Down the road is the local dairy man. He makes fresh yoghurt and probiotic lassi. Two of those as well (that Chris ended up needing more than I did if you know what I mean).
Our total? 3.43 euros.
We do our laundry with a one-use packet of detergent in our toilet/shower room. I scrub, Chris rinses and wrings. It’s a time warp to the 1930s.
A sleepless night later, we call Nelson around noon. He had left in the morning in an attempt to find us a rack ASAP, and had been waiting an hour and a half so far. Let me clarify. He set off to the sticks, to find us a rack, which took all day, out of the goodness of his heart. I’m telling you. Indians are the nicest.
If it took Nelson (a local) the whole day to get one, imagine two foreigners trying to find one. We wouldn’t.
Apart from his bike, Nelson and his wife Zenobia gave us tricks, tips, bungee cords, a magnetic tank bag, and our beloved new Royal Enfield key ring. I’d like to think that the key chain will follow the bike wherever she goes and to whoever she goes to, but unfortunately I am now too emotionally attached to the key chain and will be keeping it forever.