July 17th 2012, has been the most anticipated dates of my life since past two years as none of these previous years missed to bring forth something that wasn’t a landmark day of my life. I got my job offer confirmed to work in an IT firm as a content writer and I chose to ride down to Mumbai to join the office on my 1968 makes 350cc STD Royal Enfield Bullet. My father was a bit stressed as according to him it was not at all a good idea to ride down when I had only 3 days to cover more than 1900km (official map distance), with just three additional buffer days in hand. Well, well; I was to realize that fact in the very first 200km’s from my home in the Saranda Jungles.
So after winding up a lot many things and preparing for the ride on a very tight budget with just the necessary bunch of things, which I would be needing on the way and after reaching Mumbai, I declared the day of starting my ride to be 26th August, 2012.
Date: 26th August 2012
1st Lap Jamshedpur-Chaibasa-Noamundi-Badajamda-Badbil-Joda-Koira-Tensa-Lahunipada-Barkot-Kalamati-Deogarh-Kopasira-Sambalpur (500Km approx.)
All the things were settled by 6:00 in the morning when Praco came down to see me off (this guy has been at my place to see me off for all my major rides since 10k-Ride last year!) I got into my riding gear and asked him to take some snaps of me, he obliged and took a couple from my Penasonic TZ10 Point & Shoot. I rode off exactly at 7am and crossed the Kadma-Adityapur Tollgate within 15 minutes and reached Chaibasa through Adityapur-Gamharia within next one and a half hour. It was time to take a little break so I had the famous “Gulgula” of Chaibasa with some tea for breakfast.
From Chaibasa I moved ahead to Noamundi on the famous Chaibasa-Megahatuburu road that was responsible for the fall of state government. 8 years ago if I would have come down on the same road with the same load on my bullet, it would have been a disaster.
The road is the finest now, even if it’s in the iron-ore mining zone it is one of the best roads of Jharkhand where a two-seater aircraft can land without any difficulty but only in the day. I stopped on the way and had some water while few bicycle riding students gathered at some distance to gaze over me and my babe. This time I started and crossed Noamundi township where I started my career right after my college as a mineral trader and transporter. I reached Badajamda, Orissa and entered Badbil through the interstate check-post of Jharkhand-Orissa. Now the roads were bumpy and 6-wheeler trucks loaded with iron-ore were driving in a very unsafe manner all around. Scary but never mind if you are on a Bullet, everybody makes way for you.
Till the outskirts of Joda, Orissa I was sure of the route but then I had to ask the truck-drivers for the direction to Barkot, which would be 150km from Joda on NH6. The truck-drivers were amused to know that I was riding down to Mumbai on my Bullet (very common emotion!) I took a turn on the small road that led me through the hilly township of ‘Tensa’ where the Narayanposhi and Koira Iron-Ore mines are situated. Tensa is a small township in the middle of lush green jungle that is closer to proper civilization with a SAIL (Steel Authority of India Ltd.) colony. You must be thinking it was all easy from that turn, no; not at all. First I came across a small airstrip and stopped to take some photos of it (indulging in illegal photography) and when I started, it poured from heaven. After the rain ceased I continued feeling all good that I’ll be riding in cooler weather without any further disturbance as the sky was clear. Little did I expect that I would be about to get the same experience I had at Leh a year ago but with wet soil rich in red oxide.
10Km from the air-strip I passed beside the first iron-ore mine, now the zone of red wet-slippery broken road commenced that was to make a good troublesome experience for me. The rain has already filled every pothole on that broken road and because of the iron-ore fines the path was absolutely slippery. Time and again I had to go through knee deep potholes, which turned my shoes and jeans completely red. Fun, it was until a truck loaded with mineral, braked some 10 meters ahead of me and slipped towards me. Fortunately it stopped but not before it kissed the right side of my babe’s leg-guard, I fell. That was the first fall to put the stamp of the Koira mine zone on me. I managed to get up with the help of the driver and his helper, kicked, climbed, rode. A few minutes later I was in the middle of nowhere, a tribal hamlet where the road was non-existent and red mud spattered everywhere. A thought flashed in my mind, DAMN; what if I fall here?
Next thing I knew, I was in the middle of the muddy road, on my left side with the engine still running; it took me a moment to slip out beneath my babe and get up. The left side of my jeans and rain coat was was all red, so was part of my helmet and riding gloves (courtsey of Arun). However, the knee guards (courtesy of Mad Teddy) and the body armour saved me from any abbrassion but not from the sticky red mud. sing 2 liters of precious drinking water, I cleaned myself partially. Settled and kick started to continue. BANG!!! This time I fell on my right side. Two falls within a meter and in 5 minutes, this called for a little break. There was a small hut where a Ho (that’s a tribe from Kolhan region) woman had her tea stall, she was kind to show me the way to backyard where they had a drum full of water so I may clean myself properly. Clean, clean, all cleaned but still feeling dirty because of the wet cloths drenched in fines.
After a cup of hot tea, I kicked but she won’t start, I sat and rolled her on a slope with sudden gear change in an anticipation that she would start. She didn’t, it was a matter of fuel overflow in the combustion chamber while she was down. I had to pump-kick her for half an hour to clear that extra fuel from the chamber. She started and voila. I was happily on my way. Though the worse was still ahead, Tensa; the township was still 10 Km ahead and there were no more roads but just the leftovers with large rocks and tracks for water to flow. It was the same situation as it is always in Leh but here it was all RED. I somehow managed to cross the path and reach the township. The moment i crossed the Tensa SAIL Guest-House, the road was smooth as silk with multiple hairpin bends. The surface was excellent but the traction of my tyres was gone because the mud was wrapped all around it. I stopped and cleared it with a screw-driver.
This particular path till Barkot was all green with paddy fields on both sides of the roads. It didn’t take me long to reach on NH6 from where I proceeded in a haste to Raipur, Chattisgarh where I was supposed to halt at Rahul’s place. An old friend from IofC Panchgani/Jamshedpur. However, it was already 1:00 noon and I was hungry like hell. I decided to cross the first town and then stop on the road side Dhaba. A decently clean Dhaba with less people in the day time is my favorite eating joint, as not many people stare at me or my babe, while I am on a road trip. One that would serve hot scrambled eggs with some steaming rotis was indeed a heavy task, for I found one after asking at least a dozen road side hotels. At 2:00pm having my favorite food for lunch on the highway was a bliss after that gruelling 300km of wet red terrain.
Here for the first time in the whole day, I was gazing at my babe who was standing tall with the same regalia, which I always admired. Although she was covered in red but she was looking akin to a victorious athlete who finished the marathon. The owner and the staff were bit amused to see me and my babe, they were curious. They asked me tonnes of question and were flabbergasted when I answered them about the mileage.
“Kitna deti hai?” (How much mileage does she give?)
“Zayada nahin. (Not much!)
“Fir bhi kitna?” (Still, how much?)
“Itna sara load le ke highway pe 48-52 de diti hai.” (With this kind of cargo and me on her, she gives around 48-52Km/Litre)
That shocked everyone in disbelief, even you I guess. There is no magic to how I get this kind of mileage from a 350cc engine, which is almost 45 years old. It’s just the way I ride it. After lunch I hurried but 110Km before Sambalpur my front tyre was punctured; fortunately. It was good in way because it was already dusk and there were few shops that were open around the area where the tyre deflated. The nearby shopkeeper was very kind to help me out by giving me a lift to the puncture repair guy on his motorcycle. he even brought me back straight to my babe. I aligned the tyre and rode back to his shop to have some snacks and chat. It was 7:00pm by now, there was no way I could have made to Raipur before 3 in the morning with sufficient breaks and safe riding. The shopkeeper suggested me to put up at Sambalpur on some roadside hotel or lodge. That would be convenient too, for I needed to get out of those clothes and take a shower.
It took me 3 hours to reach Sambalpur for I didn’t want to get into any more mess as I already had a fair share of it. Right before Sambalpur city bypass I met this young man who directed me to a nice lodge, which was not so nice. The lodge was beside the highway so it was ideal for my night stay and early morning departure. The only available room was tagged for INR500 but it was dripping with wet floor so a bargain made the charges down to INR 250 with a parking space inside the premises. What else would a rider in red from red oxide could possibly want. Dinner was overdue, so ordering it to be delivered in my room was more appropriate rather than wasting time in bathing, getting ready and then going out myself for meals. The staff were prompt to get my order and perhaps they have some sort of image of the men like me that they brought me something more.
It took me less than 5 minutes to get out of my cloths and get under the shower. I cleaned my clothes superficially so they may dry enough by morning that I would wear them comfortably and ride. Rest of the moisture would be gone with the wind (reminds me of the famous novel.) While I was busy hanging my cloths on the clean bungee cords the door bell rang. Dinner!!! I jumped to the door and the staff brought in hot rotis and scrambled eggs. I know, I know what you must be thinking, but I can’t help it, those are my favorite. The staff wanted to say something very reluctantly, it was a desire for a little tip may be, so there went a stripe of INR10 to him for tip. He was a happy boy but he was still there so I had to say;
“Aadhe ghante mein aana, aur saaf kar dena.” (Come back in half an hour and clean up the table.)
“Thik hai, aapke liye special intazaam kar dein?” (Alright, shall a special arrangement be done for you?)
“Jo bhi hai, saath lete aana, par accha nahin hua to maar khaayega mere se.” (Bring forth whatever you have but mind you, if its not good you are going to get bashed up by me.)
Though the boy was a bit frightened, he got my point very well.
Dinner was delicious and ample for me. Exactly in half an hour the bell rang and since it was kept open by me on purpose so I don’t have to bother opening it again and get disturbed, I shouted;
“Andar aa ja aur saaf kar de.” (Come in and clean the mess.)
So the boy came in and cleaned the table and went out. The door was opened again and the boy walked in and stood for another tip. I was a bit annoyed but the boy really did everything promptly so I pulled out another ten from the pocket and turned to give him a tip.
Petrified with surprise, yes, that’s what happened with me. It was a young lady standing in my room and it was just the two of us. Seeing a ten in my hand she smiled and said;
“Itne se nahin hoga, mein to poore 500 lungi.” (This won’t do, I would take INR500.)
Awstruck, my brain started running faster than any moment it may have in the whole day.
“Tu galat jageh aa gayi hai ladki.” (You have come in the wrong room girl.)
“Arre ladke ne bola ki tum ko raat ko chahiye. Ab to mujhe bhi chahiye. Accha lagega to paisa dena nahin to koi baat nahin.” (The boy told me that you need company at night. Even, I need one. Pay only if you like otherwise I don’t mind.)
She was getting on my nerve, moreover; the situation required an immediate action. Without uttering one word I went to the door and opened it wide for her to leave. She was smart, she left and I breathed again.
What a day!!!