Saturday, September 24, 2016
High in the Himalayas
I looked out the window of my small twin prop airliner and saw tree tops only 15 minutes into a 1 ½ hour flight. Not good, I figure this is it; we are going down. I snug my seat belt and prepare for impact. I was not surprised that this plane may not get me out of India. The week spent in India had made me very immune to near death activity. The plane found landing strip at the last second and made its unscheduled landing due to a malfunction in the landing gear. I was sent back into the single terminal airport and amongst mass confusion and lack of communication I deciphered that the flight was cancelled and if I wanted to get to Delhi to make my connecting flight on back to the clean drinking water world ,I looked to be shit out of luck. No worries, I thought: What will be will be. So despite no clear communication I boarded a taxi cab for a five hour trip to another airport and made the flight with but a few seconds to spare. No worries eh? This was an adventure trip to India and riding old Royal Enfields through the Himalayas was only part of the adventure. In addition to the motorcycle fun there were the taxi rides which are beyond description but I will try; Have you ever played one of those auto road race video games? Near misses, constant overtaking, Techno beat music, and the most beautiful exposed unforgiving back drop. Speed junky fun that kept me chuckling the whole 10 hour drive into the mountains on my arrival day. The Royal Enfield has not changed hardly at all since the 1940’s. It is a tough, heavy little beast that just takes what ever is thrown at it. It putts right along and with a few motorcycle racing nutters at the controls the riding was a lot like racing your buddies at the little kiddy go cart track. You get the sensation of speed with out actually moving much faster than trotting yak. The bike’s street tires had about as much tread as a monk’s head and minimal ground clearance so navigating the rocky, muddy, dusty and always deadly roads was plenty exciting. Any faster bike would not provide enough opportunity to gawk at the totally indescribable jaw dropping scenery that was constantly abound. I also must admit that I skidded my front tire to a panic-halt mere inches away form the cliff edge that seems to always accompany one side of the narrow road. The big trucks and busses are on top of the food chain so it is the responsibility of the motorcycle to make way when meeting or passing on the narrow one lane, rock sliding, life taking, built in the 1950s with a D-8 Cat trail/path/road. The locals live what I see as a contrasting life of chaos and danger yet they always seem at peace and even in a traffic jam a smile is always near. Truly smiles for miles. I really enjoyed learning the limits of my utilitarian bike and the mountain vistas but perhaps the best part was for me, of course, the cold beer. Big bottles chilled in mountain streams at the most beautiful camps I could ever imagine. Our team of local cooks and mechanics followed us along in vans and even went ahead some days to set up our tents for us. They would get live chickens in town on the way to camp and dinner was as fresh as could be. They cooked amazing meals every night and morning and I happily put on some pounds in one week stuffing my face with what ever was put in front of it. I ate everything and anything, only finally succumbing to a case of the Delhi belly on the flight home after eating civilized airport food. There were a few speed nuts in our group and for once I was glad to not be the designated circus monkey breaking steering yokes and ripping off brake pedals. I only lost my muffler but so did at least half of the bikes. The bikes were designated tour group bikes so like a village bicycle, an easy life they had not. They had some miles or kilometers, I should say racked up on the clock and not one had any major mechanical issue. The mechanics were constantly reattaching mufflers though and servicing air filters. The method for air filter service was super neato: Remove filter and place it over the exhaust tail pipe, rev the shit out of the engine and reinstall filter. It worked like a charm and gave my bike another 25% horsepower which at 145000 feet was probably at least 2 or 3 horse! It really is futile to describe such a place or try and capture the depth and beauty of the Himalayan valleys. You just have to see it for your self. So if you get the chance, buy the fucking ticket and make it happen. I sure am glad I did. I mean shit, I had a giant monkey jump out of a tree right in front of me and show me it’s big red ball bag ass!