When I said 8hrs, I meant 14
So... although there are many stories to be told of my ride with my mate Craig through India on two Royal Enfield Bullets, it is the day we set out for Goa that embodies the whole trip...
The previous day we'd collected our bikes in Northern Mumbai, battled our way out of the city and made our way south, turning right onto the Konkan coast to find our stop for the night. After a couple of wrong turns which led to riding through some beautiful mountain and coastal wilderness we wound up tired and dirty in the small Muslim fishing village of Murud. This wasn't as far south as we hoped and we wanted to make Goa, specifically Anjuna beach in Goa the following day, so that we were on schedule and could enjoy some beach time before riding further south.
So after a shower and some jubilant phone calls to family and friends - "We made it out of Mumbai alive!" - we tucked into some local curry and paratha and went over the maps. To us it looked around 400 kilometres - a daunting task, as even riding reasonably hard and stopping only every 50k for water (it was hitting 37 degrees), we were averaging 50k an hour and this would take us, best guess, eight hours in the saddle. On asking the hotel staff they re-assured us that Anjuna was in fact less than 380k - certinaly not more. At this we smiled, agreed to set off early (8am), and looked forward to hitting the beach as the sun set and enjoying an ice-cold beer (there was no alcohol in this village).
In the morning we packed up the bikes and set off into the already bright sunshine and heat. We had no idea what was ahead of us and what the day would put us through. The first two hours were spent lost in the Western Ghats trying to find Highway 17 - the main traffic artery from Mumbai to southern India. We didn't mind this though, we rode on some beautiful small winding roads through stunning mountains; we stopped and spoke to locals on the road, one of which eventually directed us the right way and we found the highway. South we turned, heading for the promised beaches of Goa and an already needed ice-cold beer.
The next couple of hours were pretty pleasant too - a slightly larger road (still only one lane each way) which we shared mainly with big old colourful trucks with whom we developed great relationships. We would thunder past them winding up the mountain passes - some of the most beautiful riding i have ever done, and then half an hour later as we were snapping photos and taking some water on board they would trundle past us beeping their horns and waving. The Enfields were awesome in these conditions, I was getting used to the weight strapped behind me and as we swung them up and down the winding mountains they thumped their beautiful sound and gave us an unforgettable ride through paradise.
It was after 4 hours on the road that we saw our first sign for Panaji, the capital town of Goa, which was not far from where we wanted to end up, Anjuna - we were using it as a marker point as Anjuna and Panaji were equidistant from our turn-off point on highway 17. The sign said 400 kilometres! We looked at each other in shock and not a little trepidation and instantly agreed - we were doing this, we were going to make it whatever it took, we were carrying on. We could have aimed for Ratnagiri on route but it would have put us a day behind, something on only day two we were not going to consider.
Throughout the afternoon we thundered along beautiful roads, continuing our friendships with the trucks and stopping around every 50k for drinks, smokes and to try and cheer each other up (we didn't take any photos for the final 8 hours), but each time we stopped it became more and more painful to ease our bruised bums and stiffened legs and hands off the bike........ then it got dark!
At 6.30pm we lost the light, we vowed never to ride on these crazy roads in the dark but we guessed (wrongly again) that we only had another 2hrs of riding remaining and agreed to ride on - but slower. So in the dark, on the bad roads and with everyone using full-beam headlights at all times we averaged only 35k an hour! The journey felt like it was trying to break us but we would not give in, we embraced the challenge.
At 8.45pm we crossed the border into Goa. We were sun-burned on our faces, filthy-dirty and exhausted. I think the policeman could tell of our struggles as he asked me for all of our papers for the bikes - then promptly changed his mind and let us go after hearing we had been riding over twelve hours up to this point and still had a way to go.
Morale was high after the border crossing and despite the physical pain we trundled on into Goa, turning off at the right point and eventually, at 10.30pm rolling up to Anjuna beach. We had covered 528 kilometres and taken 14 1/2 hrs to do it - an Epic adventure! We checked into the first hotel with a pool and rooms and sipped on two of the finest tasting Kingfisher beers ever produced! We had made it, and the barman who was serving us had a highly appropriate name: "Lucky". Yes we were.
Throughout the day everywhere we stopped people were keen to hear about our trip and gave us so much encouragement, even if they were looking at us with slightly bewildered eyes, blatantly internalising their thoughts of "crazy, crazy people, do you have any idea?...". Wherever we went people were nothing but friendly, teaching us how to pronounce "water" with an Indian accent "Vuttur" so we could slake our thirst, and directing us towards little old men who sold Gold Flake cigarettes for pennies. On arriving at the hotel one young guy could see what a state we were in and the first question he asked was one word said in a heavenly way - "beer?". This young mans' name was Lucky and he made Goa a brilliant experience - always up for a chat and gave us in three days a full indian education in his religion - cricket!
We spent the following day lying on the beach, drinking beer, having full body massages and congratulating ourselves