Everything seemed to be from a film set.
The tuk-tuk ride to Bangalore station, with three middle-aged, slightly oversized and highly excited travellers; I think the scene was titled “tightly squeezed ‘fun’ enjoyed in very small space”. The station frontage – pure Raj. The seemingly chaotic lines, swirls and eddies of people, packages, crates and bicycles – a BBC study on the migration patterns of birds.
Everyone seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going and what time they needed to be there. These “three idiots abroad” through persistence, universal gesticulations and laughter managed to not only meet up with the missing two group members but catch the right train to Mysore. What an incredible ride.
I was about to embark on my first Indian adventure – on reflection, it had already started, way before I acknowledged it. Visa, inoculations, air tickets, transfers, fundraising, passing my motorbike test (completed 3 months before I arrived) should have alerted me that all that I knew as ‘right’, all that I knew as ‘normal’ and all values that I assumed as shared were about to be challenged and literally turned upside down. Life changing.
The unquenchable curiosity of our travel companions was, at first – when observed through our and judgmental eyes – highly intrusive, passive/aggressive and by our choice, uncomfortable. All these thoughts now seem ludicrous and petty. The genuine and unquestionable kindness and decency of every Indian I’ve met undoes in a heartbeat the damage and prejudices we have woven into us from an early age.
Back to the script. The onboard presence of five large white people seemed to spread like the fire of a mis-chewed chili. We were very soon surrounded by children of every description. Pointing at us, touching us and asking us to speak English to them. We had merchants trying to provide us with shiny shoes, scarves, sunglasses or freshly cooked dahl and rice. We knew it was fresh as they cooked it in front of us on portable wood fuelled cooking stoves. As an aside, it was delicious. A few goats walked by, chickens ran free. Music played, cards were noisily exchanged, we were gently and irresistibly manoeuvered, stop by station stop towards the best location on the train – outside and alongside the toilets! This caused considerable outbursts of mirth from all but us famous five fellows. Enid didn’t write this script!
This all happened on my second morning during my first trip to India. Several visits have followed and each and every one, often on an hourly basis, has made me realise what an extraordinary, challenging, beautiful, brutal and truly wonderful nation India is.
The next 2 weeks, travelling in a group on Royal Enfield Bullet motorbikes was more like a dream than a scripted film. From busy and bustling Mysore to the tranquil and tropical coast at Kerala. Through forests and tiger reserves, tea plantations and high hilltop forts, I fell in love with India, with adventure, with motorcycling and with the incredible and wonderful gift of choice. Subsequent trips have followed; to Goa and to the mighty Himalayas. Each time, when I return I feel dislodged and slightly removed from the reality around me. Beware! Highly contagious!
My dream is to travel there with my wife Deb (again), my son and daughter, their partners and children so that I can pass on some of my love & maybe, who knows, create a legacy of adventure and discovery.
My thanks will be forever offered to Michael Hobbs, Alex Pirie and Deb, my beautiful and patient, understanding and courageous wife. And to all my travelling companions God bless you all. Stay safe and keep the shiny side up.
CHRIS’S ADVENTURE TIP
Whenever you approach anybody, regardless of the circumstances, smile. Even if it feels the most unnatural thing to do. The results are amazing!
ABOUT ‘ADVENTURER’S TALES’
A compilation of recollections in celebration of 10 years of Adventure Ashram, ‘Adventurer’s Tales’ is a true celebration of a decade of purposeful adventure by our charity partner Adventure Ashram, a small but mighty charity.
Complete with some great adventure tips, it not only provides handy pointers for when out ‘on the road’, but also some thought-provoking insights into the heart and spirit of adventure. Written with humour, passion and integrity, this wonderful book is a fine tribute to 10 years of Adventure Ashram. Click here to buy a copy.
If you are planning an adventure with Nomadic Knights, please consider raising funds for one of Adventure Ashram’s projects and help to make a difference to the people and places you explore. Anyone planning an adventure can choose to support Adventure Ashram.