As we rounded the curve in the road a small village came into view.
Braking carefully, taking care not to lock the wheels as contact between tyre and gravel surface was tested, we drew up to the side of the road. The village was of a typical style in the North East of India, a few wooden shacks spreading themselves in a linear fashion along the edge of what was little more than a dirt track.
Hand-painted advertising boards calling out to anyone passing, hoping to attract interest and ultimately, revenue from a traveller in need of a refreshing cup of chai or a hearty meal of authentic Indian cuisine, prepared by hand as the hungry diner watches on. Fifteen of us had ridden in on our Royal Enfields, shod in the appropriate helmets, sturdy footwear and protective clothing. To the locals we must have looked like representatives of an alien race undertaking their first contact with humans. The expression on the faces of some of the villagers suggested that this was clearly not an everyday occurrence.
This was the first journey of its kind, a recce trip to discover the wonders of the Seven States of North East India, known as the Seven Sisters; almost one hundred thousand square miles of territory of which the ownership of part is disputed between India and China. This had led to military conflict, insurrection and a proliferation of bandit groups causing this vast area to be closed off to the rest of the world until very recently. We were the first to do this, and we could tell.
This region is one of great contrasts and as I sat with my mid-morning tiffin of freshly cooked momos and a mug of sweet chai I could see beauty everywhere. In one eyeful I saw lush green forests and exotic wildlife along the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra River and I could see that these people seemed to have little material wealth.
In the wooden shack where I had watched the preparation of my food and drink I noted that no one spoke English, and yet there on the wall was a large poster detailing, in English, each round of the forthcoming football World Cup. Each national team displayed in full. I cannot not even begin to imagine where that poster had come from. As we were about to leave I spotted a small enamel mug behind some long abandoned pieces of wood, I picked it up and considered it. I dared to go back into the shack and in my best Indian language (i.e. in English but louder) I asked for, and managed to secure, the said mug. I brought it home to England and can see it now, here on the table whilst I write these words, my favourite keepsake from the trip.
Everywhere we rode, we were greeted with wide eyes and the smiles of people who were interested in what we were doing and the fact that we were doing it on Indian made Royal Enfield motorcycles enhanced our reception. India is proud, and rightly so.
It was a tough experience, exhilarating and I have to admit, scary at times. I’m so glad I did it though, would I do it again? You bet your life I would, I’ve signed on the dotted line to ride across Bengal, my deposit is paid.
STEVE’S ADVENTURE TIP
Take a sufficient supply of underpants (in my case I limited myself to one pair for each day) but do not expect to bring them home with you. Throw them away each evening, trust me; they do not make pleasant travelling companions. Oh, and take some Imodium, as gorgeous as the food is, and it really is, most Western tummies are not used to it.
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.