Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law. — Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
This blog series is talking much longer than expected to come to the main point. I took so much time to get started and now each segment is stretching into more than one blog ! And our journey from point A to point B during the ride too took longer than expected even when we anticipated the longer than expected thingy.
So this is part 3 of the blog series on my trip to Ladhak with 7 others from the BAC of Bengaluru.
We had started on a Friday night it was an eventful, scary but safe by fortune ride so far. We crossed Maharashtra and hit Gujarat. The June summer of North India is no joke. Many of us had experienced it first hand, this prickly heat. We were drinking water continuously. Our phones would switch off to protect themselves. The bikes’ engines were heating up. But strangely, inside I was all cool and calm and was coping well. As I said a lot is in the mind and once you frame it well you manage well too.
I was having riding skills trouble in the upward curves of the flyovers. The downshift of the gear, trusting the wheels to grip the tar and take to rolling curve at speed safely was not happening for me. All these years of riding, riding in the mountains and yet could not do it at speed. Over taking on single lane highways was another problem. My instincts were to slow down a lot and then over take. Rest of the group had the judgment to do it in a smooth move and maintain pace. This trip was laying bare my drawbacks. The group was ever supportive, not irritated not angry, visibly. But could sense hints(barely) of frustration in jokes that were coming through. Few of them were coaching subtly or overtly on techniques and giving confidence. And we were not even in the mountains.
There were niggles with the bikes that needed a group fix. The roads by evening were nice and inviting, still warm though. we stopped in the evening for tea and snacks. The lead and Badshah of our group had his handle bent. ( so many falls remember ? Read the previous blog). The Ranjikant and supreme leader of the club climbed up the bike and single-legged-ly fixed it.
The heat was such that we decided to make most of the night. Meaning we did not stop to check into any hotel. We rode past Ahmadabad pushing hard toward Amritsar Via Rajasthan. Not a good idea to sacrifice sleep but we felt it was a nice trick then. See the summer sun can make you irrational. May be that’s why Kippling too said only “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.
We rode till midnight and selected a largish dhaba with 8 empty cots ( Charpai ). Had a long big dinner and decided to sleep there for a while. The north Indian Dhabas are the reason for India’s road economy. The trucks stop here and the truckers get all they want at low low charge. If you eat here you can sleep in the open. It is decently safe too I guess. We just parked our bikes and settled down. You get raw basic facilities to freshen up in the morning. Meaning wide open fields and good amount of water. I am sure Modi’s Swatch Bharat and Vidya Balan’s Schouch ads will not change it.
The food is simple and fresh. The people hospitable and in our case very curious. They saw Karnataka numbers and were interested on out journey. Few of them in awe that we can attempt this long trip on two wheels.
The evening before we had an engine smoke out loud and a flaming silencer. I think it was due to the engine oil. We let things cool down and rode off. A change of engine oil solved the problem. Next day was an early start. 4:00 am. We fertilized the fields, had some tea, geared up and set off to brave another day. We covered Rajasthan and split into 3 groups.
Group one wanted a real early start so sped off. Group two did the same after the first pit-stop. That left remaining four of us. A navigator app sent us on a road to Punjab that was like a death race or mad max move stunt. Load of speedy traffic, dust and construction and no laws, forget traffic rules. I think even physics laws were broken. We stopped a lot for water.
As we neared Amritsar the traffic became dense and speed less. By late afternoon the 3 groups talked to each other. The other four booked a hotel for us and we reached them by a miracle and a little help from phone and maps technology.
We freshened dusting off the highway and its grime of four states in a shower. It felt as in the movies. The heroine after a long eventful, adventurous rough road sequence hits the shower and muddy water flows.
I was feeling fresh but scared. Team lead noticed the noise chain was making. We realized the sprockets were worn out. There was a nasty oil leak happening from the discard pipe too. While the latter is just from the chain cleaning and lubing we were doing the former was a concern. To ride in Himalayas with loose chain from a defective sprocket is courting disaster. So first call was to the service station in the city of the golden temple. There were issues and niggles with other bikes too. And oil change for few more. Unfortunately in the center they did not have the spares that were needed for me.
With a bit of forbearing of the future we set out to the Wagah border. Patriotism in the afternoon heat. Poetic. We had to assemble there ~3:30 pm for a show that is from 5:00 pm or so. The heat and sitting on the uncovered stony benches tempered us out, pretty evenly, I guess. We kept drinking water and waited.The show was goodish. Before the march of the guards, there were bits of keep-the-crowds busy and patriotic games. The main parade, flag-removal and the rituals of mocking the other side are, truly, a once in a lifetime experiences. Do not miss them.
Post the ceremony we reached our bikes to find the trip organizers flat tire. Got that fixed and headed to the Golden temple as night had fallen.
The sight of the temple and the water made our bodies relax. The night cooled the air. We were excited and calm. Photos of the temple settle puffed feathers of feelings even now.
We bought scarves to cover our hair/head and went in. Even late night there were people and even with so many people the temple was calming, inviting. The majestic gold, the clear waters, the lighted reflection, a long long day. Tired band of eight riders. We did what such a group does in such a place. We posed, photoed and selfied !
After we had the fill of temple and the sights we went for the Langer. Massively efficient operation. Free, healthy, welcoming. Hot simple meal was so satisfying.
This trip is teaching us so many things. You can plan for delays, add buffers, take contingencies. We do have a DR kit. Disaster Recovery kit. When the flat happened the kit was in the hotel. So we went hunting for a puncher shop. We did not know the traffic leading to Amritsar would be that much. We did not think the Navigators would take us on a road that is out of the movie: death race. We did not know we could manage with a 3 hour sleep on a Dhaba cot. I did not know brotherhood of bikers can be this strong. Expect things to take longer than expected even when you expect them to take longer than expected.
We are on day 3 and any one of the events in these days could have been trip halting or we could have lost many hours. How does one buffer for unforeseen ? How do you know how much to pad in your schedule ? Best not to over plan. Prepare for contingencies. Take life as it comes. If there is a delay so be it. We made the error of hard riding. You must not. Talk to other groups if their rider profiles are similar then expect you will have an experience close to theirs. Keep 2-3 days of slack so you can adjust or have places to drop. We already had let go of Shiridi and Pushkar based on ground realities. Life is like that. You do not get what you plan for but what you get is far bigger and deeper than anything planned for.
PS: 1. first blog on prep,
Tips: 1. The route and roads selection is important. Avoiding big cities and their traffic saves times and energy. We had to change the plan en-route so we changed our timings to avoid traffic.
2. A good map/navigator saves lot of hassle. Some times we were using offline maps when possible online. Jio and other data plans on networks work 50-50. BSNL has good coverage
3. Pack light. A lot of what most of us packed could have been avoided. See the list from previous blog. It may be even less than that