Destination Coorg: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127691508-M.jpg" /> I talk to a lot of people in the US and some in Europe. Most seem to have one thing in common, they know very little about India. With the increasing number of ride reports coming out of this region of the world we should change that within our little online community. So before I get started on the motorcycling bit let me tell you a few things that you may not know. Consider the following: India has a population of around 1.2 billion and 3000 years of written history. <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/53948455-M.jpg" /> India has somewhere between 23 and 28 official languages (there seems to be some disagreement as to the precise number among my colleagues but suffice it to say that there are a lot), not including English which is widely spoken in many cities. The names of these languages most people have never heard of. Languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Punjabi, Dogri, Telugu, Kannada, Assamese, Bengali, Konkani, Urdu, Hindi, Sanskrit and many others. Hindi is considered the national Language but as a language of the North, many southern Indians have shunned it. In our office many of the people speak a minimum of 3 languages, their native state or regional tongue, Hindi and English. Some speak as many as 6 languages. Kannada is the language of the state of Karnataka where Bangalore is located and the place I’m writing this ride report from. Many of the languages of India have their own written script while some languages share scripts of common origin. The Rupee paper notes contain 14 examples of these written languages. I’m not sure if that represents all of them. <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/55430160-M.jpg" /> India has 8 major religions. Hinduism being the most predominant but also represented in large numbers are Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and yes, even Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Buddhism is more prevalent in other parts of the Orient these days but was founded in India. India has the second largest Muslim population in the world but it is still dwarfed by Hinduism and the other religions. Judaism has thrived for over 2000 years here. Christianity arrived in India in AD 72 when St. Thomas landed on the shores of Kerala. When the Portugese landed in the 1500's they were surprised to find a 'protestant' form of Christianity well rooted and thriving in Kerala which led to the inquisition in Goa and Kerala. Christianity and Islam have as long or a longer history in India as they do in other parts of the world but Hinduism predates them all by thousands of years. Jain temple Sravanabelagola, Gomateshwara statue: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54448761-M.jpg" /> Belur Channekeshava Hindu temple: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54053505-M.jpg" /> Christian Church in Cochin: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/55402964-M.jpg" /> India has 28 states which are nearly separate countries with Persian historical and cultural influence in the North West, Aryan in the North in general (in fact the swastika that we are familiar with has been a Hindu religious symbol for thousands of years before Hitler adopted and corrupted it), Mongol/Chinese influence in the North East and Dravidian influence in the south. These states speak different languages, practice different religions or variations on the same religion, dress differently, eat different foods, have different traditions and different ethnic origins. The geography of India ranges from the Himalayan Mountains where many of the rides we have seen posted are occurring to the stark deserts of Rajasthan to the tropical paradises of Goa and Kerala. Goa, of course, was one of the centers of the hippie movement in the sixties and trance had some of its roots in Goa. Kerala is in the 'Paradise found' section of the National Geographic's 50 places of a lifetime. And justifiably so (see: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/kerala.html) Kerala: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54453368-M.jpg" /> When it comes to the subject of wealth and poverty, there is a lot of both. All we ever hear about in the west is the poverty. That is only one part of the story and does not represent the reality of India. Some of the richest people in the world also live in India and what we never seem to hear about is a modern middle class that is probably larger in numbers than the entire population of the US and Europe combined. More than 30% of the luxury condos sold in Dubai were purchased by folks from Mumbai (formerly called Bombay). Those in the UK and Netherlands would have read about the Corus Steel takeover by the Tatas of India. Yeah, a lot of the consumer goods we take for granted are difficult to get hear but that is largely an issue of politics more than anything else. Import duties are very high on many products. Like in the 60 percent range for motorcycles that are manufactured outside India. If we had those kinds of import duties it would place a lot of the bikes we ride out of the range of our pocket books as well (having said that I did see an MV Agusta F4 on the streets of Bangalore just this morning). And yeah, the infrastructure is not yet up to the standards of the west but that is changing as the economy expands and the politics of public works receive the attention they deserve. Bottom line here is that when it comes to issues of wealth and poverty, India is not that much different from the rest of the world. The issues are just bigger due to the much larger population and an economy that is still developing in an atmosphere of extremely diverse opinions as to how, when and if it should develop. Wealth, Park Avenue Pune: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/126497066-M.jpg" /> Poverty, rural area east of Mumbai: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/126517117-M.jpg" /> Indians are proud of their food. They have been supplying the world with spices since the days of Marco Polo as far as those in the west know. Actually they have been supplying spices through other trade routes for at least all of recoded history and probably longer. The Phoenicians used to come to the coasts of Kerala centuries before Marco Polo and the early Roman senators complained that too much of their gold was going to India to pay for spices. There are a lot of people who consider themselves foodies who are living in places like New York, London and Paris but these elitists are amateurs compared to most Indians who view the food they make as high art which has been perfected over a period of several thousand years. Indians range from the 'pure' vegetarians who don’t even have garlic and onions because they can excite the senses, to complete omnivores who enjoy their beef and pork just as much as us barbarians in the west do. The recurrent theme through most Indian food is balance. Balance of the ill effects of rich foods with spices that complement and enhance the flavors apart from keeping the digestive system in great condition. Some westerners believe that the spices smother and cover the taste of the foods, meats etc, but it is a matter of perspective. One of appreciating how the spices complement the food and enhance the flavors, smells and taste and mostly, one of being open to new and different experiences. Having said that, be leery of what some call Indian food in the west that is spiced to kill. The vast majority of Indian food is not spiced that hot aside from certain regions like Andra Pradesh. The food we get in the west is mostly Northern Indian with Tandoori ( the Tandoor is a clay oven and so food cooked in it is known as 'Tandoori'), Masala (a combination of spices depending on the region) spiced items, Aloo Gobi, Paratha and Naan. Southern Indian food is quite different with items like Roti, Dosa, Idli, Upma, Sambar, Rasam and Vadha. Enjoying a few starters: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127018424-M.jpg" /> The above facets of India make it perhaps the most diverse country on the planet. When I came back to the states the first time and heard the word “diversity” spoken in the context of political discussion it made me laugh. In the west we have no concept of what diversity really is. We are a bunch of neophytes as far as that subject is concerned. This diversity also explains much of why politics in India are so difficult. You don’t get 1.2 billion people together with such diverse backgrounds and find common ground easily. There are things that all or a large percentage of Indians have in common as well. The focus on education is something of an example for the rest of the world. The focus on math and the sciences needs to be seen to be believed. The west got the concept of the number 'zero' from the Arabians. The Arabians got it from the Indians. Nuff said? Education is a priority for most families from the president (who is also the father of their nuclear program) to the smallest and most isolated villages. I was visiting the Kerala back waters last year which is a place where people are living the same lifestyle they have lived for thousands of years. You’d swear you were deep in the Amazon jungle when you are there. Well, in walking through one of the villages set on a thin strip of land I had kids coming up and asking me if I had a spare pen. They were asking in perfect English rather than their native Malayalam. Later I saw the school boats traveling the cannels loaded with kids on their way to school. Kids of Kerala: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54954573-M.jpg" /> <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54453363-M.jpg" /> The sacrifices made for Education are something we don’t see often in the west. Linoy, the fearless leader of this motorcycle trip, is a prime example. He and his wife are currently living apart for the next four years as she is in the US earning her PhD in microbiology at Purdue. Indians are avid movie fans as well. The largest film industry in the world is located north of Mumbai in an area affectionately known as Bollywood. They produce movies of all varieties in many of the languages of India. If there is one thing that all Indians have in common it would be Cricket. The game transcends every aspect of Indian life. (Nearly) Everyone is an avid fan and most have played the game at various points in their lives. The people of India are both religious and conservative. This is changing but for the most part when you go out to bars you don’t find very many girls (with the possible exception of Mumbai and Delhi) out tearing up the town and if you do they are probably with friends who will keep them away from the likes of you beer swilling degenerates. In the villages it is much more conservative. People have been beaten for being too forward. Bear this in mind, keep a civil tongue in your head and don’t be forward unless you are invited to be or you may find your neck being stretched by an angry mob of friends or relatives. This will be difficult for you single guys as the women of India are some of the most beautiful in the world. However I am reliably told that this conservatism is a result of a couple of centuries Victorian prudishness imposed by the colonizers on the land of the Kamasutra:) This is not to say that Indians are not friendly, they are among the most friendly people I’ve met and I’ve been to enough places in the world to say that with complete confidence. For you single girls, opportunities abound to meet good looking well educated young men. Oh, and the best airline current operating in the world is King Fisher airlines. Don’t take my word for it. Book a flight from Mumbai to Bangalore or Delhi to Cochin sometime and check it out for yourself. It belongs to the guy owning the second largest liquor conglomerate in the world after Diageo and shares the name with the most famous brand of Indian beer, also called Kingfisher. He has a rather nice residence here in Bangalore. I was going to wander up to the door and see if he would receive me but then I came to my senses. OK, one myth I have to dispatch before moving on to the ride. It’s been said by a number of people that India is among the scariest and most dangerous place in the world to ride a motorcycle. I’m not so sure I agree with that. Yeah, it can be a little intimidating at first and it can be dangerous if you don’t keep you wits about you but once you figure out the rules it’s actually a lot of fun. As far as I can tell there are really only two rules that people seem to follow consistently. They are: Don’t kill yourself and try not to kill anyone else. Some have said that the second rule is optional but once you figure out the first, riding here can be quite liberating when compared to riding within the constraints of the enormous volume of rules we have to follow in the US and Europe. In trying not to kill yourself remember many of the roads are quite rough and narrow but even where they are good, many types of obstacles can pop up in the blink of an eye. Obstacles like elephants, tigers, leopards, monkeys and alligators (if you are traveling through the wildlife sanctuaries) and buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep and dogs in other places will jump out of the bush and try to make a mess of you and your motorcycle. People walk very close to the road and often times in the road. You will see bull carts everywhere including going the wrong way down a divided highway in the fast lane. Push carts used for low cost transport will push a load of bricks across your path. Trucks and busses will sometimes be seen on your side of the road coming head on. Sometimes two of them side by side taking up all the available pavement. My advise, keep your eyes open and get out of the way. It’s a great exercise for strengthening one's concentration! Not looking good: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/53947662-M.jpg" /> Might make it after all: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/53943194-M.jpg" /> Just hanging out: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54955943-M.jpg" /> Where are you going: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/54453383-M.jpg" /> Wrong way Corrigon: <img src=" https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/55399115-M.jpg" /> Something to be aware of is the water. As with all tropical regions, if you are not from there (and even if you are but haven’t been back in a while from what my Indian colleagues have told me) be aware that the bacteria are different than those where you are living and you are not acclimated to them. Unless you have a strong stomach, stick with bottled water. Of course I had a brain fart just tonight and ate some Chat that is filled with water. We’ll see if Gandhi will have his revenge sometime tomorrow:) So off we go to Coorg. Coorg is a region in western Karnataka which borders Kerala. It’s famous as a coffee growing hill and jungle region. The Coorgi, as the people who live there are called, speak a language called Coorgi but generally speak both Kannada and Malayalam as well being on the border of Kerala and Karnataka. Some will speak English and Hindi in addition. Coffee beans: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692498-M.jpg" /> There are a lot of coffee plantations that offer what are called home stay’s so it tends to be an area that people go to get out of the cities and back to nature to do a little trekking and relaxing. A little lunch. Linoy, on the left, is our fearless leader for this trip, Abhi in the middle looks hungry and Medappa on the right booked the stay for us and gave us phone support and advise (along with his wife). He and his wife are from near Virarajendrapet in Coorg and they know the area well. <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127698002-M.jpg" /> Enjoying a little road side refreshment. Unripened coconuts. You drink the juice then scrape out the thin layer of coconut and eat it. Linoy says it’s filled with vitamins and is good for the digestion. <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127699225-M.jpg" /> A little detour due to a huge fallen tree across the highway leads to a dirt road bypass. Looks like a lot of people had the same idea. Linoy using the Bullet to punch his way through the traffic: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127699417-M.jpg" /> Abhi ready to rip up the dirt. With that 2 stroke bike of his if I didn’t look I would have sworn he was on an RM250 or something: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127699508-M.jpg" /> I didn’t take a lot of pictures on the way in. We got a late start out of Bangalore because we had to replace the throttle cables on the Bajaj Kawasaki Eliminator I was riding. About the time we got to Nagarhole National Park west of Mysore it got dark. We had another 60 to 70 kilometers to go and it was getting intense. I couldn’t see shit. I’d reach out and put my hand in front of the head light while riding along and it looked like it was putting out light. I was beginning to think that I was suffering from severe night blindness. I could see the road ahead for part of the time in Linoy’s head lights and Abhi’s headlight would light up the side of the road for me at times so I could see people walking as we rode through villages. When cars would come the other way the road had already narrowed to 1.5 lanes of pavement and I could not tell where the edge of the road was. When we pulled into Virarajendrapet we called Medappa to tell him where we were and I asked him about the headlight. Well, you learn something new every day. Seems that bikes in India have an on/off switch in addition to a high/low switch. I flip the on/off switch to on and WOW, what a difference. Seems I’d been riding with only the little parking light bulb lit for the last 20 or 30 kilometers. They say that you shouldn’t ride in India at night due to all the pitfalls. Well if you have to, at least make sure that you turn the headlight on:) So we get close to where we are supposed to be and the road turns to dirt. There is a final steep dirt hill before we get to the home where we are staying. It’s about 9:30pm and most of the lights are off. The only people up are the owners who are waiting for us so we can eat dinner. The Bullet is having a hard time and Linoy is wrapping the thing to redline trying to get up the hill. The old Bullet is barking like a one lunged Harley. He finally has to push it up under power because the clutch is slipping so much. Abhi’s two stroke is doing the ring, ring, ring thing common to all two strokes as he blasts up the hill. We find out the next morning that we woke everyone up with our subtle arrival. Oh well, we sat out on the balcony after dinner drinking a beer, looking at the stars (much higher in the sky than they are in my latitude), shooting the shit and someone comes out to tell us we are keeping them up and that we need to go to bed. We endeared ourselves to everyone staying there that night. What a bunch of bad ass bikers:) The next morning we get up and I find out that half the people staying at this place live within a days ride from Spokane. One guy is from Whistler BC. There is a couple from Vancover BC and a mother and her two daughters from Calgary Alberta. Funny, you come half way round the world, ride to a place almost no one in North America has heard of and the place is filled with your neighbors (relatively speaking). Strange to say the least. Looking off the balcony we see this: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692049-M.jpg" /> And this: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127691750-M.jpg" /> And this: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692735-M.jpg" /> looking back the other way is the highest hill in Karnataka called 'Thadiyendamol'. A destination for the trekers: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692156-M.jpg" /> Coffee beans are drying in the sun: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692358-M.jpg" /> Some nice landscaping: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127692260-M.jpg" /> When we get loaded up and ready to go, Linoy tries to kick start the Bullet and it won’t start. We get to looking at it and discover that it has no compression. We start getting on the phone to his Bullet mechanic to get ideas about what might be wrong. Of course going through the back of our minds is the thought that the run up the steep hill the night before might have smoked the rings. If so, it would mean getting a truck out and the Bullet would be hitching a ride back to Bangalore. We listen to the mechanic. He tells us to loosen up the clutch engagement screw. We think he’s crazy so we start pulling the plug. Of course we don’t have a plug wrench so we start pulling the tank to get at the plug when someone comes up with a wrench. We pull the plug and check the compression. Sure enough there is none. Someone convinces us to coast it down hill telling us it’ll catch. Being the clever people we are we never stopped to reason through the fact that if there is no compression, it sure as hell won’t bump start. Well of course it didn’t. So now the bullet is half way down a steep dirt road and still not started. Linoy and I started thinking about it and reasoned through the fact that perhaps the kick start operates through the clutch and that perhaps his mechanic was not as crazy as we thought. We pull the side plate, adjust the clutch out and wala! We have compression. The bike starts and we are on our way. The roads are narrow coming out of coffee country: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127693096-M.jpg" /> Linoy and the Bullet on the move: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127693195-M.jpg" /> Abhi on the move: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127693302-M.jpg" /> Road hazards ahead: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127693920-M.jpg" /> Typical Coorg farm (I think it’s typical anyway): <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127693783-M.jpg" /> Tearing up to road: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127694228-M.jpg" /> Linoy bought this fine set of Rebook tennis shoes last year in the UK and the sole of one came off shifting the bullet. Time to find a cobbler: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127694681-M.jpg" /> Fresh food back in Virarajendrapet: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127694785-M.jpg" /> Yes, I’m posing next to the Bajaj cruiser: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127694903-M.jpg" /> Those cruiser guys are hip dudes: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127697624-M.jpg" /> More potential road hazards. Wild tusker in Nagarhole National Park: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127694983-M.jpg" /> Another shameless pose: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127695645-M.jpg" /> Back on the Mysore highway headed to Bangalore: <img src="https://ronsatspokane.smugmug.com/photos/127696630-M.jpg" /> Hope you enjoyed the ride. This ride, though an adventure for me being the first time on the roads of India and going to a place I’d never heard of prior to coming here, was not what one would generally consider and adventure ride. As we’ve seen in other posts though the possibilities for adv riding are limitless here in India. With luck maybe this summer I’ll get to see some of what our Indian brethren have been showing us for myself. Hopefully you will too. If you make it over this way I hope that you are as lucky as I have been and have the same great experiences I’ve had. Please come with an open mind though. You will find India to be a bit of an enigma and an open mind will permit some rudimentary understanding of it all and perhaps even some exploration into the more subtle aspects of the place. I have found it to be everything I already knew, have seen on TV and have read about but at the same time (and more importantly) it is everything I didn’t already know, haven’t seen on TV and haven’t read about. It’s a place filled with beautiful places, people, food, cultures and traditions that you just need to see, meet and experience for yourself. I can sit here on the balcony smoking a cigarette (Indian made Gold Flake, just as good a Marlboro lights), sipping on a glass of Indian made whisky (Antiquity if you really must know) and tell you this but you’ll never really know until you get your ass off the couch and get over here.