MONSOON AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE
Outlook Traveller|August 2021
The Western Ghats are famed for their lush green cover. But there lie many more secrets.
ROHITH ASHOK

MOTORCYCLES AND THE MONSOON?

‘No, not the right pairing’ will be the obvious chorus. It does stand to logic too. It can be dangerous, the roads will be slippery, visibility will be poor. But imagine the flip side. Vrooming through all that slush, feeling the pierce of the water pellets on your chest, the engine falling in step to the rhythm of the rain. And in any case when has logic or reason ever come in the way of a great adventure?

So in September 2020, when a few friends invited me to join them on a week-long motorcycle trip in the Western Ghats in Karnataka, I readily agreed. Santosh, Abi and Adi are seasoned travellers and the most passionate motorcyclists that I’ve met yet. They are also the brains, sweat and muscle behind The Great Indian Trail — a carefully curated and mapped route across the whole of India that uses village roads and trails instead of highways to enable a more immersive and scenic travel experience. When they offered to show me some of their favourite routes of the Great Indian Trail near Bisle and Chikkamagaluru, deep in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, I didn’t have to think twice before saying yes.

Like everyone else, my brain too had been slow cooking for months thanks to the lockdowns and movement restrictions. The chance of being back on two wheels, seeing new places and hanging out with good friends was just the change I needed. We scheduled this ride for October, on the assumption that the South-Westerly Monsoon would have run its course by then and left behind a beautiful and blindingly green landscape. Mother Nature, however, had different plans for us.

STAYING DRY IS WISHFUL THINKING

The day before I set off from Chennai to join the gang in Bengaluru, I got a message that read “… we might have some rain along the way. Carry your rain gear.” Sure enough, I was welcomed into Bengaluru by cloudy skies, and by the time we started riding out of the city the next morning, we were in the midst of a full-blown downpour. Over the week that followed, the rain was a constant companion irrespective of where we went. It would let up for a few hours, we would begin to wonder if we had seen the worst of the weather, only to come down pelting more fiercely to shatter any ray of hope (or sunlight).

This was not my first time riding in the monsoon, and I had arrived at the scene well prepared — waterproof liners, waterproof boots and fully waterproof luggage too. Throughout day 1, I took the trouble to make sure that every layer was worn properly and every flap, zip, clip and buckle was secured correctly so as to form the necessary weather seals.

But a couple of days into the ride, my priorities changed. I realised that trying to keep dry on the motorcycle was a losing battle and went against one of the things that I love the most about being on a bike — the direct exposure to the elements. Since the Western Ghats offer a tropical climate, I could afford to get wet without the risk of completely freezing. And so, by day 3, my rain jacket and waterproof gloves were tucked away and forgotten deep inside one of my bags.

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