Friday, March 20, 2015
Visiting India: Riding in India (Part 6 of 6)
As I mentioned in my first post of this series, I was visiting India for my friend Ganesh’s wedding. After several plane rides and a train ride, we arrived in Erode. His family met us at the train station. They took our bags and piled them into the car. It quickly became clear there wouldn’t be room for the two of us as the bags were piled up to the roof.
The family scooter was also there (above pic), so Ganesh jumped on. He was eager to ride. I was a bit skeptical since we were both tired from traveling so long. He started it up, and I climbed on the back. I was slightly worried about not having any motorcycle gear. Soon the heavy morning traffic swallowed us up. It was an assault on the senses. So many sights, sounds, and smells! Honking, people yelling, exhaust, bright colors, and movement everywhere. It was overwhelming! Ganesh was a bit rusty at first, so I became very alert while I tried to find a place to hang on. It was exhilarating. Over the next few days I had several rides on the back of the scooter.
I also rode with Ganesh’s dad on the back of the family motorcycle to the bus station on the way to Chennai. It was after dark, which made it extra fun.
Once in Chennai, we used the above tuk tuk or auto-rickshaw. They were a blast! Three tiny wheels and cover. They were completely under powered for anything above 30kph. The drivers made New York Cab drivers seem calm. It was exciting riding with them as they wove through the heavy city traffic. Several times my drivers darted in ridiculously small gaps and alleys. One time with less than an inch to spare on either side. It seemed adhoc races were always forming between the drivers if one passed another while both had a fare. It was a hoot.
By chance, I managed to get the same driver two days in a row. He was aggressive and it was like being in a rollercoaster. I enjoyed it. He always knew all the shortcuts, and while he drove completely wide open most of the time, he stopped to save a small dog from getting squished by bus once. His non-existent English combined with my utter lack of Tamil meant we couldn’t understand each other’s words, but we still understood each other. The second night in the rain was a hilarious ride others might have said scary. I gave him a big tip. He was really fun.
This motorcycle belongs to one of Ganesh’s friends. It is a Pulsar 150. You can see the common engine crash bars and rear footrest for side-saddle riding. This is the motorcycle I rode while I was there.
I didn’t buy a helmet while I was in India. They were cheap, like maybe $10. The 2% off sale made me laugh out loud. In hindsight, I should have bought one, but I didn’t. I didn’t go to India with the plan of riding a motorcycle, it just happened.
Here is me in my Indian riding gear! I normally wear full gear: helmet, eye protection, gloves, coat, pants, and boots. It was a different experience riding without the gear I've been accustom to. It felt odd. Most people weren't wearing any gear, so culturally it was correct. Some people wore helmets, but most didn't. Only in the mountains, did I see people also wearing gloves and riding coats. I didn’t go far or fast, so I felt relatively safe.
India is now the third country I’ve ridden a motorcycle in after the USA and Canada.
This trip was easily one of my favorites. I really would like to go back; I just need to figure out when it will work out. India has 29 states, and I only visited three of them. There is a huge country left to explore! If you ever get the chance to visit India, do not hesitate just go! I miss all the colors, the friendly people, and the amazingly delicious food.
Again, a big thank you to Ganesh, his family, and his friends for being such great host and making the trip so very memorable and fun.