If you haven’t already, I recommend going through Part 1 first. It’s August 1st and I am in Mumbai. Unable to find a last minute train ticket, I am forced to take a Chair Car for over 16 hours. Sleepy and dishevelled, I step off in Bandra Terminus with an armada of luggage –
- A backpack that contains all the clothes I own
- Two Ortlieb panniers filled with bike spares and tools
- A camera bag
- A laptop bag and
- A custom rear rack for the fatbike.
No Place to Stay
“ No place at all to call my own
Still wandering the world
And friends of mine all moving on
Getting comfortable cars
Getting married ” — Sarah Slean – No Place At All
Through the day I try and get in touch with a friend who had kindly offered me a place to stay. But my calls and messages go unanswered. I am in Mumbai with no backup plan, on a strict budget and no hotels that fit my thrifty budget. I decide to bivouac at the train station as I don’t have anywhere to go and await my host’s call if it comes. Come late evening I find a quiet corner on the platform along a bench and settle in for the night. I am not carrying my sleeping mat and the hard concrete is not easy on the back. Thankfully I have a roof over my head as it rains for an hour. I doze off for a while before I am woken up by a patrolling policeman. He does not appreciate my appropriating a public place. After hearing my predicament and a lot of questions later, I finally convince him that I have no evil intentions and he lets me linger. The next evening my friend calls and I have a place to stay and unload for the night.
Centre of Attention
“ You think that you’re the sun
The whole world revolves around you
The center of attention
And everything is drawn to you ”
— Jackson Waters
The bike arrives on the 3rd and I spend the day putting it together. Varun (from FitTrip Bikes) & I have made a few important changes from the stock version and I want to make sure that everything goes in the right way. This is also my first experience riding a fatbike. Till now I had only read about this mythical beast and how people around the world were rediscovering the fun of cycling all year on terrain like snow and sand, courtesy a fatbike. I spend the next few days riding the fatbike around Mumbai. Yet, nothing that I had read prepared me for the attention that I get in Mumbai while riding a fatbike. People shout out to me on the streets, heads pop out of autos, people swerve cars in front of my bicycle. Questions, comments … compliments. I would have got less attention if I had been cycling naked, I reckon.
Delhi and Back Again
“ Chained to the car ahead
Chest chained to the guy in a queue
Legs chained to the next train that I can’t afford to miss
Expectation chained to the next advert I can’t afford to buy
Heart chained to the pigeonholed they call homes
Health chained to shallow breaths
Sockets chained to mosquito repellant
Throat chained to bottled water
My body chained to a sweltering mass of humanity
My vision chained to the prison they call this city
… This city is not where I belong ”
— Poem I coined in Delhi
Just when I was getting the hang of the bike and the city, I get an urgent phone call from my best friend. His father has suffered multiple organ failure and needs to be moved to a New Delhi hospital. He doesn’t say it, yet I reckon he could use an extra pair of hands at the hospital. I still have loads of gear with me and a bicycle that is not exactly inconspicuous. I need a safe place to store the bicycle and gear for the time I am in Delhi. Thankfully, another friend kindly agrees to host me for a few days and store my bicycle and gear in Bandra. Thank you, Aditi & Kapil.
After another 16-hour train journey, I am back in Delhi. I find hospitals to be depressing, but I am glad to help my friend with what I can. Every morning I commute to the hospital, spend the day there helping what I can and am back at night to get some much-needed sleep. Fortunately my friend’s father shows signs of improving and the doctors are confident he is out of immediate danger. This means I can plan going back to Mumbai. It’s already a week past our planned starting date and retreating monsoons should be making their way back to the Maharashtra coast.
“Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Get up, come on get down with the sickness ” — Disturbed
I am back in Mumbai again, and again the Chair Car is the only train ticket I can score at such short notice. This uncomfortable chair is starting to feel like home now. I pick up my gear from Kapil’s place and head over to a Bed & Breakfast I had booked at the last moment, getting wet in an evening downpour. That night as I work on finalising my stops along the #100BeachRide I notice that my throat starts to feel a bit itchy. This does not bode well is the last thought in my head as I fall asleep, fervently hoping it’s just a bad throat.
The next day I wake up with a 101 fever. For the next couple of days, I am confined to bed, sweating with the high fever. Finally on the third day I start to feel better and I can think about starting the trip again. It’s almost the end of August now and the weather department has sent out a weather alert expecting heavy rain in Konkan over the next week. However, I am left with no choice, I have to start this trip before I give into the voice in my head that tells me “this trip is jinxed and you should abandon it”.
I reckon things will get better once I hit the route on my fatbike. But does it? Find out in part 3