We ride from New Delhi, the country capital, to Chandigarh, a regional capital, to Shimla, a district town. New Delhi and Chandigarh pile up on hot flat plains. Shimla, a mass of villages, flops over hilltops, of mountainous Himalayan proportions.
We ride for 8,5 hours to cover the 245 km from Delhi to Chandigarh. It takes 5 hours to cover the 105 kms from Chandigarh to Shimla.
YES, the city size changes, the terrain changes, the altitude changes, the temperature changes. But NO, the busy-ness does not.
Space is in serious short supply in India. We quickly discover the unwritten Rules of these Roads. They unsettle!
Don’t stick to the lanes, make room for more; MOVE UP.
If the opposite side of the road is empty; USE IT.
Don’t stop at this red traffic light, it’s not busy enough; GO, GO, GO. Fold back those side view mirrors they take up too much SPACE!
If you want to overtake; HOOT, HOOT, HOOT.
A bang, keep going, it’s only a BUMPER.
Harry and I grind to a halt in a traffic knot. We move only 500 meters in an hour! We vanish in eight, then ten, then eleven lanes. It’s a heaving, hooting, hell-hole. Thick hot exhaust fumes encase us. Our bike engines scream and we sweat streams. Around us, vehicles-vehicles-allsorts out-inch us. Gaunt people-carriers pinch a way around us. They carry bags of cement and boxes of potatoes high above their heads. It’s tempting to ‘freak out’. But it won’t help one tiny bit.
Clutch in, clutch out. First gear, then neutral, then first gear again. Engine off, engine on. Creep! We could not get to know this road better on our hands and knees. And we dissolve into Delhi.
It’s time to re-wire!
We stake our claim and move in. We use our loud, foreign looking bikes and cut space like a knife. Side by side we are a car. In single file we act like a snake. Staggered first to the left then to the right we are unstoppable. Our back-front wheel cuts off from behind. Our front-front wheel steels ahead. We snake, slither, wriggle and then grab space like a car. Our four eyes, four hands, four feet never rest.
And on the move, our two heads chirp merrily, by intercom. ‘There’s that idiot again’. ‘Watch that arsehole fly around the corner’. ‘Another big Shit in a little Suzuki!’ “Oh no, mad buss driver again.’ ‘Check out that teetering truck’. ‘Let’s stick with the piki-pikis.’
Harry loves his horn. He blows it to show his displeasure! I say they don’t care. He says they need to know there’s an unhappy tourist in town! He makes me laugh – still. We call it the ‘Harry’s not Happy Hoot’.
And to be honest, we enjoy it. That’s our spot, after-all!