I allowed myself very little luxury on this trip. Contrary to what you may have heard, travelling by motorcycle is neither glamorous nor comfortable. The only indulgence I allowed myself was that I decided to bring my Macbook along. Not to Facebook or email but to write and edit photos and because the idea of being separated from it for 6 months was unbearable.
With my Macbook stuffed safely into my sleeping bag (it was genius, I thought, perfectly buffered and waterproofed) I arrived in Sarahan, 175 km North of Shimla. It started raining heavily just as I rode into the little town and didn’t stop for several days. I was hoping to make it into the dry parts up North before it started raining like this but I was in no rush. I’d just have to wait out the rain.
After I found a place to sleep I walked down to the market have dinner, on my own. On my way to the market I went to look at the 2000 year old temple. On my way out of the temple, with my stomach growling by now I met Nazeem, Himanshu and Fahad, 3 Indian guys on a week-long bike trip, on their Bullets. They were heading in the same direction as me and we started talking. Nazeem didn’t believe that I was riding solo and on a Yamaha nogal and insisted that I had to accompany them for the next few days. All things considered, it was a great opportunity to do a tricky section of the route with 3 willing, able and beautifully good-natured guys and I accepted their invitation breaking my no riding when it’s raining rule.
The next morning it was still raining, but as agreed, we set off into the uneasy-looking horizon. Riding in the rain was a scary experience and I decided that after the boys go their separate way I would reaffirm my rule of not riding in the rain.
After only 35km we stopped to help a biker who was stranded in the rain with a flat tire. We parked our bikes and offered our assistance. While we were standing there talking to the rider we heard a deep rumbling sound and before we could register what was happening had to jump out of the way of 6 massive rocks falling right onto my bike.
It was a landslide. I’d heard rumors about landslides this time of year but thought again, as I was heading to the drier parts, that I would miss it. We ran, shaking, to a safe spot where no unexpected rock falls could crush us until we were brave enough to return to the scene and assess the damage. It was bad.
1. Engine cover - broken
2. Front brake - broken
3. Back brake - bent
4. Right foot rest - bent
5. Both rear indicators - broken
6. Mud shield - broken
7. Front wheel rim - bent
8. Petrol tank - loose
It was bad, really bad and the situation got worse when a group of 40 riders, passing by from the direction we were heading in, told us that the road ahead was closed due to severe landslides.
Eventually we managed to get the bike back to a little town we past just before the disaster and had to stay the night. I thought the bike was finished but the mechanic laughed and said, matter-of-factly, that everything can be fixed in India and the repairs would be done by the next day. Good news, I thought and (thinking in Rands) the damage to my wallet wasn't bad at all.
We booked into the Satluj Hotel, on the banks of the river Satluj (raging by now because of the rain) and decided to get clean, warm and go out for dinner, determined to end this bad day on a good note. Beer and food. My spirits lifted a little but as I opened my bag to get a dry set of cloths I remembered my Macbook. I took it out of m sleeping bag, opened it up and..
It was smashed. All at once the tragedy of the day hit me. My bike was broken, my Mac was broken and now my heart was also thoroughly broken.
Heartbreak or not, a girl's gotta eat and by the time we got to the restaurant we were starving. In the bar were the 40 riders we met earlier and they started whispering amongst themselves when they saw us, 'is that her?' I heard them say, 'she survived a landslide'. A couple of them came over and asked what exactly happened and how I was feeling. I said I felt very lucky (hiding my heartbreak as best I could). We ordered beer and I let my companions order food. We had a feast and laughed and talked until late. Every now and then one of the other riders would glance over to our table and lift a glass. I was famous. Macless, but famous.