i'm used to people telling me they're jealous of my weekend trips and whatnot. it's easy to be jealous of my trips, i guess. everyone loves to travel, and i'm lucky to both have a nice set of eager friends, and am introverted enough to do stuff on my own when i don't :)
so anyway, the last month has been slightly tough on me as i have been without my trusty (and much loved) bike for most of it... unthinkable as that may sound to people who know me well.
the story starts from when i set off from mapusa on my wheels, after a hearty breakfast (beef croquettes, chops and patties, and egg croquettes!) from cafe st xaviers. hit the highway, tanked up (a full tank in goa is a full 400 bucks less than in bbay, beat that!), called home, and then set off with a plan to take no breaks until lunch.
it was a tough decision, between taking nh17 (which i have last rode on in the day 5 and a half years ago... and i was riding pillion back then - i didn't even know to ride!), and taking the usual nh4.
i would have loved to do nh17 in the day, since i've pretty much covered every other permutation of route + time of day. however, there was a risk of getting delayed by traffic, since it was the end of an extended 4-day weekend, and i also had to be awake at 630am the next morning to get ready for work.
so the decision was made while i was already riding: it will be nh4. i had turned on my gps tracker, just like i had when i was riding to goa 4 days earlier. i was looking for this new side road which i had discovered when going to goa. once i found it, it was relatively smooth riding (skipped the worst of the sawantwadi patch). the road to NH4 via amboli was crappy as usual, but i was in the mood to ride hard and fast over everything, which i did. touched NH4 at 12:30pm, in 2 and a half hours, a whole hour shorter than my usual!
after a tyre pressure check, i was back on the highway. it was a relief to be on smooth, open roads after all the hard bumpy riding of my journey so far.
that's when i discovered the joys of hugging the tank while riding. something i've never tried before, and to be fair, something the karizma isn't exactly built for.
long story short, after a good 15 minutes of near-redline riding, i dropped to comfortable cruising at 90-100, sitting upright as i usually do.
i was almost at the checkpost at kagal.
things happened so quickly that everything is an extreme blur in my head.
a lady and two horses were walking sedately near the median. i was between the two lanes of my half of the highway.
about 60 feet from me, one of the horses bolted across the highway.
i slammed the brakes best as i could at 100, and when i was about 30 feet away, i honked.
my stomach lurched and time seemed to stand still, as the horse stopped in its tracks, turned its head to look at me, and froze, while my tyres dragged the bike, screaming and whining in a dead straight line, straight to its midsection.
i'm not sure exactly what happened when i hit the horse. all i remember is putting my feet down, bike upright on its wheels, me still holding the clutch with the engine running. the horse was flat in front of me.
it stood up and limped away.
i did a mental sensation check. my body was responding. i walked the bike, still astride it, with the engine running, to the side. the fairing was smashed, the dash was bent upwards, but everything looked intact. the gear lever was bent so badly that i couldn't change gears with my foot. but all the switches were responding.
i turned off the engine, put the bike on its stand, and analyzed the damage. tried straightening the gear lever with a stone, but it was solid metal and wouldn't budge. luckily for me, i could shift down using my hand to neutral. tried the starter and it worked.
i breathed a sigh of relief, drank some water, did a quick wiggle of my fingers and toes, and hopped on. i had to ride on first till past the check post (a couple of kms), and about a km on a service road before i found a mechanic's shop, but minus the mechanic.
i had a cup of tea at a nearby stall, called harshad
to help me get my head straight, and generally stretched my limbs till he finally returned. he had a sense of urgency when i told him i have to ride to bbay, and finally got the gear lever and the front support straightened (the dash was kinda just sitting in place with nothing but the wires to hold it).
neither the mechanic nor the shops nearby had anything to tie the fairing with, so i just popped it into as many stays as i could line up, and hit the highway.
i spent half an hour at the next town looking for nylon rope or duct tape, again to no avail. finally i decided i was better off riding with a hanging fairing than losing time here.
i rode for over an hour in this state, till things eventually came to a point where the stays would pop out every few seconds, and i was literlly pushing them back in as i was riding.
luckily for me, a friendly young man on a cycle gave me a piece of rope from what he was using to tie his luggage up to the carrier. with the fairing kinda secured, i rode on, minus breaks, including through extremely overcast skies followed by torrential rain on multiple occasions. rode at 80 through everything because i had to cover as much as possible before sunset.
and in my head, i succeeded. i was on the outskirts of pune when my watch told me it's 7pm, and time for dusk.
pune was choc-a-bloc with traffic, which was good for me in a way, as i had barely any light of my own, but it was also raining cats and dogs. i had brought a packet of biscuit at 7, but the stress of the ride killed any hunger, and i rode on doggedly.
past baner/aundh, traffic eased up somewhat, but the highway was lit, so i was fine. until the expressway began and most vehicles turned off NH4 and onto it.
my problem was twofold: the dipper's filament had fused, and thanks to the smashed fairing, my high beam was literally pointed at the sky (about 30 degrees upward or so). i rode by this tiny sliver of light cast by my high beam some 10 feet ahead (the beam that would usually be cast on the mudguard and number plate). slowly and painfully, i made my way to lonavla by the light of other vehicles' beams. thankfully, there was always some vehicle or the other with their high-beams on to give me some light. on some occasions, i was even using the beams of oncoming traffic on the other side of the median.
at khandala i decided there was no point in pushing myself any nearer to my limits, so i stopped for my first proper break: tea and omlette pav (i asked for a single but got a double - just as well!). that, and a phone call home done, i was back on the highway.
after lonavla there were even fewer vehicles on the highway, and i actually covered most of the distance doing 20 and squinting into the feeble glow cast 10 feet ahead of me.
once i entered bombay, i was glad to be on lit roads again, and could ride normally. barring one long break on JVLR when i realized my bag had almost fallen off its fastenings, thanks to the clothes inside moving around away from the bungee cords that were holding it in place. my hands were so numb from riding that unhooking and rehooking the bungee cords was a task in itself!
finally, i pulled into my building at 11:30pm.
13 and a half hours, mapusa to borivli.
definitely one of the craziest rides i had to do, both in terms of constraints and mental strength it demanded from me. the only one that came close was riding from murud to home without a right footpeg, but that was just 200km, and i had a pillion to keep my mind straight.
in short, definitely the craziest solo ride i've done so far.
which brings me back to my initial thought: you need to be crazy to be awesome. this trip was crazy. before you set off doing something out of the world, you need to be prepared to take all the crazies life throws your way. smiling. and i know i was lucky. i probably got off as lightly as i possibly could from such an accident. i've definitely seen and heard worse.
ps: wish i could be back on my wheels sooner. the fix itself is a 1 day job, but apparently white plastics for the karizma r have been out of stock for a while, and they still haven't arrived yet :(