Sunday, June 25, 2023

adventure biking in nicobar

we had just landed in nicobar island. it was just past sunset, and I was with another biker, who I can't recall now. it was a weird airport, as there was no terminal building - in fact we simply climed down the stairs off the smallish plane, walked off the runway, and were outside the airport without having to pass through any gate. there were no boundary walls either.

our bikes were parked in what looked like a parking lot, but there was nothing else parked there. we mounted our bikes (they were adventure bikes), and rode off. we didn't have any luggage other than our backpacks, so it was quite handy.

the island seemed quite barren and desolate, without any trees in sight in the limited visibility, and what seemend like a very thin layer of vegetation, but which on a closer look seemed more like moss or litchen. outside the tarmac road we were on, the ground was quite uneven and rocky, and definitely tricky to ride on. I commented to my friend that while it looked like it would be good for off roading at first glance, riding on such rocky uneven surfaces would be both difficult and dangerous in case of a drop.

we didn't have too far to ride, but it got dark before we got to the nearest sign of civilization. we had been riding quite slowly down a straight road from the airport, which wasn't lit in any way. in the distance we could see what looked like a small settlement, and it had a single road running across it (at right angles to the road we were on), and the road was lit with street lights and had small buildings lining it on both sides.

as soon as we saw that settlement, I suggested we stop and check the map on my phone. we stopped at the side of the road, dismounted, and i checked the map on my phone. our current location was roughly at the centre of the teardrop shaped island. the road we were on ran noth-south, and we had been headed north. we could see the airstrip we had just arrived from on the map, and it ran east-west as expected. we saw the road ahead and settlement on the map. beyond it, the road continued to another airstrip. the airstrips had been interestingly named: the one we had landed on was called airport 3 on the map, and the one further north was called airport 6. both airports were roughly in the centre of the island, and ran approximately a third to half the width of the island. the settlement was roughly midway betwen the two airstrips, and the road ran further north past airport 6 and up to the north end of the island. there were just those two roads and two airstrips on the island from what I could see on the map on my phone. also, given we could see the settlement, I could judge visually based on the distance it showed on the map that the island was pretty small - maybe about 20km from north to south and maybe about 12km east to west. we were a couple of km from the settlement. as I studied the map, I stepped off the road and onto the rocks beside them. the rocks, given the thin layer of moss, were hard and uncomfortable to sit on, and while uneven, they were undulating. I asked my friend whether he thought it would be siuitable for off-roading. he said it won't be too bad, we just need to be sensible and careful.

we got back on our bikes, and rode to the settlement. at the junction where the road we were on met the one running through it, we stopped and discussed what we should do next. it was just past sunset so we figured we had plenty of time before we called it a night. my friend suggested having a cigarette, and a shop was right next to where we were. the lights in the shop were off, even though the counter was open, and there were packs of cigarettes on display. we took a cigarette each and lit them using a lighter on the counter. as we did so, a boy walked out of another shop a few shops down the road, waving at us.

I waved back and pointed into the shop, and then pointed at the lit cigarette I was holding. the boy went back into his shop, and probably told them we were there. a minute later, a middle aged lady entered the shop from a back-door, with a lit candle.

she set the candle on the counter. and asked us if there is anything else we want. my friend suggested we buy a whole pack and split the cost. I agreed.

as I dug into my pocket and took out my wallet, I realized I didn't have any cash with me.

my friend offered to pay, paid cash, as I picked a pack and pocketed it.

as we stepped away from the shop and on to the side of road, I asked him if he paid rupees or pounds. he replied that he obviously paid rupees as we're in India. I looked through my walled and realized I didn't have any Indian cards with me. I told him I'll locate a cash machine later tonight and withdraw some cash for the rest of the trip.

we looked up and down the street - it was lined with short buildings that were raised about half a floor above the road, and many of them had a basement half below the level of the road. the buildings had shops on the ground floor and those with a basement had shops in the basement as well. there didn't seem like any restaurants though. there did seem like there were a few places to stay though, as they had lit names along the corners of some of the buildings. the road in the other direction had fewer buildings and lower structures. we thought it might be more likely to find restaurants in that direction. there weren't any that we could see though. we got to the very end of the road, and the last house had a what seemend like a small restaurant attached to it. we entered, and it turned out we had to walk through the living room to a room that served as the restaurant. the family who lived in that house was in the living room. a man (presumably the guy who runs the restaurant) was sitting with a drink of what looked like whiskey and watching TV. the TV was one of those old-style CRT TVs that have not been sold for a while.

we asked the man if the restaurant was opened for dinner and he replied that it was. we asked him was was available, and he mentioned ther were thalis - vegetarian and chicken. i asked him if he also had any fish (given this was an island I was hoping we'd get some good local seafood!). he didn't understand me at first but I repeated fish (and then said "macchi") a couple of times and he replied yes, they could definitely serve a fish thali.

my friend asked if we could start by sharing a plate of fried chicken and a couple of malabari parathas. he specifically said "fried chicken, but not a whole serving". I said I'd like a fish thali after the fried chicken. the man relayed our order to someone in the kitchen, and asked if we wanted to sit and watch TV while we had our starters, and we could then move to the resturant area to eat our thalis. we agreed, and the parathas arrived quickly enough with a side salad.

my friend start eating his paratha with the salad, but I decided I would wait for the fried chicken to arrive. I did taste the salad though, and it had quite a few chopped green chillis. they weren't very spicy though - quite nice, actually.

a few minutes later, the chicken arrived, and I started eating it with my paratha. my friend had already finished half his paratha with the salad.

and that's when i woke up.

No comments:

popular posts