Dubious Anniversary, and a good ride.

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
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Trip End Oct 01, 2006


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Saturday, July 8, 2006

As yesterday was the anniversary of some unpleasant transgressions last year, I just stayed around town, under cover, in case the sky decided to fall without telling me and smash my fool head in. A little superstitious I guess, but the events of last July 7, though at the time were not all that good, indirectly it began the journey that led to the journey, that led to this Journey. Hence, I am here in India writing to my faithful readers, and not languishing somewhere with the light sucked right out of my eyes. .Details are not important, I'm sure most everyone has a such a date that lives in personal infamy. .

After the trepidation of the "dubious anniversary," as I so like to call it, this morning dawned bright, and I felt none of the weight I had the previous day. Actually it had not been such a bad day at all, I made a couple of calls to home, which cheered me up immensely, and there were fireworks to view from the vantage of my own porch. So much for superstitious dread.
(If you are my sister, skip the next paragraphs, and don't look at the picture!!)
There was, however, a gigantic spider in my room on the wall. It's eyes were glowing in the flourescent light, a phenomenon I have noticed often in arachnids. Try it sometime when you see a spider about the size of a dinner dish. Shine a light in it's eyes, and they will appear like little irridescent stars, just above the giant poisonous fangs, of course. Eerie.
Well there he was, and though I have nothing against such creatures, they actually seem to have a certain strange intelligence, and though it was a perfectly good-looking representative of the invertebrate phylum, he (she?) was not keeping up on the half of the rent required to be a roommate. I did not see it reach out one of it's velvety legs with a couple of hundred rupees from some tiny hidden wallet, so friendship or no friendship, it was down the road, buddy. Also we had just met, and I wasn't ready to share my bed with it. .
Fortunately, rather than chuck everything away on the side of the road ( I haven't gone that native yet) I keep what might look useful. Especially things like large plastic bags. You may have read before about my slight aversion to wet feet and clothes on the mountainside, and same for litter, besides finding a trash bag in India is like finding a drink at an AA meeting. They just don't have them.
So, using a rather large and square bag that fit in the corner under my little guest and putting a thick sock over my hand to preclude poisonous bites, I set to task trying to capture something that not only moved in hundreds of scale miles an hour, was probably more intelligent than me. After numerous attempts, finally it fell into the plastic bag with a crinkly sounding thud. As fast as lightning, I had the bag cinched shut in my hand, the angry arachnid skittering around in there triying vainly to escape, and myself hoping that quarter-inch fangs couldn't bite through clear plastic.
I brought the bag down to show Dipu, our faithful cook, and we released the creature back to the wild, none the worse for wear, though perhaps a little disgruntled. All in a day's work here in India. I had used the same process for a fatter and larger spider in dharamshala, and so had some experience with such operations. It came in handy this morning as well, as a differently colored but equally large one glided across my pillow as I came out of the shower. Same story, just a little more difficult, as this one had taken more evasive manouevers, using the underside of the bed as cover. Damn fast, those things. So as I call Dipu "The Professor," mostly because I couldn't remember his name at first, he now calls me "The Spiderman." Peter Parker would be Proud. . "

(OK Arachnophobes, it is safe to read again)
So with this morning's antics out of the way, a belly full of papadam, onions and coffee (not necessarily in that order), I set off to Kullu, hoping to find the mysterious road to the secret pass that goes into Spitti Valley, as marked on my hopelessly undependable Indian "road" atlas. Also I had to drop off Dipu in the main town at the market, as it is saturday, and the lovely French people two doors down are paying for the "Ricky Mutton" Masala tonight. .
So on the road this morning, there seemed to be an extra amount of bad driving for some reason. For me to call driving "bad" in this country is a big thing, because the normal driving is pretty bad by comparison to anywhere else. There they were, overtaking on blind curves with no warning blast of horn, edging me off the road, and generally kicking up a ton of dust, which literally clogs one's eyes with grit, even with wraparound sunglasses.
So I took frequent breaks, sitting by the river, splashing water over my face to wash the automotive facial treatment off, and smoking a cigarette here and there, sometimes alone, but more often with someone asking the usual set of questions. I have been picking up enough Hindi to make communication a little easier at such times, though far from complete. A couple of hindi words and most times they start to rapid fire the language back at you. The difference now is I can actually make out about 10% of what they are saying, and in context, sometimes I can actually reply.
I gave an old man a smoke, and children in the orchard brought me pears, and posed for a photo, running after me as I went up the mountainside on the other side of the river, ostensibly to some temple up there. .
This is the first occasion on one of these roads that I didn't turn back before the end. The road actually ended in a mess of all of 2 cars and 2 jeeps, and no sign of the temple, though there was an arrow pointing to something on a footpath, I do not know what. I'm a little more of a "motor trekker" than a "foot trekker" as of late, so I just hung around for a little bit looking confused and admiring the view and eating what very well could have been a stolen pear, and it was back down. A fun drive on these roads, somewhat challenging and dusty, but no problemo. The side of the river I had crossed to also went to Manali on a way I have not been before, so that is the route I opted for, though I still have not found the mystery pass, perhaps that will come on another ride.
Road hazards abounded on the way back, lots of donkeys (hey, get your ASS out of the road, wouldja!?!?), mules and cows mixed in with the schoolkids walking home and finished for the day, and of course, Mad Punjabi Tourists, careening down at high speeds, and invariably driving on my side of the road until I set them straight with a long and demanding blast from Rocinante's horns. Yes, I have installed another horn on her, with a different tone, so the dischordant blare of the both is more noticeable.
It will be hard to part with my faithful steed when the time comes (fairly soon!) for me to move on out of India. I can't say that I won't get a little choked up about it, to me Rocinante is more than just a machine, she is a faithful companion, and a symbol of the freedom India offers to anyone who dares to dare. Rocinante is like an extension of my own body, we attack the curves together, as fluid as a snake swimming in a still pond. Or, perhaps a giant spider on the pillow. .

As I was riding I thought of how much I love these motorcycles, these dinosaur holdovers from a borrowed british past that the Indians have adopted as their own. There is no way that Rocinante can come home with me, as there are pollution controls and international title issues to worry about, not to mention cost, which in itself is prohibitive, and not to mention that I could use the buyback money on my further travels.
I have heard of people shipping them back to the states, but this can only be done if they are over 25 years old and as such are exempt from the American standards.
Shame, but I probably will have to sell her, much as I don't want to. Perhaps I can find someone to watch over the bike, planning an eventual return, but knowing how way leads on to way. . .
I know, I know, it's just a motorcycle. But still. . .
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