The short version:
Great Company, Great Support, Great Communications, Great Bikes, Great Guide, Great Country, Great Trip.
The long version:
IndiaBikes are the largest motorbike hire company in India and one of the few who are actually licensed. They now also run all inclusive (with the exception of spending money and optional bike top up insurance) guided motorbike tours in various parts of India. Yes, you could hire a bike and do it yourself and live on a minimal budget but these trips use tried and tested routes and venues and there’s no risk of wasting valuable days with “hit and miss” tourism in such a vast country. On a daily rate the tours are very reasonable
They use modern super-torquey Royal Enfield 500cc Classics. You sit upright, knees ahead at 90degrees and feet below in true cruisers repose. These bikes will do 120kph if pushed but the usual running speed is in the region of 60kph to 100kph depending on your comfort zone. They are not “knee down” cornering Japanese pocket rockets but elegant cruisers.
We did the 7-day trip from Mumbai to the south and east and then into Goa and back to Mumbai. We travelled on the winding/undulating and occasionally bumpy rural A roads where the bikes grunt was tested to the full and stayed in good local standard hotels which had and en –suite and usually air con and a TV. If you want to travel from Hilton to Marriott to Hyatt on wide-open motorways on a modern Japanese bike these trips are not for you.
We arrived the evening before our trip was due to start. Andy, the proprietor, kindly arranged to have us picked up from the airport and had booked us in to a good hotel near IndiaBike’s base which we paid for at a very good corporate rate arranged by Andy.)
Day 1 (Mumbai to Chiplun)
Started at 8 am and we rode to the southern outskirts of Mumbai before the full traffic chaos ensued. Our luggage was brought in a support car. This allowed us to get a feel for the bikes and for Hari, our guide, to get an idea of our riding capabilities.
Then with luggage secured to the super strong, custom built racking we set off to ride over the mountains to Chiplun, arriving mid afternoon via lunch at a roadside fish place.
This gave us a chance to walk around a rural town and avoid getting saddle sore
Day 2 Chiplun to Ganpatipule.
With a slightly later start we set of south and west to ride through narrow country roads to Ganpatipule where there is a famous pink temple on the beach and a lovely beach resort which no doubt someone like Sandals will soon take over, manicure it and ruin it.
En route we stopped at a police checkpoint and paid 50 rupees each for the privilege of having our documents checked! The policeman said he would have breakfast in our name that day. However he suggested a back road over the mountain. On that road we gave an old man a lift to his house and were invited in to his 300 year old house for Chai and biscuits and a chat. Couldn’t have planned it!!
Arrived at the beach for a walk and boat ride then watch the glorious sunset.
Day 3 Ganpatipule to Elephant Village, Kulem, Goa
Arrangements had been made to meet another biker who had hired a Royal Enfield that afternoon so we could guide him to the Elephant Village where we were staying that night. This meant an early start and we were on the road by 7.30. We stopped at a truck stop on the way for breakfast and had the best Dahl and Chapatti’s we’d had all tour. Once we got into the iron ore mining region we had to leapfrog past queues and rows of literally thousands of new Tata 18 ton dumper trucks running red iron ore rich soil from the quarries to the ports where they are loaded onto barges and shipped to China to be smelted. The roads and everything is bright red with dust, the surfaces are broken, the truck charge past each other into the smallest gap and you’re buzzing round them like small fighter planes looping amongst big bomber planes, absolutely brilliant fun although quite dangerous which added to the exhilaration. HSE in the UK would have kittens. They even have wild west style tin shack towns servicing the multitude of drivers with bars and girls etc.
We met the other biker, Alan, a little late and cracked on to get to the Elephant Village late afternoon, settled in to our semi permanent tents with en suites and went to the tented restaurant for dinner, some
and a game of Carrom
Carrom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Day 4 Local Activities
We got on the bikes, rode down to the river, rode through the river and followed a rough rock strewn jungle track for about 10kms to Dudhsagar (River of Milk) 300m high waterfall crossing 3 other rivers on the way with water up to your knees.
Dudhsagar Falls - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The bikes didn’t miss a beat, incredibly stable and grunty over such rough terrain with football sized rocks and loos sand surface.
When we arrived we swam in the pool at its base before riding back.
After getting back we rode on an elephant, watched another elephant soak people sat on it back with it’s trunk, took an informative tour of a spice farm and then a late lunch made up of a range of local dishes.
After lunch we went to watch the 150x 25-ton truck coal trains trundle through the local village, sad I know but very relaxing and Adam got some numbers!!
Then a few
s in a bar in the local village and back to the camp for dinner, more
Day 5 Kulem to Calangute Beach via Palolem Beach, Goa
A friend of mine who lives in Palolem Beach had fallen off his motorbike a week earlier and broken his collar bone along with a load of nasty road rash, Andy, the owner of IndiaBikes kindly agreed and nearly insisted we do a detour to visit him.
We set off early to beat the quarry trucks that hit the roads for a 10am start and got through the red dust area with a few minutes to spare. We then cruised slowly along a beautifully smooth one lane road that weaved right through the heart of the Goan jungle over mountain and trough valley, no traffic, just the noise of monkeys and insects and the burble of the bikes.
We arrived in Palolem, met Mike, had an iced coffee and a chat and went to a Goan Fish Restaurant for their Fish Curry, lovely. Back to Mike, said our good byes and set off for Calangute, the beach resort where the Indians themselves go. Crowded with noise, music, food smells and flashing lights but no drunkenness nor trouble.
There we had a Korean meal which was incredible, spicy but not burning.
Day 6 The long run
We had agreed that rather than ride to Chiplun today and have an early finish then ride on to Mumbai the next day we would do the 600kms from Calangute to Mumbai in one day. This would mean about 15 hours riding, 4 of which would be in the dark but it meant we would do 2 days travelling in one and get to spend a day sight seeing in Mumbai which Hari, our guide, had kindly offered to do so off we went.
We stopped in the same truck stop for Dahl and Chapattis,
Then arriving in Chiplun for Chai at 4 pm.
The sun set at 6.30 and it was pitch black by 7pm.
The rules in India appear to be i) Don’t turn your lights on until it’s more than pitch black but do dazzle any oncoming vehicle you can. ii) When you do turn your lights on make sure they are either on main beam or so misaligned that you blind everyone. iii) Then don’t reduce speed nor manic overtaking methods seizing every tiny gap, blind bend, hillcrest to fight your way forward.
We got to Mumbai by 1030pm and another hour of manic city traffic got us back to the Savoy Hotel, dinner in a lovely Chinese restaurant and bed.
Day 7 Mumbai City Tour
Hari picked us up in his car at 1030am and we drove into the city centre, parked up and set off on foot and taxi to see the Gate to the City, The Train terminus, Maharajah Hotel where the terrorists blew up and shot so many people a few years ago alongside a café where they attacked as well. Lunch at a single dish vegetarian restaurant.
We then visited the Crawford Market area, where you can buy anything and drove past the famous slums area before going gift hunting and dinner.
After dinner Andy and Hari kindly dropped us off at the airport to check in and fly back.
They made sure that everywhere we ate the food was “safe.” They recognise that having to stop every 15 minutes with the trots will put the damper on any trip! We asked Hari to choose the food, to give us as wide a variety as possible, and ate the same food as the locals in restaurants, truck stops, bars, cafes and hotels. Neither of us had any problems at all, which is more than I can say about Swiss Air!!
Overall it was clear that the trip was adjusted to our needs and capabilities, the timetables have some flex in them to cater for the more accomplished and also the less experienced riders. The guides are very friendly and knowledgeable and we feel we can now count Hari, and not forgetting Andy, as good friends who we will meet up with again.
We are already discussing a trip to the Kashmir region and are sure this will be the start of many more visits to India with the help of IndiaBikes.
Finally my three tips for India
1. Take earplugs unless you are used to sleeping in a busy town, India is noisy at all hours!
2. Consider taking up the motorbike insurance top up which makes the policy fully comprehensive and removes any excess
3. Take a supply of loo roll you won’t find it in many toilets!!!