January 11, 2002 GMT
South India

Despite their purgative effects on my stomach, The Ghats along the western coast are quite an experience: each climb and descent two thousand metres on Indian hairpins. They certainly focus the mind. Just the one near death, but my cornering is super sharp. The bike coughs a bit up there. Something about the altitude. Maybe I should re-jet or somesuch, but hell, I'll only be coming down again.

Otherwise, the machine seems to like mountains (itís in the name I guess), the gearing appears well judged. I have enjoyed keeping the revs high and experimenting with braking combinations. In Britain the advanced riding instructors tell you try to ride without using the brakes--all with the gears. I have found that this gives a much reassuring feel in the corner, as the bike is not pitching forwards onto the front, which puts more demands on the tyre and suspension. It also forces you to think ahead more. Thirdly, it means you are in the right gear for exit. Maybe Iíll never be Barry Sheen though.

Itís gorgeous up there over the plains, but white-knuckle and wide-open eyes are de rigueur. Even the various head-on wrecks en route donít seem to discourage the locals from the blind bend overtakes. Terror is riding pillion.

Twogirlsdancing.jpg
Stumble onto a dance display.

Conoor is fresh, high amid tea plantations. The women and carry huge loads on their heads. The distance keeps it unreal. Those baskets must weigh half their body weight. Picturesque poverty; the sort people like above their mantelpieces back home. I wonder do the locals here have porcelain figurettes of the dossers under Waterloo Bridge, with fine detailing of the cardboard boxes and loony brew tins.

The big squares and stone buildings of Mysore break the pattern of congested cramped public spaces. The place still stinks of diesel and petrol fumes though; like everywhere in India, days of jasmine and cardamom fragrance are long gone. Did they ever exist? Sometimes I feel that I am fifteen years too late for this country. Industrialisation and the spread of car ownership have robbed it of the charm the sixtiesí travellers loved.

Instead Bangalore poses as the India of the future. Feels like a budget western theme park. Arcades, coffee shops and hamburgers. The second-rate consumerism was fun as a change, starved of beef and escalators as I am, but what a dreadful model of development. I did enjoy the steak florentina though.

Bike problems drag me down a bit. When it suffers I suffer. Am trying not to form any emotional attachment to what is after all merely a combination of metals and liquids, but donít always succeed. Have successfully resisted giving it a name. I am proud of this, eve if I canít look after the bloody thing.

Posted by at 11:42 PM GMT
 
 

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