Ready to Ride India
The plan has changed, but it will still be crazy good!!
This all began in a rather ordinary way.
My son, Kyle, rang to ask if we could travel somewhere together, just the two of us. It was a terrific idea as we had travelled together, but never alone.
“Sure!” I replied without any hesitation. It’s not often one of your kids want to share a holiday. I was honoured. “Where?”
There was a pause. “Kazakhstan!”
“Sure!” was my immediate reply, but inside I thought, “Kazakhstan!!! What the bloody hell is there in Kazakhstan?”
To keep this brief, on the way to and from Kazakhstan we stopped in New Delhi. We love India. It is an astonishing place with beautiful people and a rich culture that is set to transform the world even more than it already has.
One of the many things we stopped to see was a small enclave near to the Market Bazaar area in Paharganj, a grubby, chaotic and fascinating must see market district in Delhi where Royal Enfield motorcycles are also serviced and sold. The aim was for Kyle to buy some parts as he owns a Royal Enfield Bullet, a classic style of motorcycle popular in India that looks just like the classic old motorcycles in post-war UK. The idea was sound, for the parts are much cheaper. One example is that an $85 oil filter cost Kyle $2.50.
While we were there, we also took a moment to inspect the beautiful Royal Enfield motorcycles on display. Unlike Harley Davidsons, once ridden by bad boys, now the domain of dentists, investment bankers and IT professionals, to ride a Royal Enfield means you can still retain a shred of dignity.
Kyle exclaimed, “Oh man. Imagine if we bought a couple of these bikes.” The comment was fair as they were beauties and the prices were certainly significantly less than what we would find in Australia.
Without thinking I replied, “Yeah. And rode them home!”
He looked up, eyes wide at the possibilities. And there the germ of a journey was born.
We took it seriously and, as we flew home, we talked logistics and how it could be done. The bike ride across India and Asia became a passion. But like every terrific idea, things all too quickly drift astray. Trying to organise people is like herding cats, especially in India. Not surprisingly, as soon as others heard of the proposed adventure, they wanted in. My best mate, Mike, on hearing of the germ of an idea exclaimed, “I’m in! I’m (expletive deleted) going!” My daughter, Bree, who had never ridden a motorcycle, also opted to go. So did Tom, one of Kyle’s mates.
Five! Wasn’t this originally to be a rugged, father and son trip? The inclusion of my daughter was particularly exciting, but Kyle began to be concerned as to the ability for the trip to proceed as planned. Group dynamics was often cited. And what about time constraints? Not everyone could justify taking the time away from work and family.
Tom soon dropped out as he was busily engaged in setting up his own coffee roasting business, while Bree took a couple of motorcycle riding lessons and then decided it would be too much. The threat of India’s traffic insanity, and her mother’s histrionics, soon scared her off.
But we had bigger fish to fry. Buying a new motorcycle in India is essentially impossible for foreigners. We monitored the impressive solo efforts of the young woman who is known on social media as Itchy Boots, who bought a Royal Enfield Himalayan and undertook an impressive journey that took months. She was able to ride out of India because she ended up paying what can only be described as an impressive bribe, something we were not willing or able to do. Essentially, the strategy was that we were to purchase the bikes through the intercession of a local who would purchase the bikes in his name and then give us permission to leave the country and bequeath ownership as we did so.
(As an aside – Itchy Boots’ impressive journey is to be viewed on You Tube. She is quite the legend, though the name raises a few issues. Mike thought of Itchy Boots as meaning the traveller’s Itchy Feet, while I could only imagine the athlete’s foot of having feet locked into boots in the Indian heat.)
On hearing of our impetuous plans, a helpful neighbour recommended I chat with a business associate, Rashid, an Indian Bollywood cinematographer who now lives in New Zealand. He gave me his contact, Royden, who lives in Mumbai.
And time went by.
The year went by too quickly and when Royden finally contacted me, all appeared well. He opted to source the bikes, three Royal Enfields. Kyle and I were to purchase 500cc Royal Enfield Bullets, while Mike opted for Itchy Boots’ choice of a Royal Enfield Himalayan. We would pay for the bikes as well as a fee for Royden’s kind assistance.
And we waited.
International drivers licences were obtained, plans made and detailed routes devised. We were to leave New Delhi, travel north to the Yoga town of Rishikesh, swim in the upper waters of the Ganges, travel north to the Indian Himalayas, then to Nepal. There we would visit national parks, the legendary Kathmandu, then cut across India to mysterious Bhutan, back to India, then to Myanmar. There we would join a guided tour as we could not travel the nation without a guide, head to Thailand, then to Malaysia, ferry to Sumatra, then through to Java and Bali. There we would catch up with loved ones and ship the bikes home.
It would take about two months.
It was then when cracks began to appear.
Kyle could not take two months off as he had financial commitments. Ok, we would ride to Bangkok in a month, store the bikes, then resume the trip a week later.
Mike began to have issues. He works in Radio and they were not pleased that he would head off. My experience with Radio is they can be tricky employers, so his plans also became unstuck. To make matters worse, Royden was getting cold feet. His contacts in the Indian Intelligence Community (who has contacts like that?) suggested the unsettled nature of Kashmir made the sponsorship of any bikes by an Indian national a risky endeavour. After all, if there was an issue at the border, he would be held accountable.
So, it was not long before there was no more Royden.
How hard was this becoming?
Back to Rashid, who came to the rescue. We had to downgrade our planned amazing journey for another. Mike reluctantly dropped out and immediately he did so Rashid had a solution. Rent bikes, see Nepal, and then return said bikes. The costs would make such an endeavour easier and less troublesome. Sure, we would not have the grand tour we hoped for, but Kyle and I would have the bonding trip we wanted while enjoying the journey of a lifetime. Alas, not a ‘Long Way Down’ experience, but we are poor, regular guys without the resources of celebrity.
One day later, perhaps.
Now, we are set to discover the amazing land of Northern India. India is a massive sub-continent about half the size of Australia or mainland USA, a third the size of Europe, seven times bigger than Spain.
We plan to cross deserts, mountains, and rainforests.
Yes, of course we had issues with visas, tickets, and more, but in the end we did it! We are ready!
We are two ordinary blokes, father and son, on a trip of a lifetime. It also gives me a chance to research a few issues I am considering for future books.
We welcome you to follow our journey.
Rob Shackleford: Rob’s foray into writing has taken years. Now his book Traveller Inceptio is published and receiving great reviews, the main issue is now in getting the book to retailers. That is where the Publish er – Austin Macauley comes in. Rob and Kyle concocted this audacious journey when they visited India together.
Rob lives on the Gold Coast and hasn’t ridden a motorcycle since his single days, so his Sons of Anarchy rating will be a 5/10.
Kyle Shackleford: Kyle is a musician who has made so much money at music that he is a newly qualified, professional chef. His story is a classic Rock and Roll tale, where their group, The Roshambos, audition with a national scout was cancelled when their drummer pulled the pin at the last moment.
After some years, his old band has recently reunited, without the drummer. His current musical creativity is through Milo Hunter Band.
A resident of Australia’s Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Kyle is a, experienced Royal Enfield Bullet rider and owner, whose Sons of Anarchy rating will be 9/10. He has fallen off too many times to be a 10.