Our very own dynamic duo head out in search of adventure... And find it!
Last month Ishan and Roshni headed out to the outskirts of Pune for a weekend of proper camping. Despite wanting to accompany the duo, I had to take a rain check, due to prior commitments. But then listening to their experiences and checking out the images they came back with, it did not take long for FOMO to set in. I’ve had my share of camping though. It was the first edition of the RFC and we were in the deep jungles of Goa, at the peak of the monsoons, for two days. But the said experience felt more like a survival boot camp. This time I was in the mood for something more sedate. And the arrival of my new long termer, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 compelled me to consider camping. After all, the Classic name is synonymous with Ladakh. Surely it can spend a night in the wilderness. I have the dream, I have the motorcycle. Now I just need a scapegoat to accompany me. And in walks Ishan!
Most of you do not know this about Ishan. In a previous life he used to organise motorcycle tours, in India and abroad. A dyed in the wool outdoorsy guy, Ishan seemed to be the perfect companion. But he seems less than impressed about spending the weekend out executing my adventure, so I do what needs to be done. Threats of overtime and washing cars for a month do the trick. Now to get my sidekick an appropriate mode of transport. Ishan loves adventure motorcycles and our long term Himalayan would be best suited for the job, so I toss him the keys to the Aprilia SXR 160. We don’t want to make it easy for him, do we?
Our adventure starts on a lazy Saturday afternoon. The Royal Enfield’s saddlebags are filled with camping essentials like mosquito repellent, toothbrush and a bar of soap. Ishan shows up on the scooter with a tent and spare underwear. Clearly, we are taking this camping plan seriously.
Our destination is 100km out of Pune and the route is a mix of well surfaced highways and B-roads. The Classic 350 and SXR 160 are both adept at touring and sustaining highway speeds. My Classic 350 comes with Royal Enfield’s GMA accessories such as a large windshield, wide footpegs, touring seats with a backrest and mirrors. The windshield helps keep the wind off your chest but is quite close to you. My favourite bit though is the plush touring seat, which made the ride quite comfortable with its supportive cushioning. The upright riding position works, though I would prefer a slightly taller handlebar. Ishan seems happy with the Aprilia SXR 160 too. We have taken the SXR touring before and its wide seat and overall size coupled with the 12-inch wheels make long rides comfortable.
The smooth, four lane highway soon turns into a two lane cement road and further into a broken, single lane road. While the Classic takes the ruts and potholes well, I can see Ishan bouncing on his SXR given the firm suspension. A few kilometres in, Ishan motions me to turn right into a thicket of trees. I look at him quizzically, as he rides into said trees and disappears like a bunny rabbit. I follow him and see a narrow path meant for walking. We ride through overgrown brush and navigate fallen logs to reach a clearing. The view ahead looks like the African Savannah I grew up watching on National Geographic. Vast plains with swaying grass tall enough to hide an elephant, let alone a lion. Thankfully we have neither.
Knowing the trail, Ishan rides blindly into the bush and I have no choice but to trust and follow him. There are two problems while standing up and riding the Classic. The handlebar needs to be taller but the bigger issue is the windscreen which is too close to your neck and can hurt you if you go over a large rut. As we head up and down a hillock, the path ahead has been carved due to rains and hardened now. I have a tough time keeping the Classic’s front wheel in check as it jumps in and out of the natural channel. Is this Ishan’s way of getting back at me for forcing him to take a scooter touring? The Classic 350 surprises Ishan too though, with its 350cc motor chugging through the steep climbs without the need to slip the clutch and the large wheels finding traction despite the road biased tyres. There is no getting around its weight though and it is a proper workout on trails.
Our ‘Scooter Boy’ seems at ease on the trails while I am wheezing and drenched inside my helmet and gear. This is my hardest workout in two years! I call for a break, to also take in the view. It’s a beautiful location and it would be a shame if we didn’t sit back and enjoy our surroundings.
Nature can be harsh and get back at you in ways you cannot imagine. Riding through the brush has tiny twigs the size of thorns get inside my riding gear and socks, through waterproof boots! They are no worse than thorns and poke in the most inconvenient of places. Finally, we reach a clearing, post sunset and an hour later I figure out the correct way to pitch my tent. Ishan goes in search of firewood and I tell him to look out for wild animals. He laughs and says we only need to worry about rodents and snakes. That’s reassuring. A dinner of noodles later I call it a day, exhausted.
I am woken up sooner than I like though, by a loud, bratty exhaust note and one that sounds familiar. I peek outside to see a white Himalayan slide past, followed by Ishan. ON MY CLASSIC 350! Scooter Boy has suckered me into an adventure of his own! I’m too tired to get out though. I zip up my tent, try going back to sleep, muttering to myself, “This shall not go unpunished!”