Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 1

We arrive in Calcutta mid-afternoon at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Terminal, which is about 20km north of Calcutta. Given that several of the riders have never experienced third world traffic before (never mind homicidal Indians), I figured it might be sensible to grab a cab to a hotel somewhere near the terminal, have the bikes delivered there, and set off in the morning without trying to negotiate Calcutta traffic. This will allow us to do the bike walkaround that night, and to work out tank bag position, riding position, etc. It will also give us time to arrange local SIM cards and exchange numbers, etc.

Hopefully the roads will be a little less chaotic (hah ), and it will give everyone a little time to become accustomed to the bikes and to the roads on a back street somewhere the next morning. The idea is to make it to Farakka that first night (295km) so it will already be a challenging day with some of the worst traffic that we will encounter for the entire journey. No way to avoid it unfortunately, but the earlier that we get started the better as the roads in India tend to get really hairy by mid-morning.

Until we get well clear of Calcutta city boundary it will be sensible to stay as tightly bunched as possible. Hopefully you have all managed to grab a hi-vis vest from somewhere to make this a little easier. Once we are clear of the city, then spreading out won’t matter so long as everyone stays on Highway 34 (easier said than done) for the first day. As long as you stay on #34 and ask directions reasonably regularly, then we will all end up at a pre-nominated place in Farakka on the first night. If it all goes to crap, then a series of phone calls will sort things out.

Hopefully this paragraph is not needed, but for prangs, bingles and unplanned spontaneous dismounts:
- The riding buddy stops to help and SMS’s all others indicating whether:
minor (others keep going, we will catch up),
help (location is ..., please come back), or
major (all riders stop where they are and sit tight until they get a subsequent txt message).
- Remember; in India if someone other than you is injured in the accident and you are physically able, get on the back of the buddy’s bike and simply leave quickly. This one cannot be repeated enough – it is dangerous to stay/stop at the scene of an accident.

That’s a lot of warnings and cautions. The intent is not to worry anyone, rather to make sure we all have a safe and enjoyable time away. The frst day or two are always the riskiest, and if we all pull together for this time then the group will find its own rhythm very quickly. India can be an incredibly frustrating place to deal with, but has an enormous amount to offer if you approach everything with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders.