When I came to know I am one of the ten finalists of the Wrangler True Wanderer contest, it was a moment of mixed reactions. There was joy of course, of being selected from all India, and having a chance of winning the prize as well as the honor of the best travelogue. But there were doubts and confusion too. How far should I ride? Where to go? What to write?
That time I decided that there will be two aspects of this tour. First, this ride will not be about me. This will not be about how long or fast I can ride and how adventurous or carefree I am and stuff …no. This will be about ‘motorcycling’. Every time someone mentions how motorcycling is risky, and a ‘young reckless men’s game’, it hurts inside. Sure there are people using motorcycles to act illegally and be reckless. But that does not belittle the activity. Having tasted the elixir myself of riding across states on motorcycles and wandering freely, I felt that the ‘fun’ of motorcycling needs to be portrayed. It is not just a transport vehicle; it is a ‘touring’ vehicle as well. Therefore, the rides that I will be doing will not be of any stuntman-type in nature, neither will the require nerves of steel and all that heroic stuff. These rides will be such that any commonly healthy person, any new comer or old timer, any single or couple can pick up any part of the itinerary as per the available days and liking, picks up his bike and pillion, and goes riding.
The second aspect was selection of the places. June start is not exactly the best month of Maharashtra, and certainly not all of its spots. It is nice at some places, not so much in others. But then selecting only beaches or temples or forts alone, would make this tour as a projection of that particular view. But this was a chance to explore and to show my own state, and Maharashtra isn’t certainly limited to just one of such aspects. It is a culturally and naturally diverse state, and every variety of its beauty needs to be given justice. Therefore, we decided these seven flavors of Maharashtra:
6. Adventure sports in rivers
7. Buddhist caves
This definitely didn’t cover all of the Maharashtra’s types of places, and I was sure I left quite a few. But these points were good for a start, and I hoped that I would be able to do justice to them through the camera and by the pen (or rather keyboard!)
The packing went on till last moment because of non-surety of what can be needed and what not. But soon the confusion regarding the ride all melted away once the tour started. Riding a motorcycle has this power; it melts away all your worries and tensions. The rains accompanied me throughout the journey, but never troubled me much except in Mahabaleshwar. In fact when the rains went away in Sutarwadi and clear blue skies smiled at me, when Shivaji and Afzal helped me transport my luggage all the way up Raigad, when people would ask kindly and nicely about the journey, when a person in Dive agar gave me two freshly sharpened branches of trees for putting on flags, when the Mahabaleshwar hotel offered a room for single person, in all the simple gestures and interactions of people as well as natural powers, I saw a glimpse of the selfless helping nature that I thought to be long lost.
I have come to the conclusion that the system, the people and the environment, is indeed a non-zero-sum game. It is not just give and take cancelling out each other. With each transaction, there remains something more above the cancelled events – something positive, and this is what pushes us up as humankind. There is an intrinsic good within most part of the system, and little smile and little appreciation from your side can go a long way to help yourself.
Motorcycling is mainly about freedom. Visiting places, travelling, enjoying are all parts of it, but the base of it is freedom. The main purpose of this ride was to motivate and promote motorcycle touring. If at least ten singles and couples gain interest and confidence about it by this write-up, I have already won the prize.
Have I seen all of Maharashtra? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. But I have ‘sampled’ its beauty, and it is extremely inviting. The next few rides are going to be in the same state, each exploring its different parts at a time. This is just a start, with many more such rides (hopefully!) to follow!