• Joel Koechlin

Day 8 – Majuli to Shillong: the day of all breakdowns

Today seems to be again one of those long, exhausting commute days between two regions: we are leaving Assam, heading for Shillong, Meghalaya: a ferry-crossing again, followed by a 400 km long ride. Hopefully most of it is going to take place on decent roads, half of it on 4 lanes highways… And guess what? It rains, and rains, and rains!

Besides, it’s one of those wretched days when anything that can go wrong, does go wrong:

It starts with the ferry being delayed and we wait for a long time…

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A rainy day on the Brahmaputra


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Sophisticated ferry technology…


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…but apparently it works and we love it!


After a mere 50 kilometres, the spokes of my bike’s rear wheel have become so loose — possibly as a result of our constant riding on bad roads since a week — that the wobble induced becomes frightening. No other choice than to stop in a village workshop and get the problem fixed. Since we are here, why not re-straighten my bent main stand: the guy grabs a huge hammer and, Bang! Bang! Bang! with 3 monster strokes the problem is solved. In the meantime I have sent Kalki ahead, telling her I will catch up.

Rear wheel is fine now, great, let’s catch up then. Another 10 kilometres and — ratata! — my bike engine starts missing and finally stops completely, please noo! After 30 minutes on the road-side along a steaming tea plantation, trying to clean plug and carb with my bare hands under the rain (just try this, once!), I am considering committing seppuku in the ditch, when at last our back-up vehicle turns up. After a short discussion it is decided to load my bike on the tempo and use our spare Himalayan, otherwise we will never reach Shillong on this day.

Having saddled this fresh horse, I ride full blast to catch-up with Kalki, who must be one good hour ahead, blazing through the thick mist of the Kaziranga Sanctuary, and frankly, I wouldn't have been able to see a rhino unless I grazed past his horn… Fortunately, Kalki decides to stop for tea and we meet just by night fall, somewhere past Nagaon. By then there is still 150 kilometres to go and I need to refuel: what is not my surprise when I discover that the key of the fuel tank (different from the ignition for obscure reasons that would be too long and shameful to explain) is with the tempo driver, a good 45 minutes behind, oh no! And of course it’s raining, and raining and…

Ok, by then we have been some odd 14 hours on the move, and mind you, also 14 hours in the washing machine. Enough is enough. That’s when both Kalki and I decide that we are no heroes: we are not going to wait here in this godforsaken petrol bunk for the key, but we are going to finish the ride to Shillong in a comfortable Mahindra Xylo, with the crew! Ah!… that does feel so good…

Finally it is about midnight, when — while we are relaxing comfortably in a wonderful guest house with hot water bath, WiFi and other modern-world amenities — we hear the sound of the bikes reaching, with our miserably wet and cold team mates. And, no, definitely no, we don’t feel bad at all!

JK

(to be continued…)

Not many photos today, except on the ferry, but you know, the rain… However our courageous filming crew was at work in the wet and you will see it all when you watch our Travel Show on FOX life next August.

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