Friday, 29 January 2010
It was an early start for this first real day of riding from
Goa to Palolem beach. Up at 5.45 and at bikes for 7am. There is not a spare minute as all kit has to be made ready for support truck, food eaten and getting riding gear on takes more time than just jeans and t-shirt. We also had to carry enough stuff for two days as the baggage support trucks could not get to the beach we were to stay on.
Also the accommodation was to be primitive so sleeping bags and own pillows were required. Our tank bags and backpacks were full so we all also had what became known as 'African luggage', black bin bags or carrier bags strapped to the back of the bikes!!! We were by our bikes at 7.30am it was so hot even at that early hour that everyone was sweating just standing still. A local holy man gave us garlands around our necks and a dot of some red powder on our foreheads. We headed off at around 8.15. Three ambulances were parked ready to merge in with the group and there are four paramedics on bikes as well as a doctor. A whole team of mechanics on bikes as well as a spares and replacement bikes on a support truck were also there. The first 19 km were easy then we rode along a 19km road where large iron ore transport trucks were queuing facing our direction. After passing around 50 I started to count. I counted a further 360 trucks whilst avoiding oncoming traffic on our side of the road. The brown orange dust covered us and the air was heavy with diesel fumes. After 360 I had to stop counting because there were trucks on our side too. You had to get through the middle with only inches (literally) to spare either end of your handle bars, or go off road a ride the ruts in the dust beside the road surface not knowing what you were riding into through the smog of red dust.
This went on for almost as long as the first queue, there must have been over 700 trucks in one big jam. Once the road cleared trucks in front would drive very fast and the dust was so thick you rode blind. Later that morning was a great off-road section of dirt and gravel track of around 5km I loved this part standing on the pegs (footrests) and hitting it at 80 to 90km per hour. The bike jumps and slides but at least you can ride the ruts rather than taking every jolt as you would at a slower speed. We had a short break but where we stopped they had run out of bottled water. I wear a camel back rucksack which contains 2 litres of water which you can drink through a pipe which fits into my helmet. It is imperative to take on large amounts of fluid in these temperatures of 30C+ when riding these enduro rallies.
I had enough to complete the next stage which I expected to only take around another two hours as I had been riding close to the front of the field so far that day. The next few miles proved to be difficult my bike kept suffering fuel starvation and the engine would die on a whim, often when overtaking on hills leaving me stranded in the middle of the road with fast traffic approaching from both directions. By the time we hit a hill climb which was to climb quite high over a reasonable period of time my bike had died at least six times. Each time it had to be kick started or bump started as they have no electric start. One kick was never enough and the mechanics would arrive as they cruise the rally constantly to help me start it. On the hill section going up it happened four more times with the final time proving I had no petrol left. The mechanics arrived and called support. It then becomes apparent that around 30 of the bikes had had their tanks drained of around 75 percent of their fuel. Rumor has it that the 'un-security guard' the previous night had been advised by local 'mafia' to take a break while the theft took place. The mechanics waited for another rider with an empty water bottle so they could give me one litre of their fuel. Down the hill section my engine cut out at least 3 more time robbing me of engine braking on a gravel surface where a free wheeling bike with only brakes working would be a recipe for a crash. Within the next few kilometers the bike stopped continually until starting it only gave me a few hundred meters for all the effort of starting it again. In total it had died seventeen times. I was in body armor and heavy motocross boots with a full pack on my back. A sweeper (backup crew to pickup people left behind) came and swapped my bike with his and a support vehicle arrived with more fuel.
I followed him to a garage 0.8km from our destination. There were bikes lined up to refuel in severe heat, I fill the new bike and knew I could ride no further without water which had run out an hour of so earlier. I went into the forecourt shop and drank .5 of a litre and poured the rest over me to try to cool my body temp. The support crew saw I was not able to ride. I arrived at the destination in the back of an ambulance to see the doctor. Overheated and dehydrated. Within a couple of hours after cold showers and rehydration salts I was feeling fine. I was allocated a shack on the beach and was to share my bed with a different guy called Terry! Please do not think I am loose, I was made to do it!!!.
Thank you to all those who have very kindly donated to the charities recently, much appreciated.