Friday 24th Oct – An action-packed day to follow the on-road excitement of the last two. First a 2 hour delay for all traffic at the entry to Nagaland from Assam as the locals are restless and blocking the road, burning tyres etc, so the army says we have to go in convoy with their escort. By the time it’s time to go all the drivers are chaffing at the bit and it’s like a Monte Carlo start and then a chaotic scramble over the next 45 minutes until the army lead car leaves the track – cars, utes trucks and buses all jostling across 2 lanes to be the vehicle in poll position behind the pace car for when the green flag drops. It’s a wonder the congested jostling behind the army jeep doesn’t rear-end it. Indian drivers are crazy enough without this additional stimulus to their lawless road skills. The trucks – being bigger – win the scramble for poll position and behind them the utes and SUVs. We just feel lucky to be alive behind these crazies and to have survived the 45 minutes to the start time.
It’s all been a bit stressful so we call for a lunch break once we get free of the pace car.
But after lunch is no easier on the road. It starts with Dave and Jo having to swerve to miss a dog that’s determined to cross the road despite almost being decapitated by each of their bikes as they pass. But third time wasn’t lucky and the dog got entangled in the front wheel of a following motor scooter bringing down the young man on it in an unsightly mess. But it’s following the Tata truck behind that provides the drama as it twists and grinds in a desperate effort to avoid the heap that’s the poor young man on the tarmac. Thankfully it averts the crumpled victim and so the youth’s problems aren’t compounded. A mangled scooter and bruising is enough for one day.
The traffic out of Dimapur, where we lunched, is just crazy dense and we’re struggling to stay together, to stay in line without falling off or getting the rear bike getting mounted by the frustrated and aggressive drivers who seem to want to kill in order to get ahead. So each of us rides their own experience, which means that I tend to move ahead and find a space in the traffic and sit there while Joanne tends to be happy to sit behind the guide’s vehicle – an approach I find that really dangerous because of living in fear of being rear-ended by the itching drivers following. And Dave – ever the Protector – sits behind Jo always, sometimes within touching distance, sometimes way behind – but he loves being the sweeper and does a good job out there.
A couple of elephants come into view. Great – after our experience with one yesterday we want to get some more footage of them – especially in traffic of this density. So we all dismount and take movie and stills of traffic, elephants and bikes – happy.
Next stage. We’re still in dense as dense traffic but the foothills are in sight so the city boundary will be behind us by then and we’ll be free for the run up to Kohima. I ride ahead to find my own road space and once just into the foothills, stop to allow the others to catch up. No sign, so I do the customary U-turn and crawl back from whence I came. Probably Jo doing another movie or Dave looking to disgorge lunch. Both bikes come into view so I U-turn again and we regroup a mile or so further towards our destination.
Drama is clearly evident on the faces of both my riding buddies. Jo has had an ‘off’ – slid her bike into a J walking local who suddenly crossed into her lane from amidst opposing traffic but still looking the other way. The choice was to go around him into the grille of an oncoming Tata truck, or drop the bike and slide toward her road kerb. She chose the latter but took out the 60 year old as she did – he went down and banged his head. Not good. The crowd quickly gathered and Dave – who saw the whole drama unfold – was quickly on the offensive. He turned Jo’s bike, which had spun in the slow moving road wreck, to face the right direction; checked she was ok to ride it from the scene; and then turned to face any accusers. He loudly declared to the big group that the gent had simply walked into the oncoming traffic having checked he had time to avoid the oncoming Tata on his side. But he was totally blind to the traffic coming the other way, in fact wasn’t even looking for it.
Thankfully amidst the morass of the gathered – and nowhere does a crowd or mob form faster than on the roads of India – was a local who had full charge of English – and while others tended to the unfortunate victim – Dave was able to explain in full that the gent had walked into the path of the lady riding her motorcycle and dropped them both. The local was convinced – nobody else was able to provide a different explanation – and he said that they would take the unconscious pedestrian to the hospital and Dave and Jo should move on. Dave didn’t need to be encouraged further, he and Jo were out of there quick smart.
The remaining road to Kohima was totally crap – rough torn tarmac loaded with lunatic drivers trying to get to their destination before nightfall at 5.30 pm. While alcohol is prohibited in Nagaland, chewing beetle nut is not and the impact of this on the drivers – especially of buses and trucks – is the heightened aggression as pressure from traffic delays comes on. It is a suicide run I’m afraid, and tough for Jo who’s already bruised and shaken from her contretemps.
We reach the hotel at dusk and are truly thankful to be alive. We can get beer but must consume it in our room, we can get internet but not in our room. So our two favourite end of day activities cannot tonight be enjoyed simultaneously. But there is alternative entertainment – in the form of Dave unleashing the day’s stress on the unfortunate hotel security guard who has touched his bike and set the alarm off. But the alarm keeps periodically igniting and Dave’s convinced the guard hasn’t learnt his lesson so decides to really pack into the little bugger (compared to Dave most of us are little buggers). Once the alarm goes of a third time I gently enquire of the tired and tattered Dave whether he has gone through the standard 29 step BMW alarm resetting process because if he hasn’t it will keep reigniting till he does.
All that’s left now is for Dave to grovel his way back into the security guard’s good books and try and undo some of the damage caused by his earlier explosive shout down of the cowering official. I think the amplitude of the guard’s shivering dampened down after the conciliatory and apologetic gestures from our tired man.
Thankfully the dinner was stupendous and we all crashed into bed, more than satisfied that we’d survived yet another day on Indian roads. Only two to go.