What a year 2020 has been. Nobody expected a pandemic coming their way, and the sentiments around the global outbreak were immense. While us humans have joined forces to fight the crisis, we’ve all altered the way we function, be it the common man or the multi-millionaires. Workplaces have changed the way they function; e-commerce has seen spurts like none other, and our outlook towards life has changed.
From behind the screen and through these times, the lockdown has made me appreciate many things. The freedom that we are blessed with, the feeling of escapism, and the strong urge to connect with nature, fellow beings and communities more often. What I did miss the most though, is good food. Yes, six months of having “ghar ka khaana” had left my taste buds wanting for some authentic street food. Great grubs were munched on when in Jaisalmer (check out the Great Indian Desert story just a few pages away), but just one affair with the roads wasn’t enough to calm my senses. So as the holidays were approaching, my brain started determining how to exploit the most from the last few days of 2020.
Having done my share of four wheels and vegetarian food, it was time to do the exact opposite. Two wheels, and every PETA members nightmare. Having filtered multiple options, I zeroed down on Goa. Call it a cliché, but given the crisis, the state had the least number of restrictions and more than that, no matter how many times you’ve been here, it feels special on every occasion. The bohemian culture, the sense of freedom, the narrow and winding roads, the fusion of heritage, it’s never a passé.
Not much is left to boast about the route, there’s the option to ride down the scenic Konkan belt, but the Bengaluru highway is so much more convenient, especially if you’ve got a parched mouth that only a beer can quench. Or on a fast, meaty 650-twin. Which I was, along with my luggage packed in the SW-Motech 35-litre drybag that was lent by a dear friend. The ritual that I follow on every road trip, is to leave early and reach fresher. So the journey began at 4 AM in the dark hours of December in Mumbai, which felt like summers after the nights in Jaisalmer. But the casualness was accounted for when chilly winds sipped through my riding gear as I approached the ghats in Lonavala.
Soaking in as much sun as I could, the Interceptor 650 was quick to munch the miles and the dynamics allowed me to enjoy the roads plentifully. It’s a very capable motorcycle, but if I were to buy one, the first update to it would be a more accommodating saddle. On the brighter side, that sweet rumble from the engine kept me entertained throughout the journey. Goa welcomed the thirsty, tired and fatigued rider with some extremely humid weather, but a refreshing shower with a little Mojito celebration helped me ease my muscles as I began to tune myself to the Goan vibes.
And they sure are marvellous. This coastal state welcomes numerous tourists from around the globe, frivolously roaming the streets on rented scooters. I galloped through the beaches on something more powerful, stopping by cafes and food joints while interacting with people, and learning more about their experiences during the pandemic. The stories were plenty – many were fascinating, some inspirational, a few that turned out wondrous. But one thing that ran common was positivity and hope, it’s the virtue that keeps us bound as one.
Keeping my soul utterly delighted was the food, that was good enough to satisfy the carnivore in me. There were many food joints that contributed to this, but there’s one that I would absolutely, certainly want to go back to. ‘Baba Au Rhum’, a cute little French café in Anjuna, invites you with the aroma of freshly baked croissants and has an ambience that’s very appetizing. Looking for a recommendation? Try their Leo Special croissant.
One axis of the coastal state keeps you glued to the clean, serene beaches, but there’s another that invites you to explore its heritage and culture. My ride through ‘Fontainhas’ infused me with jouissance as the colourful town laid down its mesmerising streets for me. What you’ll witness here are houses painted in hues of green, yellow and blue. Some stories indicate that back in the days, it was the Portuguese who would instruct houses to be painted during every monsoon.
Amused? So was I. That’s what antiquities do. The sentiment sank in deeper as I rode the Interceptor more and more. What this bike represents are the glorious 120 years that Royal Enfield has had in existence. A brand that encourages its riders to explore more. Another revelation was that in 1948 the brand unveiled its first parallel twin, followed by the 700cc Meteor in 1953. That’s a long, long time ago.
The Royal Enfield Garage Café is where you should be headed if pure motorcycling appeals to you. This beautifully executed property has a few cool concepts on display, along with the original thumpers from the yesteryears. I grabbed myself a drink, had a hearty chat with the garage manager who even showed me around, pointing out bits that I sure would have missed without him.
There were more beaches explored, many more cafés visited and many more sunsets witnessed. Escapism. It’s magical. But I had to get back to the rat race, the year 2021 looks busier than ever with manufacturers re-strategizing their growth plans and launching more aggressively competitive products. Good news for me, as we get more time out on the roads, experiencing machines that are so deeply integrated into our lives, helping us experience more and nurture more. It’s a beautiful world out here, which only gets better when you have the time to soak it in. Switch off your screens, hop on that saddle and head out!