[This first part of this article is available here]
Play to Your Strengths...
... and give way where you are weak. Nothing in India can beat a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet from a standing start, nothing has as much power. Accelerating uphill, even in Nepal where they make gutsier bikes, it's superiority is even more evident. On rough ground, two wheels are an advantage, and the robust build of the Enfield is better able to handle the difficult patches than the lighter and slighter Indian bikes.
But on a straight road, there are plenty of things that go faster. Cars, even the little Mazeratis and Suzukis have more speed. Buses, careering along with a kamikaze attitude to life, can overtake you. Even the jingley jangley lorries, festooned with chains and painted as brightly as gypsy caravans, can beat an Enfield.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone has to fight battles. The wise man will choose to fight only the battles he can win.
Bad Terrain and Difficult Roads are Nothing to be Afraid of...
... they just mean that you have to adjust the distances you can expect to cover in a day. If anything, the challenge and the variety are what makes a road trip by bike exciting.
Everyone has bad times as well as good. Ride the storms, manage your expectations, it can't be sunny every day. You never know, you may even get to like the bumpy bits.
Trust in Fate. Help is never far away...
... even when it looks bleak. Even when you are desperate or hurt, there is always someone who can help nearby.
I lost count of the number of times that I was assisted by people passing by. When I crashed, when I ran out of petrol, when I skidded off the bike, when I was lost, when I needed somewhere to stay, when I was hungry or thirsty, there was always someone who could help.
And because I let people help me, even sometimes when I didn't need it, I met some astonishing characters, went to some utterly beautiful places and did some unexpected and wonderful things. These are the moments that make journeys, whether round India on a motorbike or through life.
Trusting people is not easy. Trusting strangers is harder. But if you don't, life not only becomes a lot harder, it becomes impossible.
The Expected Happens/You Find What you Seek
... I am not talking necessarily about objectives or goals or grails and quests (although it applies to all of them), but what you imagine a journey will be like. I expected long days, dirty accommodation, cold and hardship and I found it. I expected challenges, crashes and danger, I found those too. And I also expected ugliness, dirt and ignorance, and yes they were there too.
But I also expected adventure and excitement and interesting people with stories to tell. And amazing landscapes and delicious food and uncharted places and lost kingdoms and gods and monsters and beasts and angels. And I found all those things as well.
I had high expectations of people. I expected them to help, and they did. I expected them to be trustworthy, and they were. I expected kindness, wisdom, patience, understanding, and almost without question, that is what I experienced.
Whatever events life throws at us, we interpret them through the window of our own values and expectations. Life will be a lot more pleasant if that window is looking out on a beautiful landscape.
Plan as much as you can...
... and then be prepared to abandon those plans completely. Something better might be around the corner and if you are too blinded by what you have already prepared then you will miss out. What you thought might be unmissable, might be just tedious.
When I landed in India I only knew that I wanted to get a bike and head to the mountains and the deserts. Gradually destinations and routes appeared, I made friends along the way and everything made perfect sense. But I changed my mind frequently and radically and I wasn't too proud to take a day off now and then.
If you have the strength to let go of your plans, if you have the courage to abandon your preconceived notions and the wisdom to admit sometimes you are wrong, you can start to trust that fate will push you in the right direction. It invariably does.
It is Good to be Alive...
... I know that truly, utterly and deeply. The air never tastes so sweet as when you are close to losing it forever. After being hit by a tractor in Rajasthan, I will never forget this. I have looked death in the face and exulted at the wonderful life that I have been granted.
Motor biking in India is a dangerous pastime, and can bring you, at times, very close to death. But it brings you closer to life as well. If we walk or drive or ride through life in the knowledge that death is truly only a heartbeat away, then we truly start to live.
When I got back, I decided to write about my experiences. All four books in the 'A Last Chance PowerDrive' series are now available on Amazon.