Words: Jehan Adil Darukhanawala & Maral Yazarloo
Images: Pankaj Trivedi
Biking brotherhood. The term might have originated in the West but is synonymous with motorcyclists all around the world. And when you have embarked upon a journey around the world, it helps to know the right people. Our friends, Maral Yazarloo and Pankaj Trivedi, were re-entering Thailand to continue their ‘Ride to be One’ after exiting Cambodia. They were heading south towards Malaysia, and to Indonesia thereafter. Like their previous visit, they had to be accompanied by a local agent and a guide for the entire duration of their stay in Thailand.
However, they least expected to see their friends Big Daddy and Monster as well as six other riders welcoming them back to the country. “Chay Monster gifted us little stuffed toy monkeys in pink and orange. I absolutely loved my pink monkey and I hung her on my pannier, where she will sit and accompany me for the rest of our ride,” says Maral.
Given that they had to make their way through Thailand to get to Malaysia, their original plan was to head straight to Bangkok. Their friends however had other plans for them. They took them through a coastal route to a town called Trat. Greeting them was a pink sky with the sun fading away ever so slowly, leaving the two awestruck. They could not linger for too long, given that they still had 120km to cover to reach their overnight stop in Rayong.
Post Rayong, they had to make their way into the heart of Bangkok city to get their motorcycles some much needed TLC. After dropping them off at Boxerbike (a well-known motorcycle workstation in Malaysia), the two of them sought to explore riding gear shops around the city. Maral remarks, “In India, it is very difficult to get a full range of biking gear for women. Before we set out on our ride, we had the option of ordering online but this ran the risk of potential delay due to custom clearance formalities. As we did not want to change the date of our ride for this, we decided to flag off from Mumbai on the 15th of March with whatever gear we had, and planned to purchase better and matching gear in Thailand.”
With a little help from their friend Sangay, who they met in Bhutan, the Thailand Touratech store offered to help them. Touratech is a leading motorcycle gear manufacturer that specialises in all-weather riding gear. Although functionality was the main objective, Maral, being the fashionista of the two, was adamant about having matching sets and colour co-ordinated gear. After all she says, “Who says adventure bikers shouldn’t always look their best?!”
With their bikes back in shape, they made their way to the Malaysian border. Given their previous encounter with Thailand and its ridiculously high cost to tour around, they had to be swift in reaching Malaysia. While it took them nearly an hour and a half to get an exit stamp from Thai authorities, the immigration procedure while entering Malaysia was completed in barely 15 minutes. It helped that the Malaysian officer also rode a BMW GS.
A few of the local bikers got wind of Maral’s and Pankaj’s arrival in Malaysia and decided to greet them at the border of the country. Pankaj, being a pure vegetarian, had become very efficient in unearthing Indian restaurants. Maral acknowledged that Pankaj had lost considerable amount of weight over the course of the trip. After a wholesome Indian meal, one of the bikers offered to accommodate them for the night. A few of their ‘new’ bike friends asked them out for a drink, but they passed on the offer. As a rule they abstain from drinking while on the ride. This really confused the Malaysians who inquired why they wouldn’t drink coffee! That’s when it dawned on Maral that Malaysia being an Islamic country, the drinks were often tea, coffee or colas, and not alcohol!
The vast open highways welcomed them as they rode in to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Not long after though, Pankaj’s bike started bellowing smoke. The cause being an oil pipe getting dislodged, quite similar to what had happened to them during the early part of their ride. His bike had been acting up throughout the ride and they couldn’t understand why this was happening despite the bike being overhauled recently.
Upon reaching KL, both Maral and Pankaj had to put their ride on hold to sort out their visas for various countries. While Pankaj had to come back to India, Maral had to fly out to South America to sort out her documentation. Nearly a fortnight elapsed before they could resume riding. To cross over into Indonesia, they rode to Penang and availed services of the locally famous Mr Lim and his equally famous ‘Onion Boat.’ The boat would take five days to ship their bikes across. The timing could not have been better as that gave Maral a chance to attend the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) with her friend and racer Dr Neharika Yadav. The DRE took place at the Sepang International Circuit, near Kuala Lumpur.
The ethos behind ‘Ride to be One’ was to connect with riders around the world and learn about their culture. In Malaysia, our two riders caught up with Bram, a Belgian who had embarked upon a similar world-conquering ride. As luck would have it, Bram too was heading for the islands of Indonesia. Thereby, they found another partner-in-crime to explore Indonesia.
Given that Indonesia’s traffic situation is as bad as ours in India, the scenic coastal route was the obvious choice for the trio. While there was no way for them to bypass certain cities, the better part of the trip through Sumatra and Java were quick and stress-free. They were warned by locals not to ride post sunset, especially in Java. Paying heed to sound advice, the curfew time on the saddle was set for 9pm.
Volcanoes have been crucial in shaping the topography of Indonesia and not all of them are dormant. While roaming through East Java, they came upon Mount Bromo, an active volcano that recently erupted in 2016. The ride from the checkpost to the summit spanned only 15km, but with the terrain comprising of purely loose gravel the journey took them close to three hours. An extremely early start at 3am followed by a jeep ride to one of the higher regions of the mountain was worth every single penny. An awestruck Maral recollects, “What we saw at sunrise that cold morning will always remain one of the most beautiful sights we’ve seen on this journey. Just thinking about it still brings a smile to my face. You all have to keep this location on your bucket list!”
As they rode in to Bali, they were coming to the end of the first leg of their ride, crossing eight countries along the way. Given that their bikes needed to be shipped to Australia, they worked on them for two days to get them clean and ready for inspection. The Australians have earned the reputation for being one of the most stringent authorities around the world. So every single crevice was cleaned; every loose nut tightened.
As the bikes were en route to Australia, Pankaj and Maral decided to make a short trip back to India.