Day 9 : 29th September 2019Clarification on the back issue posted on day 8. Nothing wrong with my back and it is still strong. The roads we used were really rough and it made me shift to the turns we maneuvered and the constant friction created some irritation on the back of my thigh. It was only during the ride and now I am perfectly fine to maneuver more such turns. Thanks for all those who checked with me on this. We wanted to leave at 7 am but could leave at 8 am only. The roads from Assam leading to Manipur were decent and saw lots of ambassador cars on the street. Ambassador and Royal Enfield are the iconic representation of Indian automobile industry.
Royal Enfield got revived and hope the same happens with Ambassador as well. Entered Manipur and saw a police check post and we didn’t stop. We went ahead looking for a breakfast place and one police came after us on a bike and asked us “where are we coming from and where are we going?”. He got satisfied with a simple truthful answer and left us to have our breakfast. You don’t get to see any hotels and the road shops act in multiple forms. The one we went looked like an electrical repair shop but had a kitchen as well.
They served us hot chappati with some aloo bhaji. The look of the bhaji was not great and we went with mango pickle.Saw lots of armed forces (local police and army) with assault rifles everywhere. Got a message from my cousin telling me about the underground elements and be careful of them. Even Naren (our ride leader) had given us a picture of the situation and the presence of armed forces substantiated the message. People look friendly but you never know who is normal or who is from the gang.
Believe there are 67 such outfits exist in Manipur and I have been that they control the people/economy of this state. I was told that 22% of the money transferred to your account had to be given to these outfits and people willingly do that. Unbelievable but seems to be true. Saw one unauthorized post collecting money from each of the truck drivers who crossed that area. Fortunately, we haven’t been stopped so far. Apart from this, Manipur is equally beautiful as Meghalaya. Very scenic and the entire journey was through Ghat section.
You move from one Ghat to another and it seems to be a never-ending stretch. You go up for some time and come down and again do this in a cyclical manner. You ride through dense forest and river Barak accompanies everywhere. Beautiful waterfalls and some small villages appear once in a while. The only difference is the weather. It was hot/humid and fortunately, we were riding and didn’t feel it while on the move. The moment you stop, you start sweating immediately.
240 km of Ghat section to be covered and Naren said it would take more than 10 hours to reach Imphal and It would be tougher than the Meghalaya ghats. So true it is. Roads were not that bad for the majority part but the turns were really breaking your hands and the back. You have to manage a sharp turn every 10-15 meters and some turns were of 270°. I felt like a racing rider and shifting my body on each turn. The only difference is the speed. We traveled at an average speed of 15 km (never went beyond the 3rd gear) whereas they would be doing such turns at 200 km per hour. A true sport testing your skills and fitness.
Some stretches were completely off-roading (literally riding through mud and uneven patches) and we did cross 2 metal cum wooden bridges. The wooden planks were floating (not fixed to the platform) and the entire bridge starts shaking if a truck comes along. Army manages these bridges and they allow one truck at a time. We met a Sardar driver and initiated a conversation with him. He is from Jammu and spends 6-8 months in this part of the city.
As per him, Manipur is one of the underdeveloped states in India and infrastructure is bad and gangs rule the state.. His vehicle was stopped before one of the metal cum wooden bridges (some repair work is happening) and he is not sure when they will open it for use. It could be done in an hour’s time or it may take 4 days as well. His only option is to wait till they open. To cover a distance of 150 kms he might have to wait for a week and that’s really bad. Pity those truck drivers.. Again a place where people go out of their way to assist you.
We stopped at a village shop for tea and the lady was happy to have us with them. She spoke about her kids (one of them is going to be a doctor) and all communication happened with broken hindi/English. No inhibition and that’s a blessing and I love to have that blessings. She was selling vegetables as well and that includes the hottest chillies I had ever tasted (took a bite and burning sensation was there for more than 3 hours). We had around 125 kms more to be covered and Manish shouted on intercom “Tyre has a puncture”. My heartbeat went for a toss and came back to normal when he asked me to check his rear Tyre.
It was losing its life and we were in the middle of no man’s land. I asked him to stop the vehicle and I proceeded further to bring Naren back (his intercom is not connected for some technical reasons). Naren knows how to take care of the situation and he immediately started working on getting the Tyre removed from the vehicle. Tough job and every rider (including me) should learn this mandatorily. While the work was happening, locals started gathering around and some of them gave an helping hand.
One of them went and brought a mechanic (whose off day is today) and he came back and got the punctured tube replaced with a spare one. Mechanic refused to accept cash from us and we had to forcefully give it to him. This is what India is all about and you find good people at eveyy turn. All set to ride again and we thought of finishing lunch at a near by place. While doing our lunch, it started raining and didn’t stop till sunset.
Knowing the long journey through the ghat and difficulties in handling the turns when it is dark, we decided to stay back at Nungba and the food place guy offered us a bed for 100 rupees. We know what we are getting into and we didn’t have much option… Once the rain stopped, we moved and got into this one room place (which had 3 different beds) and that was going to be the place for us tonight. You can only plan but cannot nature. We hope to cover the remaining distance early on day 10 and rest for the day. Fingers crossed and prayer continues.