Bullet Soldier – Kutta 2009
December 16, 2009
Kai landed in Bangalore from LA on a chilly December evening. By 6 o’clock the next morning – his first morning ever in India – he was riding a Royal Enfield Thunderbird, a bike he had never ridden before, through Bangalore and out onto the Mysore Highway on roads he had most certainly never ridden before and which were possibly quite different from the German autobahns he’s used to.
Kai and the seven other bikes were en route to Kutta, a tiny Coorg hamlet balanced precariously on the border of Kerala and Karnataka. Not to be outdone by a newby from America, Kartik, a seasoned Road Veda rider, decided to part ways with his bike in mid-air just beyond the sugarcane kingdom of Mandya. Like a true Bullet rider, he got himself stitched up and refused a lift in the support car or as pillion, resolutely continuing to ride bandages-and-all.
The group was by now quite a spectacle – two white girls riding, one dachshund-beagle puppy (Kali) squeezed between two riders and one bandaged Kartik. The scenery intensified as the road deteriorated, to the extent that even the pillions found it difficult to drink it all in because of the continuously oscillating view. Mr Aiyappa’s estate boasts a dark hill-station-green canopy of pepper creepers, date palms, silver oak and of course coffee by the acre. Kali, who as well as being Pam and Phil’s dog is also the consort of Shiva in his cosmos-destroying form and tends to be depicted with a necklace of human heads, was soon best friends with the Aiyappas’ dog Devil.
The evening brought charades – the highlight undoubtedly Tyrannasaurus Rex and a seeming platypus for Oedipus the King (rex in Latin…) – and star gazing through the piercingly clear night.
The return ride wound its way through Kerala’s Wayanad forest and then the Rajiv Gandhi national park – where a couple of riders spotted elephants from the road – and then through the fields above Mysore on a narrow strip of dusty road just a little wider than a Bullet tyre in places.
Ravenous after a long stretch on challenging roads a bakery provided just what was needed for negotiating Mysore highway on a Sunday evening: hot dil pasand and aloo bun – the bhel puri of Bangalore’s bakery-centred snacks.
Photos courtesy of Phil Clevenger and Joel John