Is it a bird on its way to a party in Anjuna?

Is it a new age Father Christmas – trim, safety conscious and keen to reduce his carbon footprint by not flying?

No.  It’s a glow in the dark Meakin sitting behind a Santa-hatted somewhat-bellied and very jolly would-be member of the Spirited Stallions.

Led by Johnny Depp – but where was Keira Knightley?  – five Bullets weaved out of Bangalore through the Christmas morning traffic past the Coffee Days and Baristas, the flashy cars and Harleys of Mysore Road.  Rava idlis with five cows – including the wish-fulfilling Kama-dhenu (hidden in the background below – can’t believe none of you photo pros took the cows) –

and several albino rabbits was only slightly marred when the Grinch

realised that their epic ride so far had in fact covered only 40 miles, about 20 minutes on the M3.

A few hours later, we hit The Track.  Already legendary in Road Veda history, The Track is a five kilometre stretch of rocks, stone and mud carved up by four wheel drive jeeps and elephants – who, we were later informed, hate bikes and are therefore prone to charge – through the Madumalai tiger reserve to Pradeep and Sonia’s estate.  Although it was the dry season, The Track claimed three scalps, including the fluorescent Meakin’s steed plus an indicator and a brake lever.  Having been led up and down various tributaries to The Track by the Marga-darshaka (recently promoted from Arambhaka) – who had been there twice before and definitely knew the way – the bikes crawled up to the house and were parked in the veranda (to avoid damage by tuskers Pradeep reassured us).

By the time Father Christmas had been and gone, and after several hours of barbeque followed – to the surprise of some – by supper, the moon began to wobble to the sound of various animal noises, later identified as a platypus and an anteater.  Photographical evidence of this (the moon rather than the animals) was unfortunately interrupted by yet another of Sonia’s panicked alarms.  “Python, python, quick.”  After all running inside – with the Meakin  much the fastest to reach safety – we all rushed back outside to see the great snake, only to be confronted with a large cow.  The python was in fact a bison.

The Boxing Day Ride proceeded in state up 36 hair pin bends through a landscape more reminiscent of Florence than Tamil Nadu.

But it wasn’t the Ooty hounds, or even the Ooty Club, that was the goal of this climb but chai, muffins and some choice tunes at the well known Scrumptuous Gaiety Café.

Slightly frustrated at the ease with which they had done the climb, the Pirate was delighted to discover that the Lightning 535 had mysteriously packed up at the 36th turn – you can always bank on Bhagath’s bike to break down.  Shadows began to lengthen as the crowds gathered to ogle and offer spurious advice in Tamil.  Riding along The Track after 5:30 was not advised.  At 5:20, the bike suddenly sprang into life and the race began.  Speedy Gonzalez on the LB500 easily outpaced a grumpy Grinch but the Meakin remained a distant glow.  A herd of elephants greeted the bikes as they bounced into the estate at 5:55 providing plenty more opportunities for arty elephants-at-night shots.

To be continued…