The window shades changed hue as we took off on the Dreamliner for the United States of America. All of a sudden the light from outside became ethereally blue. Blue clouds. Sitting very comfortably in a Business Class seat, courtesy AirIndia, I flew in the blue atmosphere and touched heaven. The passenger next to me switched on a movie. I switched on Europe.
Oscwiecim took its toll on my thinking and I went into a burnout mode. It took the joy out of my ride and although I enjoyed riding and all of the experiences, I didn’t feel like writing. So I stopped and started absorbing more on a different level.
I rode to a quaint Healing Hotel in a tiny village called Lanckorona. I left the Polish highways and went through village roads and finally had to climb an unpaved hill, where the Hotel was. Riding up on the stony pathway was difficult after a full days ride and challenging. But, Sunbeam – my bike hauled us both. A Devotee of my Guru and a high profile Corporate man, Franciscus Van De Logt had purchased a two storey villa on a forested hilltop and turned it into a healing retreat. So guests who wanted solace, visit here for yoga or quiet. A lot of art and handicraft was thrown in for ambience, surrounded by tall trees and flowers everywhere.
I was there for two nights and over the weekend. A British Charity organisation: RV Projects, had organised a camp for teenagers from Britain to stay here and absorb. It was a delight to meet them and talk about my ride and pose with them, all surrounding Sunbeam for a group photo.
Franciscus had a Havan kund, a Dhuni, where, every Sunday his wife and daughter performed Indian styled Fire Ceremonies. I participated and felt a peace returning. I walked around the estate and into the village for coffee. This village was known for its woodworking abilities and all houses were wooden, one better than the other.
Rejuvenated, I rode out to Austria. A very pretty route, passing Vienna I looked for a motel. Small roads amidst haystacked fields and cows that were painted on the slopes. It was magic. A village route tends to be slower but much more dramatic. No traffic. Except for farm vehicles.
I stopped at a very pretty village. I had booked on Airbnb, just outside Vienna, trying to get as close to Salzburg as possible. Before I could get there I got a refund on my mobile, which means- cancelled. So I rode on and tried to find a motel, or guesthouse, etc, but the village was empty. The only thing moving was a policeman and I asked him for a roof. He pointed at some guesthouses and I rode there and no one answered the bell. I kept coming back to the policeman. This happened three times. Spotting something else moving, I saw two young girls out for the evening. I asked them where everybody was. They told me there was a youth music festival in another part of the village and everyone has gone there. They suggested another village and thats how I stumbled onto Mistlebach. I arrived here at dusk. This is the magical time when the toys come out of the box to play. Fairy lights all over. A chill in the air. And just imagine I found a B&B owned by a Chinese couple! Migration at its best.
The next day I rode towards Salzburg hoping to meet Julie Andrews. This time I saw a lot of bikers on both sides of the road. Surely enjoying the best of Europe atmosphere. All of us waving out at each other. I came to a village called Kuchl. Following bikers, I tried a few places, but this was high tourist season. Getting a good referral, I got a B&B and checked in. The owner was the Chef and his wife the administration. They made me park my bike in their garage. It was early evening and I wanted to walk about. I asked the Chef where are the Austrian Alps. He asked me to look outside the main door…I did. We were on the foothills! Heavenly. I attempted Eidelweiss, but stopped before someone threw me out. I walked around and met a lot of bikers. All walking around. Same agenda. My inner peace was returning and the depression vanished. God was still running a B&B for bikers like me!
Riding on the next day to Germany, I entered the famous Autobahn with excitement. This is something I have been hearing about for decades. There were three lanes each. I was doing 140km on the slowest one. The first lane was a fast forward movie. It was fun. There are places where it’s unlimited speed. A lot is limited to 130kmph. Along the autobahn you will find rooms linked with the fuel pump. Most toilets on the fuel station are half a Euro to use. On FB I saw a lot of grumbling about charging for nature’s call. Well, eating is also nature’s call and it’s certainly not free. But, I soon discovered a free-to-pee stop. For truckers and family. A very well built toilet with water fountains and benches to picnic. All amidst the enveloping forest. I put a timer on my bladder for these places.
I was planning a ten day Germany spend with a friend of mine who took unwell as I reached Munich. With him I had planned to go to Berlin and then Wolfenbuttel which is where the factory of Jaeger Meister is. An online request was accepted for ten days forward. So I opted out and rode westwards to Rieferath preferring the Autobahn itself as an adventure. I rode through the most modern Frankfurt. I reached Rieferath in the evening. This village was away from the Autobahn and the hustle bustle of city life. Most of the wooden houses belonged to devotees of my Guru. There was his Ashram here and I was invited to stay. A gentle rain welcomed me.
A lot of the devotees had met Babaji so it was a meeting of old friends. Extremely well designed and meant for a full house event, the Ashram was an inspiring structure divided into two locations, 200 feet away from each other. Invited by all, I visited the devotees at their houses for a meal and conversation. Everyone was happy that I visited them and we congregated during Satsangh and Pooja times. The food, vegetarian, varied from fresh salads and pasta to pizza, at their own oven! One day we had ice-cream. That was a good day! During night time, I would look at the stars and wish. Time stopped.
But the rain didn’t. The drizzle grew into a thunderstorm. It rained for two days and just when I spied a lull, I packed and rode out towards Netherlands. By the time I reached the Autobahn, the thunderstorm came back to meet me and stayed on my tail for two hours. This was worrisome. The cloud cover looked Indian monsoons type. Endless. Lane 1 and 2 were in full form and my visor visibility was rapidly dropping. It was impossible to ride less than 130kmph since you end up choking the lane. Soon the mist grew to scaring levels. I took the first exit and started a Southern ride to South Germany Lake Constance, where another devotee was waiting for me. I didn’t get to Netherlands. I figured, going south should be better weather.
Tired, drenched, hungry and cold; I stopped short at a Montbaur B&B. I blow-dried my jacket and boxers and wore the same the next day towards Daisendorf, Lake Constance. It was a mix of sunny and cloudy and a light drizzle. But tolerable. Most delightfully I rode through the Black Forest. The visuals of the forest revived me.
Lake Constance has Germany on one side and Switzerland on the other. I stopped at a devotees house for two nights of healing and spiritual upliftment. And great food. And great rest. And no biking!
I rode out to the jetty to cross the Lake on a ferry. A SuperBiker took the space next to me. When he came to know about my Ride and that I am an Indian, he paid for my ferry. That’s €50! Thank you.
I stopped at a fuel pump and strode into the shop and asked for a Swiss Chocolate. The lady behind the counter replied, everything is Swiss here. I felt foolish, bought something and promptly left.
So I rode through and kept riding till I reached Milan. Here I had a special mission. I went to meet a devotee who has been unwell. She has no memory, but is quite healthy. This lady gave the western world the message of my Guru: Bhole Baba. We were good friends and I learnt a lot from her. So I parked near her home and took time from her 24/7 nurses, after a pre-approval from some people and visited her. She had no clue who I was. I sat next to her and told her what I have been upto since the last 20 years. I sang bhajans and generally behaved as if everything was normal. The conversation was one sided. The nurses started crying. So did I. I left.
My mission was to head to the South of Brindisi and I did this in two halts. Cesena is a small town enroute, on the Eastern side and I knew a name here. Bhappi Sonie, a very successful film director and producer made some movies with my dad. Succesfull, he was also a close friend of my father and his daughter married an Italian and lived here. I Facebooked her and booked into a small B&B in the Town Square. With my good luck, next day was market day and I saw Italy at its best. I met my new friend and enjoyed chatting old times. We sang some songs and after her breakfast treat and meeting her Osho- follower-Chef-restaurant owner- husband, I left. I felt nice. I met people I would ordinarily never get the opportunity to meet and if I did, would I?
Lancione was a nothing to do halt. So I did nothing. Therefore it was refreshing!
I reached Cisternino in the afternoon and my friend Olga and her husband the good Professor picked me up at an easy location and took me to their home, where I stayed a week and some. In a Trullo! So, Trullo’s are conical roofs made a few hundred years ago. Made of stone slabs, they are interlocking type and considered mobile, so that they didn’t attract taxes. Medieval times, today nothing helps in evading taxes. The Itria Valley is a lovely collection of small towns on the periphery and the valley between. A lovely Ashram exists here and I spent a week roaming all over the Itria Valley, the ashram and ofcourse: Market Day! Olga, a devotee of my Guru and a Master Tarot Reader, globally popular, along with her husband, gave me the time of my life. And I saw rural Italy. The food, the fruit, the wine, the olives. The Trullo’s scattered all over. The first day of Ganpathi started and I attended a Pooja and got to meet all. Full of Italy, I left by the Autostrada going back the same way.
The best chocolates are made in Perugia; so they say. I didn’t have any but stayed with another Italian devotee in the middle of the hills. This villa was surrounded by forest and hills and nothingness. The nearest neighbour was more than a few kilometres away. The Villa was owned by my friend Fulvio Lo Savio, a spiritualist, designer, painter, jewellry maker, naturalist and a great cook.
He invited his friends and after a great meal, we sang bhajans till the end of night. It was an extraordinary stay.
I rode on.
Asti is a tiny town and in that San Secondo is a tiny-tiny village with one Villa and that’s where I headed. It’s an Ashram of my Guruji. With hazelnut trees all over the property, I was always walking on a carpet of fallen fruit. From here, on a clear day, I could see the mountains right in front of me in a super panoramic view. I stayed here for two nights and besides the spiritual soul servicing, which was being well done in Italy in a regular frequency, we went on a small tour by car. Nearby is the birthplace of St. John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco. This was a humbling and inspiring visit to meet a man who dedicated his life to the youth to keep them out of trouble.
Genoa was my next halt and I stayed near the ocean and the best view in town, after which I rode into endless tunnels and finally into the 11km Montblanc Tunnel. I got spat out into the picturesque town of Chamonix and rode about to see the atmosphere, before exiting to a small wooden motel in the next and nearby village. When I asked the owner why did he select out of Chamonix. He replied he preferred the peace outside of a town. When I asked him where do I go to get a view of the Mont Blanc, he asked me to open the window in my room.
I rode through France enjoying the regions of Chardonnay, Champagne and Reims and onwards to Calais. Rather than go via Paris, I elected the countryside route, which was extremely romantic. Greenery and wine everywhere. Ibis was a professional night halt all over and reasonable. I was enjoying Europe to the hilt. Fresh croissant of all types and dainty dishes, made up my route. It was cloudy and just a tiny bit of rain. I entered my Ferry at Calais and sank into the most luxurious sofa after getting my bike lashed to the hold. A receding Europe bid me farewell.
I rode on the left side of the road after three months! The White cliffs of Dover rode along for sometime, until I got lost in the system of the London roadways, to stop at my cousin’s house in Canary Wharf, for a well earned holiday.
Minnie and Raghu met me most warmly and I stayed with them for two weeks. I met my kindergarten teacher Miss Paperwala in Paddington and she gave me the best fish n chips. My school friend: Sanjiv Lal, from Goa who was in London took me out for dinner. I had seen my first bike in his house. A 1960 Royal Enfield. He still has it. A lovely British couple Neil and Cheryl, who stay next to us in Goa, when there, are a globe trotting couple, who are constantly backpacking. They invited me to the Red Lion for simple BritFood. And beer. A family friend of my younger days, Rita Walia, cooked Indian chicken curry for me and drove me around London. I was with family and friends.
Getting USA customs and my my onward journey started, I spent this time socialising with people I knew. The biggest surprise was my friend: Deepak Amembal. We did Indian-Bhutan-Nepal on a motorcycle together and he was living in the same complex as I was. Thirty seconds away. We spent good time together.
The window shades miraculously turned clear and I spied New Jersey. Ofcourse that was because of the overhead announcement, not my personal skills. Captain Amitabh Singh and his Lady Co-pilot, flew us skilfully and my schoolfriend Jitu Chanchani welcomed me into USA. I am now in his house and completing this write. I have travelled halfway around the globe and am now awaiting the customs clearance of my motorcycle.
And the arrival of my wife!