Skate India Expedition - Chapter 1.
One evening in an apartment in Mumbai, India. It's a Sunday , the weather is pleasant, some birds chirping, there are sounds of kids running around and having fun, the sound of a bell from a temple from somewhere in the distance. There are two people in the apartment, one sitting in the living room writing in a book, another sitting on a glass dining table and writing something as well.
In the appartment in Mumbai © Gautham Nalasingu
Firstly, let’s address the clutter in the room! There are bags and shoes and clothes all over the living room. We’ve both kept our belongings separately, and we have still managed to create two mini mountains for ourselves. Every table , every shelf has one thing or another lying on it. ( I wonder why they call boys messy!). All jokes aside, it’s time to address the two beauties in the neighborhood.Right across the apartment are 2 bikes which stand out among all the other parked vehicles.A Royal Enfield and a Hero Impulse ; both loaded with stickers, extra light fittings and knuckle guards, along with the filming gear, skateboards and some additional equipment buried somewhere under the pile of clothes!
This isn’t where our journey begins.
A month ago, we started out from Bangalore. Riding with our gear on and fully packed bikes, we set out on an expedition. An expedition around India, visiting all the skate spots and skaters - that was the vision.
On the way to Hampi | © Gautham Nalasingu
They had just set out of Bangalore, just about 50 kms, when they stopped their bikes on the side of the highway, discussing about how the weight of all the luggage on the back makes the handle a little wobbly at slightly higher speeds. A little ahead a green color car stopped and man got down and started walking towards them. He introduces himself, turns out to be a Kannada radio jockey, and he was curious looking at the bikes as to what their story is.
He asks the riders for their names, one guy replies his name is Gautham, he turns to the other and he replies that his name is Gautham too. Gautham Kamath ( Happy) and Gautham Nalasingu ( G ). He takes a short clip and some photos on his phone of both the riders and when asked what their first destination was, the reply was Hampi.
Hampi bowl and surroundings © Gautham Nalasingu
In a totally unexpected place like Hampi, there is a skate spot. A mini ramp and a small bowl, built in a place which is chilled out for travellers who are looking for a place to stay in Hampi, well not in Hampi main town, but across the river. A very peaceful place.
The radio jockey wishes them safe travels on their ride and gets into his car and heads out. Both Happy and G look at each other like "that was totally random" and get on their bikes, all set to leave and after taking the Royal Enfield out of center stand the bike leans to the left and with all the weight of the extra luggage, the bike drops on its side, looking at that Happy reacts and his bike leans to the side too and falls on the ground. It turns out its tough for just one person to lift the bikes up with all that luggage on it.
Lifting both the bikes up, they just laugh and get on and leave.
The ride was very enjoyable once we got used to the weight of the luggage, we were already late by the time we left bangalore, and by sunset time we were near Chitradurga, the landscape is dotted with wind mills. We saw an offroad track and our bikes having been fitted with offroading tires we couldn't resist but venture in for a bit. Made calls to our homes informing them as to our progress, the feeling sunk in, That feeling knowing what lays ahead of us, three months on the road. We didn't speak but we knew it, how lucky and thankful we are to be where we were right then.
Highways turned to narrower single roads with quite a bit of traffic. The rest of the ride to Hampi was pretty uneventful other than a close call with a dog crossing with the road in the night, the Impulse went through a braking and maneuvering test with all that luggage. And of course wherever we stopped during the day, we had people come up to us wanting to know our story, and wishing us safe travels. That always left with a very warm and happy feeling. They didn't know us but they were very genuine in their wishes, almost like "bro ride safe huh".
Hampi ramp and cafe © Gautham Nalasingu
We reached late, close to midnight, put on our headlamps and started unpacking and shifting all our luggage which is not an easy task we realized. That first morning in Hampi was like we had stepped into a completely different world from which we had left. Peaceful would be the word to describe Hampi. Having had some tea and breakfast in the newly built cafe at Mardhan Bhai's place, we headed to the mini ramp and Happy started skating and got into the zone immediately.
It was afternoon and it was baking, the silence around was broken by the sounds of the skateboarder, with every trick, which naturally aroused the curiosity of this young kid around 8 yrs old, her name was Laya , she could speak only Portugese and we don't know that language, yet the whole time we spoke without speaking. She instantly wanted to try this skating, she puts down this tiny flute she was carrying around and picks up happy's board out of all the other skateboards lying around which is new, bright orange on one side and a cool dual toned blue grip tape. Board in her hand, and a smile on her face she places the board down and tries to stand on it, not understanding how to push and stand with english instructions she just sat on the board and started pushing herself up and down the ramp each time with a happy yelp " yupppiiieeeee!!! ". She was hooked, did not want to leave the skate spot.
Laya on the mini ramp © Gautham Nalasingu
Her parents were chilling in the cafe right across the ramp along with a few more chilled out fellow travelers, there was an older gentlemen with a long pony tail who was from UK, he looked like he had been living there for a while now, a middle aged couple with a one year old boy, Thaine was his name, Thaine had a cool dad, he was a snowboarder, traveling around India with his one year old son and his better half, another guy from Nepal around the same age as us, looks a bit like how Bob Marley might have looked in his twenties. There were more people coming and going as there were a community of campers camping right across the stream which would be like a 100 meter walk upto it through a walkway between paddy fields which leads out onto rocky ground from the ramp and the cafe.
The cafe © Gautham Nalasingu
Here we come back to the story of the two guys sitting in that apartment in mumbai.
Why are they are going through all this effort? carrying so much of luggage with them, why not a car? why does it have to be bikes?
Whats the point of it? What is Skate India Expedition?
Well to be honest there are no simple straightforward answers to these questions other than "why not a car? why does it have to be bikes" , this was what my dad asked me after I told him I would be leaving for a 3 month ride around India with a friend of mine.
"In a car it would be a journey, On a bike it will be an Adventure" .
As for the rest of the questions, only as the days venture and the journey takes its course would those important questions have a complete answer, until then though, we can say that already in a month there has been so much happening on this expedition that the only way now to tell the story is through a story. I'm enjoying this writing thing, new to it , first impressions , "it's tough", "it's tough", "it's very tough" , and its fun. Remember to write down details, names of the people you meet along the way.
Oh ya I heard there is going to a fun box set up very soon at the BKC city park in mumbai, Happy got his DC contract renewed for another year, a kick ass new spot is going get activated in Pune soon, a bmx and skate park construction will begin within a month in Hyderabad, looks like we will be running into the skaters and bmx'ers at the build on our journey back towards the south, around a month and a half from now, heard that the Vans Holydetour was epic fun, 70 skaters in two buses and a truck following ramps and a BMX'er put in jail for a while for BMX' ing, although the cops didn't really want to do that but the people who complained insisted on it being so. Crazy people.
Now back to Hampi which is just the start of our journey
Laya © Gautham Nalasingu
Remember the little flute Laya kept down before skating, well guess what , Happy steps on it while moving around. Crack !!! her head shoots to the direction of the sound, she knew what it meant. With a sad face she takes her slightly broken flute and shows it to her parents. The expression on Happy's face was something very hilarious to witness. She came back though, looks at Happy and with her hands mimics the breaking action of the flute and goes back to the skateboard more glumly than before, not until Happy fell down a little later while skating did a smile break on her face. A little bit of Fevi Qwik and Happy had the flute patched up in no time, and the happy child went back to her " yupppiiiieeeee's " on the skateboard on that ramp somewhere in Hampi .
© Gautham Nalasingu
There was this one spot we wanted to visit which would be a short ride from the place where we were staying. This was a spot which was discovered by the skaters who were present during the Girls Skate Tour which happened a year ago. There was this girl who came up and started talking to us, her name was Roza, she was from Finland and is a skater as well. She then leaves with her friends and get on our bikes and move a couple of houses ahead and we see a couple waiting on the road, the guy is sitting down on the road, on a Skateboard!!! We had our Go Pro's mounted on our helmets, and got some of these unexpected things which happens in this strange and wonderful life. So now the four of us go looking for this spot, which involved a 15 min walk, rocky hill and trees on one side, and a massive concrete steeply banked water channel on the other side .
© Gautham Nalasingu
The surface of the skate spot was very ruff and getting any speed to roll on that surface was quite a task. Dominik who was Poland and Happy were skating with a slam or two here and there, each one I can imagine would have hurt quite a bit. Spent a good hour long in that place, the sun had set by now, having had a great day we make our walk back, drop them at a fork in the road and we make our way back. Back to the mini ramp and the cafe and the room we are staying in, which when the doors are opened the first thing you see is the ramp.
© Gautham Nalasingu
Dominik downhill with a one foot manual © Gautham Nalasingu
The next day we plan to go to the same spot and do down good downhills which were there. Dominik comes by and meets us at the ramp all set for a day of skating, Roza pops by and she decides to join as well. The four of us head out on the bikes, its evening by now, couple of hours left to go for sunset. We park and start skating, bombing down the roads, for a change I was skating and Happy was clicking pictures. A jeep stops by and about 12 or so people get down and are watching the skaters, their unexpected entertainment for the day. They gave it a go on the skateboards, slipping, falling, laughing. With some music blasting from the jeep, it felt like an event in itself randomly on some hilly road somewhere around Hampi. Then left taking with them all the noise they brought with them, and the place spoke peace again.
Jeep people trying skating © Gautham Nalasingu
Rode down to the edge of a lake which was close by and just hung out there for a while, exchanging the stories of our lives, and on the way back stopped by for a chai, reminiscing the events of the day, and biding farewell on each of our journeys, we head back for a much needed sleep.
The lake spot © Gautham Nalasingu
With all of these things happening our stay in Hampi was extended and so it would be the case for the next three places as well, more about that later though.
We finally take some time out from our skating, and the morning that were are to leave we sit around for a while in the cafe, talking with everyone. It already felt like we were part of this small community, and leaving that place would not be easy.
Dominik ollie © Gautham Nalasingu
Both the skaters brought with them an energy, something different from what that place is used to. The energy which is required to skate. No one found the noise of the skateboard, of the tricks, everyone seemed to enjoy this random change of atmosphere in that space. Both the skaters were warmly welcomed in that place, such a happy place that was. Oh ya everyone would be sitting around with chess boards. There were a couple of rabbits in an enclosure, some cats running around, dogs passing by now and then, many many birds. They were traveling, but it felt like home to them.