Planning our holidays or vacations, the majority of us want to immediately head abroad to Europe, the USA or the South East of Asia – when truly, we don’t even have a feel for the diversity within our homeland. The 7 th geographically largest country in the entire world, India’s 29 states are more different that you could imagine. Set out to discover every nook and corner of the land he was born in, Ali Mehndi is a traveler on and lover of any and all two-wheelers. Over 4 months, he is exploring India on his bike; he took his Bajaj Pulsar on a memorable ride across 29 states, 2 countries and 29,115 kilometers – exactly why we felt that he is perfect for the #IamLivingIt series. Rachana from Livingit connected with Ali, and here’s the story of a passionate biker.
RJ: You restore vintage bikes for a living – so the love for bikes is not only in your passion for riding them but also in your career. How did you get into vintage bike repairs?
Ali: Ali: When I started riding I always wanted to learn the basics of motorcycle repairs. So, whenever I took my bike for servicing I always asked questions and got the mechanic to explain everything to me, at times he even taught me to do stuff. Today the same mechanic is a friend to me.
As to why vintage bikes specifically, from a young age I was a lover of history and was fascinated with vintage and classic things. This old love fondly grew into the love for vintage motorcycles too. For me, these vintage bikes are a part of history and I’m just helping keep history alive! I genuinely love old scooters like the Vespa, Lambereta or Vijay super and mostly deal in restoring and selling these. These Italian beauties are surely a piece of art. My first client was from Thailand, and I sold him one of my BSA motorcycles. After that, it was no looking back for me. I’ve sold loads of scooters to so many people. My clients just love them and we end up becoming good friends. It’s a joy when you passionately love doing something and a greater joy for me when I see the happiness and smiles on the faces of my clients who share the same love and passion for vintage motorcycles like me…thus I love my job!
RJ: When did you start riding?
Ali: It was in 1996, I was 8-year-old and my father thought me how to ride a two-wheeler. I still remember it was a Yamaha RX 100. I started travelling and touring on motorcycles in 2006 after which riding has become an addiction and hunger to explore and discover for me.
RJ: What motivated you to tour India on your bike?
Ali: I believe that life is an adventure and the only way to be happy is to “live the life you love, and love the life you live”. I always wanted to explore my country on my motorcycle. I’ve met so many foreigners who have visited India and shown me things and places about my own country that I’d never seen or heard of before. So it was my desire to explore, travel and experience my country with my own eyes.
With this in mind along with my hunger for adventure, it was simple. I set out from Aligarh and rode for 4 months (130 days) to not only the 29 states of my country but also Bhutan and Tamu (Myanmar) completing a total of 29,115 kilometers!
RJ: What was the ultimate goal that you wanted to reach through this trip?
Ali: I had no final goals or fixed aims, it was just one crazy motorcyclist and the long vast roads. I simply wanted to travel, explore my country, and experience its people, places, foods, and cultures.
This ride was a crazy idea for a mad guy with pure love and inquisitiveness to see every nook and corner of the land he was born in, and that would truly be the reason I did this. Most of us Indians plan our trips and holidays to foreign countries, without even seeing and exploring India – our fascinating, vast and divine country.
RJ: Tell us a bit about the journey – Exploring India on a bike?
Ali: The journey was a highly fulfilling experience for me. From riding on dangerous roads, hot deserts, the cool rainy Western Ghats, the beautiful beaches down south, the hot dry cities, the beautiful north eastern states, to riding in the middle of nowhere, experiencing all weather types, terrains and getting lost in the mountains. I took the roads less taken and witnessed some breathtaking landscapes while exploring India!
I rode to the Siachen Base Camp and spent time with our Indian Army, I trekked through the northeast, I sat by the sea watching the beautiful sunsets in Goa, and watched the sunrises in Tawang Arunachal (the place of the rising sun). I got a feel of my country, its’ amazing regions and different climates. Being a history enthusiast, I enjoyed that I also got to visit the stunning monuments with their ancient intricate architecture. The 130 days of exploring India were full of millions of happy as well as sad emotions; for one, I surely missed my parents and my doggie back home.
I met some amazing people from different parts of the country; some old friends but also new people who became friends through this journey. I don’t have any siblings, this was one thing that haunted me earlier, today I have been blessed to have so many ‘brothers from other mother’s’ that I’m not alone anymore. They care for me, were concerned, called to check on me and basically had my back. These joys and connections of love is what transformed me as a person on this journey. It’s left a mark on my soul, which helped me personally to become a better human being.
It’s these emotions and bonds that proved to me that I was right when I let go of materialistic happiness.
THE ROUTE I FOLLOWED FOR EXPLORING INDIA
My route was Aligarh – Delhi – Pushkar – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Rann of Kutch – Ahemdabad – Vadodra – Vapi – Daman – Mumbai – Divyagar – Ganpatipule – Ratnagiri – Goa – Jog falls – Udupi – Manglore – Coorg – Wayanad – Ooty – Conoor – Munnar – Kodukumlai -Kochi – Ernakulam – Athirapali – Allepe backwaters – Kovalam – Kanyakumari – Rameshwaram – Dhanushkodi – Pondicherry – Banglore – Hampi – Hyderabad – Vizag – Puri – Kolkata – Siliguri – Darjeeling – Mangan – Thangu – Gurudungmar lake – Chungthang – Gangtok – Nathu la – Zuluk loopS – Mal bazaar – Jaigaon – Chukka Bhutan – Paro – Thimphu – Punakha – Gellephu – Guwahati – Bomdila – Tawang – Bomla – Itanagar – Zero – Majuli – Kohima – Dzuku Valley – Imphal – Moreh – Tamu – Myanmar – Moreing Loktak lake – Dimapur – Jatinga – Karimganj – Agartala – Khowai – Unakoti – Silchar – Aizal – Dawki – Shillong – Siliguri – Muzaffarpur – Bodhgaya – Ranchi – Jaspur – Banaras – Allahabad – Raibareli – Lucknow – Gwalior – Agra – Dehradun – Panchkula – Barog – Amritsar – Dalhousie – Killad – Gulabgarh – Jispa – Leh – Turtuk – Siachen Base Camp – Khalsar – Shyok – Pangong – Leh – Kargil – Rangdum – Padum – Sonmarg – Sirnagar – Pathankot – Jalandhar – Manali – Vashist – Chandigarh – Delhi – Aligarh.
RJ: What did your luggage consist of during your trip?
Ali: My luggage was very light. I had my laptop, some tools, a puncture kit, a foot pump, my camera, some spares for my motorcycle, a first aid kit and of course some of my clothes.
RJ: What was one of your most memorable moments from this trip?
Ali: One of my most precious memories, and first-time experiences actually, was celebrating my Eid and eating my Eid lunch at the Langar, the worlds’ largest free kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. This was not only a different experience but also a precious memory for me. Eid is normally always celebrated with my parents back home. This was actually my first ever Eid away from home and that too in such a different and unique way! This is an experience I’m going to cherish for a long time.
RJ: Do you prefer to ride solo, with friends or with a group?
Ali: I generally ride solo. You could say that solo riding is my cup of tea. I have ridden with groups and friends but I’ve always enjoyed and preferred solo trips.
Open roads, my Motorcycle and me!
RJ: You’ve ridden on quite a variety of bikes from 2 stroke engines, naked bikes to sport bikes. Do you have any favourites?
Ali: I am a lover of two-stroke motorcycles. I presently own 12 motorcycles, but the Yamaha Rd 350 is definitely my favourite machine. I call mine ‘Eleanor’. Whenever I ride her, she takes me into my past…I feel totally like a teenager. This machine is just amazing. I love everything about that bike; the sound, the rawness of the engine, the power and the simplicity.
RJ: You rode through India on your Bajaj Pulsar 220, what are the pros and cons of this bike while long distance touring?
Ali: There are no pros and cons about any bike as such. It’s up to you, as who is riding and what you’re riding. I am personally comfortable with any machine. I will ride any two-wheeler given to me. It’s not about the motorcycle it’s about your riding and about your personal comfort. I call my pulsar ‘Lipinzaroo.’
But I must say that the Bajaj service is very good and you can find Bajaj service stations in every nook and corner of the country. Even in Nepal and Bhutan, I didn’t face any problems. So, that’s the good thing about this motorcycle, and I haven’t really found any cons about any motorcycle. Every motorcycle is beautiful and every machine has its own characteristics.
RJ: Could you tell us a little about the most difficult terrain you’ve ever ridden – the Mustang Valley in Nepal while travelling from Beni to Mukinath?
Ali: There was no road really from Beni to Muktinath in Nepal, it was purely an off road route. It was surely an off-roader’s paradise. When I was there it was pouring cats and dogs and I was riding a pulsar on that terrain. The water crossings that I had to pass were huge. But it was all fun and part of the adventure. The Pulsar managed all of this somehow.
RJ: What is your advice to any other rider who wants to and believes in exploring India?
Ali: It’s very simple. This is to not just riders but any traveler travelling in and exploring India. You just need to carry a smile on your face, keep your attitude and ego back in your home, and let this lovely country with its amazingly warm and friendly people welcome you with open arms.
India is a country of such amazing people who don’t care what or who you are. They will come out and help you if you need and treat you like a fellow brother if you share the same warmth and loving energy. The hospitality of people of my country is beyond words. So just keep smiling and ride and travel this amazing land!
If you love the idea of traveling across India on your bike, then we’ve got 7 Road Trips For Every Biker in India to get you started. Along with that, check out the 7 Types Of Places To Stop While You Are On A Ride to get the best views, memories and experiences while stretching your legs!