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July 6, 2017
July 11, 2017

Biking Through The Silk Route

Rohini Kejriwal tracks one man’s motorcycle adventure through 22+ countries

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

Travelling around the world on a motorcycle is a far too common fantasy that people eventually outgrow or give up on because they realize they simply don’t have enough of a nomad in them. Then there are others like Abhijit Rao, the motorcycle traveler of Trailbug Adventures and front-man of Bangalore-based extreme progressive metal band Escher’s Knot, who seem to be born for the road.

The travel bug bit first but Rao seven years ago, during which he explored India on his 46-year-old Royal Enfield, covering 300,000+ kms. In April 2017, he embarked on a journey that was similar to his last epic adventure—Trails D’Azure. Taking his Royal Enfield Himalayan to ride through what was once known as the Silk Route of Central Asia, Russia, and parts of Europe. All the while, capturing the folk and street music from the areas on the go for a documentary he is working on.

On the road, somewhere in Mangolia and Tajikistan

It is fascinating how Rao has managed to keep so many different passions running parallel—from his band, to sound engineering, to managing Unscene— a monthly metal and Indie music night to give a push to a wider array of indie bands in India. But over and above everything comes his love for travel, which he feels has fortunately gone hand in hand with his other interests. “I consider myself lucky. For a long time now, my work has revolved around travel and it’s been a win-win situation for me because music and travel have been going hand in hand. I’ve been dreaming about this Silk Route journey for a long time now and somehow last year, I just took the courage to pursue it,” shares Rao. Even though he is in the middle of it, the experience is still surreal to him, “at times, I still pinch myself,” he shares.

Rao recalls how it all started with Motorcycle Travellers Meet (MTM) becoming the vital plug to ‘travel’ across borders. When he met people who had experienced the nomadic life, he started to crave and dream of experiencing different cultures and meeting new people himself. The final push came from the famous rider Hubert Kreigel and his stories. His phrase “Take that risk! That did it for me,” he shares.

While he was intrigued by the Silk Route in general, it was the beauty of Mongolia through other travelers’ pictures that had him truly smitten. He found himself dreaming about the country every day and thought that he would do this trip in 2015 but he ended up waving it off. “I wasn’t that serious about it initially as the idea seemed impossible to me. After several days, it came back to me again, and this time, it was more persistent. But I decided to suspend it as I was about to leave for a month-long trip to the Himalayas. I told myself I’d have enough time to think about possible trips across borders later. But it all worked out and it’s really happening!” he says excitedly.

On why he named his journey Trails D’Azure, Rao explains, “’Azure’ means Blue and Mongolia is known as ‘The land of eternal blue skies’.” He adds that his travel essentials comprise KLIM gear, Krios Helmet, Latitude Jacket & Pants, Gloves (Sponsored by Bigbadbikes.com), basic camping gear and an MSR Stove. To document the journey, his gear includes a GoPro, Canon 6D, Ricoh Reel camera, and Zoom H5N recorder.

Rao has to pinch himself to take in the surreal experience

One of the crucial aspects for Rao is to experience the local life, which is why he makes sure to stay with locals and get to know their life and be a part of it. “This has made me unlearn a lot of things and inspired me a lot. It has definitely changed a lot for me. I’ve met tons of crazy travelers and folks on the road. One thing I can say is that fear drives them all; but you make choices and never look back.”

What is truly special is how Rao’s friends, well-wishers and fellow motorcyclists from around the world have come forward to make Trails D’Azure a reality through an ongoing crowd-funding campaign, helping him make hard choices to embark on this journey. “I’ve been really grateful to everyone who has helped me with this journey. Holding an Indian passport and visiting these countries and travelling by your own motorcycle is the hardest thing. I spent close to 5 and a half months and around 6000$ for just documentation and Air-Freighting with which I could have gone round the world. It was really a challenge to acquire all the visas and prepare myself mentally for this. Meeting new people has always been the best thing about travelling for me – it’s the people you meet along the way who really inspire you and you learn a lot from them. So far, it’s been such an amazing journey that I am out of words to describe it,” he says.

So what advice could a well- travelled motorcyclist like him offer to people who are hoping to embark on similar journeys? “All of us dream and very few chase your dreams and go for it. We often keep pushing the ideas of our dreams for tomorrow. We fail to realise that at one point, we will have too many tomorrows piled up and those tomorrows will have become yesterdays. For many, a job is some unpleasant work you do in order to make money. But it’s absurd to take up a job for the sole purpose of making money. If money becomes the goal and you work that way, you begin to lose out on your life. We are so hooked to the monotonous routine that it’s really hard to get out of the Autopilot mode. Work will always fill a large part of your life. But find what you love to do and just go for it. The only way to be truly satisfied is by doing that. I love travelling and I love my “job”!” he says.

Pitching a tent in Tajikitstan

Currently, Rao has finished Mongolia, and is taking the Trans-Siberian train from East to West of Russia and entering the European Union to spend 3 months exploring the countryside and music of Europa.

But how will he ever reconcile the two worlds once he’s eventually back home? He admits that it’s going to be a tough one to return from these travels. “But all I can say is that this is just the beginning and I’ll try and balance my travel and work somehow and continue exploring new places and culture.”


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