What is it exactly that makes a rider pursue biking as a passion? What makes a biker….well a biker? While for some people it’s a sense of adventure and for some it maybe the taste of freedom they experience or it may even be the joy people derive from travelling.
But for ardent traveler, adventurer and explorer Mauktik Kulkarni, the inspiration to ride, to passionately pursue riding came from Che Guevara & his movie The Motorcycle Diaries.
How many times have we thought; “Chalo yaar, sab chhodke ride pe jaate hain.” But have we ever done it? Have we ever had the guts to leave everything and take off? That’s exactly what Mauktik did; he left his job offer, dropped everything that he was doing and just took off into the wild with Motorcycle Diaries as his inspiration. And what’s more is that he followed a similar Argentinian route that his inspiration Che Guevara took. A six week road trip that changed Mauktik’s life; a change for the better.
The South American Sojourn
A full graduate student in the US, Mauktik landed up with his dream job with an offer impossible to resist soon after completing his graduation. But his passion for motorcycling overrode the tempting offer in hand. Mauktik spoke to his potential employers and took a couple of months off his work. And the best part of this trip was that it wasn’t planned…not even a bit. All he knew was that he had to be back in six weeks time & he did the flight bookings accordingly.
He flew to Peru and hired a motorcycle – the Honda Falcon 400cc to ride the Peru-Chile-Argentina route which was an 8000 km journey. For Mauktik the biggest barrier was language. Unable to communicate in Spanish, Mauktik sometimes faced difficulties along the route. Like most people, Mauktik began his journey, apprehensive about the myths surrounding these countries. He feared being robbed or coming across unhelpful people. There were times when he wondered if he would survive the long trip he undertook. But needless to say, the journey came as a surprise for Mauktik. He experienced the generosity and hospitality of the people, he experienced the scenic beauty of the locales & above all he was experiencing his dream journey. People looked at him in awe when he managed to convey about his journey.
Mauktik had never travelled alone before. And for him this was a first in an unknown country, a different part of the world and not even knowing the language. On the first day of the journey itself Mauktik lost his way. He took a wrong turn and ended up reaching a small village consisting of ten to fifteen huts at the base of the Andes Mountain. Riding through and wondering, Mauktik spotted a couple and sought their help. He managed conveying his query through English and some sign language. What an experience for him! The couple though finding it difficult to communicate with him offered what best help they could to put him on the right track.
Oftentimes Mauktik had wondered if he could finish the trip, if he would get bored the entire journey since he was riding alone. But the beautiful scenery, helpful people and his passion for riding is what kept Mauktik along the journey he undertook from January to March 2008. During the course of his journey he crossed the driest dessert; Atacama and went up the Andes Mountain that was 4800kms of dirt road. And he finally completed his dream journey, his dream ride, following the source of his inspiration Che Guevara.
Discovering the joys of travelling & writing
The concept of backpacking and travelling for extended periods of time was alien to Mauktik but here while on this life changing journey, he met numerous European & Australians who decided to backpack and travel for long durations, to be on the move, to undertake journey’s of self discovery, to fulfill their passion for travel, to satisfy the explorer within them. Mauktik was fascinated by the courage they had to leave everything and to travel for long durations.
Mauktik had no intention of publishing a book on his experience. But his friends and family eager to know more in detail about his experiences, coaxed him write a book. It took him almost a year to complete his book ‘A Ghost of Che’ that details his experience on this 8000km journey and it was finally published in September 2009 with a friend cum publisher helping him out with the publishing aspect. Needless to say, Mauktik returned to the US to take up the job offer.
The Bug Bites….Again!
But lo & behold the travel bug, the motorcycling bug struck him again. And this time round, bored of the hum-drum of an engineering job, Mauktik resigned and undertook a thirty six country trip; a combination of motorcycle rides & flight travel. He visited Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. Amalfi coast in Italy, islands of Thailand & New Zealand were parts where he hired motorcycles and rode. Mauktik travelled a year and was without a job. He dipped into his savings, lived in hostels and survived only on street food to ensure his journey didn’t lack funds.
The Rider, Explorer, Writer & Film-maker Today
Mauktik now resides in Bangalore after spending most of his life in the US. He was raised in Jalgaon & Pune and hence decided to leave US and spend the rest of his life in India riding and exploring. “Culturally” Mauktik says “and socially India is a much better country than the US. We have a confluence of diverse cultures and social elements.” Mauktik then happened to meet National award winning director, Brahmanand Singh and with this angle in mind, since last June Mauktik and him have been working on a feature film length documentary, a backpacking style journey focusing on social & cultural contradictions of India. To learn more about the social and cultural contradictions in India, Mauktik with co-worker on this film, an American girl named Sue Jo Fitzsimons, traveled to ten towns in India. They also undertook an eleven day trip in the North East part of our country on a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500, covering Assam, Nagaland & Meghalaya, almost a 1000 km journey to research further for their film. They are actively raising funds for this film and have released a promotional video of the film.
How often is it that you do come across people like Mauktik in your life? Not very often we are sure. And when you do, people like him are a huge inspiration for us to follow our dreams and pursue our passions. Mauktik has also been invited by Motorcycle Travelers Meet to share his experiences.
About the rider: Mauktik Kulkarni is an avid rider and derives his in inspiration from Che Guevara. You can reache him via facebook & check his blog. His book 'A Ghost of Che' is available for free on Google Books as an eBook.
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