Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Review: Two Wheels Through Terror

India has always been full of warm and compassionate people. This is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted. This is one country where everybody was welcomed with open arms. The concept of “Athithi Devo Bhava” or “Guest is like God” is practiced only here. But somehow in post-independence India, the road has become one of the most dangerous places. Road travel, be it in the bustling cities or on the highways has become increasingly dangerous. Somehow once people get behind the wheel or astride a motorcycle, a strange phenomenon happens. They get taken over by road rage, speeding, reckless driving, callousness towards other road users seems to be the order of the day.

In such scenario what do bikers who wish to travel around the country or even the world on their trusted metal steeds do? India being the youngest nation in the world with more than half its population comprising of people under 24 is also waking up to the growing culture of biking holidays.

Not surprisingly the availability of vrooming nexgen motorcycles has incubated the phenomenon of biking holidays. In contemporary India it’s not uncommon for bike enthusiasts to strap up their saddlebags and hit the highways to exotic, off-the-beaten-track destinations ranging from the freezing heights of the Himalayas to the golden beaches of the Indian Ocean. Cashing in on this new fashion are smart two-wheeler marketers who have promoted motorcycle clubs in major cities across the country. These clubs with evocative names such as Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, Bangalore; Inde Thumpers, Pune; 60Kph, Mumbai; Indian Bikers, Kolkata, among others, are thronged by leather-clad, greasy-handed motorcycle buffs.

But the new-age Indian biker is hardly aware of the hazards of cross-country running on a two-wheel machine. He has to negotiate unruly truck drivers, bandits, vehicle snatchers, naxalites and terrorists among other perils on the nation’s unpoliced highways. In terms of books and journals there are no recallable works by Indian authors on the subject and most automobile magazines devote their columns to techno mumbo jumbo. Against this backdrop Two Wheels Through Terror by US-based adventure motorcyclist and traveller Glen Heggstad, is a boon even to sub-continental bike enthusiasts. The book is a first-hand account of an ambitious motorcycle journey through South America that gets horribly, and violently, detoured. It’s as much a travel diary of a motorcycle odyssey as a story about bravery in the face of terror and perseverance in adversity.

Heggstad aka ‘Striking Viking’ has driven custom-built Suzukis across the most rugged terrains worldwide and is a former member of Hell’s Angels — the largest motorcycle riders group in the US — apart form being a martial arts expert. His biking adventures have been featured on NPR and CBS’s 48 Hours. Currently in Asia on yet another round-the-world motorcycle tour, Heggstad has his permanent residence in Palm Springs, California, where he owns and operates a martial arts school.

Divided into four sections featuring maps and top-quality pictures of South American landscapes, the book begins with the profile of a confident man preparing to zoom away from the safe confines of his home to realise a dream and ends with a dazzling display of determination and courage. "Warriors claim that battles are won in the preparation. This is a personal battle for which I am preparing — a battle to survive the adventure through Mexico, Central America and the West Coast of South America to the tip, across the Straights of Magellan to the island of Tierra del Fuego, and back up the East Coast — on a 650 cc dual-sport motorcycle. A 25,000 mile ride through blazing deserts, freezing mountain passes, sub-Antarctic wilderness, and steaming tropical rainforests," writes Heggstad in his introduction.

Two Wheels Through Terror is perhaps the most thrilling and absorbing motorcycle adventure travelogue ever written. Both diary of a motorcycle pilgrim and survival guide, this book should be standard reading for any daredevil motorcyclist who plans to hit country roads, and especially for bikers planning cross-country travel in India, infested with militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, the naxalite-insurrectionary states of central India or the lawless BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) jurisdictions. While biking through the rebels-dominated northern district of Columbia, Heggstad was kidnapped and held for ransom for five weeks by the rebel army Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN).
A compilation of events recorded by Heggstad during his journey, his capture, escape and eventual realisation of a dream, Two Wheels Through Terror is a gripping story of a bike adventurer robbed of all and frog-marched through fly-infested tropical jungles with assault rifles pointed into his back. But given his preparation in terms of proficiency in martial arts, unarmed hand-to-hand combat and shrewd thinking, he overcomes.

Once free, Heggstad does not return home. Not a bit bogged down by the violent torture he had to suffer, Heggstad arranges for another motorcycle to be despatched to him in Columbia to continue on the high road to adventure through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The rest is smooth riding, by his standards of adventure from which automotive two- wheeler enthusiasts worldwide can derive great inspiration and knowledge.

Published in EducationWorld

2 comments:

vicy said...

Visiting here today..Stay happy!!

Sahasi said...

Thanks for the visit... Hope you come again.. and again... and again...