Seated on a bike heading into the streets of Goa at 6 in the morning along with fellow riders, I spot this on a shop wall, “Goa is like a fridge, because everyone comes here to chill.” Literally the last person to wake up this morning, I thought it was rather ironic to come across this gem when I was out and about on a work trip, no less!
And then, I look ahead.
At first, it is the silence that takes me by surprise. The fog embraces me in a comforting hug as I ride into the horizon. A dozen-odd bikes are still a distance behind me, and I feel completely alone, almost meditative, revelling the moment.
When one thinks about Goa, the obvious images that come to mind are the beaches, shacks and pristine sunshine. But what was Goa, before it became this commercial epicentre, drawing national and international tourists all around the year?
I’m here on the Royal Enfield Garage Café Breakfast Loop, a ride curated by the heritage bike makers. There are parts of this beautiful state that are still untouched by the cacophony of tourism and urban life. We veer past old Portuguese houses, whitewashed churches and lines of coconut trees extending into forests on either side. Our destination is the village of Chorão, an island in the backwaters of Mandovi river.
The vehicle of choice is of course, a Royal Enfield Classic 350. The brand is synonymous with the emerging culture of Goa - since the arrival of hippies in the 1970s and hipsters in the 2000s. From them modifying the bike according to their sensibilities with bright coloured paints and frayed leather seats to the modern-day Rooster Trike which has a pair of forks as the back wheels for blazing a trail and creating roosts of sand against the shore.
Speaking at the tour, the head of Strategic Initiatives at Royal Enfield, Arvind Iyer, says, “This tour is about discovering a more pristine and uncharted part of Goa. Our ride will take us back to a time where we come from.”
Against the backdrop of the sun rising over the distant sky, we make several pit stops to learn more about Goa’s immediate and ancient history - from how the landmass in Goa was formed to when and why the Portuguese came to call it their home. We take the ferry across river Mandovi, and watch the rest of the village head out to work. It seems almost poetic that this bike which had long been a sign of opulence and privilege is the one taking us back to our roots.
Helmed by Arvind Prabhakar of the Indus Rider motorcycle adventures team, the Garage Cafe by Royal Enfield plans to curate more such trips for visitors to explore the otherwise uncharted landscape of Goa.
The newly-launched cafe is an ode to Goa. Inspired by the sensibilities of Portuguese architecture, the main facade boasts of specially commissioned and locally executed artworks inspired from a Royal Enfield iconography based Azulejos inspired installation -- hand-painted on tiles by Goan artisans. The bar and dining area has an incredible view of the Baga creek. The bar wall has a hand-painted backdrop by Monde Art, which takes the viewer through a meandering Goan road trip. The first-floor lounge wall also has an exciting book art installation by Hanif Qureshi. This is a place for the Royal Enfield community to reconnect and bond or simply to sip on a cup of coffee while getting their bike fixed. From traditional stews and pasta to Kheema Pav and the Chorizo and Chettinad Chicken Pizza, the menu promises wholesome food for a well-travelled palette, even if you don’t share an unequivocal love of riding.
Iyer tells us that Goa being a “spiritual home” for Enfield Riders was definitely the first choice for this cafe which also hosts a unique exhibit of vintage bikes, a motorcycle and gear store and a custom bay where riders can get their bikes personalised.
Royal Enfield loyalists will tell you that for them, it is more than a bike; it’s a way of life. Of losing and finding themselves on the road less travelled, of making friends who last a lifetime and making memories.
Just like I did.