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Interview- A Journey From Goa to Bangkok

Karl Coelho, a passionate traveler and movie buff recently took the journey of a lifetime, when he went from Goa to Bangkok by bike. It took him 40 days, clocking up 14000 kilometres along the way.

He was raised in Panaji (earlier known as Panjim) but moved to Japan in 1991. Presently residing in Dona Paula, he is also a resident of Kobe, Japan. He is the Founding Director of Vallonné, a boutique winery based in Nashik. His other businesses include ‘Nirvana Health Holidays’ which deals in assisted holidays for the sick and differently abled and  ‘Indigocctv’ which deals in security products.

The Mean Machine

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Karl Coehlo-compressed
Karl Coelho with his Street Bob

He owns a 1600cc Harley Davidson Streetbob from the DYNA Family.  It’s originally a single seater but for touring he has made several modifications to his bike. Besides sporting a wide bottomed touring seat and taller ape handlebars, he has installed a Vance&Hines free flow exhaust, a heavy breather air intake along with a Dynojet remapping tuner.

The headlights have been changed to a powerful 7 inch daymaker with cyclops led fog lights. The Spoked wheels also have been changed to Mag wheels with tubeless tyres. A lot of aesthetic changes to the bike too, to suit his taste.

Read on to learn more about Karl’s amazing journey!

What motivated you to go on this journey?

Traveling is my passion and Thailand is one of my favorite destinations. After doing an 8,000km road trip on my motorcycle to Bhutan from Goa last year, riding all the way to Bangkok was a dream goal for me. The Indo-Myanmar-Thailand road journey is something that plenty of road trippers have wanted to do for a long time but it wasn’t possible due to the severe restrictions on travel inside Myanmar. However, when I heard that the “Indo-Myanmar Friendship road” was finally opened I wanted to be amongst the first to embark upon this journey. It truly was the ride of a lifetime!

Which route did you take on your journey from Goa to Bangkok?

I wanted to do as much of sightseeing as I could during this journey. I travelled through 19 states in India, almost the entire country of Myanmar, including Bagan, Yangon, Madalay, Inle Lake and Tak and Bangkok in Thailand.

My route was GOA – MAHARASHTRA – MADHYA PRADESH – UTTAR PRADESH – BIHAR – WEST BENGAL – SIKKIM – ASSAM – ARUNACHAL PRADESH – NAGALAND – MANIPUR – MYANMAR – THAILAND – MIRZORAM – TRIPURA – MEGHALAYA – JHARKHAND – ODISHA – ANDRA PRADESH – TELANGANA – KARNATAKA – GOA

Did you face any obstacles on the way? How did you manage to find help?

The weather was a big obstacle during my journey, especially the dense fog that slowed me down considerably. Besides this, I had a relatively smooth ride all through my journey except for a few incidents. One was a landslide that occurred early morning on the highway when I was leaving Gangtok (Sikkim) and I was told that I couldn’t leave Gangtok. However, since every day of my journey was already pre-planned and hotels booked in advance I had to find my way out as I needed to reach Guwahati in Assam which is 600kms away. After I insisted that I needed to get out, the guards at the border gate came to my assistance and gave me directions to avoid the landslide by crossing over a mountain pass to reach the other side. This was a really scary ride as I was crossing a thickly forested mountain area in pitch darkness with not a soul in sight. This is not something I’d do again!Karl Coehlo1

On the day when I reached the border of Assam, there was a state-wide ‘bandh’ (state-wide strike), and no vehicles were allowed to ply. Traffic was queued up for miles. I was stuck at the border for more than an hour till finally an armed military truck escorted me out of the troubled area. I had to literally beg for fuel here and only because I was on this journey the fuel pump owner relented and gave me a tank full!

I also had a couple of falls off my bike due to the road conditions and was pinned down under the bike, but on both occasions I was lucky that there were people nearby who rushed to pick my 300kg motorcycle off me.

According to you which are the best roads you traveled on, in India, on this journey?

The best roads by far would have to be the roads of Meghalaya. Magnificent views, fantastic smooth tarmac with long winding twists, the roads here are a bikers dream! The huge Asian highway AH1 running down all the way from Kolkata towards Visakhapatnam, which forms a part of the Golden Quadrilateral is also a wonderful fast road where you get the opportunity to really test your machine.

Did your bike give you any problems on the way?

I had a major problem with the bike when I hit a speed bump at high speed in Arunachal Pradesh. The front fork got loose and a metal ring cracked inside the yoke. There was no way to fix the bike in the North east so I rode all the way to Thailand with the front end of the bike shaking and luckily got it repaired in Bangkok the same evening. I stayed only one full day in Bangkok before starting my return leg. On my return journey my bike performed perfectly until I reached Kolkata. Here the ECU of the bike started acting up and I was stalled on the side of the road in different States several times.  Luckily, I managed to reach Goa where my motorcycle finally died a few kilometers outside Panaji, the capital city. I’m very grateful that my machine brought me back all the way to Goa safely before giving up.

Why did you go on this trip alone?,

A ride like this requires you to be a little mad and I couldn’t find another nutter like me in Goa! Jokes aside, riding solo gives you the freedom to plan your routes, stay, ride times etc. as per your own convenience, budget, riding skills and endurance levels without having to adapt to the needs of a group. A journey of this kind needs you to be in a relaxed frame of mind at all times so that you can concentrate on the roads ahead day after day. This journey also requires one to make sufficient time and be ready to spend a bit of money on a passion which can cost a lot as there are several permits and other expenses involved in an international ride.

Do you have any advice for our Goan riders?

The biking culture in Goa has grown in leaps and bounds and what pleases me the most is to see the bikers investing in proper riding gear. The advice I can give our Goan riders who want to do long rides is to “Ride Smart”. This means do sufficient research and plan your ride routes and hotel stays well in advance. Do not over ride, your bike needs a break even if you don’t. Do your trips in cool weather, start early mornings and always end before dusk. Never ride at night. Always take a one day break to relax after every five days of continuous riding.

I hope all you bike enthusiasts take some inspiration from Karl and ride to places you desire. Always remember to wear proper safety gear while riding.

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