Hopping on a bike and touring one country is no easy feat. But riding across 10 in one stretch? Crazy! For Bengaluru-based biker Candida Louis, however, this was a mission itching to be accomplished. Over the years of her adventures, this storyteller has toured around countries like South Africa, Cambodia, Swaziland, and many more. Along the way, Louis managed to carve out time to give her own TedX talk, get a biography published based on her travels, and even visit schools to talk to children about riding. She talks to us about coping with the lockdown, her mammoth 10-country tour, and more. By Bayar Jain
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1. When did you first start taking road trips and what motivated you to do so?
As far as I can remember, I started going on rides with my dad really young. I would ride as a pillion from Hubli to Goa with him, and then I eventually took the rider’s seat. In college, I had the best group of friends. Ten of us would ride to different waterfalls and beaches across Karnataka almost every week. I started riding my motorcycle almost 13 years ago. Initially, I was working at a corporate office, but commuting to work every day for a minimum of two hours was not working for me! I would look out the office window every day and dream of riding around the world.
In 2015, I took a sabbatical of three months and rode through North and South India. After I got a taste of the freedom, confidence, and independence of being on a bike, I knew I could never go back to a desk job. After the trip, I came back, resigned, served the notice period and went back on the road for four months. Within seven months, I had covered 22 states and 32,000 kilometres of India. Now, I’m a motorcycle tour guide and blogger as well.
2. Which has been your most memorable road journey so far and why?
Although all my rides have been memorable, the most special one was from India to Australia via eight other countries. I visited Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, covering 29,277 kilometres by road. I began my ride on August 25, 2018, from Bengaluru and completed it on March 31, 2019, in Sydney. It took me a total of 219 days, including 60 days of shipping from Bali to Perth. I decided to head to Australia as a tribute to Alistair Farland and his family – a biker who passed away in a road accident while on a world tour. I wanted to complete the ride for him.
As part of this project, I was not solely travelling. I was travelling to make a change in society by talking at different schools and colleges along the way. So, when I reached Sydney after all months, it was a very emotional day for me. My friends and family were waiting to receive me at the Sydney harbour bridge. But most importantly, Farland’s mom – who had been following my ride ever since I left India – was there too. I stayed at his home for a week and even paid a tribute at his grave. In a way, it felt like I managed to finish his ride for him.
3. Where were you when the lockdown was announced and how did you cope with it?
I was on a five-state ride and shoot around India when I started hearing the news about COVID-19. That’s when my team and I immediately flew back from Patna to Bengaluru. Since I anticipated this to take some time to get better, and did not want to be alone during this period, my dad drove my cat and I down to Hubli a day before the lockdown was imposed.
4. How did you keep your travel bug satiated during the lockdown?
By relieving a lot of my content from the past years of travel! The first month was spent sorting out photos and videos, while the second month was all about video editing and trying to write a book on my adventures from India to Australia. Now, I’m focussing on making and selling my artwork.
5. When choosing a destination, what are the various factors you keep in mind?
I love looking at the world map and picking random destinations. After that, I check pictures of that destination online and keep dreaming of the place. Since I don’t like riding in the night, I also take the terrain of the destination into consideration. I also account for the time it would take for me to reach the next place. I keep an eye for hotels I can stay at close to the highways so that I can avoid entering big cities.
6. Once travel restrictions ease, where’s the first place you’ll go to for your next road trip?
It’s hard to see that happening anytime soon, but I would definitely like to explore my surrounding places and states more, and – if possible – ride around India again.
7. When on-the-road, how do you cope with unforeseen hurdles such as flat tires on the highway, or losing your way?
When you’re on the road for nine to 10 months in a year, there are always unforeseen hurdles. But I don’t really worry about it and try to tackle them when they happen. I can fix a flat tyre as well as repair my motorcycle enough to get it to the closest mechanic.
I’ve lost my way a couple of times as well. However, since that has usually happened while I was on the road for seven- or eight-month-long ride, I had all the time in the world to explore! In fact, getting lost lead me to meet amazing people and now I have incredible stories to share from each of those instances.
8. Female bikers are often seen with a sceptical eye in India, and a certain stereotype is formed about them. How do you deal with this?
When I started riding a motorcycle, the only support I had was from my parents and a few close friends. The others would always tease and say ‘women should not ride a motorcycle’, or ‘it’s not safe for women to ride in India.’ While riding in India, I met a few fellow lady bikers who inspired me to keep going. There are so many inspirational women bikers from India – The Bikernis, WIMA and Hop on Gurls – who are breaking barriers, teaching women to ride, and are helping get more girls on the road. Everything is changing now, and it’s becoming easier for women to ride motorbikes. Men, too, are becoming more supportive. They’ve started encouraging their girlfriends and wives to buy motorcycles to join them on rides as well.
9. What are the top five must-haves for a road trip?
My phone, because I use it to capture most of my pictures and stay in touch with my family. A tracker, so my folks know where I am. My LifeStraw bottle, so I have clean water at all times; and my camping gear.
10. Any tips for road trip enthusiasts, especially female solo bikers such as yourself?
Go ahead and don’t be afraid of the unknown. You’ve just got to take the first step, and everything else will follow. Travelling activates your mind and changes you in extraordinary ways. But, when you travel, remember to respect the people, nature, and the culture of wherever you go. Only then will you have the best time.