Between two days on the road, just before his ritual evening beer with his Vintage Riders, we’ve managed to catch up with Jean, one of our tour leaders. Arriving that day in the foothills of Jim Corbett National Park, in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India, Jean has accepted our question-and-answer game. Whether you've traveled with him or not, here’s your chance to discover or rediscover him!
Where do you come from Jean? How long have you been mad about motorcycles?
I come from the suburbs of Paris, but I left home very early! At 17 and a half I decided to go to live in the Alps, near Chamonix. On the question of motorcycles, one day a friend offered me his 500XT that he thought was "dead" ... Well I kept it for 10 years! That’s when I added motorcycles to my passions for travel and mountains; it all began around 1990. My motorcycle is the perfect machine to wander. I can go anywhere with it: paths, trails, and on the smallest tracks… I feel really free!
How did you meet the Vintage Rides team?
Around 1994, I flew to Delhi with the idea of going trekking in Nepal. In the end I never took my bus to Nepal! I saw on arrival that you could rent motorcycles in India and spent 5 months travelling in Kashmir, in the mountains, a stone's throw from the Himalayas. With the Royal Enfield I can really connect with the motorcycle spirit which inhabits me, endlessly taking me on adventures. One thing leading to another, I started to guide tours for Vintage Rides. What I like about Vintage Rides is the real biker spirit, the freedom to create my itineraries and to get off the beaten track. What guides me? My passion!
"What I like about this tour is that it’s so different from the usual image of South India."
Tell us more about the Spice Route in South India!
We have redesigned this itinerary with the help of Johann, another tour leader, and Thomas who takes care of circuits from Delhi’s office. We decided to do this after getting some helpful feedback from our riders. We’ve made it an even more varied itinerary which allows motorcyclists from all backgrounds to enjoy the ride and we’ve cut the trip up into better designed stages. What I like about this tour is that it’s so different from the usual image of South India. We ride in Kerala, which is a mountainous region where the air is cool, we drive on small roads leading us through really cute villages, coconut groves, rubber, spice and tea plantations. We also eat very well - the seasoning of the dishes is sweet, and the tastes are subtle. It's a cuisine which is rather similar to Thai. Even if I love everywhere in India, I find this tour especially beautiful and restful - the roads are in good condition and there’s no downside, we enjoy it from the first day to the last.
What’s your most memorable encounter on the roads of Kerala?
Elephants! One day I had followed a different route and my riders and I spotted some Indians who were cleaning elephants. They’re used a lot for religious ceremonies here. The people were really pampering them! We were able to watch them for a long time and even approach them, it was great!
Do you have a favorite place in South India?
Yes, I love Munnar with its tea plantations. We also pass through eucalyptus forests, which are simply magic, it feels like a fairy tale!
Our motorcycle tours South India fact sheet:
Season: from November to March
Departures of the new itinerary: from December 2017
Average temperature: 30°C / 85°F
Number kms: 1,400 kms / 870 miles
Click here to join us on The New Spice Route !